Majestically he walked in, one hand in his pocket, the other clutching his phone collection tightly; you’d pass to think their survival depended on the touch. His batik shirt standing out strongly for a Friday night hangout. He tried to act cool, maybe it was his sophisticated aura, or was it a struggle to put his professionalism forward?
“Why the Gallery?” he asked.
“You are not even taking wine? Aaaaahhhh” he sighed. Shrugging his left shoulder and pulling out the seat.
“Did you see me come in?”
“Oh yes, I did,” she replied. She had needed to see his arrival. Usually, hating to be caught unaware. As a matter of fact, Ava fairs terribly on the element of surprise. Her sitting position had been well pre-calculated. But who doesn’t love the ambiance at The Gallery? The allure of all these wines surrounding one is enough to deem you a drunkard.
“Am sorry for being late. The flight schedule kept being postponed. And I rushed home to freshen up. But at least am here.” He said as a matter of fact.
All she heard on the other side was ‘Bla! Bla! Bla!’ It really did not matter. Or did it? She had thrown caution to the wind needing only a sitting. Nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe she had wanted space to vent out piled up bile. The listener she had preferred – one she could trust; by trust it means, she can shut an eye with you in the vicinity. She was looking for someone who’ll listen without questioning. Someone who’ll not shed a tear and before them, she could break, allowing her wearingly hidden side out in the open. And he came as the total package. Bossy, but well reserved. Always hunting after a better understanding. Never judgmental, ever patient to a fault.
“When you said, ‘but it’s a Friday. The schedule is still fine.’ Then I took in my stride to turn up.”
“We could have cancelled you know. Even rescheduled,” she retaliated, trying to act cool. Truth be told, she had waited for this moment for such a looong while, postponement was not an option.
“Well, it is bad manners to keep a lady waiting. However, it is a Friday night, you get a pass,” she chirped. Nursing that feeling of over-achievement.
“I am hungry, could we move to Graze?”
“Sure, why not. I am famished…”
“Let’s go then. They’ll bring the drink for you?” it is their job Bunny. They will transfer the tables for us.
“Ladies first,” mmmhhh, a girl could get used to this I tell you.
No sooner had they gotten a table at the balcony, did the eye contact thing happen. If you know you know, don’t ask me questions. Am not out to explain nothing.
The eyes are the gateway to the soul, someone said. If you learn the art of the eyes, then you get to understand human beings a tad better. From the eyes, one can read emotions; fear, happiness, joy, resentment, a lost soul… name it. The eyes guide you on how to deal with a person. You can even pick a yes or a no!
Sometime back, Ava had lived in a dark world. Shut out in her own cocoon; engulfed by fear. She hated that no one seemed to read the pain and hurt through her eyes. No one understood her cycles of joy, neither the haunt in her voice. She led a life hidden behind a dark shadow; smiling, and everyone thought she was fine. A tear fell down her cheeks, and everyone thought she could manage it. ‘She is strong, they all said.’ It is a poor choice to be a weakling, they made her believe. It was illegal for her to play her real self.
Then life happened. Graduating her through the Grand University of Life. How many more life experiences did she need? Did she still have to continue living life to make others happy? Did she have to smile, so that another cannot cry? Did she need to continue holding on strong and tight to the little strength in her so that a family could stand? Someone had said that Ava was her life, but did that mean the girl had to put her ambitions aside to fill the gap that missed in another’s? This person had said she knew if and when Ava became a success, her life too would become such. That she viewed Ava as her sister, husband, lover, best friend, besides their purported bloodline bond. And Ava had carried the guilty tag with her for ages, living in a shadow. Living life behind this veil, and in the process, loosing herself.
She had struggled with knowing who she is, what she believed in and what it is that she stood for. The lass barely could put one and one over her life with the aim of achieving a two if not a five. She hated humans and all they represented. She hated her step father, but hated the cowardice in her father the more. The anger and frustration that emanated from ever getting to know him, she wished she’d been shown to his grave instead. Accepting him in their lives had been the riskiest take ever. Besides giving him time to salvage his name from the pits. At this point I guess the saddest thing for her was feeling down and alone and looking around only to realize there were no shoulders for her to lean on. She had just herself in this life to rely on.
From this poorly stature, she swore never to be a slave to life again. She made a choice and took a turn. She was going to embrace happiness with all her being. She was going to eat life with a big spoon. Enjoying the company of them she chose. Loving those in her life and protecting them that she adored like mother goose. Those in there can tell you that; she is an open book. White and black they say is good, no shades of grey whatsoever. She likes to be on top of things and loves to be happy- content just won’t work.
Step by step, trusting in God; she began to rewrite her story. She had to plan her exit strategy. She needed to put up a legacy, if not for herself then for her son and for the generations to come. Choosing only to give total loyalty and trust to her friends and family. Opting to stick only with that which added to her satisfaction, no in-betweens. To be such an excellent deliverer of what it is she put her mind and hands on. She chose to love wholeheartedly, to forgive and not keep grudges. Because she realized that bile is a poison that eats you so slowly from within, you barely can tell when you end up falling. Ava had made a choice to lead an intentional life and to live she was.
She had planned a hangout at the movies. But as fate would have it, ‘Hotel Mumbai would not be showing until the 24th. Only Marvel movies were showing. So, she got lazy; failing to even let him know she would not be turning up at the planned location. Haaa, this was her pushing her bad manners a tad higher. Remember Ava had a tendancy to be selfish. Mean in fact, when it comes to her own comfort… She was used to taking care of only what affects her happiness. If you are lucky to get that title, well, then count yourself close. But this was him. About five feet eight. Sharp glaring eyes that poke to the bottom of your soul. A hopeless romantic standing strong, and tough, and purposeful. Longing for his retirement with a soulful endearment, like a mother waits for her unborn to be birthed.
