I took to the streets of Liverpool, by the City Centre, in utter anguish for something that I had just witnessed rattled my heart inconsolably. The summer had well arrived- it was the month of August- and the torrential or moderate shower was not unexpected. More so, on northern England, with the cloud hovering over the sky almost throughout the year- and the city being devoid of sunshine for quite a few days of late- it was indeed a very dark, late evening. The cold breeze blowing unrestrained added to the misery of the strollers.

Folks perceivably kept indoors due to the inclement weather, but the upheaval that had shaken me from within was far too disturbing to be troubled with anything outward. I noticed a few faces, buried under the disproportionately larger hat, passing by. I noticed through the corner of my eyes young couples- hugging and laughing to themselves without care-coming out of the bar after having a good drink to keep themselves warm. A handful of cars also passed by. The homeless old man at the corner of the street, after spending a listless day, helped himself to slumber by wrapping up with the warmest blanket that might have been gifted to him. But none, not a single soul, seemed to notice my distress as I was walking in profound agitation. No, not even "Kelly, the bully"- as we called him at school and been an acquaintance for long-when he happened to cross my path that evening.

"This is what I call my city – and none cares for me!" I cried in agony.

"The streets on which I could not toddle upon without striking a conversation is unmoved by my pain," I thought to myself, "and today, that I am in such a agony, I have no one to share my pain."

Hardly was I accosted with such feelings, which had brought me to the brink of a break-down, that I noticed a dog barking at me, breaking my chain of gloomy thoughts. It was a Yorkshire Terrier accompanied by its owner- an elderly lady, wrinkled faced with curly hair and a little bent with age.

             


It persisted barking and being annoyed I could not hold myself back and shouted angrily, casting a spiteful glance at my tormentor:

"Keep shut! What have I done to disturb you!"

The elderly lady did not bother to look at me, nor did a sneering look come about- which I thought was due to me- but instantly embraced her pet.

"Keep your calm, my dear Hager- you are such a nice child!" she said, caressing the terrier with loving hands, unable to decipher what provoked her usually obedient pet to such a heightened state of anxiety.

The event that had unfolded a few minutes earlier, which I am about to reveal now, brought me to this state of restlessness. I was wandering in Bold Street (in the City Centre) when suddenly I noticed a very familiar cafe. How could I forget this cafe? This is the place where I met the love of my life, Dalia, for the first time. Soon this was to be our dating venue, and our destination to unwind over the weekend. Nostalgic as I was, I rushed inside the cafe driven by an overpowering temptation.


I soon drifted to the table at the corner where the light, as it had usually been before, was dim, and the place in the cafe which used to be often occupied by me and Dalia. Before I could reach there, I noticed a couple occupying the table. The lady was seated facing opposite to my direction and the gentleman was rubbing his eyes underneath his glasses, was wearing a black jacket, and had unkempt hair. He then removed his glasses and placed them on the table. Suddenly the lady moved her head sidewise to place her order to stuff standing nearby, and I could have a better view of her face now. To my astonishment, I noticed it was Dalia! The same face, the same long hair and the same earrings on her left ear. I was thunderstruck. Without taking notice of anything else, or wishing to be noticed by anyone, I rushed out of the cafeteria and marched agitated on the street.

By now I had ridden myself of the barking dog, having taken a turn on the road, and thus escaping from its view.

"How could Dalia do this to me?" I told myself attempting to come to terms with what had just met my eyes.

Just as those words escaped my lips, I found Bob smiling, standing just in front of me.

"Bob! Bob! You are here, "I exclaimed, "you are always to be found when not desired, and when you are sought – you are elusive, but today it comforts me seeing you here."

This outbreak was more out of frustration than having any real meaning attached to it.

"What ails you, Nick?" Bob replied, getting into the heart of the matter.

Well, did I introduce myself? I am Nick Carter; my wife is Dalia- Mrs Dalia Carter after marriage, and Bob has been my friend thick and thin.

Gathering myself to speak, I said half sobbing, "It is about Dalia, Bob."

"What about Dalia?" came the reply.

"I saw her in the cafeteria with someone, "I said, my shoulders dropping.

"Which Cafe?" Bob said, smiling still.

"The one on Bold Street!" I exclaimed.

"The cafeteria on Bold Street! "Bob exclaimed and paused a little in thought.

"And with whom?" Bob continued, laughing now.

"How do I care!" I exclaimed, perturbed at being laughed at.

"You should not be caring about the whole episode then, Nick," Bob replied, "I do not see any reason why this should bother you."

"It was painful for me to see Dalia with someone, and that too in the same cafeteria which was witness to our courtship," I said, fighting back my tears.

"Nick," Bob started now in a serious tone: "Did you and Dalia not part ways a few years ago. And you wished her the best for her journey ahead. Now, why cannot you just let her go?"

"I know all that Bob," I retorted irritably- unconvinced with his argument.

"But we promised that we will never seek any other's company even when we are not together," I continued, vividly recollecting the day when the words of undertaking were exchanged between myself and Dalia-it was our tenth marriage anniversary.

"Nick, you know what- you need to move on; set Dalia free, and in effect, set yourselves free; you deserve to be happy and so does she," Bob said with concern.

