Jukebox

by adithyanarayanan

– Sharanya Ramesh

She sighed as she opened the door of her car, her dark hair catching the sunlight.  Her single suitcase stood at her feet and the bright yellow bag hugged her waist as looked for her black oddly shaped umbrella.  Finding it lodged between the seats, she pulled it out and shut the door and turned towards the apartment that had been her home for the last year. As she trudged up the dingy staircase, her thoughts ran ahead, opening the blue door bursting into the tiny rooms that held more memories than a jukebox held pennies.

The rooms stood exactly as she had left it a month back, the only exception being the dust patterns like fine fairy dancers all over the furniture.  She walked over to the bed, lay down and stared at the creaky fan as it circled above her.

It had been a month and she thought running away from the city where it all had happened, would help. She turned towards the wall and suddenly like an old drive in, the lights dimmed and the memories which had been tinkling in the jukebox, started playing.

__________

He was a question that neither one of them had the courage to ask. He was the storm beneath her skin, the dark shadows that flirted with her bare back in the night. Sometimes, he would watch her and she would stare back, but only for seconds. She would push back her hair, left open because he had mentioned once over a drunken phone call, once, in those first few days, that she looked pretty with her hair open. So, she left it open, even though it got in the way of her thoughts on those windy nights.

He would trace her fingers with the finesse of a tight rope walker, looking at every crevice her hands had to offer as if searching for an adventure.  In the moments that passed, he would stare at her, all those questions pouring out of him and she would let herself drown in that uncertainty, her feet never hitting solid ground. 

She would wonder if he ever got tired carrying those bags under his eyes or whether he would ever tell her what he packed in them.  But she would never ask, perhaps afraid that their ears were too small for their hearts.

They were like salt and sand, alike, yet so very different. He was coarse, black and white and no shade in between. She would hang her vague ideas of life on his sure sensibility and lie and watch as he would try to make sense of what they were doing. All the while she knew, that the questions, one day, would catch up to him too.

They were a good story, till you actually opened them and tried to make sense of it. They were complicated clichés, filled with hopes of loyalty and noose-like loopholes. Mostly, they were a cheap imitation of the ‘real deal’, flirting with the possibility of a future, all the while knowing that the morning sunlight was the only thing certain about them.

And then one day, the questions engulfed him, pushing him away from the shore as she stood and watched. He jumped onto a sailboat of answers, suddenly excited by the prospect of new adventures, forgetting the ones on her fingers, his lips searching for something more than what he had been kissing.

 You see, his hands, his beautiful scarred hands had never been reaching out for her. They had been reaching out for the reality that lay after. For the days that weren’t made up of smug metaphors and coffee side poetry. He wanted flesh and bone and all she had to offer, were words.

 But instead, he curved himself into a question mark around her, finally stretching out for something more.

And so she packed her bags, on that one strange night after he told her, excitedly about the future he had planned for himself, never looking up at her dark eyes that held all the questions she had never asked.  In the quiet of the orange lights that lit up the street outside her house, she got into her car and drove to the airport, not knowing where she was going, just knowing that she couldn’t stay.

_________

She snapped out of her reverie,  the hand under her head spreading pins and needles across her arm.

Her open hair framed her face as she turned back over on her bed, closing her eyes, willing herself to sleep.

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