-a short story (fiction)
Spring hadn’t sprung at all. It was already April and the thread in my whatsapp was overloaded with our conversations. This time, Varun had just come from America.
My excitement to see him, plus not to see him at the same time had me confused. I was afraid, as usual because my effort of understanding him would fail each time he would come back to Kalimpong. He is a different person in the virtual world and he is different in reality.
I would always think that there is no point for us to hang out often but Varun would eventually act that he has always been in love with me. And I’m sure I’ve always tried defending myself with the thought that Varun doesn’t actually love me.
So, I received a message one morning.
‘Good Morning sunshine… Rise and Shine’
‘And get ready, we have to go Munsung.’
I can’t go.
In fact, I can’t meet you.’ I replied in a row!
He has been obsessed with driving towards countryside, just to escape from reality and just to escape from civilisations.
I rather chose to stay on bed that day!
One message received!
‘Hey, what you doing?
You missed it.
This place is amazing.
And I’ve just ordered a dhungro!’
Why don’t you just come? He wrote.
‘No Varun, I’m not well’ I replied without giving a second thought.
‘What? What happened? Why didn’t you tell me in the morning?
I’m coming right away to see you!’ was Varun’s reply.
He always over-reacts. It’s been years but we both don’t know who we are to each other. When he introduces me to his friends, he says, ‘Meet my friend Varinka’ and when we chat, it seems we are more than ‘just friends.’ He knows my like and dislikes. He knows me inside out. He knows how much I hate drunk-drives and how much I love poetry. And after all these years, and all the conversations, yeah, we are just friends!
No Varun, you don’t have to come.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
In café Kalimpong at 11 am. Done for the day!
And after that, he just didn’t reply.
I started working in some micro poems.
‘The paralyzed night, its shiver
Blurry stars, navy blue, and mist.
In the distance, yes, without you’
And just then I got to access some of his haikus, amazing poet he had become with time. But he always told me that he gets inspired by my words when in contrary, I got inspired by his, always!
Café Kalimpong is it?’
Shit! It was 9:45 am when I opened my eyes. And his message beeped around 7:15 am.
‘Yes, be there. Be punctual, time really exists for me’
I got off from bed.
14th Mile, Kalimpong…
Here it’s December, every day. You are enveloped by fog all the time till you reach Dr. Grahams Homes. Then the sun smiles your way till you reach Dambar Chowk- a ridge adjoining Delo and Durpin hills.
I reached Café Kalimpong by 10:55 am and asked masala tea for my own satisfaction.
This Café gives amazing masala tea which costs money and an amazing view of protruding Delo hill, for free!
While I was carelessly sipping tea for the sixth time, Varun entered the café. It left my heart skipping its rhythmic beats. I was meeting him after two years. I looked at him and smiled.
He approached towards me. We didn’t hug!
He sat in front of me. The café was suddenly filled with SPRING. He smelled good like the fragrance of those sweet-peas that bloom in the onset of spring. I don’t know much about the café and people in it, but to my heart, he literally changed a season.
How are you feeling now? He asked breaking the silence.
I forgot that I had to speak. I was lost, lost in something so beautiful, so stunning and so amazing. I was just staring at him.
Better. I said
What would you like to eat? These guys make amazing burgers and blueberry cupcakes. I just wanted to suggest something of my choice.
Hmmm…burger and tea! He said.
He loved tea as much as I did. And that was one thing how my attraction grew towards him.
So, how are things in the U.S of A?
Oh! You know what? I forgot to tell you that I am selected for an international course, I have to choose a university from five countries, and I think I’ll go for two year’s master degree course in Duke University or University of North Carolina at Chapel hill, U.S.A. What do you think? There’s no full stop once I start speaking.
He was staring-a blank gaze in my eyes.
We will talk about it; let me do a background check about the universities. He said.
Meanwhile, our food arrived.
We started gobbling.
I ordered for the third round of masala tea.
He suddenly leaned forward, trying to reach my face with his hand, hurdled by a table in between us. Teenagers there were taking selfies around. My hair was blown by the wind, tangling it roughly. And an unexpected music started playing in the background, it was Elvis Presley. His hand did reach my face; his fingers slowly ran towards my upper lips and with this thumb, he wiped my mayonnaise moustache.
I smiled, only to see tissues right next to my hand.
We talked about other cafes and foods.
About paintings and books,
Seasons and moods,
Jobs, satisfactions, etcetera!
We had so many things to talk and we visited as many cafes that we could visit in few months. We shared as many conversations we could share in those times.
We would go to see a river and sometimes we would go to see the sunrise. We would stand and watch the rain drops fall and he would ask me to dance with him in the middle of the road.
