~ Originally posted on Mar 1o, 2012.
“Is this a right place to smoke?” she asked.
“Sorry to ask, but I was fined for smoking in a public place a couple of days ago,” she said raising her shoulders.
“Oh, really?” I asked her, though I knew how lame it was to ask.
“Yes,” she nodded. “So, could you please, you know, confirm or ….”
“Of course. I, uh, yes…. Yes, it is,” my words twitched.
“Thank you.” She offered to shake my hands. I responded promptly.
“I’m Jessie, by the way. Jessie Parker,” she introduced herself. I was floored. Floored might be too big a word to use for this simple happening. But if you are me who had never been bumped into a situation where a girl – a stranger, who is also stunningly beautiful, had volunteered to introduce herself, not to mention by shaking hands, you’d have used the same or something even more impactful depending on how strong you’re in your vocabulary.
“Hi Jessie, nice to meet you.”
She looked straight into my eyes, and damn, I had to do the same. I was forced to do the same, I’d say. Dignity, they say. Fuck it. No offense to her eyes, but there were many other fantabulous whatever of her to look at.
It took a few minutes for me to figure out, with her help, that she was looking for something else from me.
“And you are…” she started.
“Ah, sorry, I’m Prem.” I offered her another handshake. The second one was better for two reasons – one, it was offered by me and two, the most important, I wasn’t as nervous as I was during the first; In fact, I wasn’t at all.
Honestly, it was a public place, and there was a rule not to smoke in a public place. The person whomsoever, he or she may be, was right in penalizing her few days back. But on that day, I seldom cared. It’s a rule, after all. I mean, who cares about the rules anyway, unless we are caught red handed. Moreover, rules are meant to be broken. Aren’t they?
She took out a cigarette from a pack and was kind enough to offer me one as well. She was right in offering to share, but at the same time, she was wrong in offering without asking whether or not I smoke. However, it didn’t matter, to say the least. Well, did any men ever cared about any women’s wrong when he is very much happy in her presence. I wasn’t different.
I took one, still fearing how to handle my first ever cigarette in my whole life, that too, in front of a girl who seemed to be well-versed on that front. She lighted hers and then mine. I struggled to hide my struggle to smoke. I failed. She noticed. I blamed it on the cigarette. It was easy; she believed it. Time and again, women prove that they are easily deceivable. Oh, we lucky men.
“So, where are you from?” I broke in while she was on her smoking journey. By then, I had already killed my smoke.
“Atlanta,” She replied exhaling the smoke from her mouth engine. I loved it, loved the way she did it. For a moment, I wanted to get one more cigarette from her and get trained by her. “It’s just a five days trip. We came here for a seminar. We’ll be leaving by tomorrow.”
“Oh, is it? That’s great.” I said. Frankly, I didn’t figure what was so great about it. I didn’t even care to ask what the seminar was about in the first place.
“Nah, nothing great about it, you know.”
She was being humble. I loved the way she was trying to be humble. Appealing, that she was, in whatever she did. Or at least, I found it that way.
That was just a start. Our conversation travelled through different paths for few hours only to end on sharing our email IDs. Those were my happiest hours in a long while then. That’s the fact though it may sound as a cliché or exaggerated.
We took photos of each other with her camera. She promised me that she will share the snaps with me, and that she will stay in touch with me forever. For reasons unknown, I simply trusted her. I felt she trusted me too, and that’s the reason she was ready to take photographs with me, to share her email ID, to gift a book that she was reading then (despite my hesitation to accept it).
“It’ll always remind you to remember me, to remember this day.” Those were her words to convince me.
I wanted to give her something, but I had nothing with me then. She would have probably read my mind. She asked for an autograph of mine. I took a hundred rupee note from my wallet, signed on it, and handed it over to her. She smiled and said, “Don’t mistake me, but I’ve seen kids running behind us to get our currency notes from us wherever we go. And now, to get one of yours is kind of special. Thanks.” She said.
“Maybe, that’s the way we are,” I replied thinking of me running behind the tourists when I was a kid.
I haven’t seen her ever since. But she kept her promise by sending the snaps in the next few days. From then, we have been constantly in touch through mails and chats. We shared a lot. She was very open in sharing her personal stuffs with me. She used to say that she trusts me a lot that she can say anything and everything to me, that I help her in her bad times. We never had any boundaries for our conversations. They travelled through all. The conversations start at one topic, move to the other, then to another, and then end up on something else.
Our relation continued for months, for years. I slowly fell in love with her. I loved her more than anything that I was aware of. I won’t say my love for her was divine or any crap like that. I won’t even term it as ‘a true love’ for I don’t know what ‘a true love’ really means. All I would say is I liked her, I loved her, and I wanted to spent the rest of my life with her.
I even brought the topic “long distance relationship” during one of our weekend chats. She responded positively on that topic. That boosted my confidence. That day as we ended our chat, I decided to plan to get a job in Atlanta at the earliest. How lousy that was? I didn’t know then. I was building my own dream palace for us, for us to live happily ever after until I heard news from her that she lost her virginity to one of her classmates, that how happy she was, and that how exciting that was. I myself destroyed our palace. I knew she wasn’t the one to be blamed. Ah Man, I never gave her any hint that I was in love with her, let alone proposing her.
Days went. I got the news that she broke up with him. The building work for our palace began slowly. But before it was even half-built again, another news came. She thought she was in love with five different guys, and she is staggeringly confused to choose one among them. I thought a lot about it. Our cultural differences made sense to me. That was it. I never built the palace again, albeit my love for her, my care for her was never a bit reduced. Surprisingly, I helped her choose one. That love episode also lasted only for few months. Few other episodes came and went by. She told me everything that was happening in her life.
Months went. One fine day, I got a mail from her. It conveyed a message about her engagement with her then recent boyfriend. I knew it was coming, but not that sooner. Moreover, she never gave me a hint on this. She wanted to surprise me, it seems. She wrote that in her mail. I was a bit disappointed on reading the mail; maybe because she didn’t inform me about her engagement in our previous chats or maybe because she is not going to be my better half ever. But truly, I was happy for her. I replied my heartiest wishes to her.
She had mentioned a P.S. message in the mail asking me to come online in exactly two hours time. But I didn’t. After a few hours, I decided to send her a mail advising her how to keep her marriage strong forever. It’s not like I was qualified to advise her and all, but I knew (she did too) I was far better than her and that it would help her in tough times by some means. At the end of the mail, I added a note that I’d be online the next day. I really needed at least a day to come out of the disappointment.
Meanwhile, in the next few months, I got an offer for a job in Atlanta (not easily, as you might know). I didn’t tell her about it as I was still contemplating whether or not to take the job. But, deep within, I wished to attend her wedding which was scheduled in the next six months.
It was hard for me when I finally decided not to go to Atlanta for the job. From then I was thinking what gift I should send her for her wedding. Exactly ten days before her wedding, I decided to send her the one that would make her smile on the most important day of her life.
I sent her the book – “Are you still there God? It’s me, Margaret” – that she gifted me on the day we first met along with a hundred rupee note, of course, with my signature. I also sent a note “I don’t need anything, anymore, to remind me to remember you forever. You will always be remembered till my last breath. My memory is sharp, you see. Hope to see you one day in person. Happy married life. And, hey, have my gifts safe forever.”
I slept peacefully that night. The book will always remain as one of the most valued gifts I had ever received. It’s just that the book won’t be with me anymore, but memories will.