The Gallery

Everything seemed to happen late with him in life. He got his first job late. First girlfriend. First kiss. First sex. Everything came much later to him than he would like. But by now he was getting used to it. It was an inevitable part of his life. Timely, easy, was something he was just not used to.

Albeit late, he was finally happy in his relationship with Sara. Two people couldn’t have been more different from each other than they were. But somehow they clicked. And it worked. Their love was easy. He didn’t have to labour on it like some of his earlier relationships. The two of them hit it off naturally.

His career as an advertising executive was finally yielding success. After years and years of struggle as a copywriter he had finally managed to get elevated to Creative Director in a fairly large agency. He was the number two in creative in the entire agency and was tipped to reach the top once his boss retired in a few months from now.

It was his dream to write a novel. He had been working on it for the last three years surreptitiously but hadn’t gone much ahead. Like most of his dreams this one too was deemed impractical and unrealistic.

“You live in a fantasy world you know”, she’d often remind him. “You yearn for a world you think is better than the one you’re living in. And all the while you don’t appreciate the wonderful life you already have”.

His friends also mirrored his girlfriend’s thoughts. “You have it all man”, they’d say shaking their heads. “A comfortable life and yet you yearn to go back to a life of struggle. Why”?

Why, he didn’t know himself. But the fact was, it was his dream to give up his “lucrative but creatively unfulfilling” job, to leave the concrete jungle and settle in a remote town in the hills and only focus on his writing. That’s what he wanted to do. What’s so impractical about wanting to earn less and live a little more, he wondered, knowing well that no one would get what he was saying.

“You live in a bubble of romantic nostalgia”, she told him angrily once, when he informed her how he had spurned a higher paying job because he felt unmotivated. “That’s another kind of denial. A denial of the present”, she fumed.

He kept quiet because he knew he couldn’t convince her to feel the way he did about life.

It was a sultry June morning in the city. The perspiring crowds seemed to be all out on the streets. They were out to meet an old friend of hers from the college days. You should meet Sid, she said enthusiastically. He can really guide you on your journey to be a successful man. He lectures big companies all over the world on corporate targets and individual success. You can learn so much from him. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke, reminding of the time she had confessed at having a huge crush on Sid in their college days. Clearly she was still besotted, he smiled to himself.

The mobile phone vibrated in his trouser pocket making him stir from his slumber he felt getting over him as they sat in the posh cafe waiting for her friends to arrive. He answered the phone and his face lit up.

You can’t be serious! Please tell me you’re not joking he said as he excitedly stood up from the chair in the cafe. She looked at him bemused. All the while they were there he had hardly spoken and had looked liked dozing off as she rattled on and on. And now suddenly he was all full of life.

I will just be back he said excitedly as he pushed the chair away to make a move.

Where the hell do you think tire going she asked bewildered at his sudden burst of energy and excitement.

Oh there’s this small exhibition cum sale of rare first hand editions at The Gallery in Wellesley Street. It’s just on for today. There are some rare Joyce and other first editions and I don’t want to miss out on them. He was already halfway to the door of the cafe by the time she could react.


I will be back real quick. You have the first round of drinks with Sid and Devika and I’ll be back by the time you order the entrees, he exclaimed as he rushed out of the door.

She noticed he had left his carry bag on the table and sighed. As always he was so impractical and dreamy. She smiled to herself as she awaited Sid and his fiancée.

Naren looked around the small gallery with the proverbial eyes of a kid in a candy store. There was more than even he could imagine. The Beat poets, Larkin, Ted Hughes, Plath, Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce. The first editions were spectacular to say the least. It was almost as if someone like him was selling off a personal collection. It was priceless.

That’s a personal favourite, he heard her soft voice over his shoulder as he was leading through a tattered edition of Whitsun Weddings. He turned around and saw the most gorgeous set of blue eyes he had ever seen in his life. Her chestnut hair tied up in a cute bun and her bigger than usual thick rimmed black spectacles covered more than half her pretty oval face. But it was the glow on it that mesmerised him. She seemed like an angel to him at that instant.

Mine too he meekly responded, after what seemed an eternity.

Hi, I’m Annie, she said, extending her arm towards him. The first thing he noticed was how slender and delicate they were. He felt he’d be crushing them with his firm grip. He made a conscious effort to touch them softly, as he extended his arms forward too. He felt a strange kind of thrill as they touched.

