When he closed the door behind him, all he could think of was a cup of coffee. He was drenched. The umbrella he had been carrying was as good as a paper shield against bullets of fire. He hung the umbrella on a nail behind the door, letting the water drain. As he was removing his muddy shoes, he could hear her sobbing. He rushed to the gloomy room where his love was imprisoned. He looked in through the window. She was sitting on the floor, her head between her knees. Her frail body shivering. It was difficult to say whether it was the cold or the weeping, but it broke his heart to see her like that. Sad. Alone. Weak.
He opened the door, a little scared. She was unpredictable. The room smelt damp and depressing. He switched on the light. She looked up, her eyes brimming with tears and confusion, trails of tears on her dry cheeks. She looked at him. He thought he saw anger in her eyes for a moment, but it was gone before he could think of the possible ways of reacting to her anger.
“It hurts my eyes.” she said.
“What hurts your eyes?”
He smiled, sat down next to her and took her hand in his.
“That is because you have been sitting in the dark for a long time.” he tried to explain, not that he expected her to understand what he was trying to say.
“It scares me. The light. They can see me clearly now. They cannot find me in the dark.”
The monsters. The people who tormented her. The beings that didn’t exist. He wanted to tell her that there was nothing. Nobody. That she needed to stop letting the non-existent horrors control her. But, it was too late for that. She needed reassurance. May be.
“They won’t come now. Trust me.”
“Now, why are you sitting on the floor? It’s cold.”
“It’s not cold here.” She said, bluntly.
“It is. You are freezing. It is raining heavily…”
“Is it raining?” her eyes lit up.
He ruffled his damp hair. There was a faint smile on her face.
“Is that why your hair is wet?” she asked him.
“Yes. I got drenched on the way back.”
“Why didn’t you carry an umbrella?”
“I did…and it didn’t help.”
She laughed. It was a weak, unenthusiastic laughter, but it made his day.
“Tell me more about it.” She said, one hand still ruffling his hair and the other, playing with the button of his damp shirt.
“The rain. I wish I could go out.”
From the expression on her face he knew she didn’t believe him.
“I’m cold.” She told him, abruptly taking her hands away as if she had touched something hot.
“Get on the bed, will you?”
“I just don’t want to.”
“But, you have to. The floor is cold.”
“Get me the blanket.”
He didn’t argue further. He knew it would be futile. And it wasn’t advisable to let her get aggressive. He wrapped the blanket around her and asked her to lean on him. She did, without wasting a second. It was one of those rare times when she recognized him. One of those rarer times when she trusted him. He wasn’t willing to waste a single moment of it.
“I have something for you.” he told her, running his fingers through her hair. Her hair wasn’t tangled. She had allowed her mother to brush her hair! He was surprised. But he didn’t know for how long she would remain calm. He had to be careful.
“What is it?”
“Can you guess?”
She thought for some time.
“No. But it is something you like.”
“I knew it. I won’t get to drink coffee ever again. That woman must have told you not to give me coffee. I know.”
“Nobody said anything of that sort, my love. If you want coffee, you’ll get it.”
“After I freshen up, I’ll make coffee and we’ll have it together.”
From the same cup. Like they used to. He wanted to tell her that too, but he didn’t want to lie so much. Promising her a cup of coffee was alright. He knew that by the time he freshens up, she’d have forgotten about it. It was probable that she wouldn’t recognize him. At the moment, the false promise had pacified her. There were things he would’ve liked to tell her, though. Like the fact that he didn’t enjoy coffee anymore. That he missed the strong frothy coffee she used to make. And the conversations they used to have as they lazily sipped the refreshing dark liquid…
“What is it, then?” she asked him, shaking him awake from his fond memories.
He pulled out a bunch of papers from his bag. He was glad that the bag was waterproof.
“Something you love more than coffee. Poetry.”
He half-expected her to glow with excitement. May be, plant a kiss on his cold forehead and tell him that nobody can understand her better than him. But, she just took it from him with a murmured ‘thanks’. He was disappointed.
“You know what I want?” she was running her fingers over the letters.
“A book. May be the same poems, but printed in a book. Not a bunch of papers like this.”
“You’ll get one soon.”
She opened her mouth to say something, but as if something had suddenly dawned on her, she stopped. She probably knew he was lying. He got up silently, walked out of the room and latched the door from outside. He watched her from the window. She was engrossed in reading. She didn’t look happy. Not in the least. He would’ve felt like he had conquered the world, had she been happy. But, she wasn’t sad either. She had stopped crying. There were no tears ready to escape from her eyes, at the moment. He hadn’t conquered the world, but he hadn’t totally lost the battle either. He was determined not to give up. For her sake and his.
“You know something?” she said, without looking at him. She knew he was standing there, watching her.
“It is true that I love poetry more than coffee.”
“And there is something I love more than poetry. Do you know what it is?”
With that, she went back to her reading. And he closed the window with a smile on his face. She was still the woman he had fallen in love with…on a rainy afternoon many years ago. A cloud trapped in a woman’s body.