He closed the door of the car, and looked towards his reflection in the car; adjusting his Rayban Aviators he entered the espresso house. The espresso house had been a second home for Prayas for the past two years. The happy and sad moments, his birthdays and his dates all have happened here. The only place which give him solace in this lonely city. He went in threw his mobile phone, key and sunglasses on his usual table to reserve his place. This couch next to the glass wall of the espresso house has been his favorite table for months. He had spent hours sitting here sipping black coffee with walnut brownie, observing the passing traffic across the glass wall and enjoying the crowd inside.
He went to the counter, “Where is Ravi?” He enquired. Ravi was the store manager, who had been his close friend and had become well aware of his likings of coffee.
“Hey Prayas, Ravi has an off today. Tell me what will you have” replied Tewari.
“Usual, Espresso Americano and a brownie, Espresso with double extra shots”
“Double!!! Why something wrong, you have double only when you are in a bad mood”
“Nothing re, just chill. I want something to stir me up right through my spine so thought will have a double today” He replied and went back to the table. His cell phone was on the table.
The world can change drastically in just two days. Just two days before his life used to be eventful and happening. His phone used to ring whenever he was alone. He sometimes wondered that whether there was a telepathy that she always knew when to call and when to be with him. Two days back he considered himself the luckiest guy on the earth. Two days before he knew love. Two days before he was alone but never lonely. Two days before he was sad but never left uncomforted. Two days before he walked aloof but was not Single.
He sipped his coffee, and wondered how much had his life changed. Actually nothing, most of the times he visited espresso house alone, years of a long distance had taught him how to live alone. The only thing that changed was that now deep inside his heart he knew, he was a single. He knew that his phone will not ring today. He knew that he won’t be booking tickets to see her on the extended weekend. He couldn’t help thinking of the last time when they met in the same café. How intently they had been discussing their life and two months everything had changed. From Us it was you and me, it had all finished. One night, one call and it was all over. The penchant which had been built over five years had been forgotten in a matter of an hour.
Prayas was confused, and he wasn’t liking it, did he do something wrong. He wanted to hate the feminine race and he was able to hate every girl whom he knew and whom he didn’t, except Poorva. Five years, Poorva has been his life and suddenly she just let it go. “I can’t go against the family” was an important thing he knew. But still it seemed nonsense to him. He was irritated and angry. What made him angry was a question which was bothering him, a broken heart, failure of an important relationship, betrayal of Poorva, or the idea that he was single again. He tried hard to answer the question but they kept him tangled.
He was lost in a cocoon of thoughts, when he was brought out of the melancholy of his thoughts by a voice. “Excuse me!! Sorry to disturb you, do you mind if I sit here?”
He glanced across the whole café before looking up to find all other tables occupied. “Yeah, sure” he said looking up to see his company. She seemed nice on the first glance. Short in height, black hairs cut in slant till the shoulder, draped in a traditional black and blue suit, and a black dupatta draped tightly around her neck. Her eyes were big and brown. Carrying a very innocent smile, she sat in a dignified manner legs crossed in an inverted Y. He could see her white feet belted carefully in open sandals wearing a dull lavender color on her nails. He was immediately reminded of Poorva, she made him visit almost every mall in the city to find a similar color of nail enamels, which was her favorite.
She had got a Latte and a slimmer sand-witch. She smiled “I am sorry, to encroach upon your table like this”.
“No, its absolutely fine with me. Haven’t seen you here before?” Prayas replied.
“Hi, I am Divya. Yes I am new here. Moved in two days before, I am a personal counselor. What about you?”
“Hie, I am Prayas, have been here for past two years and you will find me in this espresso house more often than you can in my own house.” Sipping his coffee he continued “By profession I am a consultant, I get paid to talk. I have never heard of a personal counselor, what exactly do you do?”
“Amazing we are a complementary pair. You get paid to talk and I get paid to listen. I listen to people anything they would like to share, anything which is bothering them.”
