In continuation of The Meeting
Warning: Smoking is injurious to health. It causes cancer.
When Ajay had walked out of the I.C.U. he simply wanted to breathe fresh air. Actually, he wanted to breathe in the air filtered through his favorite Marlboro. He crossed the street and sat on a bench facing the hospital. He had just finished his first cigarette and had lit the second one when he saw her again. He saw her walking out of the hospital. He checked the time; it was past the visiting hours. Did it mean that she worked in the hospital? He wondered. He no longer wanted to finish his second cigarette. Extinguishing it with his shoe, he picked up the minimally burnt cigarette and threw it in the nearby dust-bin. He had to do this. He needed to know who this woman was.
When he had lost her in the hospital earlier in the day, he did not know how and when he would meet her again but someone he knew it would happen. It seemed as if the universe wanted them to meet.
The girl was walking straight towards him, it seemed as if she was running and not walking. He wished he could read her mind before talking to her. He did not want to do it at the wrong time. But, before he could understand it himself, he had started walking towards her and when he reached her, he was equally surprised as the girl was. The shock on her face said that this was exactly what she wanted to avoid, coming face to face with him, or maybe, he was reading too much into it. Seeing the girl from such a close distance made him nervous. There was absolutely nothing that could distinguish between her and Smriti. Of course, the resemblance was just physical. Or was it, a voice at the back of his head said. For a moment he could not stop staring into her deep blue eyes. It seemed as if he was falling deep into them and that very moment he was sure that the girl would help him.
“We need to talk” that was all he had to say and the girl nodded. He walked towards the park in the hospital campus. On the way in, he saw a family walking out of the park. Had Smriti not been in the condition that she was in, perhaps he could have had such a family. For a moment, he even visualized himself and Smriti. He walked towards the bench and waited for the girl to sit.
He did not know what he was going to say, how he was going to say it but it was time. He had to say it.
When he was in the hospital room, few minutes before walking out for breathing fresh air, he felt deep inside his heart that Smriti wanted this. She wanted this for the person they both loved immensely. This had to be done.
“I know this might sound weird but please you have to believe me” he began still standing and immediately he had the girl’s attention. It seemed as if she wanted this as much as he wanted it. He felt that bond with her.
“I want to apologize for the weird behavior earlier in the day but I want you to know that I have a justified reason for doing that.” He saw the girl shifting on the bench and taking that as a clue he sat next to her.
Sneha could feel the closeness of the man as he sat next to her. When he had started by apologizing for his earlier behavior, she knew that he was simply preparing himself for the deeper conversation. She liked the way he had stared deep into her eyes and that moment she knew she would do anything for this man. All he had to do was just ask. Why? She did not have the answer for that; she was not even sure whether she was in love with this man. She was sure this was not infatuation, though she was not sure what this was exactly. It was too powerful and beyond her understanding.
“Excuse me” Ajay said, trying to get the girl’s attention. He shifted on the bench, away from the girl assuming that his close proximity was the reason for the girl’s lack of attention. He hated himself for not being able to come straight to the point. How does one ask a total stranger to be your wife?” he wondered. He closed his eyes and shook his head.
“The woman in the I.C.U. is my wife, Smriti. When I saw you walk into the room, I could not take my eyes off you because I could not believe what I was seeing. I wanted to see Smriti conscious and standing on her own feet but not this way. Not how it happened. I wanted to hear her voice, but when I heard it, I was too shocked to react and before I could say anything you turned to walk out of the room. Holding your hand was involuntary; I did not mean to behave like this. Please believe me when I tell you that you look exactly like my wife. My wife, who is about to die, rather, who is already almost dead.”
When the man, he said his name was Ajay, when Ajay said that he wanted to talk to her she knew something important was meant to happen but she was not prepared to hear what he told her. Yes, she wanted to know who the person on the hospital bed was, yes, she liked the way he looked at her and the way he made her feel, but – No, she was not ready to know that she looked like his wife. She did not want to look like anyone. She wanted to be herself, be Sneha but – deep in her heart she also knew that she would be anyone for this man. And, that is exactly what this man wanted from her. She knew it. The question was - why?
.. The Story