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The last meal

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It was the extinguishing of a flame in the middle of the night. Perhaps, not really. It could have been the existence of the flame all along. The naturalness of its presence. The impact of the small light it let glow.

But, it was eventually about the flame.

Because, if you have ever felt love, have ever known love and have ever been in love, it is a magical feeling. You disagree? Well, this is for those who have ever actually been in love. Whose ends of the little flame, if it ever left unceremoniously, left them burnt – but not charred.

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There was that magical feeling, then. There was a stale taste sometimes – he calls it the middle of the cake. There was also a sour taste – the edges of the cake. Then, there was a sweet taste – the whole cake.

And, someday, he woke up to none of that cake.

“Sometimes when you are there,” he means in love, because this is the thing that I learn about him: he does not talk about love just like that. “There are all the little things that bother you. Yet, your mind magnifies them. You think of them as huge. You focus on them. You forget the kindness of the other person. Their huge affectionate smile.”

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He seemed to have had that happen to him. It unsettled him in a way. Left him vulnerable.

“You get used to people, even when you stop liking them,” he says. Like, someday you sit down and wonder what is even so special with the person who makes your world spin on a different axis. Then, you realise it is nothing. Yet, in another breath, you realise you cannot live without them.

It was such, for him.

From the time that they started sharing space, a result of an accident really than an actual design, he had sealed himself to her – or the other way round.

She seemed happy. And content. Saying all the right words. And sharing jokes.

If there was discomfort, because it never fails to show up, then it was the usual. With his usual boring habits and routines: socks on the floor, clothes taken off wherever he arrived at, chewing in his sleep (that must be disgusting!) and nothing that she never could have gotten used to.

It was when she left that he realised there had been too much that he had been taking for granted.

Perhaps, if she had sat him down and had explained bit by bit of what she had not been happy with. Or, maybe if she had used that ‘it is not you, it is me’ cliché. But, she did neither.

It was just that someday when he returned from work, kept waiting for her to return, there was no one who actually returned.

He sat watching the minutes mature into hours. At first, anger. Thinking how he would use his manliness – men and that attribute – to reinforce his position in the home because he felt he had been getting soft lately. He had to come down, on her, like the men he knew in his life.

But, when the night kept wearing on and there was nothing, his resolve shifted. Fear settled in. something bad might have happened to her, especially with those phone calls hitting the ‘voicemail’.

Then, a text message popped up. A new number. The language was hers.

It was a long message, in a way, for it came as two separate messages. Brief, also, for it did not really answer any questions that he had. She had left. She was not herself, the last days, and had gone off to find herself. Will she ever come back again even if she were to find herself? She could not say, she did not think she would ever.

He called that number. First time, no response. Just a ring. All those full rounds of ringing. Second time? Line dead. Phone was switched off. In the days afterwards, he would realise that phone was not just switched off: SIM Card was taken out, thrown away – like the way his love had been, most likely.

It was in the same days that he started processing the last days. She had always been a great fun of cuddling. It had ceased. Had always been great at making the house lively, always shifting this or that to give it a new look – that, too, had just ceased like that.

She came one day, suggested dinner at a fancy restaurant. Finances were tight. He laughed her off. But, she insisted. She would pay for it.

They went out. Had dinner in an unlikely silence. In moments, he thinks he had caught her drifting off. A dreamy look on her face. Now, he is not so sure if he even saw that or it was his own imagination. Because, now, reality and fiction do not just look like twins. They look like the opposite side of each other.

That is the last that he remembers of her, accurately.

The days afterwards, she was either too tired to converse or busy or was going through things she needed to process on her own.

“You saw it coming?”

“Yes, I did. But I was in denial. I think we all see it coming but the fantasy is too beautiful for us to confront reality.”

These days, he lives on the edge of reality and fantasy. Always wondering if there is something that he could have done to stop the gentle gracious marching of that train.

Love? Yes. When it is magical. Otherwise, it is an emotion he prefers to suppress. A reality he feels far from right now.

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