He felt his heartbeat quickening as the train chugged into the station. Still, his face mirrored none of the restlessness within. He waited patiently, his eyes scanning the families alighting from the carriage, and all along he could feel his heart thud against his rib cage. ‘Just don’t kill me now!’ he murmured to himself, smoothing the front of his starched shirt and dabbing the beads of perspiration that had formed on his forehead. The crowds had ebbed by then, and that was when he saw her at the carriage door. She looked just as delicate as he his memory permitted him to remember- she seemed so fragile that he feared she would be whooshed away with the next gust of wind.
Her graying hair was neatly combed into a thin plait, and she was wearing a light pink salwar kameez with chikan work. Just as the one she had worn when he had set his eyes on her for the first time, he recollected, and smiled. Her eyes were scanning the platform, looking timid and lost, until they found his, and then her face brightened. He hobbled towards her, as fast as his walking stick would permit, as she clutched the railing, waiting for him to help her down. She smiled shyly, blushing like a new bride, when his hand held hers, and they walked slowly towards the exit, the world hurrying all around them.
They boarded a taxi which took them to the MCC campus. Being a Sunday, the campus was quiet, the resident students waking up only around then. As he was a regular, the watchman touched his hat let them in. They walked around the campus, her excitement making him wonder if she had aged at all. She clasped her hands and gasped wordlessly looking at the old trees that they used to hang out under. They silently walked along those once familiar roads, and reached the lake. He fished the picnic basket that he had left there that very morning, before he received her at the station, and sat there sipping coffee and munching sandwiches like they used to, forty years ago.
They spoke for a while, then let silence envelope them for a while. Sometimes, nothing needed to be said, and some other times, words came tumbling out, in a rush, as if they might hurt if they were not spoken. Easy laughter flowed as they recounted tales that had taken place in that very campus, years ago. And despite their wrinkled skins and fading memories, two souls reveled in each other’s splendor, and it was an afternoon to cherish for the rest of their lives.
‘We better leave now, to get you back on that train’ he sulked, as she smiled at him fondly. It took them a few minutes to get back on their feet, and they began the long walk back to the gate. ‘Will your son be coming to pick you up now?’ she asked him softly, and he nodded. ‘He wanted to meet you, but I wasn’t sure..’ he trailed. ‘Oh it would have been lovely to meet him, Abe!’ she gushed, but he remarked that there was just no time.
‘Your husband wouldn’t wonder why there were no photos taken at the college reunion?’ he questioned. ‘I don’t think he might, Abe’ she whispered. ‘We have few days left, we are trying to complete unfinished tasks, and meeting you after all these years, was one I did not want to leave without doing’ she breathed, the strain of walking showing on her face. They stopped, and turned to look at each other. ‘I can say it a hundred times- you look lovely, just as you always did’ he said, looking into her eyes, ‘And I will always love you’ he murmured.
‘As will I’, said she.
PS- My friend told me this story a couple of days ago. It is a true story. Identities, dialogues and locales mentioned are fictional, but the storyline remains the same. I will not judge, I will only step back and be thankful for this beautiful thing called love that makes our lives worth living.