It had to be one of those days when everything sucked, she growled. But then a day like this never stops on tomorrow. It keeps appearing, she continued. The rain had been falling hard on the ground. The wind made it equally impossible for the umbrella to behave. Like Sophie’s choice she had to choose if she saves herself from the wicked downpour or her umbrella from a cut-through storm. She chose the latter, snapped it shut and ran to find shelter under extended roof of a shop.
Muttering under her breath she felt a pair of eyes on her. She avoided looking. It was close to midnight, and she just wanted to get home after a lousy day. She didn’t need any more trouble.
But certainly heard a faint ‘Hi’ and continued ignoring it. She felt someone coming closer. In turn, gripped her umbrella tight– ready to smack it over, just in case.
“Hi Eli”, this time a bit louder, not buried under the hammering of large raindrops.
“It’s you! Yes!!”, cried the voice in excitement. She turned around carrying a tired look but suddenly found herself woken up.
With her brows still raised, Hi, she returned. “I never expected I’d see you again.” Words were inexplicably out before she knew it.
“umm, what…? How are you doing, Samuel?”, stressing on his name.
“Okay! I guess. Nothing much to complaint.” still trying to subdue his excitement.
“Good!… It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah, 23 years.”
“23? Wow! Never counted”
“I did!”, said he with a sheepish smile. “Have you been alright? All these years?”
“Yes! Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I don’t know. You appear tensed.”
“Jeez! It’s just the rain. You know how much I hate it.” Eli takes a deep breath calming her racing heart.
“Yes yes, I remember. But that never stopped you from going out even at the odd hours” he chuckled.
“Haha! I was young. Nothing bothered me then. And I was so hell-bent on having all sorts of odd experiences.”
“Well, I said it then and will say it again – That’s how life must be lived.”
“I am not so sure about that now.” She looked exhausted.
He noticed she was heavily drenched in a simple t-shirt, not enough to keep the cold out.
“Let me give you this!” He started taking off his jacket.
“Please don’t! I don’t need it” She insisted.
“You are shivering! I have a warm sweater beneath. Don’t worry!”
“Sam!” He noticed she didn’t use his full name this time. The way she used to. But he continued looking at her sweet, convoluted face.
“If you are thinking we are going to meet again in pretense of returning your jacket, I will not advise it. Things have changed. I have changed. I have a family. We aren’t some high-school sweethearts anymore” She appeared troubled facing these facts.
“I would never…. You know I would never cross any boundary to hurt you. I sincerely wanted to give you the jacket and trust me, you can keep it” She knew he was genuine. He always had been. Even with the onset of a wrinkle on the corner of his eyes, those gave off the same light. She could read perfectly. For a minute, she thought to herself. Did we rush in ending us? Our life would have been different. So different. But she brushed off the thought and continued listening.
“I understand you have a family, a responsibility. I will never come in between something you worked so hard to build.” There he was. I didn’t share a single word of my life and he understood, she thought. His eyes carried appreciation and respect for her. Like love fermented into something higher in all these years.
While he was about to take off his jacket he stopped in the middle, “Wait! Ummm… one sec”
He turned to the other side. His back facing her. She could not see what he was doing.
‘Maybe I spoke too soon. What if someone special gifted him the jacket? Don’t know what kind of odd toad he turned out to be in these years’, her brain assessing way more than needed.
“Here you go!” He handed it to her with the sweetest smile she needed so badly. She was reluctant to take it but eventually did.
It was drizzling by now and she had this sudden urge to move away from him. She messily put on the jacket, “It was nice seeing you, Sam. Hope you stay well!”
She stormed off before hearing you too!
Why am I running away like a thief, muttering to herself. After a few blocks there was a convenience store at the gas station.
“I need a candy. I am all out of energy.” She went inside and suddenly realized she forgot to carry her purse. She left home hastily in the evening to meet a colleague who just got fired. Work life was screwed these days. She could be the next target but didn’t want to lose a good friend over the corporate circus. So, without a thought busted out of the home at once when her friend called.
She was dejected, so rundown over a small candy she couldn’t have. Her family had been falling apart. Work had been more stressful than ever. She wouldn’t be able to see her friend/work-wife either now and even a smallest sweet was out of the window. Life sucks!
She shrugged in anger, formed small fists of her hands and hid it in the pocket of her jacket. She touched something metal. It was a 2 euro coin. Shockingly, she travelled straight down the memory lane. Two decades back.
How she loved going out before. At any time of the day or night. Long walks with friends or acquaintances or university people she had just met. Too much engrossed in talks to remember carrying a wallet. She was so different than now. But Samuel remained the same. He knew Eli always had a sweet-tooth and, every now and then craved her gummy bears. And he always made sure to put some lose change in all her as well as his jacket’s pocket.
She stared down hard at the 2 euro coin in her palm struggling not to cry. She closed her fist and quietly, calmly walked back home.