I’m sitting shotgun and nervously gazing in the rear mirror. We have stopped right after crossing the signal over the underpass and are waiting for her to arrive. It’s almost a year since I last saw her. Things have changed between then and now.
Last to last winter had been a little harsh, particularly for her. As Christmas approached, the love in my heart fizzled out and I decided to break up with her. We met on Christmas Eve in a park nearby. She tried reasoning with me, but I did not budge. She accepted the fate of the failed relationship silently with tears. As I walked her to the train, she asked me to buy her a rose for one last time. I was particularly against buying these knick-knacks and often denied her an occasional flower or chocolate, calling it as something that only smitten teenagers do. However, I couldn’t pull up the courage to say no and break her heart again. I brought a rose and gave it to her. She took it smilingly and smelled it before walking ahead.
We walked the last few meters together before she got into her train, but kept standing at the door. It was almost past rush hour and the train was relatively empty. I knew she wasn’t going to go inside and sit, so I didn’t pursue her. As the train gave a whistle and started moving ahead, tears started streaming down her cheeks again. The train had left the station but I could still see her waving back at me, while growing smaller and smaller. Eventually, the train took a turn and disappeared around the corner. I turned and walked back home, relieved but broken. That night, I cried. And I’m sure she must’ve wept her way to sleep.
It’s winter again. Christmas is 3 days away. It’s a mutual friend’s birthday and we are waiting for her to arrive. It’s been 362 days since she boarded that train and disappeared into the night. I see her approaching from the corner and steal a second to gaze at her before others notice her. She reaches the car, pulls open the door and slides into the backseat. Pleasantries are exchanged with everybody but me. I try playing cool and ignore her. Obviously, she notices it but doesn’t mention it. For the next half an hour that we are in the car, not a word is exchanged between us. I start to feel a little uncomfortable, as well as guilty for abandoning her. Thankfully, there are mutual friends around and it’s not all that suffocating.
As we enter the village themed restaurant on the outskirts of the city, my mind goes back three years when we all were here. There’s a certain gloominess in this evening that wasn’t there three years ago. A lot of water has passed under the bridge in between then and now.
However, we aren’t here for all that. We are here for mutual friends and that friendly love still holds us both together. I enjoy the evening by being as normal I can be. She does the same. We all are having a good time – dancing, laughing, and pulling each others leg. And it’s time for dinner.
As we enter the wide dining hall, coincidentally, we both end up sitting next to each other. After the past two hours of laughing and chatting, it’s not that uncomfortable anymore. I smile at her and she smiles back. For a fleeting moment, it feels like old times again. I’m glad I came for this trip. And I hope she is too.
A cold breeze flows through the open windows and she starts shivering. Whatever she’s wearing looks good, but is certainly no good against this cold. I offer her my jacket but she refuses. I insist, and she finally accepts.
She takes a long look at my jacket and smiles. “I always loved this jacket,” she says.
“I know,” I reply, before returning to my plate.
She wraps the jacket around herself and starts having her food. We speak a few more times during the meal. I tease her for eating too little, and she teases me for eating too much. Our friends, who are sitting on either side of us, glance at us and smile. I’m too busy having a good time with her to worry about them.
Post dinner, we all head back to the car. Only this time, I’m sitting in the backseat, right next to her. I make few small talks before we drop off everybody to their house. She’s the last one to be dropped off in this part of the city before we head back to our place. As my friend pulls up the car around her house, she pushes a white envelope in my hand. “Open this when I leave,” she says and returns my jacket. For a second, she looks me in the eye and then opens the door and walks away.
We watch her get into her building and then head back home ourselves. As it turns out later, she has passed out similar white envelopes to everybody in the car. So, maybe I’m not that special anymore. Well, it would be wrong of me to expect her to treat me specially anyways. What a fool I’d be to think of that happening.
Once we reach home, I tear open the envelope and find a pen with my name etched on it. A folded paper accompanies the pen. My heart skips a beat as I make wild guesses about its contents and open it, only to find that it’s blank. She put in a blank paper along with the pen! I feel like laughing and crying at the same time but end up staring at the piece of paper, hoping for words to materialize on it. They don’t.
My friend walks in and asks what was written on my letter. I show him the blank page and he asks me, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“It probably means that there is nothing left to say anymore,” I reply, sounding like a hopeless romantic.
My friend looks at my face and starts laughing so hard that he falls off from the couch. I join him too and let the blank paper drift onto the floor.
My trip has ended and I must head back to my city now. I’ve packed, said my goodbyes and boarded the overnight bus to my city. It’s a little cold in the bus and I pull out my jacket to wear it, only to find that it’s smells different. It is then that I remember that she was the last one to wear it. I smile and pull the jacket a little closer, not feeling so bad about that blank piece of letter anymore.
As the bus journeys south through the night, her fragrance fills my senses and takes me back to that cold winter night 365 days ago. Perhaps, I shouldn’t have let her board that train while tears still ran down her cheeks. Perhaps, I should’ve brought her more roses while I still had the chance. Perhaps, I should’ve given us another chance. Now all I have left is a jacket that she once wore.
It’s another cold winter night tonight and she’s hundreds of miles away from me, oblivious to the fact that it’s been so long that I can’t even remember her scent anymore. Her fragrance has drifted away into this cold night, leaving me shivering and alone, deserted with nothing but the hope of finding her trail again.