I am dreadful at goodbyes.
I am not a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan or his cerebral palsy during his attempts to initiate another tear induced coma, but watching your back disappear into the distance always leaves an empty pit in my stomach.
I have never been blessed with easy relationships. I have always reluctantly dealt with the reality that our time together is limited, followed by long, empty days of separation. You’d think that, for someone who’s been in long distance relationships since the onset of his adolescence, I am farewell-qualified.
But I am not.
I always hated watching you melt away in the sea of faces, as you would descend the stairs of the Park Street metro station. I’d invariably end up holding on to your warm hand for as long as I could, gazing into your eyes and those ridiculously blue contacts in the stormy, cold nights, as the floating raindrops break against our faces – keeping a sinking eye out for the last metro to North Calcutta. I’d strain to catch your beautiful smile one last time, your twinkling eyes that lit up my world like a thousand dazzling galaxies, before they’d vanish into the endless tunnel, plunging my world into a black void.
I remember us, walking in the relentless afternoon sun, muted by your imminent departure to a city far, far away. We looked away as we tried to speak, our dewy eyes reflecting the miserable months of agonising longing. The trains lumbered gently by – the dreamy faces in the windows, the euphoric voices, crashing onto our feet like broken waves. We kissed in the lengthening shadows cast by the tall, timeless trees, until the rude whistle of the train woke us up from our reverie. You broke free – the memory of your intertwined fingers, gradually replaced by the frostiness of your absence – the warmth of your skin, now a fading memory. You stuck your neck out of the door, and I followed you – until the platform dissolved into the scorching pebbles, until you had disappeared into the smoke that twirled into the sad, silent trees.
That was the first of many goodbyes that we’d have to swallow, like bitter whiskey.
Or take the airport, for instance. The night that we were severely underprepared for Calcutta’s harsh winter, we spent huddling like an excited young couple finding their coordinates in a glittering cold city. We sat shivering on the freezing metal seats – a tiny shawl and a thin jacket to keep us warm. We stayed up talking, laughing and kissing all night, quietly wary of the shortening hours together. We were cold, hungry and feverish; we used up most of our money, buying those over-priced, under cooked cookies. I held you tightly, like a dying man holds onto the broken branches – as he hurtles with the raging white flow of the river – until it was time for you to leave.
And then, the familiar sight. The disheartening embrace, the long kiss. The fervent promises of love. You looking back at me with those large expressive eyes, growing smaller with every passing moment, until my reflection in the glass, in the light of the rising sun, was all that was left.
I have been with you for over four years now. For most of those four years, we’ve argued, cursed, loved and cried over the phone. Yet, in those fleeting moments that our fingers remain interlocked and I feel your warm lips over my own, watching you leave always fills me with an irreplaceable void, an unexplained dryness in my mouth.
Only now, I am learning to pretend to cope.