He stared helplessly as they wheeled him into the cold, bright room. He could not move, strapped to the moving contraption below him. His last thoughts as the lights dimmed, were that by Wednesday he had to be there, because he was so close to achieving it all.
The mother and father stared at each other in stunned silence. Their son, the star of the team, their brave boy would never play the game again. The father cried silent tears, forcing himself not to think of the future. His wife looked back at him, stoic and determined. She would be strong; she would be the one to carry them out this time. She remembered how her resolute husband had patiently fed her for two weeks when she had been in shock at her father’s death. He had held them together then.
Friends and family stood around the whole night, a silent vigil for the boy who had given them hope, who had given them reason to rejoice. The quiet town of Faithsworth had no sense of identity, being a place of no real interest, as they had never produced anyone of renown. How incredibly the coming of this anomaly of nature had changed that. The boy had taken the world by storm, and it seemed that fate had played a cruel joke on them.
As the lights came back into focus, he blinked. The harsh light was a garish reminder of the ordeal his body had been subjected to, and the free-falling curve of his life. Deep within him there was a void, and as panic enveloped him he went back into shock. Acutely aware of every single moment, he felt the seizure catch up to him, envelope him and consume him. There was a haze of shouting he could vaguely remember, and then silence.
She had not seen him for a week. She was surprised. She never remembered anyone, and yet she had noticed the lack of his presence. Her fleeting memory of him was replaced by the incandescent curve of the leaves falling to the ground, each following their own path, each strumming to the rhythm of nature – carefree, not careless. Her otherworldly musing was put on hold as she heard the crunching sounds behind her. Inexplicably, she smiled.
He looked at her for a while, not moving. He had missed it, and he had struggled to be there. As his world had gone into a downward spiral since the incident two weeks ago, everything had turned upside down. But she was here, as she always had been. He sat next to her, not too close. She didn’t move or make any sign of recognition; she didn’t acknowledge his presence at all.
He looked where she was looking, and wished once again that he could see what she could. As the overwhelming urge to unravel her identity enveloped him, he was surprised by how strongly he felt about it. He picked at some of the leaves, suddenly unsure and inwardly laughed at himself. He was startled as she took hold of his hand and steadied him. He inwardly cursed. Haltingly, he apologised for the unnecessary shredding of grass. He wondered how she had known, but then after two years of correspondence, she had not said a word and he hardly knew her.
He thought back to their first meeting. He had jumped the gate to skip classes and run into the woods. It was the first time he had been to this part of town. It was away from the fields, and that was his life, in the stadium, amidst cheering fans. Looking behind to ensure he was not noticed, he almost ran into her. She had not flinched as he had come charging at her. In fact, he had wondered then, she had not taken any notice of him at all. He had looked where her eyes had seemingly been at, somewhere far off and gasped. He saw a beautiful stream, with the sunlight peeking through the trees and casting off a rich array of colours. It was breath taking, and he was moved. So he had sat next to her, almost at the same place as they were now. As he attempted to start some sort of conversation, he realised she was not listening. She had continued to look beyond, to a place he could not reach. He had left then.
Since then, every week he had returned to find her there, and they shared the happy silence together. He spoke sometimes, telling her about this and that, asking her questions and never receiving an answer. She never left before he did, something he found odd. He had been determined one day to sit there till she left, determined to follow her and find out more about her. He did not know what it was about her, but he even told her of his plans. That was the only time he had elicited a response out of her. She had looked at him and smiled.
As he struggled to bring himself back to reality, he noticed that there was something different about her today. The peaceful expression she usually put on was not there. He could sense the unease. Thinking nothing of it, he found himself immensely relieved that she, at least had remained as he always remembered her. Quiet, serene, staring out into the world as if her mere existence was questionable. He found that it was easy to talk to her. She was a great listener.
He found himself telling her about the last two weeks, about the horrific accident and how it had ended his career. He found it hard to go on, but it was helping him. He felt as if he was siphoning off a huge burden, letting go of his past. He told her of the pain, of the town’s expectations, of his worried parents. He told her of his disappointment and his anger. He found that once he had started, he could not stop. As another realisation slowly started to emerge, he found himself gently starting to heal. Having told her everything, he fell silent.
Somewhere in the distance, the sun was setting. It was getting late, and he had never been here so late. As he got up to go, determined that next time he’d stay, he noticed a blazing fire in her eyes. He stopped midway, wondering if he’d imagined it. Shaking his head, he dusted his jeans and started to walk back slowly.
“The horizon. I wish I could go back to the horizon. It’s a beautiful place.” He stood still, stunned. Almost disbelievingly, he turned back. Looked at her. Her posture had not changed, and she was not looking at him. He did not move, afraid he would break whatever cosmic spell had brought about this reversal of his fortunes. She slowly turned around, looked at him and smiled.
He thought back to all the time that he had known her, how she had mirrored his rise and fall. How she had broken through to him as he had tried so hard to break through to her. He closed his eyes; afraid she would see his frailty. The tears seeped out, and he steadied himself.
She was not there, and somehow that captured the beauty of it. He did not know what to make of it, and he knew he would never tell anyone. He instinctively knew he would never see her again, but he was happier than he had ever been.
All was well.
– Sundeep Goswami