Aastha saw the smile from his face fading away. An unexplained sorrow gleamed through his eyes, as he mouthed, “I would have, but I cannot. She is no more with me… us..” And he turned away to leave the centre. The words he spoke hit her senses as she stood rooted on her spot. Apparently nobody else heard what he said as they were busy gobbling. She forcefully finished the left-over in her hand.
It was after some time that she realised, she should have stopped him. But considering that her next class was due in another minute, she couldn’t run behind him or call him. She knew he would come for her class. He always did.
But today he did not. Not for the next one that followed. Not even for the one in the evening. His absence bothered her more and more, generating an unexplained guilt inside. She had to speak to him. She would do it tomorrow. But what if he misses those classes as well. No, no, she chided those thoughts away. He will come. She was sure and she will speak to him and apologize for what had been a spur of the moment reaction.
From the moment he walked out of the institute that day, Akash had been contemplating about his reaction. She just made a general statement following basic courtesy. In situations like these, he never mentioned about his loss. But today he blurted out, still thinking why it was important for him that she should know. And then he did the next level blunder – walked out from there.
As he reasoned out, he did not want to see sympathy in her eyes. It had been the case with everyone who came for his mother’s mourning. They would sympathise with him, pity him, without feeling the pain he was going through. Today he didn’t want the same from her. Never. He was deep in the realm of his thoughts, when a beep on his phone interrupted him.
He ignored it, but again a beep. He flipped open the phone to put it to silent mode.
He stared at the phone for a minute before actually realising there was a message from HER…. Astha!
He immediately clicked on the notification.
“Hi…” It read.
“Awake?” Another one..
She had messaged him. His wait of all these months culminated in those two words.
He began typing on the screen.
“Hello, yes. Do you…..” He stopped here and deleted the text. He would not reply. Instead he dialled her number. Two or three rings later, she picked up the phone. It was all silent for a while. All he could hear was her breathing.
“Hi.” Came her reluctant voice.
He had been holding his breath for all this while, relieved now that she had spoken at least.
“Hello!” He replied, his lips curved into a big smile plastered on his face.
A significant pause followed next, both hesitant to speak, as if thinking what to speak.
Aastha soon broke the silence. “You didn’t come for classes today?”
“Yes, I was not feeling ok.” He had barely finished his sentence when she began.
“Look I am very sorry, I should have not said it just like that. I should have been careful.” She had just been blurting when he stopped her.
“It’s Ok. You didn’t say anything rude.” He stopped, fearing that now she might start with the sympathies.
After a while she spoke. “You know what, I have never done this before, like giving condolences. I really don’t know what one ought to say in situations like these. I mean only the one that suffers the loss, knows the real pain. The things others speak are mere words. I would be lying if I say I can understand because I do not. I haven’t suffered a separation like this, so I am not oblivious to your pain.”
This was unusual and it felt refreshing to hear it from her. But he was too overwhelmed with emotions to say anything. He remained silent. She also kept quiet, not urging him to provide any details – what happened, when did it happen and all the usual things that everyone asked again and again.
They both were silent for a few minutes, only the sounds of rising and falling breaths audible on both ends.