Forgotten Scent of Love

THEN

Pia takes a pen out of her handbag, to sign some papers at the bank, and the black leather phone cover falls out onto the floor. She smiles, remembering the night this had come to be hers, and the confusion surrounding it. Sameer had come down from Paris, where he had been working for the last couple of years and she had invited him and a few of her other close friends over for dinner

They had been reminiscing about college and the fun they had pulling pranks on their professors and friends, when Sameer had casually mentioned Christine, his colleague and good friend, whom he was planning to ask to move in with him. Pia had excused herself to go to the kitchen at that moment as she had needed a few minutes to digest this latest bit of news Sameer had just sprung on her, out of the blue. Why had she assumed Sameer loved her and that they belonged together?

She had sent the maid in to clear the table to make room for the snacks on it, and this woman just picked up the cell phones, their covers along with the cigarette packet and Sameer’s cigarette-shaped lighter and placed them together on top of the cabinet kept in the corner of the room. Once everybody had left after an enjoyable dinner and coffee, at around 3 a m, Pia had taken her cell out of its cover to set the alarm for 7 in the morning. Suddenly she had been assailed with his musky perfume; she could sense his nearness and breathe in his heady aroma. She had looked down at her hands and seen the reason for this confusion; this wasn’t her phone’s cover. Pia had written her birth date on the inside her phone’s cover as it had been a gift from her parents on her birthday a few weeks ago.

Fate had tried to play cupid in her life but it was a couple of years too late. Her first reaction had been to call Sameer up and demand her cover back but her fingers stilled over the keypad of her phone. The phone case emanating his nearness, beckoned her to hold it close to her heart and close her eyes in remembrance. She didn’t want to let go of this flimsy bond between them, she held on to this empty case and it became her lifeline. It kept her company in heartbreaking moments and happy times; its emptiness filled a void in her hollow heart and kept her sanity intact.

The empty case mocks me, makes me think and reflect on its hollow existence. Is there a connection between my heart and this object filled with nothingness? How can something so mundane symbolize heartbreak and pain? Abandoned, cast off and discarded, does this case know why it was shunned and accorded this lonely fate?”

NOW

Pia is hooked on to the ventilator in the intensive care unit of Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. Her grandson Abhay, who somehow understands that this old case is very dear to her, places it in her inert hand; just then Pia blinks and opens her eyes. She looks at Abhay and smiles deliriously – “Sameer, I have always loved you, thank you for coming into my life, take care.” The flat line on the monitor indicates that Pia is no more; she has passed on to the next realm happy and content.

The door bursts open and an old, distinguished gentleman rushes in, takes one look at the beatific smile on Pia’s face and crumples to the floor. An identical black case falls out of his hand to the floor. Abhay goes up to him and closes Sameer’s empty and anguished eyes.

Sulekha Rawat

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