Her Heijingpot is just around the corner, so is my board exam. After collecting as many 1 Rupee coins as I could from my friends, sometimes begging for it to the point of utter embarrassment, in the evening I called her up from the hostel telephone booth. Of late, I have earned the reputation of always hanging out in the telephone booth for hours during our free time in the hostel. This telephone booth syndrome being an illness most have gone through, it was common knowledge who somebody afflicted by this syndrome would be endlessly in conversation with. So nobody asked who I was talking to, because everybody knew.
The first thing I did when we got into conversation was to ask about her Heijingpot. In reply, she made a bad joke that she is not getting married, and said, ‘Chensillani noi yumda oina.’ To this, I kept mum. I just didn’t know how to react to that joke. She expected something from me and so waited for an answer in silence. The uncomfortable silence left when she started again, now moving on to a different topic. She wanted me to come home, to be there at what would be my acute tragedy of having been in love. How could I bear the sight of the one I love getting married to someone else? Lately, I have learned to drink. Maybe I could get myself drunk and that might help me numb my senses.
Did she really want me to be there? My naivety almost made me believe she meant from the deepest honesty what she had just said. She got angry when I asked about her marriage again and again. She didn’t want to talk about it at all. But why? She only knows. Just a few days back she had been to my house for dinner. My mom had scolded her enquiring about why she was getting married so soon when our families had plans for us. She asked me the reason why I never told her that I was committed to a marriage with her later in life. I told her that I was too young to talk or think about those kind of things.
I have never been a naughty boy in life, apart from the few years before leaving home for study outside of my home state when I started getting into fights now and then, in the school, in the neighborhood, that my father had to cage me in a boarding school far away from home in a foreign land. Those were days when I was always happy and satisfied with life. But looking back, I know I was all in chaos. Our story started in those years when we were entering our teen-age. We were so little it makes me awkward thinking how we knew things such as love. May be those times came to her mind all of a sudden that she told me not to get naughty and all and to concentrate on my studies. I told her that our hometown will be only filled with emptiness when I come back home this time.
As if to remind myself, or to be sure of it for one last time, I asked her if she loved me and she said, ‘Hoi nungshiye.’ Ah, how I felt. The heartbeat. Will I ever get to hear these words again? Her marriage is the only thing that bothers me right now. How I wish it was just a toothache! I would get rid of it just like that, all I had to do was see a dentist. I mean, all I need now is a dentist. I asked about her marriage again, she got annoyed and said, ‘Can’t you come back home? You can give your exam next year.’ ‘Did she mean that?’ I asked myself clutching tight the telephone to make myself sure I really heard that. I wanted to ask her if I heard what I just heard. But it was all ‘ei, ei, ei, ei..’ that came out of my shivering lips, and tears from my eyes. We were silent for a while.
She started by saying that I should forget everything – about her, her marriage, the past – and concentrate on my studies. I just didn’t know what to say to that. I mean thinking about forgetting is actually remembering. And she went on to ask me what I wanted to become in life. I told her that all I wanted in life is to become a very rich man. I didn’t mean to sound funny but she laughed and told me to lend her money if she comes asking for it in the future.
I have never shared with her my habit of keeping a diary and writing everything down; the times we shared, the fights we had, the long rides, the meeting every evening under the banyan tree next to her house when I was home on vacation. Having just told her that, I went on to say that she made a big mistake by doing all these – the eloping, the final decision to get married. She got furious instead. I could notice from the sudden change in the pitch of her tone, and she blurted ‘You shouldn’t act now as if you ever loved me when you did nothing at all that time I pleaded with you to come back home and run away with me.’
I know she thought me a coward for that, but that’s alright, I couldn’t screw my life for a girl. How selfish I am! No, I was being thoughtful. Yes, if only a boy was insane enough to run away with a girl. I didn’t want to get into an argument over that and told her that I had lost all my capacity of thought and action now. She understood this or not, I don’t know, but told me that it would be a lot better if I was a bit older with a job in hand and all.
I am now broken, all into pieces. I could fix it, but how could I bury a mountain? Thamoise asengbei kaire. Kaiba haibabu asengbane, loire. Punshida sumaina thokkani haiba keidounungdasu khallude.
Listening to her voice over the phone, the sound of her breath with a buzzing sound that struck my ears, knowing this was our last conversation, I wished if I had the power to stop time. She had to hang up and wished me best luck for my future.
She is childish and naive; I don’t even understand how she will be a mother. My head is starting to hurt, should I go on further? I didn’t know writing this would be so painful.
She told that she cried a lot yesterday thinking about us and all, and when I said ‘Paktre,’ she hung up. I called her up again, didn’t bother to ask why she would abruptly cut the line. She told me to visit her place when I come back home. We both laughed when she told me to ask her something, anything, as this would be our last conversation, and I couldn’t gather myself to ask her a question, and not knowing what to say, blurted ‘Nang houjik keidourige?’ She ran to her friends waiting for her. She had to hang up. Yes, this was the last time we laughed together.
Maybe, writing this is the only way I know to keep your memory alive, even if I stopped remembering you. I will always remember you as the-girl-who-never-knew-sadness. You always wore that fair and happy face even when you were sad or angry. But how will you remember me?
To get rid of the emptiness inside left by your departure, I will fill it with the memories of you, and you only. But will I ever succeed in doing this? But at present, I am sure of this realization of how much I always wanted you in life now that you will no longer be with me. As time goes on, maybe I will go more and more uncertain if we ever were together, if we ever shared those late evening moments in the dark.
But had I not been in love, I wouldn’t have taken this pain of recollecting so sorrowful a memory all over to write it down. But for whom do I write, for whom do I suffer? No one, but only for myself.