“I mean what kind of problems people would be sharing to a stranger, and what kind of people would come to you. What solution you can give to them”
Divya laughed “All sorts of people, singles who can’t find a partner, committed people who want to be single, People into and out of relationships, married people who can’t find the spark in their marriages and people who find someone else in their marriage. Trust me all sorts of people, anyone and everyone can use a personal counselor. Now regarding solutions, at most of the times people know what the solution is. They know deep inside what is wrong and what is right, they just need someone to listen to them through all their heart. Sometimes they lack perspective and vision, then we just give them the different perspective make them understand the difference between a short term gain and a long term loss. The most important thing is that your client should be able to trust you, because he tells you the most important secrets of his life and the most important ability in this profession would be to listen and the ability to keep secrets.”
“Wow, so you think that everyone can gain from counseling, then may be even its high time I should get some from you. Tell me ma’am how can I get an appointment with you.”
“Sure anytime you feel that something is bothering you. I will be happy to have more business.”
“How much business this client will be bringing to your revenues every counseling session?” Prayas laughed
“Ahh, now that I am just starting in this new city. And you are such a nice guy who offered to share his table. Just buy me coffee every session we have here.”
“Wow, discounts for new clients. By the way I didn’t offer the table you asked for my company” Prayas chuckled.
Divya laughed, suddenly Prayas’ cell phone started ringing “Excuse me!!!” he said “Client call” he went out. The conversation got extended and when he returned he found Divya had already left. He smiled and sat down just then he found something scribbled on the paper napkin on the table. He picked it up; it read “Hey Mr. Consultant, I have got to rush. It was really nice talking to you, hope to see you tomorrow here same time.” He smiled and walked out of the espresso house, his mind completely occupied with the conversation he had with Divya.
Next day he got too busy with work and only when he arrived at espresso house late in the night he remembered of Divya and her note which was still in his wallet but was completely forgotten. He sat on the couch and ordered. He could remember yesterday’s conversation. He regretted forgetting about the appointment and made it a point to come tomorrow and see if he could find her.
Next day he came and found her sitting on the same table he just went ahead “Ma’am, if you are not waiting for someone then may be I can join you”
“Oh I am so sorry, I am waiting for a dude called Prayas, he was supposed to come yesterday but seems like he has got delayed so you may sit till he arrives” Divya chuckled.
“Before sitting I am supposed to order coffee for myself and you, what will you have?”
“I will have a smoothie, black currant smoothie may be”
He ordered and then sat down, “Sorry yaar, I completely forgot about meeting you yesterday. Got occupied with work, I did came here but it was very late around ten in the evening”
“Oh, it’s completely alright, you don’t have to be so formal. By the way ten is not evening its night. You come here quiet often?”
“Not quiet often, regularly or rather daily. You can generally find me here till this place closes down and sometimes even after that”
“Why? Who is at your home, I mean don’t people wait for you? Don’t they get worried about you being out so late in the night?” Divya asked.
“I am a working bachelor; my parents don’t live with me. So actually no one at home, I share a flat with some of friends. All of us have independent life; no one bothers too much about each other until there is an emergency or something. Coming to this place soothes me, instead of being lonely at home.” Prayas replied.
“I understand, what about girlfriends, don’t you have one. I am sorry to be intruding your personal life but you seem to be a perfectly eligible bachelor?”
“I used to have one, four days back. We broke of, or in her rather her terms Parted Ways” Prayas replied in a bruised tone.
“I am sorry so be so intruding and inquisitive but if you don’t mind tell me what happened”
“Oh not a problem, her name was…. is Poorva. We had been together for approximately five years. We were happily committed with each other. Recently there was some pressure from her family and she felt that she can not leave her family for me. So she decided to dump me. That’s my choti si love story, and now your so called eligible bachelor is single.” Prayas said ending in a satirical tone.
“Come on Prayas, you are not that immature. You understand she loved you right? See Prayas it happens, it’s a matter of past and future. Her family is her past, and you wanted to be her future, and may be even she wanted you to be her future. But because of our closed culture it was not working out. It’s always difficult to let go what you already have for more than two decades” She went on speaking and he was lost in the tinkling of her voice. She seemed to be so beautiful, simple yet so engrossing.
