Return – Chapter 1

As I sat there, watching the black of the sky fade into deep maroon, the sun rising between the clouds, more crimson than ever, and watched it light the sky into an orange, the chirps of the sparrows, and the caws of the crows who had left their nests already, the alarm in my watch buzzed. It was five in the morning, the iron bench on which I sat still cold, drops of dew settled on it, and on my coat, and the sun slowly started hiding behind the clouds, turning the sky into a black, and in a few minutes, the drizzle came upon me. The grass looked greener than ever, as if it rejuvenated in the morning mist and rain, the dogs running back into their shelters where they slept, and the road in front of me, empty. Only after the drizzle had stopped did I see old couples back on the road, some walking, and in some, one pushing the other around on a wheelchair. A guy in a raincoat rode a bicycle, had roses to sell, and newspapers too, but the papers were all wet already, and he didn’t have anything to protect them from the rain. He reminded me of a time long before, when I used to see someone else exactly this way, only the face was different, rest everything same. Or was the face same too? I didn’t remember. It was six o’ clock then, when I rose from the bench, and smiled at the guy who had been sitting beside me for the past two hours, never making an introduction, never saying a word. It was better that way, no one liked to talk early in the morning, he was out for some reason, I for some other, or may be the same, who knew. I had to return, I decided.

It couldn’t go on forever like this. I had tried long and hard for four years to stay away from her, and had thought that maybe we both would forget each other, get on with our lives, move ahead, never looking back at the path we had left. And yet, God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, you run so hard away from destiny that you don’t realize you’ve taken a full circle back to where you started. Maybe in a parallel universe we might have never met, and had been much happier than right now, but then, I needed to live in the present. I needed to be happy. Spring was around the corner, small green leaves on each tree, wet with the morning fog. I liked the winter rain. It made the surrounding slightly colder, and nothing could be better than going back inside, cuddle a quilt around, sip a cup of coffee, and get engrossed in a novel. However, right now, that didn’t seem the best option. In fact, going back didn’t seem a viable option at all. Going back now would mean getting back to square one. When one has read a story one didn’t like a bit, he is less likely to want to read it all over again. I was somehow the reader of this very bad book, and it seemed that someone had just thrown the book on my face again, only with a new cover, or maybe not even so much a new cover than a reprinted one. Yet if I had to read it, it were better I got started and get done with it already, rather than procrastinate it so much that it would seem to have gained more importance in my life than it should have.

I plied a bus and took a seat near the window. A few stops later, a man got up and took the seat beside me. He was roughly middle-aged, and smiled at me congenially, which was perhaps the first good thing that happened to me in the day. I was too flagged to make a good conversation with him, so I decided to let him speak if he wanted to, assuming he would get tired after a while and try to lessen the small-talk. But when he stopped, I felt miserable. It was nicer when he was talking, and so I started talking to him. He was a father of two kids, he said, had been living here for the past three years and found this city extremely affable. I laughed at my destiny. Here I was, listening to a person telling me how pleasant this place was, when it had succeeded in giving me nothing but nervousness of what was impending. A few stops later, he got up, we shook hands, and he left. A beggar got up in the bus, pleaded for some money, and I gave him some. I had always been lenient towards them, perhaps it was because of the way I was brought up, or maybe just because I had a soft corner for everything, or maybe, I really didn’t know what spurred me to spare something for them every time they asked for something. Perhaps deep inside, I wished that if ever I had asked someone for something, may be they would also give it to me, just as much as I wanted it, nothing more, nothing less. But life, strange as it is, hardly works in the ways you would have wanted it to. When I got down from the bus, the place was completely new. It wasn’t how I had remembered it, and not really how I would have wanted it to be. My memories raked up the old place, and superimposed it on the current. The entire scenery looked misplaced now. I realized that time indeed does change things. It might not have been weird to see it grow into what it was today, had I been through it entirely. But right now it felt as I had time-travelled into the future, and that somehow twenty years had passed since I had last seen it. There was no smoke from the chimney of the tavern, instead air-conditioning machines placed on the roof. The trees used to bear orange leaves perennially, yet now they were all green. Something was different about this place.

Perhaps it was time to embrace the change. Perhaps it would be better for me to go back to the point where I started again. Maybe this was the way it was all supposed to be. If so, then life was giving me a second chance. If not, it would be the most terrible mistake that I would ever commit in my life. I only hoped that this time the journey would not end so soon, like it did before. My mind was firm, and strong as ever, but my heart wasn’t ready to accept this fate. But when it saw the spring, and how the trees bore new leaves again, it sometimes found solace in nature. It realized that this is how life was supposed to have been in the first place. Make, break, make, break. It was an endless cycle, and how much ever you wanted to get out of it, at the end, it was inevitable to get sucked into it. Because that was the difference between God and us. We could not control everything. Because if we could, then we would have been as powerful as Him, as stoic as ever, never wandering from our path, and never being forced to choose anything. But now that I had made my choice, I would live by it, and live it good. Or so I wished. I would soon set things right, but before that I had one last thing to do.

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