A part of her ached at the thought of his being so close yet so untouchable, but his story and hers are different now. For Ava, he remained out of reach. Maybe even in love with another. She knows they talk – the eyes say it all. Deep in her heart, she wasn’t sure she deserved to be happy, despite her not believing that she was worthy of someone who seemed… so perfect. Many are the times she had wanted to break right before his eyes, yearning for a hug. But she’d learned to tame her mouth, not crumbling became her shield. She hates to show her third side; weakness is not her fortress.
But that night, that starry night sitting at the balcony, he gave her his kerchief; watching her struggle to hold back the tears. He closed his eyes, maybe even bit his lips in this process. For a while, he just stared, watching her keenly as she struggled to act up all strong. Wiping tears with her fingers, at some point she was going to use the napkin. Yet here she was, breaking, crushing, falling apart right before his eyes. The volcano was erupting. What had she expected he would do? Maybe a hug would have done her some good. But for sure she knows she would have shed more torrents. Those who seem the strongest on the outside are usually the weakest on the inside. Pieces of shuttered glass, that can never ever be restored.
“Do you know how many times I have wanted to stand and come give you a hug?” he echoed. Torn between extending a hug and holding her hands. “You now have a friend in me. Always!”
But like Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni worked on the Sistine Chapel, so are we works of art. Master pieces, right from the hand of God. And with every sunrise, just being awake should be a reason for us to smile. And to smile she does, every so often as she can. Like on this night. Getting a second from his busy schedule is an honor. But this night, this night Ava had been given hours to herself. They enjoyed their dinner; well-cooked aged lamb with salads and a glass of wine for him, while she did spinach-mushroom risotto with pineapple-mint juice.
“I tend to eat slowly, but you are much slower than I,” he said, smiling from the corner of his mouth.
“Well, I am a slow eater, sorry I’ll take much more of your time.” she responded. She wanted to ease him to the delay.
“Don’t finish that,” he continued, pointing to her plate. “We still have dessert. You love cake I’m told.”
She loves cake, true. But for someone to know this much about her when she barely can tell who he is, is something else altogether. Wikipedia does not do justice to some of us to whom research is a lifestyle.
The dessert was scrumptious to say the least. Ohhhh, a dash of ice-cream, a touch of chocolate and a serving of cake, would make the ideal finish for such a hangout. What would happen if this was a proper date night with him?
Hence today, she had to go make-up, share an apology. She hadn’t intended for this, but she doesn’t like her own sleeping with heavy hearts. Let alone the heaviness caused by her. But he was cold when she walked in. Tough I mean. Honestly, I’ve no idea. She knew that intimidating look of his. Maybe struggling to figure this moment out. Was it right? Was he faltering? Would she even turn up? What would she think of him? Nevertheless, all she wanted that second was to look right into his eyes. To pick the apology from his soul. That is what would mean the world to her that evening.
Walking in, she placed her sling bag on his dining table. Her plan was to look him right in the eyes, and if granted, then a hug would suffice. And that she did. Not sure if he was prepared for this. But by now, he should have known that she keeps her words. She means everything she says. And she always fights for what she wants, that is what her mama always said. One may not get it, but again, loses nothing in trying. Hers was to say sorry and receive forgiveness. She had denied him a hug back at The Graze.
For a moment there, they stood apart. Staring right into each other’s eyes. And when his eyes met hers, she felt something click, like a key turning in a lock. Each poking into the others’ soul. She wasn’t exactly sure when it happened. Or even when it started. All she knew for sure was that right here and now, she was falling hard, and she could only pray that he was feeling the same way. And when she stretched out her arms to him, two possibilities were on the table. He would hold back and pull away or respond and hug her back. Maybe she wanted to do this for him, but thinking of it later, it was more for herself. She needed an honest hug more than anything.
Lost in each other’s embrace, they held on, ever so tightly; like a chameleon would hold on to your hair. Conflicting emotions trying to find their way out of them. And as it turned out, they both needed that hug. And neither of them was ready to walk away the first.
Then the moment that took their breathes away. The touch. Gentle, honest, emotional. Their hearts beating out like the Ashanti drums. It felt good, really good. And when his lips met hers, she knew that she could live to be a hundred and visit every country in the world, but nothing would ever compare to that single moment. That moment when she first kissed the guy in her dreams without a care if the love would last.
Looking into each other’s eyes, they took stock of the moment. Then fell back into the kiss. Their lips seeming to fit together in just the right way- effortlessly touching like perfect complements. Her back to the wall. She would remain under his trance forever. But he belongs to another. He is the son of mother earth. And has a tag to maintain. So, she will cut him loose. Blow him a kiss whenever she can and pray the winds shall touch his lips for her.
Like him, she too is a hopeless romantic. That is the best kiss she had ever shared. Forever he remains, ‘The Son of his Mother’, the son of mother earth. The only person who got to understand the intricacies that define who she is. Having seen her at her weakest but still loving her at her strongest.
She would give her life for his; hope he always knows that. He made it to the wings of Mama Goose. She wanted something else, something different, something more. Passion and romance, perhaps, or maybe quiet conversations in candlelit rooms. Or perhaps something as simple as not being second. ‘I am nothing special, of that I am sure. I am a common human with common thoughts, and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this will always be enough.. … … I don’t know that I’ve ever felt as happy as I did that day, but then again, it has been like that when we are together. I never want it to end’.
He is a hero and a gentleman; kind and honest, but more than that, the first man she had developed a special affection for. And no matter what the future brings, he always will be… and she knew that her life is better for it. She had learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry, listening to the rains and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreams and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered. But most of all, she learned that life is about sitting on benches with beautiful memories, with her hands on the knees and sometimes, on a good day, falling in love.