stories

The One I Let Go…

At sixteen we inked our skin in matching tattoos, tripped on the music of all kinds, rock, the blues, the jazz. We smoked blunt after blunt, drank till I smelled death on my breath. We made love everywhere, in the alleys, in the unfinished buildings. We taught each other to speak in tongues. My obsession with that perfect Spiderman kiss had you hanging upside down from the branch. We pierced tongues, wore more bracelets and wristbands. You took pictures of everything, videos, and commentaries on your clunky camera. The Enfield from 1965 that you neither had the papers or even a driving permit. The scar on your nose etched by my nail.

This one evening where we sat by the sea, and I tell you, I am confused about who I am supposed to be. You asked me to close my eyes and visualize where on earth do I see myself at the age of thirty. ‘At my book signing,’ I replied without a moment’s hesitation. You always saw me as a Bohemian writer, reading cards for people, learning esoteric arts, worshipping the nature. I saw you as a travel photographer, filmmaker, non-committal, traveling the world.

Our travels were a classic comedy in itself. That day on the bus where you turned up stoned, and I was a clown on a sugar rush. We struggled to convey the ticket collector our destination between my splits of laughter. That other time when the bus was full of transgender folks and only us. The man/lady turned to get a good look at us several times because she was distracted by our crazy conversations. On the bridge, you challenged me to be quiet till we crossed the other river which was ten minutes away from the current one. I lost that challenge in a couple of minutes only to laugh louder. I don’t remember a word of what we said to each other, but that laughter still rings in my head.

The 18th birthday you turned up in your beat up old Zen which is our all-time favorite car. You still tease me about how I drive a Zen even today. I wouldn’t still let my folks sell it. You went on about how you believe women can do anything, and you didn’t like it when I called myself a ‘chick.’ ‘You are a woman, now drive this car,’ you said. I wonder if you remember how I over-sped on the national highway then 17. You screamed when I kept overtaking at close gaps, you were freaked out, and I clocked 25km in 25min. We almost died that day when you passed a bus, and there was a truck ahead of us. You forgot to maneuver because you got distracted by ‘oh my god, we are dying’ expressions. You kissed me on my cheek as I left for home that night.

Three days later, you disappeared. There was no way to reach you, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t get a hold of you. All my calls went unanswered, messages unread. I soon left to another city without a goodbye. A few weeks later I learned that you lost a friend to the sea at your birthday party that I skipped. We were so young; I didn’t know what to say. You didn’t want to talk, and you were always angry, and I moved away.

I started writing a few years later, and I wrote a story about us, and you called me as you read it. You were a major in communications, and I was a reluctant engineer. I moved back home 8years later heartbroken, miserable and lost. You turned up again, and we were on the road still on the NH -17 now renamed to 65. Why would they change that?

We drove along the entire coast, and at the delta point, you broke the news of your wedding. You had a steady desk job because you wanted to be responsible. You took me home and showed me your room. It was full of your paintings, believe me, I’d have bought every one if I only had the money. You hugged me, held me tight when I was about to leave. I crashed into a million pieces at that moment. You were that rest house amidst the storm that was drowning me.

Six months later, a night before your wedding we sat on the roof again ready to get wasted. ‘Your writing lacks that passion now,’ you said, ‘that fire that burned.’ ‘Well, what the hell is this desk job nonsense?’ I counter-accused him. ‘You were always that daredevil, I am not’ you said.

You asked me about my tattoos. The mini-spacecraft we had in common on our left arm, on your wrist and my ring finger. We were going to fly out of the town, weren’t we? Wasn’t that the plan. I had one more that went down my spine, Veni.Vidi.Amavi etched in precise italics. I took off my t-shirt to show you. You moved your finger along my spine, like the old time and we almost kissed. ‘Come with me,’ I insisted, whispered in your ears, ‘No, I can’t leave this town,’ you said. ‘Stay back’ you insisted, whispered in my ears. ‘This town makes me want to run away,’ I said.

I sleep on the roof that night, and I don’t know when you left. I wake up at four the morning of your wedding, and it hits me. There is no way to make this work, and I leave the town all over again. Only this time, I will not return.

They tell me, ‘but you are still young, you could find a way to make it work.’ ‘TRUE, BUT I AM NOT 16 ANYMORE,’ I only scream it out loud inside my head.