He felt a twitch as he raised his hand to press the doorbell button. There was a pregnant pause. Should I or should I not, haunted him once again. Taking one long breath, he closed his eyes. His heart beats made themselves loud and clear to the extent that it was the only sound he heard. He couldn’t stand them. With a jerk he forced open his eyes and wiped a shiny pearl of sweat from his forehead. “I must”, he prodded himself, quite literally. And before he could know, he had pressed the doorbell. Young man’s thumping heart waited with betted breath.
The old man on the other side of the door, heard the doorbell ring. Moving the Bible aside from his vision, he glanced at the antique watch on the wall. It was that very watch which had not left his company from time immemorial and chronicled his story of life with its smoothly gliding hands and has kept in its fold, never revealing anything beyond its usual ‘tick-tock’ sound. The Roman numerals of the time piece hinted that it was about to be evening.
“Was I expecting some one at this hour of the day”, he wondered to himself, lowering his wrinkled feet from the bed. Keeping his reading glasses on the side table, after folding them neatly, he reached out for wooden walking stick with leather straps and a silver knob at the top. With each heavy step that he ambled ahead, loneliness that otherwise gave him a silent company, retreated back in equal measure.
“In a minute”, said the old man, clearing his throat, for he had not spoken with anyone, not even with self, after the maid left the house in morning, upon finishing her daily routine of sweeping and swabbing. Reaching the living room, he turned the lights on and peeped through the eye hole. A young face, quite familiar, he reflected, awaited on the other side. Mind does weave stories for one to make believe and end up facing perfect strangers, he reminded self, just like the drifting clouds in the clear blue skies that conjure up shapes. Not wanting to rely on his feeble memory, he chained the door and opened it slightly to let the familiarity seep in through it.
“Aha…That’s you! What a surprise”, said the old main not able to hide his amusement at the sight of the young man at the door step.
“Come on in, young man!”
The cobweb of self-doubts and uncertainty that had held the young man’s mind hostage, heaved a sigh of relief; forcing a smile, little awkward though, to flash on the face. He followed the old man to the dining area that was few steps to the right of the front door, almost hypnotized, not knowing what to say or do.
“Have a seat, my boy”, urged the hoary voice, pulling the chair back for the visitor.
Young lad sat on the edge of the seat, as if leaving the rest of space for someone to join them for conversation. Taking kerchief out, he wiped his face again, trying to clear all the nervousness that was written large all over his face, for he did not wish the old man to read it.
“What brings you here?”, enquired the old man settling on the chair next.
“Isnt it her birthday today?”, asked the young man with voice that was laced with a slight quiver .
“Oh, yes. Indeed, it is”, he replied sounding much a joyful but his face expressed otherwise.
“Thought, will celebrate it with you”, added the young man.
A glass bead of tear hovered near the brim of the old man’s eye. Getting up from chair, he said, “Lets celebrate with her favourite drink”.
As he got up to head to kitchen, the young man got up too.
“May I?”, requested the young man earnestly.
“You got her heart and words too”, said the old man and gave the young man a bear hug, “For she also had the same words”, he continued in shaking tone.
The old man being little short, reached only till the young man’s shoulder. The glass beads of tears escaped the old man’s eyes along with few others for company, defying the brave facade put by him, making a string and flowing in sync with the heart beats of the young man. Impromptu comforting embrace by the young man solaced the old, fragile shaking frame.
Regaining his composure, the oldy held the young man’s hand leading him to kitchen platform. The awkward, formal air that had engulfed the men, vanished like camphor, leaving a pleasant aroma of sublime belongingness.
Soon both joined again at the dining table with cream tea. The old man made it a point to give the tall tumbler to the young man, for she always used it and he had the smaller one for self. Placing the mittens besides, after pulling the tray of the slightly warmed scones from the oven, the old man raised a toast,
“To her heart, that was and will remain young forever”
“Amen” said the young boy bowing his head slightly.
The young man was the recipient of the old man’s wife’s heart who had slipped into coma after falling on a footpath while on her way to morning walk, few months back. It was the first time after his complete recovery that the young man was meeting the old man that day to establish the connect of his borrowed heart to the one for whom it longed, for whom it once beat!
Linking this post to #FridayReflections by Shalini R of KohleyedMe and Corinne Rodrigues of Everydaygyaan