Story 64

He was everywhere. She saw him playing football with his friends as she walked to school. She saw him exercising in the school gym when she was at the locker. She saw him teaching football to school kids as she spent time in campus reading a book in free period. She saw him in the school canteen, sitting in the corner seat and eating sandwich as she had her lunch. On her way back from school, she saw him as he chatted with his friends in the community playground. At night as she stepped out for a walk, she saw him running laps in the playground.


To anyone who came across them for the first time; it would seem like a coincidence but for someone who carefully watched them every day, it would be obvious that it was pre-planned.


She could not stop thinking about him since she saw him for the first time. She had just shifted to the new neighbourhood, staying with her aunt and uncle. That night she had stepped out through the back door to breathe fresh air as her aunt and uncle were busy fighting in the living room. She stepped into the cold night for a walk. That’s when she had seen him; running laps in the community playground. She had stood there watching him, mesmerized by his physique. Her heart slowly crawling up to her throat until she found that her palms were sweating and she was unable to breathe. She had dated guys before, felt excited as they touched her but this was different, way different. That night she had dreamt about him.



She found him at the school the next day, pleasantly surprised that he was a temp coach of the football team. Her friends told her that he was a football player once and had played for the school during his time. He was their star player. He did not play for the team now, they told her. He had stepped out when he had realized he could not play the competitive game because of a knee injury.
That day she looked at him in new light. He’d overcome a hurdle in his path and had continued doing what he loved. So what if he did not play professionally, football was still a part of his life.


She followed his routine for a few days and adjusted hers accordingly. She did not know whether he realized that she was kind of stalking him. She did not care. She was obsessed with him. She believed she needed to see him all the six times every day for her day to be good. She had missed out a couple of times, sometimes he did not show up at the school gym or the school canteen and that had ruined her day. She lost temper on anyone and everyone who tried to talk to her.
She was falling in love with him without even talking to him. Her friends did not know about her obsession. It was her secret. She did not want any teen drama to be involved in her feelings for him.


One day, she did not see him playing football with his friends as she walked to school. She knew it was going to be a bad day. It turned out to be the worst. She did not see him for the whole day, neither in gym nor in canteen. She did not see him at the community playground at night. She knew something was wrong. Was he hurt? She wondered. That night she could not sleep.


The next morning when she did not see him on her way to school, she decided to find out what was wrong. She managed to find out where he lived and she made up her mind to check up on him. She practised the conversation before climbing the steps of his front porch. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. She waited and when no one opened the door for a long time she decided to return home. That’s when the door opened and he walked out. He had perhaps hurt his knee again because he was limping.
She stood, mesmerized. Watching him from up close made her lose her speech. He was the one who broke the silence. “You. You are the one who follows me everywhere” he said and that moment she wanted to run away from there. She wanted to be anywhere but there. She wanted to become invisible, dissolve, evaporate, be reduced to ashes in the sunlight or whatever.

“Come on in” he said and smiled. She could not move. And when she did move, she ran in the opposite direction. She did not go home; she did not go to school. She just continued running. She ran laps in the playground. She visualised the smile on his face and she smiled like an insane person. And then, she ran some more until she could not run. She collapsed on the bench in the playground and closed her eyes.


“Are you alright?” she heard his voice and opened her eyes and sat up straight at the same time. She realized that her shirt was soaked with sweat, her hair was matted to her forehead and perhaps she was stinking like a pig. He took a few steps towards her and sat next to her on the bench. She feared he could hear her heart-beat. Then, he held her hand and she could not breathe.


---

They dated for few months before finally confessing their feelings for each other. They walked to school together, held hands as they walked through the campus. The whole school knew of their love story. Her aunt and uncle did not disapprove but put a condition that she finish her education first. He helped her with the studies. She spent a lot of time in his house. They made love after study hour and then he dropped her home. He kissed her goodnight and called her when he reached home. They talked on phone for hours; sometimes late until dawn.


She graduated and they got married. The whole school attended their wedding. He was offered a permanent position as a coach. He accepted. It was time to settle down. He did what he loved and he was happy that he got the opportunity to let football be a part of his life. She decided to study further. He filled forms for her and submitted to various colleges even if it meant she would have to stay away from home.


One day she realized that she missed her periods. She took a pregnancy test and found out that she was pregnant despite the precautions they took. That night, they fought for the first time. Neither of them was ready to start a family. However, they did not take the fight to bed. They decided to welcome the child into their lives, even though it meant making some adjustments. He’d have to find a job that would pay more, apart from his job as a coach. She had to cancel her plans of further studies.

