We got off the last bus when it suddenly started raining heavily. I recalled carrying a single umbrella & instantly knew it’s going to be the most awkward night. We, under the same umbrella within the vicinity of unmasked emotions; both grown-ups, both hesitant who had to scooched down under the crowning shelter with embarrassing electricity passing through us whenever our bodies touched; the thought already made me fidgety. It was a lonely street and we didn’t talk much. The disappointed silence was snowballing to make us more uncomfortable. With few more steps, we were half drenched from each side and thought to stop over a local bar.
Sitting in front I gingerly poured the drink with a faint smile wondering why Mom asked us to come together. While passing the side-dish I saw his brightest smile. With few drinks, we started opening like old buddies. Father still made that snorting sound while laughing which I found extremely hilarious in childhood. I examined his face. Sunken eyes, grey hair, saggy skin along the jawline; when did he grow this old. It’s been a long time I have had a good look at him even after sharing the same roof for years.
We chatted and reminisced about the games we used to play. The prince who’d fight off the enemy who invaded his land with the wooden swords carved by father. My make-believe game of winning the queen & confidently disregarding his explanations that the game is Chess and not Carrom. The way he used to nicely fold my ‘I love you, Papa’ scribblings and keep it safe in his tiny box as if some kind of treasure it is. How I knew the only way to enjoy fairs and festive carnivals was by sitting on his shoulders while mom fed us those tasty rolls. When my latest geometry box and all sorts of stationery supplies were more important than the shirt he had been trying to buy for years. “My office is boring so why do I need a new shirt for a boring place”, he consoled me when I refused.
The way I always used to kiss him back sleepily after he was back from the office trying to nudge me awake for one minute. I think it was his way of saying ‘I missed you today, Son’. When I thought I was able to deceive father because mom didn’t tell my low scored marks to him and I got a new bicycle anyway. Papa knew it all along. I got to know it later which truly made me serious towards studies without being reprimanded. When he’d spent ungodly hours after office in fixing my toys so that at the end he could hear ‘You’re my Hero, Papa”. When I used to laugh hysterically while he dropped me off at school wearing unmatched slippers. When at any family function he so innocently pleaded and bribed me to be with him because he was so bad at expressing with others. But we always ended up having fun together.
Then a single thought crossed my mind ‘What happened to us’? Well, I grew up. Life happened and we started spending from lesser hours to almost nil. He stopped asking for games because those were embarrassing now and that’s what I said once. His only words I remember lately were ‘Is everything okay? Is there anything you need?’ I now think he meant he is still available to fix anything, he can still be my Hero again even after I have grown up.
Yes, I grew up and became like him, who couldn’t express the pain or about the heartbreaks, who failed to talk about the pressures of life and repeated failures, who was not so conniving to lead an easy life and had to work hard diligently wherever went, who always looked for some reason or someone’s help or the crevices in any conversation to be a part of it. He must have felt the same. He must have been in pain too.
He said over the drinks that he missed me, he missed the chirpy boy in me, he missed his old buddy. He was so happy I wasn’t like him in yesteryears, who made him forget the hostile world and took him to a grand kingdom where they both ruled together and laughed till they choked.
I realized, I forgot expressing. Just like him. And that day made a promise to not be a little like him and make sure to steal an extra amount of hugs and ‘I love you(s)’ because Love isn’t a gender-based emotion but the hearts. I am going to cherish him now before it’s too late.
Under that umbrella, Not our bodies but were the hearts that moved closer. I thanked mom secretly while listening to his funny snorting sound again and laughing uncontrollably.