He leant back in his chair. He put his head against the cushion and closed his eyes …
They called him ‘heartless’. They called him ‘ice cold’. They called him a ‘robot’. He did not cry. He did not cry when he witnessed his parents’ shot to death. He did not cry when a car ran over his brother in broad daylight, in front of his eyes. He simply did not cry. He did not know how to.
He was minding his own business, as he always did. She walked up to him. She was a new recruit. She smiled at him. He stared.
‘Hello!’, she said.
‘What do you want?’, he asked.
‘I’m new here. I was wondering if you could tell me where the bank is’, she asked warmly.
‘Go down the stairs. First right’, came the reply, abruptly. That was how it passed. Their first meeting.
She was assigned to his team. He could not have cared less. She was inquisitive; he was indifferent. Not really a match made in heaven. She was good, though. Very good at what she did. She had his respect. Gradually, though, he warmed up to her. He was not one to make small-talk but he tried. Reluctantly, and painstakingly.
‘Er, I was wondering …’
‘It’s nothing really. Forget I said anything.’
‘No, no! Go on …’
‘Well, I was wondering, if , after work, if you do not have any plans lined up and if you’ve absolutely nothing else to do, because I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you in the least, I was wondering if you were free, maybe you’d like to,er, I dunno, get a cup of coffee?’
‘If this is you asking me out, I’d say that you’ve rather made a meal of it but since I am “free” and “have absolutely nothing else to do” and since you aren’t “inconveniencing me” in the least, sure! I’d love to grab a coffee. So does that answer your question?’
She laughed; more of a giggle this time.
‘Yes’, he said, turned around and walked. He did not know how else to react. Sarcasm was an alien concept.
‘Strange chap’, she thought, and smiled.
And so they met for coffee that evening. And every evening after that for a week. It continued for months. It was as if a storm had smacked him straight on the face. He had known no one like her. She was wonderful. She had this amazing warmth that she radiated, that each time he even saw her, she took his breath away. She was just so full of life that he was just astounded by her every time. He did not know that someone could have such a zest for life. He melted in her presence. It was a feeling that he did not know existed.
Always though, he knew that it was not to be. She was committed. Committed in a relationship that had a smaller chance of failure than the chance that he had of becoming the president of America. He had hopes that he harbored, though. That no one could take away from him. Yet, all the while, he knew that it was not to be. Never to be.
She confided in him, and he in her. He told her things that he never thought he would tell another human being. As each day went by, he began to like her more and more. He openly flirted with her. She responded in kind; only, she knew that it was all fun and games, he hoped otherwise, although he knew it was just not ever going to happen. Ever. He spoke to her during the day; he spoke to her during the night. He even spoke to her in between, if that time even existed.
And then, it came. The inevitable. She had to leave. It was time. She told him. He nodded understandingly in front of her; went home and brooded alone. He always knew that it would come to this. His pragmatic self had taught him enough to know that the inevitable always happened. He knew, or rather, thought that he knew that when it would happen eventually, he would bear it. Now, he was not so sure.
There was a week to go. The last day was drawing close. He had resigned himself to fate but there was still a part of him that just could not let go. For the first time in a long time, he was attached. The week went by with her packing and him watching.
And then the day arrived. He went to the railway station to send her off. He helped her onto the train and placed her luggage in the seat below. It was time for the train to leave. He got down. She stood at the door of the compartment. The train moved. She waved. He waved. She kept waving, with a smile on her face. With every wave, she seemed to go further and further.
The smile on his face, the one he had put on, was disappearing. She could still see his face. Suddenly, it went all blurry. All he could see were fuzzy outlines and at the center, her. She alone shone; shone like a star, bright and brilliant. The more the microseconds wore on, the more blurred his vision became. He could only see her face now. Nothing else. And then it happened…
Tears, an entity, the existence of which he had not really known, welled up in his eyes but before she could see him, he turned away. As he turned, a solitary tear escaped his eye. It fell to the ground and splashed, making a splatter on the ground. A dark spot amidst the light colored dirty floor of the platform – the tear shed. He walked away. He did not turn to look back. He just couldn’t …
His eyes were watery but before a tear could be shed, he opened his eyes and looked. He was in his chair. He looked to his side and smiled. He had shed a tear once. He did not regret it. Though, he now knew that had his eyes not become watery that day, had be been stronger ….
He cast his mind back to that day.
He went back to that point in time when his eyes welled up. He froze that moment in time and looked out of the corner of his eye. Standing at the door of the next compartment, also waving , to someone else though, was the woman that now rested her head on his shoulders; his wife. Had his vision not blurred, had his eyes not welled up, that would have been the day he first met his wife. As fate would have it, though, he did indeed meet her later and fell head over heels in love with her.
He looked back and thought about it. He had no regrets. Well, maybe just one – that it prevented it from meeting the woman of his dreams sooner.
Footnote: What of her? Well, he and she remain the greatest of friends.