Despite their efforts to make things work; life became tedious, their fights increased and they began to take the fight to bed. At times, he walked out of the house without having breakfast and at times he did not return home for dinner. Sometimes, she walked out of the house for days taking their son with her; and stayed at her aunt’s place. Each time, he came over to talk to her and convince her to return home. One day, she waited for him to come and talk to her but he did not. She could not stay angry any longer because now she was worried. It was unlike him. It had been more than a week; usually he came to pick her up after 3 or 4 days. She tried calling him but his mobile went straight to voicemail. She called at home but the call went unanswered. When she could not take it any longer; she packed her bag and returned home only to find the door locked.


She found out that he had met with an accident and was hospitalized. She rushed to the hospital to meet him, only he did not allow her inside the room. The hospital staff told her that it was not good for him to get hyper and she had to take it easy. He was upset because of what had happened to him.


The accident had severely damaged both his legs and the doctors had to amputate them. She collapsed on the floor as she heard this, almost forgetting that she was holding their son in her arms. A nurse took the crying child from her arms as she continued crying in silence.


He did not allow her in the room for days. And, for days she sat outside hoping that one day he would. Finally, he was the one who came out of the room. She stood up from the bench and watched as he was wheeled towards her. Tears blurred her vision and she could not see him anymore. She blinked a couple of times to get rid of the tears only to realize that in the time taken for those blinks he had wheeled past her.


More blinks later they grew apart. She tried talking to him, begged him to accept her back in his life. He never spoke a word. He did not allow their child close to him. He had completely blocked them out of his life.

When he showed no signs of forgiving her; she walked out of the house. It was a huge mistake her aunt told her. She realized it when she received a call from one of his friends that he was hospitalised again as he had tried to commit suicide. She threw up after hanging up the phone. She felt ashamed of herself. She had abandoned him not once but twice. She blamed herself for the accident, maybe even he did – that was the reason he did not talk to her. Now, she blamed herself for the suicide attempt. He was right to hate her. She deserved it.


She went to the hospital and watched him through the glass in the door. They never told him that she visited. His friend talked to her, gave her updates. He told her the obvious, something she could not figure out herself.
It was not that he did not want her or the child to be a part of his life; the fact was – he did not want him to be a part of their life. Handicapped for life, he did not want to be the burden she’d have to carry around for her whole life.


She couldn’t stop crying. She rushed out of the hospital and started running. She did not go home or to her aunt’s house. She just kept running. She ran laps in the community playground. It began to rain. She ran until she felt weak in the knees and then she ran some more. Finally, she collapsed on the ground and continued crying, bringing her knees close to her chest in foetal position; her white shirt now stained with mud. She cried until she could not cry anymore and then she returned home. Their home. She called her aunt and requested her to take care of her son. She needed some time alone. She visited her husband at the hospital and watched from a distance and then she ran. It became her routine. She started running every day. It helped her to take her mind off the stress.

Now she knew why he ran laps. She cried out loud when she realized he would not be able to run anymore. That night she did not go home, she slept in the hospital waiting room. They let her. The doctors told her that he would soon be discharged from the hospital and it was essential that they talk to her. They told her he would need to attend sessions with the hospital psychiatrist and she would have to, as well. They told her that he needed to be taken care of, as if she did not know. She was ready to take care of him. She was dying to hold him in her arms; she was desperate to be a part of his life; only – he did not allow her to be and she did not know whether he would allow now.


After meeting with the doctor she came back home and slept. She visited the hospital in the evening and then she did her laps. The next morning his friend told her that he was being discharged. I will bring him home; he had told her. She needed courage to face him. She turned to the one thing that had kept her sane. She ran. She ran laps in the scorching heat. She ran until her shirt was soaked with sweat. She ran until she could not see the path as tears blurred her vision. And then, she collapsed on the bench. She closed her eyes and she could feel the sunlight through her eyelids. She opened her eyes when she realized the sunlight was being blocked.


“Are you alright?” he asked and she sat up straight. She couldn’t keep her eyes open due to sunlight and the blurring of her vision but she was scared to blink. She was scared that she would blink and he would disappear.


“I am sorry” he said and she could not stop herself any more. She started to sob. He wheeled closer and tried to put his arm around her and she fell on her knees and rested her head on the stump where his leg should have been.


He had asked her whether she was alright. She knew things could never go back to how they once were but maybe it would be alright. They would be alright. She stood up and kissed him on the lips. They were going to try to be alright.

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