Blocking Neel out was easier said than done. I keep bumping into him. Apparently he stays in my neighborhood itself! Arrgh! Just the thing I didn’t want. We bumped into each other in the only departmental store that the town has, then again at the newspaper stand, where I was pick up the morning paper after the morning walk. We haven’t spoken, just exchanged glances, something flickered when his eyes met mine but then died out.
I have to admit, with time I got used to him being there. At times I wondered what was behind his blank countenance. If I ever let myself talk to him freely, what would he tell me? I rather hoped he would blame me for walking out without a word, or for selfishly deciding the fate of our relationship, but he never did. Knowing that he was around did things to my equilibrium. I wonder if he has gotten under my skin and broken down the steel wall I had built around my heart. We hadn’t spoken in more than a year and half except for that day at the café, but we did speak again and the dam broke.
I had had some left over food some three days old. I’ve been too busy burying myself in work so I didn’t quite pay heed to what I eat. A bout of food poisoning rendered me bedridden. I don’t know how many days I was stranded home, with no one to cook or take care of me, what more do you expect when you are all by yourself, sick in a strange town, with no one to take care of you. It must have been three days, when I heard a knock very early in the morning. It must Mrs. Sen., my neighbor, coming to check on me. So I yelled.
“Come in. I’m in the bedroom.” I could barely manage to get off the bed to greet Mrs. Sen so I lay where I was waiting for her to come in, maybe I could even ask her to make me some soup or coffee, I thought.
“May I come in?” who was that? Not mrs. Sen surely. God! Not some burglar I hoped and prayed and then my mysterious visitor peeped in, and I could just die there and then.
“Neeel… what the hell are you doing here? How did you know where I live? Get out. Now!”
“Stay where you are. Don’t move. You can go on yelling but you would aggravate your illness or you can stay put and let me help you. How long have you been ill? 3 days? You hadn’t come for your regular morning walks so I wondered what you were up to. Thankfully I came in to check.”
I could yell or call someone for help but no-one would be around at such an ungodly hour. So I sulked instead, refusing to answer him. But being taken care of sounded like heaven and in any case I was too weak to even protest, so I did what I was asked to and stayed there as he made himself comfortable and went around, cooking and cleaning. In no time I had steaming soup in front of me.
“You can cook now?”
“Yes I have learned”
“It is good you know.” I said sipping the last spoonful of the soup.
“Really?” he said, as he cleared it off and headed towards the bathroom.
I heard the tap running and wondered what he was up to. Soon he came out with a towel soaked in lukewarm water. I was rather apprehensive of his next move; in any case he was too close for comfort. I almost jumped off the bed when he ordered me to stay and I knew there was no use protesting. He wiped my face with the towel, and my nape. He came back with a rubber band and a comb and combed my hair and braided it and even got me a small mirror to peek in. thank god! I looked decent now, I must have looked like a gypsy when he had come in. I’m sure he had noticed. If he had noticed, he didn’t say anything, just instructed me to take a nap while he ordered me to guide him to a spare key of the house. By now I was feeling way fatigued and all I wanted was to sleep so I did as I was told. Before the door clicked shut he added, almost as an afterthought,
“I’ll be back.” That sounded vaguely like a promise than a statement, I thought as I drifted off.
The next time I woke up it was noon, and true to his work Neel was there slouched on couch near my bed, buried in work, typing furiously on this laptop. Why was he doing so much for me? What were his real intentions? Did ma tell him I was here? Whatever it was I didn’t want him to rekindle the desire and emotions that I had done away with.
“Why are you doing this Neel?” I said feebly
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean, I don’t want to fight but I can’t take this anymore. Tell me why are you doing this?
“I know you don’t want me around. But I’m doing what you would if you were in my place”
“That was not what I meant. What was there is over. Then why do all this? Why come here?
“You think I’m stalking you? “
“No! I was as surprised as you were to find me here in this town. I had never hoped to find you here but then you were. Fate had planned and so we met. Grow up Noyona! Let go of your past and let’s behave like adults, people who are mature enough to deal with the complexities of life. I admit I had been a jerk, but you selfishly decided you wanted out, and walked away without a bye. A lot has happened. But don’t look for something that is not there. I’m not going to harm you. Why do you have to behave like I’m going to pounce on you? Give me some credit,”
“So you are saying that we should be friends. Do you think it is possible? After all that has already happened?”
“But at least we can behave cordially, like one would to a person we know for as long as we do?”
“Think about it. You can run if you want yet again but then you can stop and face it. The decision is, as always, on you.” He said and walked out, and the door closed with a click.
I was silent. I didn’t know what to say. Maybe he was right. Maybe it was destined that we meet again but we can never get back together again. These beautiful multicolored dreams full of promises of a brighter tomorrow kindled a part of me that wanted to believe him, that indeed things would be perfect now if only she gave in. the temptation was too great. Maybe he was right, that I need to let go, to accept what life now offers to me instead of running away. Maybe all that he said wasn’t that vague. Maybe just maybe they could resurrect the friendship..
to be continued...
P.S-Watch out for this space for the concluding 5th and last part, tomorrow 1st November at 8.30.beware it is going to be longish :)