Monday 6 August 2018

A Tale Of Two Songs & Two Broken Hearts

Love Story In The Rain Short Story Fiction

In a little black cab ride two passengers. Two lovers. It's one of those quiet Sundays where the ominous overcast clouds resign denizens to the comforts of their homes. As this little black cab trundles along, so must we as this is where our story lies. Within, the radio emanates the voice of a certain Elton John crooning about a tiny dancer, but to the couple it is rendered incoherent by their thoughts.

While they are present, physically, in flesh and blood in that little taxi taking them towards uncertain yet definitely divergent futures, their mind and soul are entwined in a journey through the past.

You see, it is now time for her to leave. To head off into the sunset for good. This ride would be their last together on a long, treasured journey of love. The last ride, yet they are abnormally awkward and incapable of stringing together any reasonable form of communication. Between the sparse, inconsequential snippets of small talk there is mostly silence.

Incredible how two people who had so much to talk about on a daily basis now cannot sustain a conversation in their last discourse.

But the little cab carried more than the couple. Of course, there is the driver - a blissfully unaware driver he may be, as his thoughts were stubbornly fixated on the steak dinner he would be feasting on that night. Blissfully oblivious to the apparent tragedy he is now an unintentional perpetrator of.

As the song on the radio shifts to Axl Rose singing about the stinging November rain, the driver nonchalantly tapped his knuckles along on the wheel. His only analysis of his passengers was that they were there, and they seemed to be together. Beyond that, he neither knew or cared.

So he continued to ruminate on the delectable wonders of his dinner to come while stealing furtive, unfocused glances at his patrons. Furtive glances that looked but saw nothing. There seemed to be a world of contrast in context between the front and back seat of this vehicle, but we don't get to choose our side.

We just play our parts.

At what cost?

But even apart from the internally salivating driver and the inwardly despondent couple, there seemed to be another passenger in that vehicle. Unseen and unheard, but there was something there that was adding considerable gravitas to the imminent tragedy. It seemed that invisible fumes were emanating from the couple, and coagulating into a tenacious nebula of abstractions. So dense was its existence, that it could almost be felt, be touched. A near tangible cloud of emotions hovers between him and her.

Who said emotions are abstract inventions of the mind?

Don't you feel the physicality in the extremes? The lightness of pure joy and the heaviness in unending sorrow?

The toxicity of these fumes must have gotten to him and her. With each passing second, it seemed she was headed for a destination she didn't want to go. Even though he often admired her composure and self-conviction when confronted with any adversity, today it seemed she was mentally deflating by the second.

At that point he felt a need to lighten the mood. She was always the more expressive one - the one who wore her heart on her sleeve. Her heart, however, was not something he wanted to see or discuss right then, for it would've surely pierced him. In contrast, he had always been the restrained one - a miser of expressions. Emotionally unavailable and stingy to the point of disbelief, that often his impassiveness was treated as indifference.

He couldn't even remember the last time he had openly wept for something or someone.

But he was certain to make this one last memory a happy one, rather than a weepy one. So he quipped a feeble joke reminiscing one of their silly adventures. She gave a short laugh that ended with a sudden abruptness. He wasn't looking at her - his reminisces were directed towards the fogging window. For some reason, he couldn't bring himself to look into her eyes.

If he had, he would have seen why she stopped.

"Don't leave her and go."

But someone had noticed why. The driver, now rudely distracted from reveries of his dinner, had chanced a stare through the rear-view mirror. What he saw succumbed him, and he couldn't help blurting out in instinct.

He looked at the back of the driver's head in incredulousness.


"I said, don't leave her and go."

He found no appropriate retort, so the driver plunged on.

"I have no idea who you guys are and what you have between you. But I saw the way she looked at you, and the look she had when she turned away. If there's one thing I can tell you - don't leave her. Don't leave this."

The unflinching reflection of the driver in the rear-view mirror was staring, point-blank, at him. But, taken by the unexpected sermon coupled with his internal helplessness, he just stared back. Probably his helplessness showed in his eyes, as the driver's piercing stare softened to one of empathy. Apparently, this was stemming from more than just instinct, as he decided to continue.

"These are special moments of your life and they will never come again. I once had the privilege of conjuring a similar look in a woman."

"Where is she now?"

The driver gazed into the distance, and sighed.

"Married. Two kids. Married to someone else. You see, I too had the choice you do today. But I chose to leave."