Bob's words sounded reasonable, and his anxiety for me was sincere. I knew I had to ease my worried friend as he looked in askance expecting some sort of assurance from me.

"I will move on Bob," I replied softly; however, sceptical at my core whether I meant what I had spoken.

"Do not get disheartened," Bob continued in an attempt to assuage me.

"You both are destined to meet; she has to come back to you, and she will. You will only have to give her time," he said with conviction.

"And when that day arrives, Bob," I said, half in anticipation and a half in despair, "shall I be able to take her back into my life with the same affection as before?"

"You will, my dear friend, you will!" Bob said emphatically to inspire enthusiasm in me, "and then no force will separate you and Dalia."

Bob did manage to soothe me: imparting in me the belief of the likelihood of having Dalia back in my life, and before that could happen, I needed to live my life to the fullest to be able to accept her again.

Time passed by and I took solace in the society of Bob and derived happiness in memories of Dalia.

Suddenly one night though, I noticed an ambulance rushing out of the house where Dalia resided, with her lying in severe pain on the stretcher. I was aghast. I had not been spying on her or stalking her ( in case you are inclined to think so), but I often loitered around her dwelling.

"What might have happened to her?" I queried myself.

She was indeed taken to the nearby hospital, and I followed, driven by my concern for her.

Two Doctors rushed in to check on her and having instructed the nurses, came out of the ICU in about an hour. I was waiting impatiently outside.

The senior of the two doctors asked the other: "What you make of the patient?"

"It is a very serious case, Sir," replied the subordinate.

"Well, my experience tells me that she might not survive the night; she has had a massive heart attack, and by the time the alarm was raised, I guess it was too late. Only a miracle now- and they do happen sometimes- could save her," the elder Doctor said before they parted ways.

I had overheard the whole conversation and tried to attract the attention of the senior Doctor as he passed by me, waving my hands. The Doctor was too absorbed and preferred to overlook.

Again, I found Bob beside me, with his characteristic smile.

"Bob, did you hear what the Doctors just spoke?" I asked agonized.

"Yes, I did Nick," Bob only smiled and looked down in indifference.

"I can even tolerate her infidelity, but not bear to see her in pain," I replied.

"Time - you have to wait for the opportune time, my friend," and then buried his head in his hands- no longer seeking to speak.

We waited outside the ICU- a long while really- and then suddenly saw the nurses rushing inside the ICU. We waited with bated breath. The door was shut.

Then, suddenly to our utter amazement, Dalia appeared before us! I looked at Dalia and then at Bob -dazzled.

"How …how are you, Dalia?" I stammered.

"Painless and free, Nick," and then she smiled at Bob and said, "How have you been doing, my brother?"

"Just as you saw me last time, sister" Bob returned.

"Long time Sweetheart," she eventually turned to me with a smile that only evoked affection.

"Yes, well, but I saw you once in the cafeteria on Bold Street, in the company of someone," I said sadly, and then looking at Bob realized that he did not approve of my comment. I was ashamed at the futility and untimeliness of my uttering.

"You mean the café on the Bold street where we used to meet once!" She said in disbelief.

"Let us not discuss this now, we have met after a long time," I interrupted quickly trying to prevent further meddling on that affair.

"Hold on Nick, have you forgotten that the Cafeteria on the Bold Street is closed since our fifth marriage anniversary, and there is a retailer outlet over that place," she said.

I was taken aback. How could I have let that slip my mind! Indeed, there is no more café, but a retail outlet that stands there. Was it a hallucination? Or, a mere figment of my imagination? Or, was it another case of 'time-slip- where a person is momentarily taken back in time- and has been reported in and around Bold street? I reflected, with a calm mind now, and then realised that the person that I saw sitting with Dalia was myself: the same black jacket, the uncombed hair, and brown framed spectacle: pretty much my look in younger days-while I was dating Dalia!

Suddenly then, the nurse came out from the ICU and picked up the phone at the reception.

"Doctor!" she said," the lady who was brought here last night after she had suffered a massive heart attack, is dead! Her heartbeat has stopped for a few minutes now."

"I feared that might happen," came the reply from the other end, "what was her name, we would need to prepare the death certificate."

The nurse checked the register on the table and replied aloud: 'Dalia Carter! Sir'.

 The three of us- myself, Bob and Dalia- turned around and looked at the nurse as she dropped the call and then we smiled at one another.

Dalia had passed away, indeed. It was the meeting of three souls. I ought to have told you that I and Bob had met with a fatal accident twelve years back while driving on the Scottish highway. Bob passed over to the other realm immediately; I had sustained that night only to say 'goodbye' to Dalia, but sometimes in my excitement to see Dalia I come back, but often fail to realise that I am invisible and inaudible to the people here in my current form of existence- often odd dogs do notice me, but unable to interpret what I am, keep barking.

I had told Dalia on my deathbed: "I shall rest in peace at my grave once they place you near me." I meant that. And now that they have placed her resting body next to me, as was also her wish, I do not visit my previous abode -earth- and so does not my friend, Bob, who often troubled himself for me. Dalia and I are happy together now, and Bob, as always, is good society!


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