“I know you have to go through a lot of misery for her, and how it feels to let go something so important. But you should realize that getting married and being rebels is not the aim. The life is about living happily ever after. Life is not what they show in movies; it’s what starts after the movies. So if she would have regretted being with you for leaving your parents. You wouldn’t be happy in the first place. So why be so satirical and bitter about it. You are not a weakling and neither your life has stopped nor is that you have lost al possibilities of leading a happy life. It was just a relationship and it didn’t work out. You gave your best shot, that’s more than enough.” Divya was saying when he interrupted.
“I understand whatever you are saying makes a lot of sense and is factual, but I can’t help being bitter about it.” Prayas was agitated.
“That’s because you are still there, where she left you, you are still waiting. You refuse to accept whatever has happened. Do you listen to ghazals?” Divya asked
“Yes, I like them a lot”
“You know your state is perfectly described by one of the couplets from a Jagjit Singh’s Ghazal
Dil bhi zid par ada hai ek bache ki tarah, ya to sab kuch hi ise chahiye ya kuch bhi nahi” Divya smiled and continued “You got to move on, find new people in your life, make things happen. Prayas this is your life, no one else will do it for you. What are you doing yaar. Chill man!!!”
“You know Divya; I have never met someone as sweet as you. I mean you are amazing” Prayas slowly replied in a slow and thoughtful voice.
“Don’t you start that with me. Come on its time for me to go. Nice girls are not supposed to be wandering late in the night.” Divya laughed and bade him goodbye and walked out.
He just sat there motionless watching her every move, every step. Her hands sidelining her hair and a black handbag dangling by her sides, she was a treat to his eyes and heart. He kept sitting and watching her. Everything she had said passed like a series of frames through her mind. He smiled to himself and his little fantasies and moved to go.
A Week Later-
It had been almost a week and they have been a part of each others life daily meeting at the same table in that espresso house. He was very happy and excited; he rushed into the espresso house and found her waiting for him. “Guess what, Ronan Keating is coming to city next weekend. Its a couple entry only, I have booked ticket for me and you, so be ready on Saturday”.
“Wow, I love Ronan Keating, You are a sweat heart. How did you know that I would love to go?” Divya was as excited as Prayas was.
Prayas was having sleepless nights, waiting for Saturday. On Saturday he woke up late, double shaved. Picked out his favorite dress put on. The night he has been waiting for all these days had actually arrived. He reached the espresso bar all dressed up and as soon as he reached he felt as if breath has lost on him. She sitting alone on the coffee table seemed to be like a piece of art. Her white skin was glowing prominently across the maroon dress. A thin gold chain was rounded on his neck, with a loosely dangling arrow pendant. He couldn’t take her eyes of her, when she saw him and said “Hi, when did you come?”
“Just now, I never knew you were so beautiful” Prayas stammered.
He could see a red blush, across her pink cheeks he moved by her side “Let’s go” and put her hand across her shoulder hesitating a bit to keep her hands on her waist he moved them over to her shoulders and gripped her. They sat in the car and went towards the concert.
Prayas was on a different world driving his car across the city and having her besides him, he could see his life in her face and her smile. He could feel blood rushing through his heart. The whole setup seemed like a fairy tale to him. He was out with his princess; the fantasy was quadrupled with Ronan Keating classics. He knew in his heart that he had found his life. All that he had expected in his wife was rocking to the greatest love songs of the world right here in his arms. Life was bliss.
The evening came to an end sooner than they could have realized. Some evenings can impact your lives so much that they can stretch well beyond a life time; this was such an evening for him. The sweet romance still embraced them when they were driving back home, they reached her home. She got off the car; he held her hands and pulled her back. Divya turned and looked back at him and a moment of silence and the clock seemed to stop. He came closer slowly till he could feel the warmth of her breath. She didn’t move, he bent forward her hands were gently stroking her soft hair and he could feel his lips against hers. The slight moisture of her lipstick and the aroma of her skin mixed with the Davidoff Echo made him loose his senses. She was still and he took a long press and slowly separated looking directly into her eyes. He could he see warmth and a strange sense of composure in her eyes. He didn’t know what do and what to say. He just sat quietly, she bent forward stroked her left cheek and gave a light peck on his cheek “You are a sweetheart Prayas” and she went home.