In the back, he insensitively laughed it off, as he knows no other escape. Her response was equally anomalistic.  On any normal day, she would've pounced on this little love story, interrogated the driver on all the finer details until she had another solid, irrefutable story to add to her scrapbook. Another solid, irrefutable testament of true love.

But today she said nothing. No 'how did you two meet?', 'what did you like about her?' - nothing. Today, her little scrapbook was lying tattered. She couldn't bring herself to pick it - her talisman for love.

Today, she didn't believe in it.

When I look into your eyes, I can see love restrained
But darlin' when I hold you - don't you know I feel the same?

Gentle drops now start to fall from a vanilla sky. He looked at the droplets racing across his window and couldn't help musing at the timing. He had always felt authors and directors overdid rain as a plot device. How convenient that it would start raining when the story required a gloomy emphasis?

Yet, the dismal irony of his life was such that none of his own saddest memories ever played out in bright sunshine. Whoever held the strings to his destiny was definitely playing by the book.

As the cab drew closer to the railway station, and as the clock ticked closer towards that final goodbye so did the rain get harder. It was now a steady drizzle, and all the world was gloom.

The cab squelched to a halt, and it was time to get done with it. The driver got out to remove the luggage, and he tried to assist. As he handed over the fare, and the driver grasped his hand and gave him a stare as if to say he expected better. As the driver sat back into the driving seat, he wistfully exclaimed,

"You've opened some old wounds today."

The driver started to rummage in his glove compartment. From behind stacks of receipts an old mixtape CD was unearthed. He slotted it in, and closed his eyes as love ballads started to swoon his mind.

She reminded him of a west side story.

He had to leave the driver there, shipwrecked in his brainstorm, as he had some wounds of his own to create. He turned to look at her, but she was fixedly looking at the station. Looking, but not seeing. He could trace raindrops running down her cheek. They could have been tears - he never knew because he never asked.

He just didn't want to know.

They make their way to the platform. The train was already there. But there was time, so they waited in silence. This deliberately prolonged sense of togetherness that could not, and would not, be broken with words. Anyway, what could they have said at that moment?

They looked at each other, and he marvelled at the journey they had travelled; the little transient world they had created in between the first and last time he looked into those eyes. The journey from the first song to the one today. He was now lost in reflection of their first encounter. Oh, what a night! A song that prophesied and encapsulated their bond, played in the background, as they created their own special time. Back then, egged on by Four Seasons, it had seemed so easy, so inconsequential. To approach her, strike up a conversation and get to know someone new.

What's the worst that could've happened? A conversation, an encounter and a dismissive thought?

At what cost?

So with nothing to lose, they sweetly surrendered to a certain bewitchment. A rush like a rollin' ball of thunder, spinning their heads around and taking their bodies under.

Oh, what a night
Why'd it take so long to see the light?
Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right

It was now time.

In popular media, airports are often recurring motifs for farewell. But airports didn't do for him - the final visual of someone who was once something special to you, now heading walking past the check-in counters. Just walking through another door.

It failed to nail in the finality, you understand.

The real deal, for him anyway, was a railway station. Amidst your immense grief, sorrow or even hidden delight at the good riddance (you never know), there is poetry in departure. Now you weren't waving to your past as it walked through a door - you waved it onto a train. Of course, that was in normal circumstances. He might as well be waving at the station master, because she was resolutely walking away from him to find an empty coach. Not once did she turn back.

But these are the sadistic traits of railway stations.

The train waited, and so did he. Driving in him the finality - the physical barrier that now existed where once there was unshackled intimacy. At that point, he felt it must be easier for the one boarding, as they had a purpose, a destination. He, however, now thrust into sudden isolation on this platform, was heading nowhere.

The pain of leaving is well documented, but he refuted that. Everyone understands the anguish in leaving - it is an accepted corollary of our decisions. If the pain was that unbearable, if it was indeed agony, she wouldn't leave, would she?

No one talks about the larger, inconsolable and incurable pain. The pain, the scorching, isolating agony that succumbs the one who stays.

The train started to move.

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot?
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned

A conversation, an encounter and a dismissive thought.

What was the cost, the ultimate price, of it all?

As the train turned a bend and disappeared out of sight, he turned around to walk back. But he seemed disoriented. It seemed a part of him was rooted to the spot - a part of him was being left behind. As he walked his feet were peculiarly off-direction, his fingers peculiarly jittery.

On his face, one solitary tear.

Grief is the price we pay for love.

* * *

This is a work of fiction. All characters and incidents depicted in this short story are by-products of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual events or people, whether living or dead, is purely coincidental. 

* * *

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