The two of them sat on a small settee in the corner of the gallery, he was mesmerized by her looks, her perfume and the sweet sound of her voice. He felt as if in a trance and could barely comprehend what she was saying. He had a smile fixed on his face as he kept staring into those blue eyes.

I asked, what do you do, she slightly raised her voice, aware by now that he wasn’t really listening. She also felt a tad embarrassed by his gaze. She smiled softly as she realized the effect she was having on him at that instant.

“I…I am a writer….in an advertising agency”…..he said, and immediately added….as if to compensate for that…”am writing a novel…that’s my dream”. He felt like fool after he eventually finished his sentence. He somehow didn’t want to disappoint her with his true profession. He wanted to somehow tell her about his “true dream”

Oh wow…a writer…in my gallery..she seemed genuinely excited and taken in. I would love to read your novel some day, she blurted out spontaneously and immediately regretted it silently. Did I come across “too keen” she wondered to herself. But all the same she felt her heart beat faster than usual. Unaware that it was in sync with his rapidly rising heartbeats at the same time.

Both of them lost track of time as they sat there engrossed in a strange connection which both felt and could not deny. It was almost there was an unknown unseen force that was conducting all that was happening with the two of them. They willingly went along with the flow of the vibes that appeared way stronger than their conscious wills.

Sara’s number kept flashing on his phone, but he was way too lost in his conversation with her.

For once he felt the timing was just perfect, as he over turned his mobile and turned it off as he stared into Annie’s deep, blue eyes and got lost in them forever.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2022. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead

The Drive

The sky was a beautiful shade of orangish blue that evening. The setting sun was spreading its colour all over the blue canvas it seemed. She whistled an old tune as she drove along the empty long and winding road. One hand on the wheel and the other on the side of her door she drove on, alternating her view between the road in front and the greenery all around her.

She kept driving aimlessly for a while. This stretch of road was endlessly long and hardly saw any traffic ever since the new highway was built. The greenery around her changed to more prolonged brown patches from time to time. This road had almost been forgotten by everyone, including nature.

Her mind was floating back in time as she drove. Many a happy moment she had spent earlier in her life kept coming back to her. She stopped her car abruptly and sat still inside for a while. It was a while till she sat there before opening the door to step out.

Her face hadn’t changed with the passing years. Her wavy brown hair, still as thick as it used to be, had a few silver streaks on them. Her almond eyes sparkled like before and her skin was still the same. Delicate flawless glowing. She got out of the car and then leaned back on it as she looked out. Nowhere in particular. Her thoughts too like her vision seemed to be going nowhere. She found herself lost in a maze of memories and reflections.

Here…we can meet here almost every time no matter where we are.

That’s an absurd thing to say you know. How can we meet here everyday when we won’t even be staying in the same city.

I’ll just be a call away. You know that.

Please say no. Don’t do this to us. This marriage won’t make anyone happy. You me or her.

She turned around as she felt a gush of wind caress her shoulders. He was standing behind her. His eyes lit up. Just the way it did every time he smiled. And smiling he was. The happiness on seeing her was all over his face. She hugged him tightly and he hugged her back even tighter.

Ohh you’re hurting me now you know she said as they broke their kiss. His response was to kiss her again. This time she didn’t feel the need to talk and responded by kissing him back. The evening sun looked away as the their kissing silhouettes were visible now.

The car lay mangled up at the side of the road. Her lifeless body inside it her eyes still open and unfocussed. Or maybe it was focussing on her kissing him.

Her damaged mobile phone lay beside her on the seat. The message of his passing away in a far away town by cardiac arrest flashing.

The two of them kept kissing as the sun said it’s final goodbye

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2022. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead

Coffee Stains

Coffee stains on the table reminded her of him. His annoying habit of keeping a mug without a coaster. Sometimes there’s be cigarette stubs too. The irritation would increase.

An inverted book on the bookshelf always upset her. Every time during her weekly dusting routine she would find at least a couple of books shoved upside down. Usually they’d be a Kerouac or Ted Hughes. Other times they would be on the drawer or dining table. She would curse under her breath each time she put them back in their place. She loved things in order.

The record player would never be switched off. Often she found the vinyl scratching and hissing as it reached its end and he had forgotten to turn it off. Usually she’d nudge him hard to wake him from his slumber on the settee.

