Three words. “Come to me”, that’s all he uttered.
While I leaned against the big tree, holding most of my childhood memories, I heard my phone ring. Bittersweet symphony, my ringtone since the time I ever owned a phone, rang loud and clear. The mellow song and his name on the phone screen lit up. I picked up and he whispered come to me. He didn’t say any more nor any less, just the right amount of words used, as always. He hung up and left me wondering what he meant by it. If it was the distance between us that bothered him or the endless cycles of breaking up and coming together again. We both knew the love we shared but it came out as bursts of sunshine through the clouds on a rainy day. It lit up our lives only for the time being while the rest of the moments were spent contemplating the excess or lack of it, which made me, a cynic, cringe and undergo panic attacks. He called back again, after 20 minutes, and acted so normal that made me wonder if normal was the word to be used to describe what he was just doing. He was the only the bullet piercing through every layer of my Kevlar, the only acid melting me inside out, the only shard of glass scratching a diamond tough skin. And now, he wanted me to do something for which no bullet, acid or glass, was good enough. His deep voice comforting me through another bout of anxiety.
“You will have to pack your bags, pack up all of your life, books, every piece of paper you have ever written on. When I mean everything, I really do mean everything. Pick up every piece of whatever reminds you of me. Throw everything into your bags, bid your goodbyes to your family, ask them to wait to hear from you and book the first flight out of your city” he stated all of this, very matter-of-factly.
“What the hell is going on and why would I do all of this, I don’t even know where I should book my ticket for, plus you’re not helping at all” my voice started quivering as I shouted at him.
“Sweety, you know exactly where to go, and I know it too. Go there and wait for better things”
I stopped wondering about what he was talking of so I said okay and started packing up. There were too many gifts that we had given each other and packing all of them up, the smallest of things, in the smallest corners of my house, was the hardest part. All of the packing took me about three days to finish and after I was done, I looked around the house. Most of the floor was always littered with my things, my clothes, unpaired shoes, paint blotches, brushes, canvas pieces, papers, everything. My family never had a problem with a mess I created because the mess was my own sanity. But the moment I realized I was going to leave all of this, my own home, that tree from my childhood, my porch swing where I wrote my many stories, all of these things that made me a whole human, I was anxious again. It was the most surreal feeling knowing that in some time I would off to an unknown destination that I had never been to, had only seen in a postcard, and a place that I didn’t know the name of. It was a whole new experience of feeling an unknown feeling. I opened up my laptop and logged into a ticket booking site. As soon as my ticket to the state I was travelling to got confirmed, I dropped him a message saying “All set”. The only reply I got was “I’m proud of you”. Again, his cryptic messages were indecipherable.
The day of my flying away. My parents stood in utter silence, not able to make sense of what I was about to embark on, but they were supportive enough to not show the disdain they hid inside. I was more unsure about this than anything else I had ever been of. While I hugged my mother, I chanced to see the green colored calligraphic A tattooed against my wrist. It was small enough to be passed up by anyone looking at my hand and big enough for me to know what it meant. It meant him. Wholly, completely and part of me.
My taxi came in through the front gate and my brother and father started loading my luggage into it. I was now absolutely set to disappear. All of them bid me goodbye, and I promised I would call in 20 days. The fright of that promise was evident on my mother’s face but she just smiled and let me go. I slept off on the way to the airport from all that immense exhaustion.
My favorite place on earth. A cottage in the middle of nowhere, with a forest ending at the start of the road to the cottage. Overlooking a mountain range, with a stream right beside the picket fence. This was my dream, and the only thing I knew was the name of the state where I was travelling to.
I had an uneventful flight where the only thing I managed to do was fiddle with my bracelets the whole time I was looking out the window. When the plane started losing height, I realized I was about to land. I was as excited as I was scared and in the anticipation of landing I drank a whole small bottle of vodka to soothe me into walking out of the plane.
As soon as I got out of the airport, the sight, sounds and smells of a different place hit me suddenly. While I was trying to compose myself, a friend who I hadn’t seen for many years came to meet me.
“Hi, so I will just get to the point and take you to the place I have been instructed to take you. You will find your road to journey through, there, “she smiled at me knowingly. As usual, I was dumbfounded by everything that was unfolding around me. We got into the car together with very less talking, both of us were looking out our windows wondering what was going on. About an hour into the journey, the car took a right turn and stopped at a bus station.
“You have to get down here. I’m giving you a road map and this piece of paper to where you have to be”
She handed me the things I required and also gave me a sandwich which she bought from a nearby shop. I had to get on the first bus out of the station. I got in and took my favorite seat, the window on the left side, 5th seat. The driver announced where we would be headed to, a place I had never heard of. The only thing crossing my mind was the thought of death. The bus journey was another 3 hours and I slept off again. The gentle humming of the bus engine with the sound of people lightly talking around me was just the perfect tune to sleep off to.
The driver rang the bell for me to get off. As soon as I got off, I was instantly wrapped in the smell of fresh rain. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever smelt and I was excited. I opened up my map and tried to trace the path of where I was supposed to go. I realized I had an hour’s trek to complete my journey. So I started off through a winding road, deep in a forest. But it was the kind of forest that does not intimidate anyone, it was the magical kind. Where I would like to believe in magical toadstools growing out the grassy floor, with fairies flitting around enchanted trees. My whole trek was amazing as the forest was the most beautiful place I had ever been to. After I completed an hour, I reached a clearing where the sunlight was strong and the new air of the hills pierced through the trees. I started walking more briskly now. In the distance I saw a man bent around the grassy floor, picking out things off it. The first thing I noticed was the picket fence, white, like in the postcard. It took me a couple of moments to realize I was actually looking straight at my dream.
I went closer to the man who had his back to me.
“Excuse me, sir. Do you live here?” I asked him politely.
“Yes, and now you will too” he replied back.
Then he turned around, and smiled. My gaze went up from his gardening tools, to his chest, to the small tattoo on his neck, to his smile and then to his eyes. It was him. The love of my life was standing right there, in all his beautiful resplendence, smiling back at me. Hugs and kisses wouldn’t suffice for the love I held for him at that very moment.
I burst out crying and shouted at him but kissed him, then I shouted some more. I was absolutely speechless and while he hugged me, he said “Go inside the house, I have another surprise for you”
So we walked in, my luggage suddenly feeling as light as leaves. There, inside the house, was all my favorite food laid on the table. I went inside the bedroom to change and saw a stark white and grey dress on the bed.
“Today, we get married. I don’t want the distance, I cannot live without you. I have planned everything right down to the t so you will never face any dearth of things you need. I will keep you happy, and we will live in the place you have only dreamt of. So get changed into your wedding dress, chop chop and let me kiss all your pains away. I promise to always love you, without a slightest doubt ever crossing my mind” he said this to me and kissed me.
And I realized this is what happiness feels like, against your very own skin.