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Somebody waited for me

Manish Nandy |

I had left her,” Roy said. “I had left her for no good reason, except that one day I wanted to leave her. I was young and silly and needed no good reason to do anything.  Maybe I had tired of my life at it was, or maybe I wanted to try something new. I don’t remember what I told her, but whatever I told her couldn’t have been a good reason. There wasn’t any.

“I had a few things in her apartment,” Roy continued, “I picked them up, dumped them in a bag she had once bought for me as a gift, and just walked out. She was too stunned to speak. I didn’t offer any more of an explanation.

“I gave up the small apartment I had and stayed with a friend for a couple of days. Probably more than a couple of days. Then I left London. Since I didn’t have a steady job, I travelled for several weeks. Until I settled, without much thought or planning, in Edinburgh. Eventually, I took a job in a newspaper.”

He paused and added, “I never wrote to her. While I was travelling, I probably sent her a picture postcard or two. I did so in a casual, careless sort of way. I didn’t say much except that I was travelling and had thought of her.

“That was that. The relationship had ended. Those postcards were the last vestige. Nothing remained after that. I never wrote to her again. I did not call her. It was the end. I lived in Edinburgh nearly two years. Though her thought occurred to me occasionally, I never so much as considered getting in touch with her.

“I had a few fleeting relationships. They meant little to me or to others. The work in the newspaper office kept me busy, but it never enthralled or excited me. It was pleasant enough, and I had a few friends. I continued for almost two years, though it had already dawned on me that it did not work that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

“I gave notice and bought a ticket for Spain. I had a cousin in Madrid I could stay with for a few days, and it would give me time to relax and decide what I would do next.”

Roy took a deep breath and continued, “The night before I was to leave I packed my few belongings in a suitcase and a couple of books and toiletries in my handbag. I sat in the empty apartment and suddenly felt very empty. What had I accomplished in life? Very little. What did my existence matter? Very little again. Nobody cared what I did, or even whether I lived.

“As I said this to myself, it occurred to me in a flash that I had once mattered to one person. Did she care now? I did not know. Would she care to speak to me now? Perhaps not. I had this irresistible urge to speak to her. I wanted to hear her voice.

“I called her. Three rings. She picked up. I said my name and added, hesitantly, that I wanted to speak to her.”

“An audible intake of breath. She said, ‘Please go on.’

“I said to her that I realized that my life had been a waste. I had accomplished nothing and made no difference to anybody’s life. I simply didn’t matter.

“She asked me to stop. Then, without warning, she started whimpering. After a while she whispered, ‘You mattered to me.’

“I explained that I had resigned from my work in Edinburgh and was leaving for Madrid the next morning. I had no particular plan. I was just leaving.

“She was silent for a while. Then she asked if I was passing through Heathrow and, when I confirmed, she said, ‘Don’t go. You know I live close to Heathrow. Come and see me. Then you can decide. Just come.’

“My departure was in the evening, I told her. Also, my ticket permitted a stopover. I would come and see her, I said. She said she would be waiting for me.

“The next morning, I arrived in London. As I waited in Heathrow, I walked to a phone and jingled the coins in the pocket. I remembered her number perfectly. But I did not dial it. What would I say to her that was not a lie? What could I possibly tell her that had a smidgen of truth or credibility? Why did I offer to see her again?

“I waited, drank endless cups of espresso,  and then, as the shadows fell, I boarded the flight for Madrid.” “How could you?” I asked, anguished. “You kept her waiting!” “It was shameful,” Roy conceded, “but it was the right thing to do.”Then he nodded and commented, “It was enough for me that somebody was waiting for me. I could go on and leave her in peace.”

 

The writer is a Washington-based international development advisor and had worked with the World Bank. He can be reached at [email protected]