They knew it would not last.
She let her hair be as they were the last night - scattered on his broad shoulders, half smooth, half tangled. The balmy air from the sea kissed the entire room and swept it clean of the musk odor. He was still in bed, trying to make sense of what was happening between this woman and him.
She will not be hers. He knew it. But she was completely his while they lay together. In the same bed – sometimes in hotel rooms, sometimes in her house, sometimes on his bed. Mostly in dreams and always in unfulfilled realities.
After months she saw him. They kissed. Soft, lingering – as if tasting every sliver of time that had licked the gap between them, painting all those moments of separation with passion. The moonlight washed her house in a pastel yellow. The color of love. From outside, the neem tree waved its branches on the white freshly painted wall. The mirror on the wall had a beautiful patina – of lost love.
They exchanged wine – mouth to mouth. She said she had read it somewhere, in one of her collections. Balancing her in his arms, toppling the Kafka and Marquez that lay on the brown table and gave her company while he was away, he claimed her – in that short moment of nostalgic togetherness.
She cooked. He rolled for them. She slept. He watched her over. He worked. She read her poetry. Together, they had built a dream of sand that they knew would not last.
Last night on Goa. It was a blissful reinvention of herself. On the orange moon kissed beach – no sound but that of the sea. Bearing witness to the last night of silence and quiet assurance – that was to be clipped short soon.
They made love when back in the room. Crazy, teary love. Every time he would take her in, she cried. She felt as if the world was about to crash. She felt strangely claimed and discarded. She felt complete but empty. And he kissed her deeply, crying out her name each time they finished. All the while, tears kept soaking and matting her hair. She didn’t want to cry. But each time they made love, she ended up filled with emotions – longing, fulfillment, separation, submission, claim, loss; lot more that words can not explain.
The last drag of Black. Spicy, sweet, fragrant. It reminded her of loss. Of belonging. Of being forgotten. Of the hills. Of him.
On the fort, above the din of the cities and lives they left, the wind blew in abundance. The first time they went, they sat. Quiet. Not a word between them. Only the story of the kids in the car played on the radio.
It was the story of two children. Neighbours. One boy and one girl. The boy’s dad was transferred to another city and he had come to bid goodbye to his friend. As kids are, they discussed in innocence how nice it was to be together, to share and care. How she will miss him and he will miss her. Both curious to know if they would ever meet again. The boy wanting to know more. The girl eager to make him understand the practicality of fading memories and time. The boy at once overcome with emotions, the girl pacifying him with words. Tables reversing. The girl, amidst all the maturity, shuns it all at once. Tells him they might never meet. The boy breaks down too. Perhaps they hug. Perhaps they just wailed. Who knows what’s the end, anyway.
They had reached the hotel. She did not know the rest of the story. He, did not bother to discuss with her. But the story stayed. Perhaps too long than it should have.
He never said why he loved her. She never fell short of explanations. Once while reading that paperback edition of poetry, she felt a tear roll down her eyes. Her cheeks at once red. She rose. Lit a cigarette. Blew out the smoke drag after drag. They would never meet again.
But they did. And each time, it was, it was with an urgency that time was running short. That they needed to hurry up. But once in each other’s arms, time ceased. Moments waited. It was as if everything stood still.
She was diagnosed with blood cancer. Doctors said, it ran in her family. She wanted to meet him once before she left. And talk to him like the children did. But she chose not to.
Alone, frail yet determined at 40, she left. In her own obituary, she dedicated these words to him:
“I wish I could fight for me, against me.”
He came to know from the newspaper clipping.
It was dusk in Lonavala, night in Goa, day in Mumbai and gloominess in Delhi. He rolled down the window and frantically searched for the last book she gave him – tucked between the pages were the poems she wrote – the last one she wrote for him - while they were together. On the cigarette paper, she had scribbled, her tears smearing the ink.
He looked vacant – at the sea, at the sky, at the memories that lay behind him - splattered on the green hills, soaked in the rain. Just as she had spread herself – in the sun, amidst the air.