They sat across the table, sipping their last cup of coffee in the softly lit coffee shop. A crass English song played loudly just above them. For the third time, he said to the waiter, “Can you please turn down the volume?”
“Yes. Right away, sir.”
The sound level decreasd. He looked at her. She glanced back. Behind her glasses the skin below her eyes shone. A teardrop waited at the corner of her eyes.
“Guess this is it then. The last time.”
“Yes. Last time, until we meet again, that is.” He stirred the coffee with the spoon. After all these months, the day had finally arrived. Tonight at eleven, he’d catch a train to a new city. Day after tomorrow, he’d start his new job there. She’d still be here, pursuing her bachelor’s in botany.
He toyed with the wristwatch on her hand. She put her palm in his. He felt the same warmth in their contact that he had always felt.
She opened her mouth to say something, but her voice choked.
The wall-clock showed it was eight p.m. He had a bus to catch – he lived in a different part of the city. She saw him eyeing the time on her watch.
“Let’s go, then.” She ran her fingers through her hair and pursed her lips and took her purse from the table.
“I’ll be a minute,” he said as he walked to the washroom.
She stared around her. People were sitting around other tables. A girl with her boyfriend. A married couple. A man working on his laptop. Three married women. She had seen most of them every day she came here with him.
Tomorrow, all these people will still come here. Only, not me.
The coffee shop was their secret hideout. None of their families knew about their relationship yet. “After I get the job and you’ve completed college, we’ll speak to them”, he had said. She didn’t disagree. He was barely starting his career. There was time. But for all this to end, no more seeing each other, merely texting and calling and skyping – suddenly everything seemed too restrictive, too cruel. It’d probably be six months before he’d get a long holiday to come home. Six months before they’d hold hands again. Six months till they’d watch a movie together. Six months before she’d look at him in the eyes as he toyed with her hands. Could she do it?
“Let’s go,” he said. His wiped his face with the kerchief. Always, always he washed his face in the washroom before leaving the coffee house. Always, he came out of the shop rubbing his face with the same blue kerchief.
He clasped her hands as they waited to cross the road.
For the final time, they walked on the deserted street. Though both of them could catch a bus or cab home from the coffee shop, they preferred to walk towards her place. Never to her home, though. They’d separate near an alley that led to her street. It was a thirty minutes’ walk from the coffee shop. Then he’d catch his bus. He’d pass the coffee shop again, ten minutes later, watching it through the window of the bus.
“Nothing will change between us, right?”
“Not a thing,” he said and pressed her hand.
“I know,” she said. She knew it was true. “But it won’t be the same again.”
“It won’t,” he said, “but we’ll be here again in six months. And we’ll walk like this, hand in hand. And that is all that I will dream about for the next months. That is enough for me.”
“Yes, it is enough. For you. Not me.” She said.
His mouth found hers as her tears fell. Their hands were clasped in firm embrace.
© 2015 Arpita Pramanick