It was a Saturday night and we both were exhausted from the daily struggles of living together. We were exhausted from the putting up a fake smile just to show we still loved each other. We were exhausted from the lies we were telling ourselves for the love that wasn’t there anymore.
‘It won’t work now Shaun, even if you want to. I am done pretending that everything is fine’, shouted Marie.
‘Even I am done pretending. If you can’t accept the true me, then I don’t think there is any reason why we should be in a relationship’, I replied.
‘You are right. We should end it tonight.’
‘Fine! But remember, I won’t come back now. Even if you will call me 100 times.’
‘Don’t worry. This is a goodbye. Please take your stuff and leave my apartment. I don’t want to see you anymore.”
We had breakups many a times in the past 8 years. But this time, I knew that was the end of our relationship. There was nothing common between us. I mean, if I really think about what we had in common, I couldn’t think of anything. Or yeah, maybe just the Red Wine. That’s it. And even in that she would never go with the one that I would like to order. So yeah, nothing in common.
And I don’t know how we survived for 8 whole years. Actually, 8 years, 2 months and 13 days. But who’s keeping a count! Nah, not me. She reminded me while throwing me out of ‘our’ apartment. I paid the booking amount while buying it while she started paying the installments for the bank mortgage. We agreed to divide the cost evenly but I was not getting enough clients and so she had continued to pay for the past 7 months. And so, now it was her apartment.
Anyway, I didn’t want to extend the fight, so I gathered my stuff in a backpack I had. I could fit in some clothes, my toothbrush, shaver, my camera, some used camera rolls and yeah, my ego too even when it was big enough. There was more but it wasn’t possible to take everything. Especially considering I didn’t have my own place to go.
‘I will come tomorrow to pick my stuff. Hope that’s fine with you’
‘Yeah, whatever. Just leave for now’
As I moved out, I started calling my friends. It was late but Craig picked up the call and agreed for me to stay at his place. He was just few blocks away. But as I walked to his house, the whole conversation or rather argument with Marie was playing in a loop in my mind. I felt like climbing the very building I was passing by and in one leap leaving this world for good. With no strength and courage in me, I continued walking until I was at Craig’s place.
I rang the bell and after like 5 minutes he came down to open the door for me.
‘Hey bro, what’s up man. Where have you been?’
I could clearly see he was so intoxicated that he could barely stand in one position. No wonder he agreed for me to crash at his place so late at night.
‘I am good bro. Shall we go up to your apartment’, I replied as if all was ok, and I just wanted to stay at his place for a night.
‘Yeah, sure bro. Come on through these stairs. They go up, up, up. Long way to reach my apartment.’
I wondered how he climbed down in that condition. But anyhow, I followed him and, on few steps, literally pushed him to the next one. It was just one floor, so about 13-14 steps. But it must have taken us about 8-10 minutes to reach. The door to his apartment was already open and I could smell weed.
‘He must have been getting high’, I thought.
We entered the living room where the lights were off. But the light coming from the projector that was in the middle of the room, attached to the ceiling, was more than enough to walk pass all the hurdles on the floor.
The room itself was a real mess. I almost tripped over a bottle of vodka as I stepped into the room. The center table was covered with the wrappers, weed packets and everything else that one need to make a custom cigarette roll (I mean ‘a joint’). Then there was a spoon with some white powder, some on the table itself, a lighter and whatnot. In the background was the metal music that was hitting my ears hard.
Since I had no option, I looked for an area in the living room where I could spend the night. Luckily, there was a couch in one of the corners. It was a bit ripped but was at least clean enough to spend the night.
‘Hey Craig! I will sleep on that couch. Hope that’s fine with you’
‘It’s your apartment bro. Do whatever you want. Sleep wherever you want. Eat whenever you want. You are my …’, he suddenly fell on the floor before he could complete his sentence.
I rushed to check if he is OK. And fortunately, he was still breathing. He had just passed out. And that meant I could also sleep in peace for the night.
