MORE THAN AN ACQUAINTANCE…

It struck twelve. ‘Twelve in the night is an odd time to be in a small village, especially for a girl’, a man whispered not very far from me. I cringed at the shaky voice. It heavily smelt of booze. Suddenly, I was not alone anymore, and that frightened me more. The man moved away paces but I could feel his eyes on me. The ramshackle bus-stand grew eerie as I stood restless. I cursed the cabbie of my earlier ride once again for leaving me in such a state of panic. Why can’t they check the tanks for sufficient gas before having a passenger aboard? And just how conveniently, he dropped me off to the nearest bus station about 2 miles from the breakdown, to which, quite surprisingly his cab did not resist at all. Exhaling heavily, I tried to concentrate on my book.

‘But surely, he lived in the nearby village, and wanted to make what little fare he could make out of you,’ said Jessica. ‘How can you be so dumb as to not understand their tricks,’ she fumed over the phone. It was not like I was having the time of my life to endure her reprimanding now. ‘Relax, Jess. I’ll be fine,’ I said and cut the call. Well, quite obviously, I wasn’t all right and quite naturally scared of the man on prowl. I pulled the travel bag closer to me in a hope to shield myself and just how in vain! Right then, I wished to vanish inside it.

The waft of hot boiling tea from the tea-stall across the street made me want to run, grab a cup and drown my worries with the beverage. But a quick glance around, registered what little the secluded bus-stop held. A couple of men talking animatedly in the regional dialect. A man who seemed foreign in the land, was busy reading a book. An urchin was pestering an elderly for money.  That’s all the audience I had around me. And then there was the man casting dirty glances at me. Oh, how long, before the local bus picked me up. I didn’t care where the bus took me; I just wanted to get out of that place just then.
Once again, I tried to not be intimidated by my circumstance and struggled to find the lost thread from the book. Noiselessly, the creepy man came and stood right next to me, barely an inch away, muttering, ‘Can I take you somewhere?’ I was so absorbed in my book that it took a second for me to notice that it was the same man. I flinched and moved away. For some reason, the man who was reading a book at the far corner left his stance and came and took a seat on the broken bench, poising himself between me and the local creep.
If it was his gesture to shield me, I hardly realized and almost burst out shouting. But something about the book that he was reading delivered a different message altogether and I held my words back. Invisible Cities. The same book as I was reading. People who read are a lot better than people who don’t. I always believed that. Quickly, wiping away the tears, I looked up at him. He wasn’t more than thirty and with his glasses, he looked a lot younger than that. In a casual black tee, faded denims, and with a backpack, he looked like a budget traveler. He didn’t look at me first, but when he did, I knew that that look and that smile would change everything. ‘Don’t worry, he wouldn’t dare any more,’ was all he said and was consumed by ‘Invisible Cities’ again.

Twenty-five minutes later, the groaning, screeching bus pulled into the stop. I didn’t look back not until the bus had pulled away and all I could catch of his fast fading figure was the patch on his backpack that read Keith Martin. I wanted to say goodbye; but it could’ve been the start of something, or perhaps a thank you; but that would’ve sounded too needy. So, I gave up and maybe because I was too subdued to attempt, I just left. I will keep him safe in the recesses of my memory from that night, that village, but will I ever meet him again? And more than that, will I ever forget that look, that reassuring smile that became my sunshine on a dark eerie night?

Certain circumstances happen for you meet certain people. You may never cross paths again, but you can’t stop reminiscing about them every now and then. Whether it was a minute or a miraculous month, they’re inseparably linked to you because of that one incident that made them mean immensely much to you.

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DEAR HEART, WHY THE DESPERATION?

It had started to pour by the time she left his house. Climbing down three flights of stairs, she did not notice the rain beating upon the window panes that lined the side of the building. At that moment, her heartbeats were more tumultuous than the roaring winds, thrashing the empty street. A harsh wind slapped across her face, as soon as she stepped out of the centrum, and onto the promenade. That’s when she started to cry.

Mighty and mysterious, the sea beyond the promenade distracted her thoughts. The swelling then ebbing waves much reflected her own state of mind. And it would be unfair to say this was first time. For the past few days, she had been dragging herself through the mental trauma under the pretence of excuses. Tonight, however, it was over. Tonight, she was free.

