The first part of the story is here.
He promised himself he wouldn’t drink. No. He can’t let the pain leave him. It has to keep beating inside him just like his heart, reminding him how it hurt, how she hurt. Standing at the bus station, he fought the urge to cry. Men don’t cry. But he gave in. He cried. But that night, despite a bleeding heart and a poisoned mind, he did not stop by the bar.
When the heart gives up, is when the mind starts to make sense. Her thoughts angered him but he wanted the anger to well up inside him. In not giving him a rational reason for her decision, she just made it clear that he was wrong about her. She didn’t even care enough to put his agony to rest. In a moment, the years were forgotten. How he had believed her absolutely totally when she talked of their lives together, the intertwined dreams? How was it possible to not believe, he wondered.
Walking up the stairs, he felt a twitch in his heart. The mind hazy from breathlessness protested for a pause. But he ignored it. All but thirteen floors, he had climbed. He wouldn’t stop even if it killed him. And it sure would kill him. He remembered the doctor’s words, ‘Take the elevator, at all times.’ But what use was a doctor who couldn’t cure a hurting heart?
Four more floors. On the fifteenth level however, he stumbled and fell. His rasp breathing was so coarse, it shook the core of him. While the dried throat craved for water, his constricted lungs begged for the pump. It was then, he felt a pang of fear crawl under his skin. For nine years, he breathed all right. For twenty now, he couldn’t go on a day without the support. Asthma was like the guest that visited in utter adversity. And tonight, he was the pauper who couldn’t provide for his own meal.
He fumbled for his phone. But no sooner had he looked at the screen, he hurled it down the flight of stairs. With a crash like a thunder, the phone went to pieces. Now, he regretted the action. His only chance to call for help lay scattered before him. Rage and pain are the worst enemies of humankind. They kick you in the gut then watch you writhe in agony and enjoy the sight of you wallowing in despair.
A fit of cough followed and the refreshed pangs of breathlessness drew out all his energy. Soon his rasping grew to a struggle and large beads of tears forced their way out. The glass windows that lined the side of the building looked out into the deserted street. Rocky’s Bar was visible in the distance. The led lights from the bar windows shimmered brightly on such dark nights.
On one such dark night, seven years ago, he’d met her for the first time. She had just finished her shift at the bar and he was waiting for a friend. Finding the bar claustrophobic, he had been waiting outside the bar. A little after twelve, she stepped out into the chilly night. It was October 11.
In a sleeveless tee and ripped jeans, she appeared taller than five two. For a moment their eyes met, just as she was fastening her jacket. ‘It’s too late to find a cab,’ she said and started to walk away. She wasn’t gorgeous or anything. But she looked stunning even in the bare minimum outfit. And there was something about the way she had looked at him. He wanted her to keep looking at him that way. It was nothing, he felt nothing and yet it felt crazy, like he was high. Then running to catch up with her, ‘I wasn’t looking for one,’ he said.
The lights grew yet dimmer. Somehow they seemed farther away in the distance. His breathing was more easy than labored. To him it felt like the sand that escaped from the gap between your fingers. No matter how hard you tried to hold on. It did. It slipped away. Easily. Without any struggle. Just like she had. Just like life was.
Seven days later, when she unlocked her door in the evening, there was a letter lying on the floor. Anxiety banged against the walls of her heart. She suddenly felt alive. More alive than she had felt in the last few days. Just when she’d accepted that perhaps he will never write to her, here was his letter. Picking it up, the first thing she noticed was the handwriting; it wasn’t his.
The perfect cursive was never his style. To top it, it was addressed to Ms Elina Picardo. She always was Eli Picardo for him. The back of the post sent a fresh wave of disappointment. It didn’t read from Cain Noronha, but Mrs. Caitlyn Robinson. Who was Caitlyn Robinson? She tore the envelope and was surprised to find not one but two letters within its confines.
She unfolded the one on the top and started to read,
Dear Ms Picardo,
We have never met and it is most unfortunate that I am having to write to you to convey what must bring you grief. Pardon me for my attempt but I am deeply saddened to tell you that Mr. Cain Noronha died on the fourteenth of this month from a severe asthma attack that caused cardiac arrest. Mr. Noronha’s family had his body brought home the same day and the funeral was held the day next.
I am, rather was, Mr. Noronha’s landlady. Your letter was received by me and I took it upon myself to inform you instantly. Do forgive me for bringing this tough time upon you. May God give you courage.
The chapter she had tried to close, had forever ended. The letters burned in her hands; the one of his death – the harbinger of eternal suffering and the one – untouched, unopened, unread; the last letter.
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© Asha Seth