She looked around the empty house and it seemed so much in order. The table was neat and clean, the jars and dishes placed properly in perfect sync. The room looked spic and span. Not a thing out of place.

But she missed his presence.

She realised she’d have all the mess and untidiness if she could only have him by his side. She sighed to herself, her thoughts lost.

Hey honey I’m home, his ever cheerful voice woke her up. She had dozed off for a while lost in her thoughts. God this place is a mess. I can never do even half the job you can do, he said as he picked up a couple of magazines and put them back in the rack.

She looked at him moving around busily doing bits here and there. Her eyes filled up as she lay on her bed unable to move. The accident had taken a permanent toll on that.

I’ve got a surprise supper fixed for you love, he said with a huge grin on his face. She felt her world light up each time she saw him smile that way. He was moving towards her bed with a tray of food and a small foldable table. She smiled back at him as a couple of droplets escaped from the corner of her eyes.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2022. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead

The Bowl of Soup

The bowl of soup lay untouched on the kitchen slab. The microwave door was half opened. The cool air rushed in from the open window and brought along with it a few drops of rain. They kissed her and rolled over closed eyes and trickled down her beautiful face. Taking with them a few tears which were also making their way down the same route.

It was another lonely evening as she remembered him.

She stood frozen in time for a long time. Lost in her thoughts. In her world. Amongst her memories.

She remembered every debate she had with him on politics. His overtly left leaning ways annoyed her more than she could ever convey. His hatred for the well off was embarrassing to her at times. His impulsive outbursts at times especially with people known to her made her squirm. She recalled their differences in art. She disliked his kind of cinema (“serious and meaningful” as he would call them as opposed to her “dull and boring” labelling) with a passion she could never overstate. Their tastes in music (or his lack of as she would classify it) clashed more often than not. They disagreed on almost everything. But when they did agree it was magic. And it was this magic perhaps which kept their spark alive. She felt well and truly alive every time they were on the same wavelength.

She kept standing still at the exact same spot for God knows how long. The rain splashes had drenched her properly. She seemed stuck in time. Lost in her world. Engulfed in memories. She clicked her mobile which was in her hand to see an old photograph. The way his sideburns had a tinge of grey always appealed to her at that young age. She looked at the photograph and found herself smiling almost spontaneously. Her almond eyes drenched with her tears contrasted beautifully with the smile on her lips which was still as mesmerisingly beautiful as it was back then. He still had that power to move her.

By the time she got married she had stopped believing in love. In fact she had stopped believing in almost everything by then. The way she’d seen love go out of the window she didn’t want to believe in anything after that. Her sense of betrayal overshadowed everything in her conscious frame of mind. She knew she had lost the love of her life forever. She just existed now.

Is the soup going to take ages?

The gruff voice from the dining table made her come back to the present. She stared vacantly for a couple of seconds before hurriedly putting it in the microwave to heat up.

In a minute darling she replied composing herself in a few moments. She quickly wiped her face dry as she focussed on the soup bowl revolving inside the oven.

Her husband was everything opposite to what her love had been. Insensitive, cold, calculating and almost robot-like in his desire to succeed in life. Money, position designation were his prime focus. And it was on these parameters that he gauged and judged everyone around him. She found it stifling to be around him. She heard a few more groans of disapproval from the dining table as the soup seemed to take an eternity in getting warmed up.

The beep of the microwave was almost in sync with his hollering yet again for his dinner. She fumbled as she handled the hot bowl on to the bigger plate and carried it over for him. He looked at her angrily as she kept the bowl in front of him.

You never learn do you. Always lost in God knows what thoughts that go through your head constantly. She felt his insults even more strongly since they were in direct contrast to her lovely thoughts of the past a few moments ago. They seemed to pinch her more.

He loved his red meat and kababs back in those heady days of their youth. As she watched him devour the tasteless and bland soup she noticed that touch of grey on his side burns. They were perhaps the only thing which had remained the same in all these years. For all the changes that had happened with him over the last 20 years that bit hadn’t changed at all. She realised it still made her heart warm up despite all the ice that had gathered on top for two decades.

It kept raining all through that September evening. He had finished his bowl of soup and gone back to his own bedroom to do some more office work.

She sat on her chair staring blankly at the bowl of soup as the rain continued. Inside her.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2022. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead

Arnold Grove

He could have well refused the ride. He thought for a while as the address flashed in front of his eyes and then decided to accept it.

