“Hey, nice to see you again, my friend” she looked at me and gently whispered.
I stood beside her and smiled. The winter had set in, gentle showers blanketed the city in a cozy cold embrace. My beat down green cardigan spoke volumes about the vagabond that I had become. No city was my home. No land was where the heart rested. The soft jaded black denim had been my constant companion in far too many travels.
“It’s sure been a while” I replied.
She turned her head towards the window to her left. The large window gave her a comforting glimpse into the hustle and bustle of the city below. It felt like a subtle reminder of the world outside. For what it was worth, the window had served its purpose of keeping her connected to the world around her. She felt both a part of it and strangely yet peacefully detached from it. Life was the umbilical chord that kept her prisoner. I found the irony amusing.
The first time I saw her, it probably was decades ago. So delicate, so young. She addressed me as “Uncle”, the way kids are used to addressing strangers. The chain that was life felt so different back then. Back then, it was not a leash cast upon her neck. It didn’t keep her anchored. I guess , both life and her, I met them when they were delicate.
I spent a week beside her. She was a curious little one. She had far too many simple questions about everything about the world. She had far too many simple questions which I couldn’t explain in simple terms. Her novice view of faith, life, the way of the world was a refreshing change. She had a lovely uncomplicated view of the world.
And soon it was the time for me to leave. I knew the repercussions. I got demoted and stomached the ire of a few suits. I knew I would outgrow the dissent. It was a simple trade off to me and I gladly traded off.
From time to time, I’d check up on my little friend. She was a bundle of joy to watch. Through the ages, the child that she was never grew. Through the freckles and wrinkles, the innocence in her heart had never crumpled. She had managed to evade the change that most people are subjected to. She had managed to remain the same. Remain herself. Unassuming, unapologetic and unconditionally just her.
She’d spot a pair of crows and make a wish. She’d spot a black car and go mute till she managed to spot a red one. A game that kids played, it added to her charm as an adult. Everyday, she’d make the time to play with dogs that loitered in her neighbourhood. She’d leave a bowl of milk for the stray cats. She was a child masquerading as an adult in a good way. The goodness in her had never ceased.
Through the roller coaster of life, I watched her silently. She smiled when she could. She cried when she couldn’t. She sang when she was happy, she’d hum a melancholic tune when she was sad. She always made it a point to spread the sunshine that was her to the world around her. Most folks could never see her sadness. She didn’t feel that the world needed another wistful tale to cry about.
She found love, blessed soul. Blessed with a slice of herself in time too. From a child to a teenager. From an Adult to a mother. From a mother to a grandmother, I saw her in silence. I saw her mesmerised by the beauty in her heart and face. I decided to break that silence today. It finally was time for us to talk.
“You’ve not aged much. I don’t think I remember how you used to look. It doesn’t matter though. You still look calm and peaceful. Almost the way when you met me first” she said.
I couldn’t disagree. It was both my gift and curse. We were meant to be. We were void of change. It happened that we could choose that courage to change. A choice that came at a price.
“And you, darling, are still as beautiful as the day I saw you. Who knew that the wrinkles will make you look beautiful” I joked.
She smiled weak.
“Is it time?” she enquired.
I stood in silence. It has never been an easy question to answer.
“I don’t know if I’m afraid. I knew this life was a gift. I should have died in that crash years ago, my mother used to tell me. I think you had a part to play. I’ve lived life the way I wanted to. I don’t have regrets. I’ll miss watching my grand daughter play, but I guess that’s all there is to it. I’ll miss the people here who have been my world.”
She paused and then looked intently into my eyes in hopes of uncovering a possible secret or some big wide explanation that magically makes sense and restores balance. I had nothing to offer.
“Please tell me that I’ve lived my life proper”, she broke the silence again.
“Absolutely darling. I knew it the day I saw you. You, of all the people I’ve ferried across, definitely deserved a shot at life. I still don’t regret my choice. I broke our rules for what I believed in. You proved me right. “
I saw a sense of accomplishment beaming from her face. She felt at peace. She felt she had repaid a long standing debt.
“Chin up, princess. There is so much more that I have to show you. Buckle up for the ride. It’s going to be fun”, I gently whispered. She closed her eyes. Instinctively I kissed her forehead for luck.
The machines in the room alerted alarmingly to summon the attention of the doctors around. Right through the ruckus, we both walked out holding each other’s hand. The white light was blinding for a moment.