We had shared endless stories, some stupid, some genuine. We often dropped one another home and talked for long hours as we dispersed.
We became each other’s unbreakable habit. And this time I really got to know and understand Varun better. I liked being with him.
I started bunking work just to meet him. And he stared walking in the rain, just to see me.
Many months passed!
One day, he didn’t write to me the whole day. I was still at work. In fact, I was overloaded with work that particular day. I was 3:30 pm.
Bling! I got a message.
‘Hey, I’m in Gangtok today, will be returning tomorrow, early!’
Then, I had this weird feeling. What? Where? Gangtok? Why?
The person who messaged me to tell that he is eating, sleeping, reading, writing, listening music, etc. goes to another state and I don’t even know? I was petrified for no appropriate reason.
‘Oh! Okay’ I replied, but only this heart was aware of the hurricane that I was withstanding.
I didn’t write to him further.
We didn’t exchange message for few days. And it was weird, I wanted to know, I wanted to ask him, I wanted to talk to him, I had to understand but I chose to kill myself silently without doing any of these.
He was online most of the time and it killed me more.
After two weeks of torture, I changed my job, so that I could be busy- learning new things. I was being able to cope up with situations. I was slowly able to break my habits.
Things felt quite odd for few days but then it worked well with time!
Slowly, I started visiting cafes, alone. I started writing alone and tasting teas alone.
At times, some café owners would ask, ‘bhai ayena?’ and I wouldn’t know what to answer. I would just smile and ignore. And sometimes, I would bounce by his friends who would ask, ‘hey, where is Varun these days?’ and I would end up saying, ‘hey, I was about to ask you the same.’
I was tired of escaping questions and inquisitions of people. I was tired of pretending. Then, I started looking for a ticket to South-India for the fifth time in my life.
Was I in a mission to run away from a circumstance that life threw hard on me? Well, yeah!
Hey! How and where are you?
Need to talk.
What? Do you think life is a joke? Or do you see me like a clown selling balloons?
But this heart gets enticed so easily. And without even realising I replied,
Hey, I’m still here. Then I cursed myself instantly.
Next moment we were trying to avoid eye-contacts in Aroma café. We had two large cups of Darjeeling milk tea in front of us.
We had looked out of the window for 18 minutes already and I was getting late for work.
What is it that you had to talk about? I had to break the silence.
How have you been? I missed you! He said.
I was angry from within. He was the one to walk off from my life without saying anything.
I was fuming with anger. I had just taken two sips of my favorite cup of tea.
I walked off from the café.
‘Varinka, wait!’ he came running downstairs but I made sure that he wouldn’t reach me.
I reached home, I didn’t work, my peace was invaded. I was very angry.
He kept calling me but I didn’t receive. I instead chose to take shower and sleep. I was 3:26 pm and I started thinking about my work.
I’d received many messages by 6:30 pm and I didn’t read any of it.
My anger faded with time and I read his message one by one. His last message was,
Let me talk to you for one last time.
‘One last time? Why? Was he going back? Oh No! I can’t live without him.
I think I Love him!’ I talked to myself!
Okay, we have to talk then. I replied.
Paris Café, tomorrow 9:30 am, see you there Varinka!
What? Why so early? His timing seemed so odd and my curiosity rose higher.
I had prepared what to say and what not to. I chose to wear a shirt with an Indian print; he used to say that I look good in it.
This time too, we were silent half of the time. The guy in the reception didn’t bother us only to realise that he is deaf and dumb. Varun doodled the order in a piece of paper. And the guy prepared Darjeeling tea without milk.
How much I hated tea without milk, he knew it better. Still, I somehow struggled with a milk-less cup of tea.
‘Varinka, There is something very important that I have to say.’ He said in a serious tone.
‘Go on, I too have to say something important’ I said.
Okay! He took a deep breath and said, ‘I’m getting married next week’
I froze with that statement. Or I don’t know if it was my heart that froze. I started sulking. I couldn’t react.
‘I wanted to tell you this the day I went to Gangtok but I couldn’t’ he went on.
I’m so sorry Varinka, I don’t know what happened. I…
With that, I stood up, kept half price of the tea on the table.
‘My share’ I said and I walked off.
I don’t know why, but, that was the only thing I could do at that point of time.
I didn’t realise that I walked off from his life the same time I walked off from the café.
We stopped talking and meeting.
He got married in another week. I could just stay home and scroll his facebook profile to see many new pictures of his wedding…
He seemed happy in all the photographs taken by my very good photographer friend.
It’s been years now and I’d stopped visiting cafes, for, his memories haunt me when I have to suffer with a smile.
He is now expecting a kid. 🙂
Keep reading and supporting.
Nisha Varinka Chettri.
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