She sat down upon the bench overlooking the sea. The vastness of the sea made her feel belittled. Why can’t I be like the sea? Destructive, when raging. Soothing, when calm. For ages, people have gone to the sea to drown their worries. From the time, she was a kid, she had seen her parents take solitary walks by the sea and sort out their differences. But tonight, the sea was all-consuming. Why can it not soothe her soul?

She had known the sea to carry messages across continents and find lovers for the lonely. She had herself, given away her secrets and sorrows to the sea, with a solemn promise, to take it all away from her, from a point of no return. She sat watching the undecipherable sea. Why this adamancy? Why this treason tonight?

She allowed the rain to soak her on the outside, while her tears soaked her insides. She folded her knees and wrapped her arms around them. Gradually, rain ceased to pour and reduced to drizzles. Hours passed like minutes, and when she looked up, there was the moon staring back at her, swollen and beautiful, like her moist eyes.

The wind, the waves, the calm of the night, all succeeded in diminishing her urge to demand answers. She knew finally, no matter what answers her heart chased, her mind would never accept them. And thus she asked, the victim of her heart, “Pray tell, why the desperation?”

She lowered her legs, and her feet grazed the chilling earth beneath. The sensation sent shivers up her spine and she embraced herself. In a beat, she missed the company, the night had snatched from her. From somewhere, a troubled mutt, lost and lonely, came to rest upon her feet.

Last vestiges of heartache left her body as she gently stroked the brown boy, who looked up at her with large pleading eyes, and with a mild wag of the tail, offered her crumbs of comfort. She fed on them gladly. And for the last time, for a fleeting moment, she felt she saw the dismal message etched in the vanishing canopy of clouds,

“Baby, she loves me. I, can at least pretend.”

~~~~~

So tell us, reader, how do you handle the desperate urges to empty your mind of anguish? Share your thoughts in the comment below.

~~~~~

©Asha Seth
www.themusingquill.com

HER VALENTINE’S DAY RITUAL

Why don’t you join us?” They asked her for the hundredth time. She was exhausted from having to reject their pleas. Her friends were never tired though. “It’s just one night. It couldn’t hurt, right? Besides, just think , you might meet someone really cute.” Her best friend winked at her. She never felt the need to have male company; a man couldn’t complete her.

What would you do, shut in the house?” She didn’t see the need to answer that. They didn’t know her plan. Her Valentine’s Day ritual!

She woke up with the alarm clock ticking on the bed-stand. 4 years ago, she wouldn’t have been the only one to wake up. He was the one to wake up before her. She would stir in her sleep with him next to her. His playful and cheery self would bring him even closer to her, so she could feel his breath on her skin. Smiling, she would hug him as he’d nuzzle her cheek. 

But today, on the morning of 14th February, 4 years later, she woke up with a struggle. Lifted aside the blankets and stepped in her slippers.

What would you do, shut in the house? The thought echoed in her mind.

None of her friends were let in to share the secret – her Valentine’s Day ritual. She feared they would judge her, think that loneliness had turned her mind somehow. She will never be ready to tell them. They will never understand.

She got dressed in her black dress; the one that even today carried his smell. It was perfectly fit for the day. To some, it would seem she was out on a date, only it wasn’t so.

On the way, she bought the flowers he so loved – white daisies. And a bar of Mars, the only crunchy treat that got him out of a fit of rage or sadness. Just over a mile, she turned around the corner and walked past the gate. This was where they first met 9 years ago. This was where they always met for the past 4 years.

1st row, 2nd and 3rd… There!

“My heart is your home & there you’ll live forever!”

In loving memory of,

‘Dollar’

The Dog who still lives…

The headstone read.

Two great drops of tears washed away the dust settled on the ground where she laid the daisies and the bar of Mars. She felt the paw prints engraved on the stone. He was her friend, her companion, her love, her life. How could any man replace him?  She got up, turned and left the graveyard.

For her, this was customary. For her, this was Valentine’s Day.

~~~~~

I lost my pet German Shephard ‘Dollar’ many years ago.
But there’s not one day I don’t miss him.
I believe,

Valentine’s Day is about appreciating them
who make your life better, happier, worthwhile.
And that’s not just humans.

This post is my tribute to all our furred friends, to Dollar. ❤

That’s my idea of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day. What’s your idea?

~~~~~

©Asha Seth
www.themusingquill.com