He had to drive a couple of minutes to pick his passenger. A million memories jostled in his mind during that journey of two minutes. The name wasn’t familiar to him but the destination address was.

He was nattily dressed in a jacket that was well fitting and matching trousers to go with. The light pink shirt was a sign of how confident his passenger was to carry off the colour. He had a quick glance at him through his rear view mirror and headed off.

The years had thinned out his once wavy hair considerably. It was surprisingly not as grey as it could’ve been given his age. His eyes had lost that sparkle which once upon a time were in full display every time he would see her. There was more emptiness than sadness in them now. He turned on the radio and as if on cue Tupelo Honey came on. It was their song he remembered.

Can you please turn the radio off, the passenger indicated as he was talking on his mobile. He sighed as he turned it off. Maybe I shouldn’t listen to this song. Not when I’m going to that address he consoled himself as he drove on

They were happy when they moved in, he remembered. The house needs painting so bad, she rued when they first saw it. Given their modest budget it was the best they could afford. We’ll paint it up to our liking…in good time…he assured her. They hugged. They kissed. They were happy.

As he took the turn to get off the main road and enter the mew that would take him to the address he remembered the fun they had painting the house. She was a disaster. And he a bigger one. As they stood admiring their patchy terrible painting the looked at one another and burst out into laughter. They’d painted themselves more than the house. Those were fun days.

I’ll be there in about 5 honey, the passenger said, a tad loudly. There’s not much traffic fortunately. He looked again at the passenger through the rear view mirror. He remembered the times when he’d be a passenger. He had seen better days.

Their happy marriage story didn’t last too long. A couple of children and an unprecedented economic depression threw romance out of the windows. Little things began to irritate them about each other. The quarrels increased. The screamings got louder.

We’ll always have love was their mantra. But the day he moved out so did all the love. She took the house and kids and he was on the streets. He remembered the rainy night he spent listening to Tupelo Honey under the shelter of the convenience store in their neighbourhood. Memories of yesterday flashed right in front of eyes as he passed the store again. Nothing much seemed to have changed in the neighbourhood in these twelve years.

That’ll be it, the passenger said even before he could stop outside the address. He didn’t need anyone to tell him where it was. He could’ve driven there blindfolded. He sighed as the car stopped, looking right in front of the dashboard on to the road. He made sure he didn’t look right to see the house. He couldn’t bear to see it. After all these years.

The passenger got off the cab thanking him and leaving a tip on his unclenched fist. He was still not looking at the house. From the corner of his eyes he saw a woman come out to meet his passenger. He could see them hug tightly as the man lifted her off the ground and turned her around once. They went in.

He still didn’t dare to look even after they had gone in. His mind was strangely blank as he aimlessly stared at the road in front of him. A message flashed for his next ride. It was a four minute drive from where he was.

He started the car and drove away, ready to pick his next passenger that November evening.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2022. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead

Sky Blue

I love you I love you I love you, for sentimental reasons…

Sam Cooke’s eternal classic seemed to echo his thoughts that evening as he sat along by the corner table of the bar. It was retro night and the young crooner was belting out one classic after another. He sat alone with his mug of beer. As the mug perspired from being kept out for that long he drew lines on the glass with his shaking fingers, lost in his own thoughts, absent-mindedly hearing the old familiar tune that wafted across the largish room. It was yet another Thursday.
As he approached the end of the 40s, life seemed to have slowed down for him. A far cry from his jet-setting advertising days or even his brief stint with cinema. He was happy doing some editing work for a friend’s publication these days. Most of his other days he spent alone at his studio apartment. And the evenings were always in the bar across his apartment street.

The bartender walked up to him that evening and asked him if everything was ok. He normally finished 3-4 mugs by this time and today was unusually slow by his standard.

Is everything ok? The bartender’s voice brought back into the present. He was way too lost in his thoughts and it took him a while to reply in the affirmative.

I’ll just take it slow today.

Ah just as well then, the bartender shrugged his shoulders as he walked off. I would’ve given you a couple more on the house today. It’s the wife’s birthday you see, he smiled, a tad relieved perhaps that he didn’t have to keep his promise after all.

He smiled back at the bartender without saying a word. It was my wife’s birthday too today you know, he whispered in his own mind. Her thoughts came flooding back to him all over again.

He left the bar and headed home. There was no staggering for once. It was a rarity that he left the bar after a solitary beer.

