Some memories are written on papers torn from the pages of our heart, and this is one of them.
‘I don’t even like smoking’ was the first thought that flashed through my brain, as I huffed out a long drawn out breath while cigarette smoke escaped my lips in small clouds disappearing into thin air within mere seconds. The taste was vile and too bitter on my taste buds, but not bitter in the way I liked my coffee.
I still don’t understand the satisfaction it brings to people who smoke. From what I’ve experienced so far I could vouch it is not as pleasant as people make it out to be.
I picked up smoking a few months ago. It all started that fateful night, when ‘He’ came over to seek some company. He missed his recently deceased friend. Feeling lonely without his best friend, he needed to know there were people he mattered to, people that cared about him. So he came to find me. he knew he could count on me.
We sat in the living room and had some coffee. He opened his heart, poured out everything about his adolescence. On how he met his friend, their thirty years of friendship, the adventures they had together, the bittersweet fights, the misunderstanding that caused a wedge in their friendship, the catch-up, the reconciliation and the hope he found in that. The utter desolation which he felt now that he had lost his friend again, except this time there would be no meeting him again.
I knew it. I knew it all. Yet, I let him talk. There was so much pain in him. Pain, he needed to release. It was obvious in his words, he just needs to let it all out. It was so heart wrenching, yet so beautiful. Sometimes a lone tear would drop and I’d know that his heartstrings were playing a song with a special meaning for him.
I listened to him intently. I could see the gratitude in his eyes for being someone who would listen to him. He didn’t need to hear comforting words, he just wanted to talk and know that he wasn’t talking to the void.
He finally finished speaking with a long heavy sigh. It was my turn to speak. I had things to say too. Or rather, one thing; a secret I had been keeping for months. A part of me warned me the timing was wrong; another encouraged that it was perfect whereas the leftover part declared there is no such thing as a good timing; all that mattered was to seize the moment.
I started by telling him I was his friend and cared for him. He knew that, but hearing it brought a smile up to his face. I was so happy (and absolutely smitten of course) to see his beautiful smile, I always am. And, it encouraged me to get on with my confession. If he is smiling, you know there’s still some hope left.
Then I went to sit near him, put my arm around his shoulder. He didn’t pull away; it comforted him. I knew it would. He’s not one to let people close to him easily, but even he needs a hug every so often.
And then, I spilled it.
Including the coffee.
He didn’t even notice the warm brown liquid straining his tattered shirt, running down his ripped jeans, dripping on his shoes. He just stared at me, his beautiful eyes- chocolate brown that bordered to honey searching mine. I swear my heart stopped beating at that point.
And then he said it. You can’t love me.
I honestly thought he was kidding, he was showering me with excuses, explanations, a whole load of meaningless words. I tried to follow his reasons but soon stopped listening. I couldn’t understand, and I didn’t want to know.
Then, thinking that he had made his point, he left. I’m not even sure whether he said good night. I was too dumbstruck to listen.
It was my turn to seek someone’s company. So I went to my friend’s home. Sat with her over a cup of coffee (Ironic, I know!) and tried to remember what he said. I recited that over to her, hoping that she could help me make some sense out of it. She couldn’t. I still don’t know if it was his fault for sprouting nonsense or mine for not being able to understand him. Nevertheless, the point remains.
I thanked my friend for her company. But maybe, I’m not like him. Talking to her didn’t really feel all that helpful. When I left her home, I wasn’t the slightest bit relieved. Although the night was beautiful, and I didn’t feel like returning home to face that coffee stain again. It would remind me of a certain pair of eyes. I could not afford to think about it at this moment.
So, I went for a walk in the nearby park. Strolled down the cobbled path, surrounded by colors of flowers barely discernible under the dim, yellow lights of the lampposts.
On my way home, I stopped by one of those ‘open all night’ corner shops and picked up a pack of cigarettes. Seemed like the right thing to do at that time.
To this day, nobody knows I smoke. I get chided enough for not eating well, for not sleeping much, for avoiding everyone and staying locked in my room. I don’t need additional lecturing for filling my lungs with nicotine. I only smoke when I’m alone, and when the image of him and his haunting eyes comes floating in my mind. Like now.
You can’t love me.
I hate the way he said it. As if saying it would make it true.
You can’t love me.
I don’t know if he has convinced anyone else about that, but he can’t convince me.
You can’t love me.
Like hell, I can’t! I can and I do!
My fury sent the empty vase flying across the room. It breaks into tiny pieces. I can’t be bothered to clean it. My hands are trembling ever so slightly. I get up and put on some warm clothes and then sit down, light a cigarette.
Of course, it’s not any help. What help can a small stick made of tobacco and paper possibly be? What comfort can it offer, when its life ends merely ten minutes after it begins? It has no soul, no compassion or understanding. It can’t stop the tears that stream down my face. But, I place it in my mouth and breath its bitterness in.
As long as I’m drowning my sobs under the thick layers of its tar. As long as, I don’t have my face buried in my hands. As long as my mind is no intently concentrated on the burning tip of the cigarette. As long as exhaling doesn’t come out like whispering his name. It is not really crying. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Because I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to cry for him.
For, it’s not worth crying over spilled coffee.