He turned the rear view mirror he could see the imprints of her lips and her lipstick on his cheek, he didn’t remove them, the silky touch of her hand seemed to him like an eternity. His heart was beating vigorously with his nerves strained. He roared the engine and zapped his car back to his home. Life was great, and he had been loving every moment of it.
Next day Prayas had to go out of station for a week for work.
The trip had been a successful one for him and he couldn’t wait to get back to meet Divya. Strolling through one of the malls he purchased a ruby ring for her, and wrote a one liner for her-
“The tinge of gold and this little gem fickle, My heart skips beat and you surround the view,
Your deep eyes tinkling with the sparkle, Make me say I Love You. “
He reached back, he couldn’t wait to reach espresso and ask her to marry him. He was greeted well in the office for the success of his trip. His team had decided to go clubbing that night in his honor. He so much wanted to say no and tried to avoid then thought that may be he could ask her tomorrow. They went to G&C’s for the night. The music was at its best, the usual G&C standard. The Club was full of life. Prayas and his team took a corner seat and ordered drinks. He couldn’t take his mind of Divya. The ring was still in his pocket. He missed her like hell and wished that she could have been here with him, right in his arms.
After an extended session of drinks, Prayas and his friends jumped on the floor. The floor had been happening as usual and the group immediately let itself loose with the music. Suddenly Prayas’ eyes freezed on a couple, whose dance and closeness were extending to the acts of foreplay. The guy was kissing the girl very passionately and his hands were trying to get a feel of her body. His mind went topsy-turvy, he tried to get a better view of the girl but he couldn’t because of the crowd which was half mad with the ambience and music. He couldn’t get his eyes of the glowing skin of the feminine body which seemed so familiar. Soon the party was drawing towards a close long after midnight. He saw them exiting out of the pub he followed and just as the couple was about to enter the car he shouted Divya. She turned back, and he was shocked.
“Wow Prayas!! How come you are here, you had gone out? When did you come back? You didn’t even tell me” Divya said.
Prayas didn’t say a thing, just kept staring at the guy next to her. She noticed and said “Oh, I completely forgot. He is Vikrant, my boyfriend. Vicky he is Prayas, I told you about him. Remember”
“BOYFRIEND!!!” exclaimed Prayas “When did this happened, a week ago you loved me. You didn’t even gave me a weeks time and you go out with him”
“What!!!” Divya was shocked “You? My boyfriend. When? Something is terribly wrong. You were never my boyfriend, and I was never your girl.”
“If not then why did you wait for me in Espresso house everyday? Why did you listen to everything I had to say? Why we had to be together daily? Tell me why?” shouted Prayas.
“Listening to you, it was professional Prayas, I hope you understand. It’s my profession to listen to personal problem s of people and I was doing that. It was nothing of the sorts you are assuming. I never said that I love you. Vicky has been in my life for past three years.” Divya tried to calm him down.
“You mean everything was professional, you were just being professional with me. If that’s true why you never told me about Vicky before” Prayas shouted almost on the verge of crying.
“You never asked, as a matter of fact I never shared anything about my life with you. I don’t know how and what have you assumed”
“What about the Kiss that day. It didn’t mean anything to you” Prayas said in a coarse voice with a tear rolling down his eyes.
“Come on Prayas I just let you do it because I thought you were missing your girl. Prayas this is my profession, I love my job. Everything between you and me was professional.” She bent forward stroked his cheek gently and gave him a small peck on his cheek “You are a sweetheart Prayas. Take care and if you need any help do give me a call. I have to leave now”. She sat inside the car and they drove off.
He could feel the touch of her hands against his cheeks like a sand paper. He felt like puking, he slowly moved towards his car sat inside, lying his neck against the headrest. He took out the handkerchief to wipe of his face of the tears that had trickled down and could feel the box of ring. He took it out opened the glove box and kept it beside a photo of Poorva. He looked towards it for a minute, before closing the glove box.
He started the car and drove off; the days of bliss had passed. He was single again.