Fiction Park

By the river

- Niraj Thapa

Mar 10, 2019-

A few days ago, I received a message from K. It read, “Hey, hey, hey. I’m getting married. December 15 is the big day.

Save the date!”

I already knew she was getting married. Her parents had introduced her to the guy, and the guy even came to see her, a number of times, all the way from Kathmandu. The two had been chatting endlessly online and offline. Their wedding was confirmed; what wasn’t confirmed then was the date. Now, that too was confirmed.

K was my best friend’s Rozee’s friend. I had met her a few months ago, and we had kept in touch through emails. She wasn’t on Facebook.

Yeah, you heard it right! She didn’t use Facebook. I was hesitant at first. You don’t want to fall for your best friend’s friend. That is some tricky business. She must have known how I felt—at least after I didn’t reply many of her emails. It was almost the end of my class year. Something changed in me. I emailed her. No reply. I sent another email. There was still no reply.

One early morning, several weeks later, my oversized Chinese phone buzzes. I thought, who is messaging me this early in the morning. It was an email from her. It read—“I just checked my Gmail after a long time. Didn’t know you were back! Okay, let’s meet up. Today evening?”

We went to Kahna, the most exquisite bakery place in Narayangarh. I was a bit early and sweaty. Summer’s not the best time for long walks. As soon as I entered the bakery, I was hit by aroma of fresh bread. I chose to sit at a table of four that faced the doorway. The bakery had an almost European breakfast café feel to it. The kind that you see in Hollywood movies. At the table right beside mine were a group of girls. Their order of pizza and fries had arrived, soon after I had taken the seat. A strong tempting aroma of cheese filled the corner. I immediately started feeling hungry.  I caught myself starting at them devouring the pizza. I must have looked like a creep, I thought. To distract myself, I pulled out my phone and unlocked it. I thought I would spend my time playing a game on my phone. As I scrolled through my apps, I realised that I didn’t have an app that worked offline. So, instead, I started going through my photo gallery. Just then, I heard the café’s door open and I looked up to see to find her walking towards me. With a big grin on her face, she said, “Am I late? Am I?” She was wearing grey shorts and a bright blue shirt. The earphone buds were resting on

the front pocket of her shirt. I also noticed the braces on her teeth. I replied, “Not very late, maybe just 10 or 15 minutes.”

“Let’s ask for a takeaway and go over Narayani Kinar. We will sit there. It’s much cooler there. Oh, let’s order apple pies. Their apple pies are the best,” she said, all in one breath. “Should we take a cheesecake too? They look yum! What do you say?”

I just nodded, not in affirmation but more of I’m-good-with-anything kind of nod. We placed our order, I made the payment and we headed to Narayani Kinar.

At the kinar, we chose a spot facing the river. It was an unusually warm day with occasional gentle breeze blowing from the river. I don’t remember much of that day. Maybe because I was too nervous or too excited. I was trying too hard to be sane, cool and gentlemanly. I thought that went well for me.

But I do remember some bits of our conversation from that day.

I told her, “Middleclass is a bad place to be. We aren’t too rich to do anything nor too poor to risk everything.” She nodded with utter excitement, her eyes twinkling. She had an ‘aha’-moment right there. I felt invincible.

She replied, “How well said! I never thought about it that way. I always thought that we were privileged to get what we have, good or bad, wanted or not!”

“We aren’t! It’s like a chain that binds us to mediocrity. Look at me, I won’t leave it all and go learn to make movies, which is my passion. It’s a very risky proposition. We can’t afford to follow our passions, especially when they are as far-fetched as learning to make movies,” I said.

We sat by the river, talking occasionally.

A few days later, on the day of Eid, I received a call from my best friend, Rozee.

“My Muslim neighbour just invited us for snacks on Eid. You should come. K is coming too. She said she wants to give you a treat,” she said. Rozee is one of the most cheerful persons I know. She is also always happy. Her laughter is infectious, and I always have so much fun hanging out with her.

I said I’ll join her and K at her neighbour’s house for Eid.

I headed to Rozee’s on the day of Eid. She was wearing a pink kurta her mom bought for her. I hugged her and wished her Eid Mubarak with some loud laughter and turned to K. She was wearing a cream coloured salwar-suit. She had make-up on, which I learned later was Rozee’s job. We then headed to Rozee’s neighbour and spent almost an hour there.

I told K that I’ll drop her. So we bade farewell to Rozee. It was six in the evening, and daylight was still there. I asked K if she would like to go to Narayani Kinar and spend some time there. K agreed. On our way to the river, we stopped by a café and bought a blueberry pie and cheese cake.  

At the riverside, we chose a spot beside a cheeky couple, who were teasing each other and giggling.  It was getting dark, but we sat there for a long time until a dense fog enveloped the river.  After a while, she looked at me, her face content and happy, and said, “I have never seen the river in the evening. I have never seen fog enveloping the river. I have never seen the moon reflected on the river. Thank you so much.”

Suddenly, I had this strong urge to tell her that I really liked her. I mustered up the courage and faced her to tell my feelings for her. When I turned towards her, I saw her gazing at the river, lost in her own thoughts. I didn’t have the heart to disturb her. 

Published: 10-03-2019 08:34

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