I miss him. We were both very young when we met each other. I still remember that day crystal clear. It was a hot summer day, and I had come down to the peaceful lake from the crowded village to cool down. Someone had built a swing on the Big Tree by the lake ages ago. That someone had probably built it for someone special or for themselves, but it felt like the swing was built for me. It was my seat of fantasies. I sat down on the swing, just staring at the waves lapping on the shore. Then I noticed someone through the corner of my eye, on the dock.
It was him.
He was sitting there, sketchpad in hand. I couldn’t see his face, but I’m sure he had his trademark concentrated expression on his face. I called out to him. He turned, having a quizzical expression on his face, and then he smiled at me.
By the end of the day, we were best friends.
We became friends even though we were so different. Even though he was a boy and I was a girl; even though he was shy and I was loud; even though he liked sketching and I liked singing; even though I lived in the village and he came from the city. It seemed to be destined right from the start. We were meant to be together. That’s why it hurt so much when he left for the city every time after the summer was over.
We spent every day together, the summers that he was here. Our favorite hideout was the swing. When he seemed to sit on it, all his shyness seemed to melt away. He became outspoken, and we poured our hearts out to each other. We pushed each other on the swing in turns. “Harder, faster,” he used to say, whenever I pushed him.
Nine summers passed by like this, and every year we grew closer. I loved him and our love was unspoken. It didn’t need words to elaborate it. The love just existed.
Our tenth summer together; it was my sixteenth birthday. It was that time of day when the sky was just beginning to get tinted with pink and purple streaks. As we were both lying under the Big Tree, holding hands, he told me something very flattering. He told me, something in my voice called out to him, the day we met. “I wouldn’t have approached if it were anyone else. You are something special”, he said as he leaned in to kiss me. One kiss turned into another, and soon enough we were a tangle of limbs. I saw a new side to him that day, one that was dominating; one that told me what to do, how to move. Although his touch was rough, I found it strangely enticing. “Harder, faster,” I heard myself say.
It was awkward when he left; he didn’t seem to acknowledge what had happened. I dismissed that nagging feeling, he was probably back to his shy persona. I waited at the swing the next morning, as was our routine. I waited throughout the day. He didn’t come. When I asked their cook in the village, she said that they had left early that morning. I felt sad, but presumed he didn’t really mean to leave like that, and that he didn’t have time to tell me.
Our eleventh summer together was approaching, and I couldn’t wait to see him again. Now that our relationship had taken the next step, I couldn’t wait to talk to him about the endless possibilities in our future together. Those days, we didn’t have those fancy rectangles that people talk into. We just waited. And I waited wholeheartedly. On the day he always came to the village for vacation, I sat by the Big Tree. He never came. I sat there every day for the next 10 days. He never came. On the eleventh day, as I was just getting up to leave, I saw his form. I was so happy, and he came and held my hand. We sat under the tree and he started talking before I could. He kept going on about how cool his life is, how his friends all have more than one girlfriend – that seemed to be ‘in’. I started feeling uncomfortable, but the real punch in the gut was when he started talking about the new ‘hot’ girl at his school.
“What about us? I hope you’re just joking”, I tried to make it sound light-hearted, and not at all like I was breaking down inside.
“Us? Come on, we’re just fooling around, having fun”, he winked.
That was it. That was the breaking point. I got up, and left without turning back, ignoring his calls. He didn’t even run behind me. Fooling around, having fun, I thought. That’s all what we had was to him. Eleven summers, and that’s all he ever thought.
That night, after everyone had slept, I came back to the Big Tree. His words kept echoing in my mind, I needed to silence them. They kept echoing as I removed the plank from the rope, even as I made a noose out of it.
I finally had silence when I jumped off from the highest branch with the noose around my neck.
Eleven summers later, he’s come back. He has a family of his own now – a beautiful wife, and a little girl.
I’d missed him. I missed the boy with the sketchpad, who could talk about brushstrokes for hours. I missed our time together. Most of all, I missed who I thought of him to be, and I missed myself before my life changed because of him.
He’s brought his little girl to the Big Tree now, and has built her a swing at the same place. She could have been our little girl. “I had a lot of fun here” he says shamelessly to her. He leaves his daughter at the swing and goes back to his bungalow.
Time to have my own fun now.
Read Mannat – A story about a girl too scared to love who realizes that things that are meant to be will always find a way.