The following story is by Poulomi Bose. If you enjoy this story, you can follow her work on Facebook: www.facebook.com/poulsapart
It was an invisible island for her, the yellow line of the metro- different places on it holding infinite memories. It was like a confidante, a companion that had grown up with her in the city, discovering the city with her, sharing so many moments of her life through the years. They had both seen each other for so long now, changing in so many ways, and yet holding on to so many things. As she entered the station, fresh memories took over her yet again, of the day her relationship with the yellow line had begun.
It was a very special day. It was going to be the first time she’d meet him in the city. Childhood romance right out of SRK movies- love expressed solely in longing gazes and clandestine meetings in a small town where there is hardly any crime like young love. Love that when discovered by the parents, suddenly transforms their sons and daughters into the most heinous criminals of all times who need to be beaten, humiliated and tortured into forcefully forgetting their film inspired emotions. Hence, when after eight months of not seeing him, or talking to him, she was allowed to live in a hostel in Delhi to study for her Bachelor’s degree, the first call she had made was to him, with trembling hands. “I’m coming tomorrow. How could I go anywhere else when you are there?” he’d said. And thus, on the third day of her new life in Delhi, she was about to meet him- after what had seemed like an eternity.
It was a cloudy july morning. She had changed out of at least ten sets of clothes by the time it was 11. Her roommates were curious, she hadn’t stepped out of college in the first couple of days at all, despite repeatedly being coaxed by various people. As she changed into her seemingly umpteenth dress, she felt excited like a child, like she was guarding a big secret, a secret that was hers to keep, and only hers to enjoy. An involuntary half smile would escape her lips every once in a while, betraying a little of the happiness she unsuccessfully tried to contain within her. By the time she left for the metro station, it had started raining a little. ‘It’s raining for us’, she thought, and finally, glad that no one was watching, allowed herself a broad smile. Her stomach was tingling as she tried to walk faster, mentally cribbing about the eternity it was taking her to cover the two minute distance from her college to the metro station. The tingling intensified as she descended the stairs, wondering if he’d reached, imagining the awkwardness of the first things they would say to each other. He hadn’t reached by the time she’d reached the concourse. And then she heard the metro come. And her heart stopped for a moment, and then started beating so loudly that she could clearly hear every beat, and as warmth spread over her, burning her ears, she waited to see him at last.
She saw his hair first, as he came up the stairs. The beautifully wavy hair that he had the habit of casually running his fingers through, cribbing about how they never stayed in place. She had always loved running her fingers through his hair. In years to come, she’d see that hair grow to insane lengths, cut short, grow again, troubleshoot him in his endless complains of hairfall, oil his hair with the 1 rupee sachets of hair oil he would get from god knows where, secretly sitting behind the metro station so that people don’t see them, get used to the smell of his shampoo, buy him a packet of rubber bands for tying them in his ponytail phase, try to straighten them and spot the first white hair. And then, almost eight years from that day, she’d long to be able to touch that hair again, to feel the coarse softness of it between her fingers, to pull them naughtily and scream at him when he’d try to do the same to her. To smell it one last time, and feel content with the happiness something that simple about him used to give her.
Then she saw the eyes. Those eyes. “You don’t really have to speak much you know. You just have to look at someone to say what you want to. Your eyes speak a language of their own,” She’d told him when they were just friends. She hadn’t meant to, the words had just escaped her lips. They’d twinkle with liquid warmth, those beautiful brown eyes- the colour of dark chocolate. They’d look at her and the richness of their expression would make her feel like the most beautiful, the most loved woman on earth. A few years later, she would once get him a pair of coloured contact lenses on his birthday, blue ones because he’d want to look like the robot SRK plays in his latest movie. Making him wear them would be such a task, and she’d have to wade through almost half an hour of screaming, shouting and accusations of her trying to deliberately blind him by scratching his eyeballs to finally make them stay in this eyes. He’d look cute in a very ET way, but the lack of the chocolate brown of the eyes and the coffee bean twinkle would unsettle her so much, she’d hug him and ask him to never wear them in front of her again and never look at her with those alien eyes. And a few years from that, she’d stop finding any of her in those eyes. Those eyes will look past her, through her like she was invisible. They’ll not see the new earrings she’d wear to show him, they’ll not see how her fingers involuntarily keep circling the mark on her left ring finger, where there used to be the ring he’d given her. They’ll not see her fighting back tears to keep that smile on her face because she’d be too proud to cry in front of him. They’ll not see the look in her eyes, the way she’d be desperately looking for a sign in them, telling her he’s not meant what he had been saying. The eyes, that’ll freeze and become vacant for her, oblivious to everything she was, and everything he had been to her.
And then she saw the smile- he’d seen her, and smiled. It reached his eyes and brightened them up, that smile, expressing a hundred emotions in an instant. She’d fall in love with that smile over and over again in the years to come- when he’d give her surprise visits, when he’d look at her indulgently when she’ll say something stupid, when she’ll mispronounce a word, when she’d make faces at him, and when she’d ask him to say her name. And then she’d freeze when with that smile, he’ll tell her what he needed in his life. The smile that’ll become the last thing she’ll see of him. The smile that’ll mock her, make her feel so small, and insignificant. The smile that’ll become meaningless, like everything they had had between them.
He came and stood across the barrier, and held her hand. And they just stood smiling at each other, for a long, long time. It did feel like they showed in the movies, the world coming to a standstill around them. They just stood, forgetting everything, just so perfectly happy to be able to see each other again, to be able to stand together without fear. Still smiling, he lightly touched her cheek and asked her, “So, where do you want to go?”
“Wherever!” she said, smiling. And then, She brought the token to her first ever ride on the yellow line.
“Doors will open on the right, please mind the gap”, the semi robotic voice she’d always mock to amuse him, at which he’d pull her cheeks, announced for the umpteenth time, and she finally broke out of her reverie. She needed to change. Her new home, her new life was on another line. Smiling, she got up, and walked out.