The bartender finished arranging the glasses and had one last look before turning off the lights. It had been a relatively light Thursday. He went up the back stairs to enter his apartment which was just above the bar. The modest two room apartment was tastefully done up. The table was nicely laid up for a cosy dinner for two. He had himself cooked the roast to perfection just like she loved it. A small chocolate cake with a couple of strawberries garnished on top took the centre stage on the table he light a solitary candle and went inside their bedroom.
She looked at him lovingly as he approached the bed. Her falling hair and wrinkled skin had done little to lessen her beauty. The innumerable chemos had failed to affect her loveliness which sparkled brightly as she smiled at him. He lifted her frail frame and placed her on the wheelchair. It’ll be the dining table today as you wished, he sighed as he brought her in the outer room. She saw the spread and looked up at him. She softly squeezed his hand which was pushing her wheelchair. She noticed a teardrop fall on her sky blue bracelet. It was the one she never took off. Even after her marriage.

Let’s cut the cake, she said.

He sat alone on his bed, overlooking the rain soaked streets. His trembling hands were on the sepia-tinged crumpled photograph he had taken out from his battered wallet. A tiny teardrop escaped the side of his eyes and fell on the sky blue bracelet the girl in the picture was wearing.

Happy Birthday honey, wherever you are he whispered looking at the photograph with his soaked eyes.

On the street across, the two of them sang happy birthday as she gingerly cut her birthday cake with her sky blue bracelet hand.


Who’s he? She’s asked him during the interval of the movie. Unwittingly the tall guy had come and plonked himself in between them. Both of them had been too polite and shy to protest and ask him to move. They were a huge group of friends out for a movie together. But as always they wanted to sit together. He silently cursed the tall guy for depriving him of the opportunity to sit next to her in the dark cosy comfort of the movie theatre.

They were inseparable in college too. Most of their time was spent whiling away in the canteen. They laughed they joked they cracked up on the silliest of things. And they heard their music together. He had a little green Walkman and they would share one earpiece each listening to Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, Sting and The Beatles. It was the soundtrack of their lives.

They drifted apart over the years. Even in the later years of college there was a distance that had crept up between them. Like the tall guy in the movie theatre, he now felt a permanent block in between him and her. An invisible wall which he could not get beyond. Somewhere along the words had dried up.

They still spoke to each other but the intensity and spark had gone. At times he felt she was too polite and nice to cut off ties with him completely and spoke to him out of her sheer goodness. He started disliking her for this very reason.

He knew it was his inability to express his true feelings for her which was the reason for this chasm. Maybe she waited for him to say something at least and then moved on. He kept reasoning internally but could never get himself to accept his own shortcomings.

It was the last day of college. Like most of his other friends he was a bundle of emotions that day. The very thought of moving away from people who he interacted with on a daily basis for the last five years was killing him from inside. Will I see her again he wondered. Will we be in touch even now? Questions to which he had no answers kept on haunting him all day. He sat in the crowded canteen lost in these thoughts. Feeling all alone in the midst of the canteen crowd.

His thoughts were broken by a tap on his shoulders. She was standing next to him with a smile which always cheered him up. She bent down to give him a hug and then sat next to him. She took out the green Walkman from her bag. You’d forgotten about this hadn’t you she said as she handed it over to him. It was lying with me all these months. Don’t worry we’ll remain in touch. The phone is always there she smiled at him gently adjusting his hair from his face. She put the earphone on her ear and the other one on his.

Neil Diamond sang

You make it feel like Christmas

Even when things go wrong

I hear the sounds of Christmas

In your song

All day long

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2021. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead


Some stories are best left unwritten. Those words stuck to him forever. It was the night of the Sting concert and she said it to him as they walked back from the concert towards her home. He wanted to hold her hand as they walked but couldn’t get himself to it. They were speaking of stories and moments when she said these words to him. Out of the blue.

He never felt her as close to him as he did that moonlit night. She looked beautiful in her black dress. He was as always in his denims but she had dressed up especially for that evening. He remembered being close enough to her to smell her beautiful perfume as Sting sang Fields of Gold. He almost wanted to kiss her at that point.

As they walked leisurely, he asked her if she was getting late getting back home. It’s ok I don’t have to hurry she replied in her usual calm manner. He felt a surge of happiness run through his entire body at the mere thought of a few extra moments with her. He felt an inexplicable joy inside of him that evening.

