He stood against the wall, staring into nothingness.
His long fingers curled around a cigarette he promised would be his last, and as he exhaled a puff of smoke, his eyes glazed. He had tiny little sunken eyes, that shone like little black diamonds and reflected what was left of his youth. I'm 28, he'd say to himself occasionally. He kept wondering where all the time had gone by.
"There's still a hint of Sunil left in you...the Sunil I knew not so long ago", the voice on the other side of the phone would say to him, with a hope of consoling him. Instead of showing a silver lining to the cloud, that comforting voice now gave rise to turmoil in his heart.
He bought another cigarette to buy time, to avoid going back into that cold, marbled office that was sapped of ventilation and sensible life. He had grown used to being "the loner with a mission". Years ago, when his peers were still conjuring dreams, he set out to turn his dreams into reality. Never did he imagine that his dreams would be realised, and that a dead-end such as this would confront him. Living a dream is nice for a while. But then, the restless soul (which is suitably confused often) needs to be let out of every cage, even if it's a cage of some past choice.
As he lit the cigarette, he thought of her. There she was...with her head bowed down. It was a dimly lit room, and her dupatta was draped around her and a loose end swept the floor as the breeze gently danced past him. Just then, suddenly, his mind started playing tricks with him. Sunil couldn't remember her face...
He quickly rushed to the lady at the corner of the street and bought another cigarette. "Classic!", he roared. The old lady shuddered at his voice, which was turning raspy over the last few months. "Bhai...this is bad for you. Leave it!", she said in a voice that did little to hide her maternal instinct. She had been seeing Sunil since his first day in this new office, which was not so long ago. The boy is nice, she often thought to herself. She even saw him on a few occasions with a girl a few years younger to him. She knew it wouldn't last. The girl looked like she wasn't very sure of herself. Handling a boy like this didn't seem like the job for her, who was yet to figure out her own life. But she did like her, and was touched by how much love she had for him. It was written in her eyes.
Sunil chose not to respond to her. He only smiled a half smile and went back to lean against the clean, white wall, resting against it with a heel for support. Lighting his cigarette on the second attempt, he tried to jog through his memory again. It frustrated him, how he couldn't remember her face. He tried now to put pieces in his memory together...her eyes, her round face, her thick lashes....no. It wasn't working. His worst fear had come true. He forgot what she looked like.
Wasn't I waiting for this to happen? He asked himself. He had loved her dearly. He didn't know that letting go of her would be this easy and painless. Neither did he know the realisation of having let go would be so painful instead.
He slowly stubbed what remained of the cigarette, and navigated his lean body towards the door of his office. As he walked those few metres, the rain, it seemed, suddenly echoed what his soul might have wanted to say. A smile crept over his face instantly.