I managed to pick him up and put him on his bed in the adjacent room. And by now, I was also very tired. I lied down on the couch and tried to sleep. But I couldn’t. While I had switched off the metal music in the background, the arguments with Marie were now hitting me hard. Each dialogue from her and my response were floating back and forth.
‘What if I had said this. What if she hadn’t called me that’, all such kinds of questions were disturbing me. But I had brought my ego along and so I couldn’t pick up the phone and call her to say, ‘Let’s talk and see if we can repair our relation one more time.’
In between all the thoughts and pain in my heart, I don’t know when I slept. When I woke up, it was already 11 in the morning and I had severe headache. I gathered myself and stood up to go to the loo. As I turned around, I saw Marie and my picture on the wall. It was getting reflected from the projector that was still on. I couldn’t make sense of it at all. Cleaning my eyes, I double checked. It was indeed I and Marie, hand-in-hand at the beach, with our lips locked in front of the sea and a setting sun.
I remembered that picture. It was taken in California two or three years ago when we went on a summer trip with our friends. But I was baffled to see it being projected on the wall. As I stepped towards the projector, my foot hit the same vodka bottle. By the side of it were three half smoked weed rolls. Although it was a bit gauzy, I realized what must have happened in the night. I looked at my backpack. It was open. The camera rolls that I had picked up from our apartment were on the table and one of them was on the projector.
Tears started rolling down my eyes as I dropped myself on the floor. The weight of each droplet was enough to break my giant ego that I had brought along. I quickly searched for my phone and found it lying under the couch. With trembling fingers, I dialed her number. I tried few times, but she didn’t pick up. If only I was lucky enough, that she would have picked my call. While the voice in my head reminded me of my own statement.
‘Fine! But remember, I won’t come back now. Even if you will call me 100 times.’
I was broken from inside. I knew if there was anyone who can make me whole again, it was Marie. I collected myself and without waiting for Craig to wake up, left his apartment. I ran as fast as I could. I was just a block away from the apartment, where the worst night of all had happened, when I saw an ambulance and police cars. I was frozen. My heart sank. I knew Marie wasn’t emotionally as strong as me but never in my imagination I thought that she would take such a drastic step.
Within minutes, I saw a stretcher coming out of the building front gate. There was a body covered with white cloth that was being marched towards the ambulance. All the people from the building had come down from their apartments. Some were crying while others were just curious to see what had happened.
Seeing Marie’s body, I couldn’t control myself. I ran with all the power left in me to see her one last time. To ask her why she couldn’t have waited for just one night. To ask her why she had left me alone. To ask her if I could join as well to be with her forever.
As I reached the ambulance, I asked them what had happened. I asked them where they are taking the body, and if I could be with her while they take her body to wherever they were taking. I requested them to let me see her face one last time.
Interrupting my questions, the policeman standing next to the ambulance intervened, ‘Sir, only a family member can accompany the dead. Are you a relative?’
‘Dead’, the word pierced through my heart and for a moment I got silenced. However, I had to see her one last time. I had to capture her in my memories for the rest of my life. So, I spoke.
‘Yes, I am her boyfriend. We were together till late last night. Tell me what happened to her, please tell me’, I was crying in agony and begging the policeman by the time I finished my sentence.
‘Sorry sir, there must be some misunderstanding. She is Ms. Walter, Bob’s wife who lives in apartment 221 on the second floor. She was 72 years old and died of a heart-attack this morning’, the policeman replied.
‘What! She is not Marie? Can I see her face?’, I asked as I was dazed by what the policeman has just said.
He moved the cloth from the face. I could see it was not Marie. Without wasting a minute, I ran towards the building making my way to the lift. And there she was, in the lobby with the rest of the crowd. Equally shaken up by the death of Ms. Walter.
I walked up to her and opened my arms asking for forgiveness. She looked at me, her eyes also asking for forgiveness. Without uttering a word, we hugged each other tightly and then quietly moved back to our apartment.