The skipping of the vinyl brought him back to the present. It had been ages since he heard that particular record. He had stopped listening to it since the day she left town for good. Without a word. Without any goodbyes. Memories were all that he had left with him. He didn’t even have a single photograph of hers. He never ever wrote a line to her or received any from her.

Some stories are best left unwritten. Her words came back to haunt him again that rainy evening. He kept staring out of his window blankly as the record kept skipping at the same part over and over again.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2021. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead

Black Coffee

The smallest of things would remind him of her. Most of the times they would come unannounced. A small gesture by someone, a word spoken or the melody of an old song. Just about anything would make him think of her.
He kept fidgeting with his paper cup absent-mindedly. The black coffee lay untouched as he blankly stared at the mini ripples they created with his hand movements. The noise of the weekend food court was silenced by the song of old memories blasting inside his head.

He felt lost

He tried to remember how things had ended. He didn’t have a very clear picture of their last meeting. She yanked her hand off his as they entered her building complex. Far from the entrance gate where the building blocks were located, he could see a small gathering of people. Someone’s birthday was being celebrated by people in the building. I think you should leave now, she said abruptly as she pulled her hand away from his. He remembered being a bit puzzled and startled by the sudden change in her behaviour but he didn’t question her. As always, he listened to whatever she said. He stopped walking as he saw her walk away from him, towards the building. And after a couple of seconds he turned around and headed towards the gate.

That was all he remembered.

He wondered how her thoughts had come to him again that weekend evening as he sat alone in the crowded mall. Maybe he heard a laugh that reminded him of her. Or maybe it was a whiff of that lavender perfume of hers. He knew there was something in the air for her memories to come back flooding inside his head.
Despite being alone he never felt lonely and at times like these when her thoughts overpowered every other emotion inside of him, he felt all the more with her. It was almost as if she’d never left him for a day. He sat wondering what had gone wrong between them and why they parted ways but strangely he didn’t remember a thing. He tried hard to remember if he ever called her up again after that last meeting. As always he drew a blank. He took a sip from his paper cup and felt the bitterness of the coffee wash down his throat. He kept staring at the cup as he remembered her slender hands mixing two spoons of sugar into his black coffee. He had stopped having sugar in his coffee since that day. It just didn’t feel the same.

He didn’t realise how long he sat on that food court table that evening. The crowd had thinned out considerably when he got up from his chair. He shut his laptop as he got up. He hadn’t typed a single word of his supposed article which he was to finish that evening. So lost was he in her thoughts he had forgotten everything. He slung his laptop bag across his shoulder as he walked away from the table leaving the unfinished cup of coffee.

It was difficult for her to see him. Almost impossible. Never had she imagined she would meet him after all these years. A trip with her husband and children to her old city had been a sudden plan and it certainly did not involve bumping into him at a food court. Her husband and his friends laughed and chatted as she watched him walk away from her. She kept staring at his direction till he was finally out of her sight. She felt a tiny trickle trying to find its way out of the corner of her eye. She excused herself and got up.

As she passed his empty table she stared at the half filled cup of black coffee and left next to the cup, two sachets of sugar which she had been clutching in her hand the whole evening.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2021. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead


Nothing goes away forever

Something is always left behind

Ed Jonson

I’m sorry, he blurted out as he absent-mindedly bumped into the girl walking from the other side of the cafe. They collided and his tea spilled on to her dress. Why don’t you see where you’re going, she yelled, the hot tea scalding her delicate skin from underneath her dress. Her lovely almond eyes sparkled as they looked at him in anger. He kept looking at her… transfixed. Her delicate porcelain skin, those magnetic sparkling eyes and the bouncy wavy auburn hair which covered her beautiful oval face partially. He just couldn’t take his eyes off her. Or the smile off his lips.

That was their first meeting

There were white streaks in her hair which he couldn’t help but notice now. The eyes still twinkled behind the thin rimmed oval frames she now wore. The sparkle hadn’t reduced a bit in all these years. And that smile. It still lit a million suns inside him. He kept staring at her as she played absent-mindedly with her car keys.

Are you nervous being here, he asked, breaking what seemed like a long silence.

Not at all. Surprised actually…with myself, for picking up your call, she said, looking up at him for the first time that evening.

