Mina leaned back against the railing as she walked another of her drunk friends to the washroom in the first floor. From this place, she could still feel the vibrancy of the place, the music in the crowded room, the smell of scent and liquor combined, the laughter amidst people who barely talk when they were sober. Nothing brings a group of youth as a party.
Param was right in calling her the most boring person ever. It’s not that she didn’t enjoying dancing to the hypnotic music in the in house party she was attending. She truly did. Yet, there were also moments when she suddenly felt the hum leave her head as she felt the desire to step back and go to someplace quiet, before she could join her friends.
She was more than glad to walk one of her friends who was totally out and could use a little help to walk to the loo hence. As she stood there in the cold, crossing her arms, she looked around the row of houses which were so quiet in contrast with the noisy one she was standing in right now.
How many houses had little families minding their own business right now, how many had people having a fulfilling meal with meaningful conversations. She felt herself softly smile at her thoughts. No wonder she was wired differently, living every moment craving for what she might not have, not enjoying the moment.
She turned away, looking into the cold night, observing her surroundings when she found something that caught her attention.
The huge independent house that was next to the one she was in was devoid of any lights, showing it was unoccupied. However there was one single light glowing in its attic and it was the man sitting on the stairs, his posture defeated, his jacket thrown next to him, his face in his hands had captured her attention.
She leaned on the railing, her chin resting on her hands, as she stayed there watching a person, who might not be related to her, but whose sadness called out to her.
There was a time and place when her brother probably was sitting somewhere this way, looking for ways and means to end his life, reminiscing all those worthless things that he thought proved him not worthy enough to carry on living his life. If there were somebody by him then, talking him out of it, maybe he were alive now, maybe she wouldn’t have felt this hollow, this shadow of a person she was. If only… As she looked at the person once again, she felt the need to reach out to him, whoever he was, even though he could probably kick her out of his property.
He lifted his head from his hands as on cue, and she felt her palm slip from beneath her cheek, as she recognized him.
His name incoherently slipped from her lips “S-Sisir…”
He distantly heard the sound of the gate moving, but didn’t care enough to pay attention. There was a shuffle and he felt someone coming close, and assumed it was the gatekeeper.
“S-Sisir…” he felt a voice venturing tenderly and looked up with his bloodshot eyes, staring into a beautiful face that he couldn’t ever forget.
“Mina” he replied as an acknowledgement.
She saw the half empty bottle by his side, and wondered if she disturbed him and he truly wanted to be left alone.
She looked back at his face and tried to detect any hint of discomfort or maybe irritation at being disturbed, but found none.
“Y-You probably a-are w-wondering why I-I’m here”
“I-I”, she thought of a million ways to put it across but failed. Taking a deep breathe, she thought to be honest “I-I came t-to c-check if y-you are o-okay”
He was bewildered for a second. “Really?”
“I-I k-know it is o-out of p-place and y-you m-must be w-wondering w-why I, o-of all p-people—”
He cut her softly “It’s more of how than why”
She scrunched her eyebrows in gentle confusion.
“Sit down, this is going to take a while” he said patting next to him, genially with a smile that curved his lips but couldn’t do anything to erase the pain in his eyes.
She sat next to him, wrapping the jacket she was holding in her arms across her shoulders and hugging her knees.
“Not mean to offend you, but I saw you as someone who even-though cared might not be vocal about it” he said honestly.
“S-So y-you m-mean if I s-saw s-someone looking l-like a w-wreck I w-would walk a-away”
“Slow down before walking away, sure. Thinking about what is wrong with them, definitely, but confronting people, not likely. May I add, the phrase looking like a wreck is stretching it a bit far…”
She had to smile at the gentle humor in the strangest of setting like this.
“I-I am n-not that b-bad a p-person” she said and he smiled when she sounded unsure.
The silence stretched between them, but this time his smile didn’t break her heart, but warmed something in her heart.
“Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate it” he said looking at her.
“N-No p-problem” she said “H-High time I-I try a-and prove I-I am n-not as a-apathetic to p-people as m-much I’m g-given c-credit for”
He laughed now, a slow sound that made her own lips turn up a little. His laughter, she observed came out lazily, in bouts.
“I would love to see you try. How would you start it though?”
“I-I can o-offer to b-be a g-good l-listener”
“B-but I-I’m a g-good l-listener” she protested. “I-I had n-no choice w-when I were a c-child”
Upon his quizzical look, she spoke “W-when I was l-little, I w-was v-very q-quiet. I d-didn’t know h-how else t-to d-deal with the…” she paused not meeting his eyes “…s-stammer” she finished, still not looking at him, even as his fingers itched to edge towards her hands that are gripping the edge of a stair they were sitting on. After a beat of hesitance, he touched her hand softly and was glad when she didn’t pull away.
“So I w-would be q-quiet all the t-time and had w-worked upon my listening s-skills. Most of the t-times I had been s-silently judging my c-cousins even…” she attempted humor which warmed his heart.
“If I were one of the lot that bothered you with their sob stories, I think I would allow a little judgment as long as I was allowed to talk”
“A-Always c-considerate?” she teased.
He shook his head “Always selfish. Which I’m finding becomes increasingly difficult when you age” he said his palm still encircling hers, but now he realized, he had been drawing strength from it.
“This house, is my grandparents’—” he said looking at the property he had always loved.
“Ever since their demise, this property had been stuck, for half of the children inheriting it wanted to sell it at an attractive price that would help them financially. All of them were well off, not depending on it solely anyway. Whatever income this old property would generate, will only be of additional value. If they could capitalize on the offer of having an apartment being constructed at this place, they would in turn have their own little flats in addition to the money they would make. In all case it was a win-win” he paused looking distantly.
“It was a practical choice, however I wouldn’t allow it. I wanted to retain it, which surprised most of my uncles and aunts, angered a few, and it took five years, and a huge amount of money to buy off their share in it. And now when I finally have it, I realized maybe the reason why I loved it so much does not stand valid now. Maybe the people, the time I have loved and cherished are gone forever. Maybe I could buy off the property, but I can’t, try as I might bring back the happy family that once was” he said, retrieving his hand.
“I was foolish to not notice that when I was so preoccupied with myself, I was driving people away. This is a little new, being alone.”
For some reason, she felt he was not just talking about his relatives. She knew who else was he referring to…
“You aren’t going to judge?” his genial voice bought her back from her thoughts.
“F-For a c-change I-I will t-try not t-to” she said smiling.
“Can I ask you for something?” he said after a while, and the softness in his voice undone her.
“Will you stay here for a while?”
She tried to speak something, but as she felt a fist enclosing her chest in an iron grip, all she could do was nod her head, managing to smile.