a lifetime lost

They started on 23rd August, 2005. He clearly remembered the dark clouds and the rain – the chance meeting at the coffee shop. The date was stuck in his mind – he was rushing by on his way home. He entered the shop seeing her – a radiant beauty. She was reading Chekov, or was it Tolstoy? That smile hid all other memories. With his last breath, he whispered her name to the hospital attendant. She was all he had left – a memory of a lifetime lost.

She was surprised when she got the letter. Memories flooded back – the cloudy skies reflecting her sombre mood. She didn’t recall the day they met – she recalled the days that passed later on, the bicycle rides and the trips. 25 years – a long time had passed. She sat with the letter by the window – just staring at the address – it was years since she’d last seen that name, that postal code. Her son came in the evening, she was still by the window – a tear running down her cheek, long dried up. ‘Mom, is everything ok?’ his wife peering in from the door. She just nodded her head.

The trip to the mountains was the best? Or was it the trip to his summer cottage for fishing? She couldn’t really decide on that. She took her sons hand and went inside for dinner. Late at night she couldn’t sleep – her husband’s pictures on the mantelpiece and on the side tables drew her attention. They were happy – he was perfect. The slim drooping moustache and the gangly figure. But the letter stayed unopened on the side table – she feared to open it.

Congratulations and best wishes for the future – his post on her marriage day. What a lovely boy, wish I had one like him – when her son was born. They seemed like distant dreams. She had hesitantly written Congratulations when he had posted his marriage picture. So long ago – it was just like a dream. When her husband died, he had visited her once – a meeting after decades. He had stayed for a while helping her overcome her grief – his wife had left him soon after. She felt guilty about it. Maybe, she was not sure – was it her or was it him?

She visited the grave a few months later. ‘Alex P’ it read ‘Born – 18th December, 1975 Died – 20th July, 2062’. No quotations, no engravings – just a simple title and date on the tombstone. Weed was already growing around it. She stood there beside it for a few hours, her son fidgeting constantly – tired and impatient from the wait for an unknown being. He didn’t know the story – he never understood him like she did. She silently wept as she took out the letter from her purse. She placed it on the tombstone along with a locket – it had their picture, taken so many years ago, faded over time. Silently she got up and left – a lifetime of surprises and desires buried deep, faded with time. She went back home – staring at the stars, she wrote.

A few years later, standing at the same cemetery, the son looked at the graves – side by side. His wife and children silently placing flowers on them. The locket still hung there – grimy and black over the years. He cleaned it – the yellowed and grainy image coming back to life. ‘Thank you Mom. Now I understand’. He placed a book on the grave – ‘a lifetime lost – In Loving Memory of A.P., By Yours Forever, A.G.’. “Best love story of this decade – T”, “So real that you can actually feel the person and their love – S”, the reviews read. The son stood up – ‘Now everyone will know’ and he left.

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