Six months ago, I found out that I was dying. I experienced frequent and irregular palpitation and uneasiness. My preliminary medical tests showed abnormalities. When doctors conducted myriad of tests, I sensed something was wrong. Yet, I denied the reality till the day doctor in his sugar-coated language and in insignificant medical term informed me, ‘‘Reema, you are terminally ill. At the most, you have a year to live”.
I didn’t know what to do, who to tell. I had nobody. I was an orphan, single, had no relationship.
I had a sleepless night. The next day, I quit my job citing personal reasons. After all the formalities and discussion, I set myself free by the evening. I decided not to spend my numbered days in a hospital. I needed a plan about the rest of the days that I was left with. I thought about things I must do before I say goodbye to this world and move on to the next unknown one. So, I made my bucket-list-
Same night, I booked my flight to France. Being an orphan, I didn’t owe answers to anybody. Next entire week, I sold off all I could- my investments and assets- to convert all my life-savings into travel-cards and cash for my trip. I packed my bag and informed my landlord that I was leaving for good. I decided to finish all my bucket list with this trip.
I reached Paris. From airport I took bus to my hostel accommodation. This choice helped me get a glimpse of the most beautiful city of the world. By the time I hit the bed I was tired and jet lagged, yet the sleep eluded me.
Next day, I visited Mona Lisa at Louvre museum. I learnt about the mysterious smile, sfumato technique and the history of this art marvel. More than the painting, I was in awe with Leonardo da Vinci. If God asked me which historical figure I would want to meet, my reply would be Mr. Vinci.
I spent the evening in watching the Eiffel Tower. I first reached Trocadero to get its best view. I saw the Iron Torre from different angles and levels- it mesmerized me. I didn’t need to click any pictures, so I enjoyed sight-seeing without any distractions. Finally, I settled at Café Constant on Musée d’Orsay to enjoy Quiche and enigmatic Eiffel.
At night, lying in my bunk bed I looked out of the small window of dormitory room. I wondered if it was good that I knew when I was going to die soon. Better me than anyone else. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to experience love. I didn’t know parents’ love, siblings’ love or romantic love. When people say, ‘I love chocolate’ or ‘I love place or thing’, I feel they take love for granted- they have too much of it. I would never know in this life.
The next evening, I went to the Karaoke club. I sang my heart out- ‘My heart will go on and on…’, ‘Shape of you…’ and all my favourite songs. I wasn’t drunk. I couldn’t afford to drink given my condition. You see my heart is too weak, and my pocket too light.
I noticed someone silently looking at me. I went to my seat at the pub. A few moments later he joined me-
“Hi! Is the seat taken?”, he asked, to which I didn’t respond.
“You sing very bad but in a good way”, he added.
I laughed, “Please elaborate”. I was amused.
“You sing with an ‘I don’t care attitude’, you should sing rock. It’ll suit your voice”
“I have never seen anybody turning an insult into a compliment. You have an art”.
‘I’m Arya”, he stretched his hand.
“I’m Reema”, I replied and took his hand.
“Reema, what a sweet name! I have a riddle for you. Why did the shellfish didn’t share its food?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Because it’s selfish”, he picked a morsel from my plate and ate. I laughed at his silly joke.
He was charming. I closed my eyes to compose myself, and I had a vision of our future together- We’ll spend the month together. I will learn what love really is. And one day I will leave his place with a note saying, “I’m sorry Arya! I didn’t want you to fall in love with me, but I really needed to feel and understand love. Please forgive me. If I have another life and I’m given a choice, I’ll choose you again and again, life after life- always you.”
I opened my eyes, Arya still looking at me, waiting for an answer to another riddle. I didn’t hear the question, but I answered “because, I’m not a Shellfish”. And though, I needed that love desperately, still I walked away.
(c) 2018 Priya U Bajpai