His face had aged considerably over these last 14 years. His once-curly hair had straightened out and thinned a lot. Streaks of white around his sideburns had grown larger in full patches of white all over his head. His contacts had given way to dark thick-rimmed glasses. Crow nests around his eyes could still be seen despite the thick glasses. His penchant for denims and checks however had yet not gone. He still loved wearing them.

I never thought you’d call and that I’d pick up, she said, smiling that smile of hers. He felt a blood-rush all across his face even after all these years. He smiled back silently.

His green tea and her espresso remained untouched. Just like the cheese straws and pastries. They lay still on the table just like time seemed to stand still. It was a precious moment for both of them.

I would have called you earlier. But you were off to Germany and I didn’t have your number. My number hadn’t changed. You could’ve still called. His argument seemed futile even as the words came out of his lips.

After the way we ended I never expected any of us to get in touch with another, she said, picking up a cheese straw from the table, her gaze fixed on it.

I thought you would call once you’d cooled down. If nothing else at least to know the truth. Surely I owed you that much, he almost sounded pleading as he said this.

Forget it. Let’s not…her words were interrupted by the song that played from the jukebox. Of all the places they visited in their college days this cafe was the only pne which still had its original jukebox intact and working. Her eyes sparkled as Ben E King’s Stand By Me played from the vintage box.

It’s our song, her voice sounded like the old days, the excitement evident in her tone. She had half gotten up from her chair spontaneously and she settled down again. Slightly embarrassed at this unabashed show of emotion. His head was down as he silently smiled.

The cafe seemed transported back to a decade and a half ago. To happier times. When complications were absent and love was all around. As the two ex lovers reminisced their lost times, the entire universe around them seemed to move back a couple of steps to give them the space and privacy they needed. There was magic in the air. Again.

You know there’s a saying which says:

Nothing goes away forever

Something is always left behind

He smiled proudly at her as he said this.

Is it by the ‘famous’ Ed Jonson. She laughed loud as she said this.

Oh well yes he replied…slightly embarrassed at her memory. She had not forgotten how he ascribed every quote made by him to ‘Ed Jonson’. He looked at her sheepishly.

You know I always loved his quotes, but I loved him more, she said as she stretched her hands across the table to hold his for the first time that evening. He felt an electric current tingle down his entire body as her hands touched his.

Her phone beeped loudly, making her yank her hand off his almost instinctively. He was surprised by her action but controlled his thoughts and didn’t say anything.

I’m…I’m sorry…she said with a genuine apologetic look which he recognised well enough. That was usually her look when she’d disturb him from his reading or writing back in those days. She put her hands back on his.

I need to go, she finally said. He doesn’t like me being in touch with you after all that happened between us. He made me promise I’d never see you again. But I had to come back this once. I couldn’t tell you this on the phone when you called. Her hands pressed on his as her words came out.

He kept staring at her beautiful face as she spoke. He was hearing what she was saying but perhaps not listening. They were a dead story in any case and maybe this was the one final nail in the coffin. His mind juggled with a million memories of her as their hands remained entwined on the cafe table. He noticed her eyes fill up as she spoke. His own were holding up well enough surprisingly.

She said quite a bit more which he couldn’t hear properly. His mind was clouded as echoes of their memories played louder in his head than the music at the cafe. She got up to leave.

He looked at her, still sitting on the chair. She bent down slightly to give him a final hug. His in return, was an awkward one. He loved the familiarity of her perfume. He took a deep breath as they embraced.

He kept sitting on the chair staring blankly at the untouched espresso and snacks on the table. The jukebox was now playing Cat Steven’s Wild World. He remembered how they always fought over that song. He preferred this version whereas she liked the cover by Mr Big more. His lips broke into a wry smile which contrasted the dampness in his eyes which couldn’t be hidden by those thick-rimmed glasses.

As he was about to get up from his chair he noticed something left on her chair. It looked like a very tiny diary. A pocket sized one. He opened it to find the words “Ed Josnson’s Quotes” written in bold. He kept turning the pages to find each and every one of his “quotes” which he loved using on her. There were dates and time mentioned under every quote.

He kept looking at the tiny diary for God knows how long before he turned around to see if she had indeed gone. All he saw outside was the regular traffic of the city. A stream of endless people going about their daily routine.

He shut the diary and put it in his pocket. He knew there was to be a new entry made in it with the current date and time:

Nothing goes away forever

Something is always left behind

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