It was not my story to tell
Nor was it his
It was all in bits
We belonged together
Even before we met
But we never fell in love
White lies and dark humour
Eponymous to an era
Like a prayer
Buried in the deep
Promises unheard without
Let me tell you a story.
It’s not like every tale, every ballad, every song. It’s not different either. It’s very complex, dipped in lies and retaliation. And a summer love without the ‘happily ever after’.
Oh! I know people will call it a cliché. But who am I to bargain?
It was like a game of dominoes, one mistake away from chaos.
It all started with a musky smell. Nina was the daughter of a renounced doctor, living a mundane life.
She was always in a state of hurry. Passing through the school corridors, she could almost feel the melancholy. She knew what was coming. Summer had just ended, and everyone was in high spirits.
Her feet abruptly stopped at the door of her classroom. Breathing it all in, fidgeting with the hem of her skirt, she entered the room; everyone gave her a fleeting glance.
Peering almost curiously, she could see her friends all bundled up talking about their vacations, sharing their stories, the adventures, the time they spent. Nina had something interesting to say as well.
Her voice was filled with delight when she said, “Raghav asked me out”.
Everyone stared at her in shock.
Some were genuinely happy for her, but most of them were a little bitter and jealous.
Everyone wanted a closer scoop. But unfortunately, the silence walked in with their Chemistry teacher. Sonam kept giggling and nudging her every now and then.
She closed her eyes and could think of nothing other than returning home. Her thoughts were scattered like the beads of a broken necklace. Just when the recess bell rang, Nina was found again scribbling something in her diary. Sonam just wanted a peek and was about to see something as they heard their names being called. Nina wanted to stay back today but the rules were rules. She could tell just by looking that Shreya couldn’t wait for the gossip anymore. And Nina was once again surrounded by her friends, forced to start from where it all began.
She and Raghav were born in the same month separated by only 9 days. Best friends from birth, that’s what people often said. Their fathers were very close once. He used to live just a door away from Nina’s grandmother’s house. Sonam was more so in denial than being surprised. At last, she said, “How come I don’t know about him and how is he your best friend? The only best friend you get is me.”
Nina just smiled and carried on with her story as for how they played a lot when they were little, quarreled over chocolates and how their mothers would treat them both as their own. She was going to add more to it but then, the break ended. Everyone looked gloomy and disappointed. There was something unsettling to the story. The day went by but Sonam still could not process it. Nina was lost in her own world, tripping over the ghosts of invisible things. She rang the doorbell and her mother opened the door with a dazzling smile, inquiring how her day went. But she still seemed submerged in her own world.
It was already dusk in the bleak summer and everything appeared foggy. An impatient Sonam was at the door peeping through the other side of the peephole. Nina opened the door and she knew what Sonam wanted. She was ready to feed her home. Sonam pulled Nina to the park. It was dark. “What a relief!”, Nina thought. They sat on a bench and before Sonam could say anything, Nina started. Raghav had always been so close to her; he used to pelt peanuts at her head while they waited for their turn on the swing, but she knew they’d both be throwing punches if any other kid thought of doing the same. They used to go to the beach together and make sandcastles. Nina’s eyes were dreamy when she narrated her story. It was dark but still, the blush was evident on her cheeks. Sonam could sketch Raghav now. The way she described his features- brown eyes, bow-shaped lips, broad shoulders, and a lean body revealed that she could talk about him for hours as if he were a work of fiction. It was time for them to go home but Sonam was hungry for more.
The next day was bright, full of anticipated excitement. Sonam was waiting for Nina at the bus stop. She greeted her with her usual grin. They started chatting as Sonam was eagerly waiting to know more.
Nina started to spill the beans, how every summer they’d have the best time together at her grandmother’s place. She used to ride on the back of Raghav’s cycle wandering around in the city. Nina had no clue when she noticed Raghav’s unusual behaviour – his smiling face all the time when she was around, the way he asked her to hold him while they were riding the bicycle, the hearts he made on the sand with his beautiful long fingers, how he flushed every time their hands touched accidentally. She missed all of them. Naive wasn’t the right word here. Even amidst the noises while travelling, Sonam was intently listening. The bus stopped in front of the red building with a sign “School Ahead”. Soon the other friends joined them. Nina was soon found where no one else could reach her.
Everything is different on the second day of reopening, nothing is amusing anymore.
Again the same hustle, the usual schedules, the stagnant time.
Nina liked the stagnant better, she was building a story with the bricks all from the start.
In her sanctuary, nothing was pure or grey. It was all dyed night, summer dressed in black, two-faced.
Her mind was becoming more of a dark place. Sonam was whispering something about how the stars are known as the ghosts of the skies. Nina was only physically present, while her mind was trapped yet again somewhere in her deep thoughts.
Sonam poked her again and Nina blinked her eyes as if she had just been driven out of a midnight summer dream. The whole day passed but Nina had gone numb to time.
Sonam again stood outside Nina’s house absorbing the colour of the gate and how it had changed. She had been to her house almost every day but still, the details remained hidden in the shadows.
Nina’s mother embraced her and offered her some milk and home-baked biscuits. Sonam savored the taste and thought how lucky Nina was to have such a mother, completely unaware of the other side of the story. In every fairy tale, there is a crack in the golden vase; the essence is nothing more than broken vessels mended, again and again. The fragility has a voice now.
Nina returned after a long shower, all her thoughts watered and consumed by the emptiness of an empty home. She took Sonam to her room as she knew what she wanted now and started from where she had last stopped. Raghav proposed to Nina during her cousin’s marriage. He took her up to the roof and confessed in the most romantic way there is to say those words. Nina was flabbergasted as she tried hard to take it all in. She needed time but he was not heartbroken as long as it wasn’t a no. She slept over it, letting it all seep in.
After tossing and turning all night, she listened to her heart and said ‘yes’. Her first love started to bloom. After a day or two, they went on their first date. It was magical, she says. Her face lit up as she continued to describe how it went.
That’s when Sonam realised it was 9 and she was sure to get in trouble at home.
That night Nina fell asleep thinking about him. How his lips felt when they kissed, about his warm hugs.
She was falling into a well of delusion. The boundaries between reality and the story faded.
an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.
Raghav was a character in a novel that had come out fifteen years ago. Sonam realized this ten years after school ended when she was waiting for her flight while wandering in an airport bookstore.
Ten years later, now Nina was surrounded by white walls and her wild thoughts.
The nurse came in and sat down beside her.
The story began once again, but this time her lips were curved in a taunting smile.
Written by :- Shivangi Mishra