This is the part where people introduce themselves, generally starting with their names. Obviously, I am not going to do that. You are going to know it soon enough anyway, so why bother? Instead, I am going to tell you a thing about me – I love concerts. Personally, I do not like crowd. More the people, more the annoying ones. So, it might seem contradictory that I love concerts. But somehow concerts feel different to me. I find the surrounding rather peaceful in concerts. Concert is a place for me to feel collectively alone. I know, that phrase may sound weird and probably does not even make any sense. But once you feel it, if you ever, you will know what I meant. It allows me to be calm and think about things. So whenever I feel down, which someone once told me is more often than I care to admit, I try to attend concerts. Who knows why, but all those energy, all those excitement and noises, they calm me from inside. It is like letting yourself sink into a tub full of cool water, after a long tiring day.
Today is different though. Today is different because I am standing right in the middle of a concert without my general reasons for doing so. Some band from my college is on the stage right now. They are playing their instruments for like fifteen minutes now. I am curiously waiting for their drum banging to stop and vocal, if they have any, to start singing. Does not feel like they are going to put an end to my waiting anytime soon.
Here comes another one, classmate from my college life. I replied with some added excitement,
“Hey! How are you?”
“I am okay. How are you doing?”
“You know, still alive.”
“Yeah, so I see.”
I might be wrong but I sensed a hint of disappointment in his voice. He continued,
“How is life? What are you doing now?”
Yeah, that seems like something he would ask. This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of this one.
“Listening to the concert, I guess. Why? What are you doing now?” I replied, hoping he would understand I am not interested in this conversation anymore. As usual, he failed to surprise me,
“No, I meant, where are you working now?”
“Oh, my bad. Nah bro, I am not working anywhere now. Mostly, I stay at home. It is kind of fun actually.”
“I see.”, a subtle smirk quickly vanished from his face as I looked at him, he continued, “I work at…”
I did not ask you, moron. Try to take a hint for once. I turned the sound of his voice down inside my mind. It is an acquired skill that took me a couple of years to master. Now he is talking without any sound and throwing his hands here and there like he is practicing moves from some Indian classical dance. Yeah, it is working, he is quite tolerable like this. Now I can stare at him with a gentle smile in my face and obviously with an eager look. Enough about this stupid fella. In case you are wondering, this is a college reunion. The only reason I am here is because I was curious about my classmates from college I have not met in years. I wondered how much they have changed. Looks like, the stupid fella I was talking with has not changed at all.
It is getting boring. Let’s fast forward a few hours. The sun is going down. A very long time ago, that is more than half a decade, I first noticed that the sun only takes a few minutes to hide behind the horizon. Surprising how it took me so many years to notice a thing so simple and so obvious. I guess thing that hides in plain sight is the toughest one to find. Anyway, I am with a group I can be myself with at last. We are sitting in a circle at the farthest corner of our college field from the concert stage. In case you have not noticed, I am avoiding to name people. If I do, there will be just too many names in too short a story. However, things do have changed. The most talkative girl I knew is sitting there quiet, just laughing at jokes. Abir and Ratri is sitting together. They were in a relationship years ago. Last I knew they broke up. So I was surprised when I saw them together. Much to my surprise, just a little while ago they told us that they are now married. Some of us knew, I did not. I do not know how all of these happened, but I wish they would have invited me to their wedding reception. It is not that I like those wedding ceremonies or parties people arrange in our country, in fact I hate them because of their lack of simplicity and being too, I do not know, boring maybe. I wished to be invited because it would have been nice to watch it happen. After all I always loved this couple. Everybody congratulated them. However, I plan to congratulate them later sometime and also have a chat with Ratri, I have some embarrassing stories about Abir for her.
I would love to go on about some more of my friends I am sitting with, but this is a short story, so I am skipping to the part where she happened.
The sun has set, every sun has to. And it is beautiful, the sky with all those colors of afterglow. The band “Ashes” is on the stage. They are playing a song from their early years, 17 Prishtha. Everybody standing in front of the stage is waving their hands in the air in slow motion. Concerts are awesome. I was looking at the stage, it is a good day I was thinking, and that is when someone caught my eyes midway. There she is standing in the middle of the field. Oh God! Why? Why this has to happen on my good day? Her box was buried deep beneath my mind for a very long time. All those time it took for me to do it, and now all of a sudden it was all for nothing. All the memories I locked inside that box has started to come out at once, like somebody burst Pandora’s box open inside my head. For a moment I stood there still, unable to decide what to do. And then just when I decided to vanish from there she turned her face towards mine. Yeah, I know, the timings are all too perfect. Why would it not be? This is a freaking story after all. If I remember correctly, hope was the only thing that remained inside the Pandora’s box. I hoped it was dark enough for her not to see me. But then I saw her walking towards me with small and steady steps. And there was this little angel walking with her, holding her hand, whom I did not notice earlier. To hell with my good day, I thought and started walking. Being close enough I sat on one knee, looked up at Mili and asked,
“What’s her name?”
“Punom”, she replied with a smile on her face. The same smile that I knew years ago. God knows how much time I have spent staring at that smile on her photos. I looked at the little one and said,
“Hey there little one, are you Punom?”
“But, you just asked her!”, Punom said with a weird cute accent and a smile.
Smile is contagious. I laughed listening to her. Her smile is just like her mother, that is for sure. I asked,
“Do you know my name?”
“No! What is your name?”
“My name is Shuvro. What are you doing here in all these noises?”
She did not reply this time. Instead she just kept looking at me with her big dark eyes blinking every couple of seconds. I asked Mili,
“Does she eat chocolate?”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
Fair enough, I asked the little one,
“Do you like chocolate, Punom?”
Instead of answering she looked up at Mili. Mili nodded at her and then she at me. I pulled out a chocolate bar from my backpack. This is one of the things I have planned to do a very long time ago but never actually pulled it off – always keeping chocolates with me. But recently, at last, I started doing it. She smiled at me as I handed her the chocolate bar. I smiled back and stood up. After so many years, again I looked into Mili’s eyes and at the same time wished I never did. That look on her eyes still makes my heart ache, like out of the blue I am suffocating. I could not find anything to say. She broke the awkward silence, like she always did,
“How are you?”
“She is beautiful – Punom.”, I said, avoiding her question. I can not just tell her that I was totally alright minutes ago, until I saw her. She smiled again and I wanted to scream at her – STOP SMILING, You Are Killing Me.
“You didn’t answer my question.”, she said.
“Yeah, I’m alright. How are you?”
“I’m Good”, she paused for a moment, “Okay… Everything is okay.”
I need to scuttle from here. I can not stand this anymore, I thought I could. I just need a reason. Fortunately this is a story, so my phone rang. I looked at the screen of my phone,
“I better get this. So, see you around, I guess…”
“Take care”, she replied.
The story has ended. I am the writer speaking now. What are you doing here still? Go on, do something useful. But the thing is that, this was a happy ending – in a way. But for someone like me, who occasionally wants to burn the world down and tear everything apart, happy ending is just mundane. So if you are a fan of happy endings, leave here already. But if you too sometimes feel like tearing the world inside out, keep reading, there’s some more of the story.
The night has fallen. The roads are jam-packed with vehicles. The cars are standing still. Mili is staring through the window at something far above in the sky. City skies are all grey. No stars are twinkling. Punom is sitting beside her. She called her for the third time now,
This time Mili listened,
“Hmm? What baby?”
“What are you looking at for so long?”
“Nothing baby… just the emptiness.”
Punom is confused. How can someone look at the emptiness! What is emptiness anyway?
( February 14, 2016 )