I perched on my verandah in spite of the biting cold and hugged my knees with my arms to gain a little comfort. My tea had turned cold amidst all that contemplation. Of course I could have made another one, or just warmed it, but I went inside and chucked it down the basin.
“Why did you do that?” I heard a voice, similar to his whisper. I turned around to see a man about his size standing with folded arms and grinning as if he’d been caught for a prank.
I avoided his question and went to my room. He was probably one of the many guests I had at my place. I never interacted with any of them. They always found a way to annoy me. Guests are called guests for a reason; they are supposed to comprise of only a few minutes of your life and not take up residence in it, however abstract life may be.
A lifeless thing such as my room comprehended me, or at least happened to be a shoulder to me. So, I went to sit by the window sill and tried to complete my drafts. It was the only thing that kept me going. My journal consisted of souvenirs of our meetings, and every time I looked at that them, my eyes would well up. That didn’t stop me from reliving those moments. I traced the four-leafed clover he had gifted me, with three-fourth of my skin and the remaining one-fourth with my sweater’s extended sleeve. I went into a trance as his memories flooded my thoughts.
Just then, a purposeful cough startled me. It was him. Again. I looked away instantly, trying my best to go back to my daydream. He just smirked at my actions and came and sat next to me. He looked here and there and then tried to make eye contact with me. He would incline his head towards the side I would turn. When I finally looked towards him, he let out a laugh. I didn’t join his laughter. It didn’t seem right to laugh. Just the thought of it made me feel guilty. It was like enjoying his absence.
“Stretching your sleeves is much more effective than wearing gloves, right?” He made another attempt to make me laugh to which my sole reflex was pulling the sleeves of my sweater back, and subsequently reaching for my cuffs.
Now this young man in front of me started fiddling with my things. I was supposed to have flared my nostrils or at least snap at him. But, I didn’t. Something was seriously wrong with me. I normally wouldn’t stand an outsider touching my things without my permission. Maybe he wasn’t an “outsider.” I dusted that thought away and questioned my own sanity.
“Is that your guitar?” He asked, raising one of his eyebrows; the left one to be exact. I nodded a yes, expressionlessly.
“Then do you play?” He interrogated.
“No. Not anymore.” I somehow managed to utter a couple of words.
He went ahead and picked it up. “Well, this is quite dusty,” he spoke, not expecting a reply. He wiped off the dust with his undershirt, and then came towards me with the guitar.
“Hey listen, I am aware of your loss. I can see it in your eyes.” My eyes popped out at that statement.
“No, not really. Your mother told me,” he said, without batting an eyelid to his own witty remark. But his former sentence gave me some encouragement to take things off my chest.
“Well, it all happened last Christmas.” Something or rather someone was making me feel at ease while talking about it.
Instead of asking me more about it, he simply strummed the guitar strings in a melodramatic tone, but then gestured me to continue my story.
“This guitar was actually a gift from him. And he used to teach me. Whatever little I know, it’s through him. But I have lost the courage to play it again. He would often tell me about his dream girl, and I slowly fell in love with him. That gave me an idea to surprise him. I dressed like her on the day we were supposed to perform at the church. But just as I was about to run towards him, a truck…” I trailed off, and completely zoned out.
He kept his hand on my shoulder and said, “See, I know it’s not going to be okay, and I am not going to comfort you by saying that either. Just know that your life also has a purpose on this planet.” Then looking at the bizarre decorations around us; the grey wreath, the wilted holly leaves, and the worn out stockings, he sighed and after a brief pause spoke, “Just because one Christmas of yours turned around to be black, doesn’t mean you’ll paint every other Christmas of yours grey. At least make do with some white.”
My face turned into a scrabble board towards the end of his dialogue.
“Silly,” he continued,”I know it’s hard, but keep all those moments in your heart. Trust me, he’s there. No one is asking you to let go. Rather hold on tighter.”
I blinked at his wise words.
“And you are performing today. I will teach you a few easy tunes and you’ll do just fine.”
I neither agreed nor disagreed to that. I had put enough faith in his words to do whatever I was being told. The tunes he played were so captivating and soothing to the ear, and instead of complimenting his skills, I just blurted out a “You are so cool!”
He chuckled and said, “Well of course I am. Didn’t I tell you I belong to a hill station?” At this point, it seemed impossible to tame the slight curve of my lips.
“Oh and do wear that same outfit tonight. I am certain that you would have had to change last time.” He took a vow from me and got up to leave.
“Sure, as long as you dress like an elf.”
“Fine. I will do that.” He accepted my condition with a straight face and promised to be there while I performed. I took out that same white sweater, which was embroidered with several snowflakes and a pair of sky blue jeans to go with it and packed myself in it. Then, I stepped into my boots and put on a grey woollen cap. There. I was all prepared. I gathered all the strength I had and picked up the guitar to perform.
He had kept his word. He stood right next to Santa Claus and the other elves. The audience swayed to my music and my melodies just zoomed into the atmosphere awaiting feedback from the birds. I felt so energetic and revived. I felt like I was never really sad.
And as I finished, I searched for him in the crowd. He was nowhere to be found. He had taken my words literally.
Just. Like. He. Used. To.
(Picture credits: Unknown; Source: We heart it)