‘We said good-bye on one of the corners of the Plaza del Once. From the sidewalk on the other side of the street I turned and looked back; you had turned, and you waved good-bye.
A river of vehicles and people ran between us; it was five o’clock on no particular afternoon. How was I to know that that river was the sad Acheron, which no one may cross twice?
One day we will pick up this uncertain conversation again, Delia—on the bank of what river?—and we will ask ourselves whether we were once, in a city that vanished into the plains.’
Delia Elena San Marco by Jorge Luis Borges.
On the evening of 27th April of 2013, I went to pick up her goodbye present. There was this place on the north side of the town. The only time I had been on that road earlier was with her. It was a gorgeous post spring evening with a mild cool breeze, just like any other evening. The traffic was usual and slow. I was heading to a designer jewelry ‘gallery’. I didn’t think of it much. There was a queue at the entrance because the gallery opens up only for a few hours. I stood in the queue for 45 minute to get in, watching and observing women having such admiration in their eyes for the glittery gold.
I finally got in. At the gallery, I was the only single male. I took my time selecting the necklaces that I liked and examined them one by one in my hands. I evaluated and imagined how much each one of them would look like against her skin. All the sales girls and ladies thought that I was picking up a gift for my girl. And it was partly true. There was this beautiful tall sales girl. She had marvelous skin, there were blue-green veins running all along her forearms and she won’t make eye contact with me. I selected one piece and couldn’t find earrings to go with it. So I bought just the necklace. The only time I have bought gold before was for my mother, so for a guy I am good at buying gold. Actually I am good at buying most things for women. That girl congratulated me and wished me and my girl happiness. All the ladies around looked at me with some admiration. I thanked them. I happily paid for the piece and went out to get a taxi. But until then I was thinking about her. She was going to leave. And this sadness started to sink in.
I sat in the taxi, everything looked beautiful in that evening. Colors were brighter, everyone looked fuckin’ happier and it made me sadder. I thought about the past three years. Three and half years ago, was the last time when I was in love and wanted a girl to stay. After that I had promised myself to be always happy. But here I was, eleven hundred days later, unhappy and sad. The taxi driver made small talk about politics and elections. I was thinking about eleven hundred days. It is a lifetime. So many people, so many girls, so much laughter and noise, so many things, so many cities, so much water under the bridges and here I was.
All the roads were familiar, but I had never travelled on them in such a state before. I got out of the taxi way before my home, before the taxi driver could figure anything out about my state. I started to walk home. I felt so tired that I could hardly hold my back straight. There was the usual bustle of summer evening. There is this park close to my place and it is always full of couples, families and children. I usually feel very fresh to see them. There are a lot of lovely girls down there but that evening no one there was pretty and I hated it. Maybe there were but it was different that evening, I felt a little bit envious of their dull and unchanging lives. Everything was making me sadder.
I bought cigarettes from my usual kiosk. I wanted him to ask me about my day. And I wanted to tell him that it was absolute shit. But he gave me change and started to walk home. And then in the street there were these buskers, three guys, one guitar, one organ and one singer. I paid no attention to them. I had walked some fifteen steps ahead of them when he sang in this dark voice.
“And in those times, it was a sin to fall in love.”
I froze in my tracks. I smiled and nodded. I didn’t listen to anything else they were singing. I walked back to the buskers. I gave them almost the same amount of money that was already lying in their guitar box. They nodded appreciatively with an honest smirk. I smiled as well. I stood there and lit up a cigarette hoping that they will sing something else nice. But the moment was gone.
I went home, humming that line. When I was all alone again, I held that necklace in my hands. That sickening feeling came back again. I was restless and felt powerless. I tried talking to couple of my best friends who were online. One of them went offline without a reply. The other called the story cute and told me about her date. My bff had earlier had told me that what happened to the beast whose life’s ambition was sex, drugs and rock n roll. I had gone out with two other girls while I was with her and each time I felt that I have made a mistake and fuck these girls, I want her. And nothing else worked that evening and I gave up on how badly I was fighting this. I called my mother, she knows I never call at night. So she was alarmed and I couldn’t tell her anything. She, the girl, doesn’t drink and didn’t like my drinking alone. And I hadn’t had a drink alone ever since. So I poured myself one and then another. Two double lonely whiskies later, my senses got duller and I felt calm. Yet bitter that I had to resort to alcohol to fight the whole thing. I love living alone, it gives me time to work out and read but I never feel lonely, that evening I felt lonely.
People always underestimate my emotions. And it was sad but with the help of liquor I got through the night. But when people and friends don’t work, chemicals do. It was also a fact that I had forgotten. We live what we have, we become what we will. And I had disappointed myself of my dictum that ‘real men never get sad.’ But I did get sad and I am proud of it and thankful to her that she made me feel that way.
It was never about the sex. I had the illusion that I could be happy with her for a while. She was always apprehensive of everything I said, every move I made. She sort of always shrank away from me, into the corners which always eluded me. All the while, she would smile and never would take her eyes off me. It killed me each time. She had those eyes, dark brown and vain. I always imagined her standing there with an air being indifferent to me and singing that song and smiling. Like listening to smooth fusion jazz and not having a care in the world.
The night before I would last see her for a breakfast date, a first of my life, I left work at 11 PM and there was this guy in the bus who was holding a bouquet of cheap flowers. I decided to buy her flowers next morning, also a first of my life, as I have never ever bought flowers for a girl in my life. But there were many firsts with her. I told my friends about her. All the girls at work knew about her and me, as she was from work and at a work party I was all over her. I got drunk waiting for her and I was being moody until she came, and then I lit up into my usual funny self. Everybody at work knew about it. Girls teased me about her. I liked it when her name was spoken at the floor.
Next day, I woke up at 8 to go to the best flower shop in the area to get her flowers. At our last date, I told her as much as I could about how I felt about her. We work for the same organization and working in other countries is an essential part of the deal. She was going away on a project initially for six months and most likely would never return as almost her entire family is already there. I am here for now but I will go
somewhere else sooner or later. I told her that I am a professional and this has happened before that whenever I like a girl I have to go somewhere else, but this is the first time that girl is going away. She smiled a bitter smile and told me ‘yea we are professionals alright and maybe that’s our problem.’ I told her that maybe I will see her in this country or another or maybe never. My voice changed a tone, her face changed a color. I gathered myself quickly, she did the same.
When we left the café, she picked up a fight with a guy who had parked his car in front of hers. I gripped her forearm and told her to let it go. She came to drop me and I told her to come in to give her the necklace and flowers. She accepted them with graciousness with awwwws, kissed me goodbye and hugged me and left. She forgot to take the box of the necklace and that’s the souvenir she left me. That sick feeling descended upon me when she left. I played Cat Power’s Bully and grabbed that whiskey on my counter. I had three mouthfuls of it at 11 AM, also a first of my life. I sat until I felt calm again. Then I brushed my teeth and went to work, like nothing had happened and nobody suspected a thing.
At 10 PM, she left for the airport, I was still at work. I had asked her to let me drop me but she didn’t let me as she said she didn't want to say goodbye to me. She sent me a text wishing me the best of the world while en route to the airport. I sighed and replied something of the similar sort. Next morning I woke up and the first thing I told myself was that she is gone. I noticed I had no more clean clothes as I was spending each evening talking to her or seeing her. I noticed the dust on the tables and garbage to be taken out.
We live what we have and ‘living well is the best revenge’. We become only what we will.