It was only when the phone rang in the dead of the night, it hit me. I picked up the phone, my hands shivering, I let out a meek, “hello.” There was dead silence. I could hear nothing but silence. I checked the calender. 24th May. My eyes stuck on the date. I stood there for what seemed an eternity. I lost track of the time. Time didn’t seem to matter. These days nothing really did.
While I got busy with life, trying to make a living and working hard to pay for college fees, shuffling between study and work, I had completely forgotten it was her birthday. The landline was obsolete now. Specks of dust filled the top of the table and the phone was concealed by dirt and particles of all kinds. Even though the apartment that I live in is located at the heart of the city and I’m surrounded by friendly neighbours,there are hardly any visitors. Not because I’m socially awkward or an introvert but mostly because people are creeped out by an eerie presence. A family friend once out of impulse and curiosity whispered, “Don’t you think she’s here? It’s like she never left”. Such remarks were as frequent as the young boy delivering the morning newspaper. I guess i was used to it. Maybe after some point all of us get used to the emptiness. The hollowness that is left after a part of you decides to leave.
Before our lives turned upside down,we used to go to a nearby cafe and celebrate till we got wasted. It was a tradition. Birthdays didn’t mean throwing parties or spending the weekend at some posh hotel. Being together and not doing anything was celebration to her. My deliberate attempts at inviting friends over or going to fancy restaurants was always turned down.”You’re so stubborn”, I used to snap, irritated at her lack of enthusiasm. She would smile and shrug it off. Constant requests of doing something different or adventurous went unheard and I was, instead, forced into doing what she would want me to do. I gave in. I always did. So we used to cook ourselves some dinner and celebrate by watching a movie or tv show. Her laughter still echoes in the room, the way she used to fall down laughing uncontrollablly on a joke she found funny. Her hair falling loosely resting on her lean shoulders, legs curled up to her chest and those bright blue eyes staring into the abyss. You could see the entire universe in them; stars, galaxies and everything sparkly and magnificent . She was a moving painting. Looking at her one would picture all the colors, the details, how the colors were beautifully mixed into the other, creating a story.
Emotions were always high especially if we were watching a heartbreaking love story. “Life is meant to be lived out of your comfort zone. It’s not life, if you’re satisfied. Either go all in or you don’t stand a chance” she said as a matter of fact after we had finished watching back to back episodes of her favourite tv show. Always a keen observer and thinker, she would talk about the mere presence of humans on earth, the psychology behind their behaviour, the science behind the universe. There was no particular order, words flew out of her mouth as easily as she composed her thoughts.
Sometimes when I travel back to those memories to catch a glimpse of what life felt like in her presence, guilt overpowers each of the senses and questions my very existence. What if I tried harder? Maybe if I hadn’t given up that easily. “Could haves and would haves” eat us alive. My mind was trapped in a cage and the only beast I had to fight was myself. The harsh wind forced the wind chimes hanging on my window to fall. My thoughts were interrupted and I could see shards of glass spread across the room in an intricate design. The phone still close to my ear, the silence growing even louder. I knew it was her. I knew it because deep down in my heart I could never not deny that possibilty. After what seemed like forever, I gave up. Just as I was about to put the phone down, I heard muffled sounds from the other side of the phone. I composed myself and finally spoke,” Happy Birthday”. But she was long gone.