Eshana looked at the empty swing surviving the wind, trying to force itself to stay still. It was once an occupied swing, that reached the pinnacle of heights and happiness it could ever reach. There were clear ringing sounds of laughter that filled the air, around those two swings... in that lovely, lonely thicket full of lush green plants, flowers and beetles.
“It’s our park, Eshu”, she remembered him say to her when they were both ten. “It’s our park, just for us to play, these two swings our thrones and all these plants and beetles, our people.” Kingdom, she thought. A vanished kingdom.
They were seven when they first met each other. In a cramped autorikshaw full of kids being dropped to school from their houses and back. Ritesh. A young boy in a new city. The age when relationships aren’t given any names or forms. Just a relationship that existed. He looked around, in a crowded space to see a girl staring at him with big eyes and curly hair like coils of springs, in a very delicate and feminine way. She smiled. His first friend in a new atmosphere. Eshana.
“Hi! I’m Eshana. What’s your name?” Ritesh looked at the girl in the blue skirt and white shirt looking through curly locks of hair, with the excitement of seeing someone new.”Ritesh”, he said.
Eshana smiled a meek smile as she thought of her first encounter with Ritesh. A funny looking boy with blue eyes looking around in the complete look of being lost. There was this sense of fear in his voice, a look of being ignored by all that she saw. She felt, then, that a welcoming smile was all he needed to slowly melt it all away and feel at home.
Unknown to her own self, that was the day Ritesh felt at home. New home.
She looked around as she swung to and fro. His face loomed in and out of her view like it once did. So did the empty bogie, the lonely road and the sad subjects of their kingdom.
The road that they owned. The road that she is now left alone with. It was a road that they chanced upon on their way back from school. A new route that they chanced upon. A road full of trees shading everyone with their protective spread... With yellow and orange flowers strewn in intricate patterns of randomness. It was a road that manufactured locomotive parts and now just a less frequented road for getting across to destinations. Of all the people who went by the path, Eshana and Ritesh saw their lack of observance when they discovered what they did. An unheeded space that became special to them... With two swings, an empty bogie and the plain greenery.
Curiosity it is, of kids to enquire the context never understood. To challenge the existing. And to stand by their convictions. It didn’t take them more than a few minutes to find the old carriage car, immovable for two decades now, behind those huge trees that hid its existence. The beauty of it from, existing and the one it would take, which was overlooked by mere beings bereft of the power of imagination and inquisition. Just a few yards from the bogie were two swings. Swings intact and in full strength to bear the growing phases of these two children.
Eshana looked at the carriage car that stood before her. The bogie that they discovered ages back. The car that they re-organized, worked upon in making it a beautiful space to monitor their life that would pass by. She remembered the bright summer morning, during the lazing days of mid-term holidays when they were fifteen. He gazed up at her with his hair falling over the sides of his ears. Hair of the colour of the velvetiness of the dark night sky. His piercing blue eyes staring intently at her like he was contemplating the feasibility of something. Moments later, the stare just held the look of confidence.
Eshana looked up from her book and enquired, “what?”
“Let’s do something fun, Eshu!’
“Don’t we have fun already?”
“Well, if you do have the same sort of fun every day, what makes today any different from yesterday or tomorrow? Today has to have its stamp of uniqueness and specialty. What say? “
“What do you have in your mind, Rits?”
“Hear me out Eshu! No one bothers about the survival of this place. I doubt if people even know about this spot. Until some kid wanders in search of his partner, to soothe and love and take care of, without the knowledge of his mother, no one is going to come here. This place is ours, isn’t it? Then why not make it seem more like ours?”
“Like how, Rits?”
“Let’s paint the van, let’s plant some more plants, let’s fix the doors and cupboards, let’s sew some curtains and cushions! Let’s make it ours like how we’ve always called it to be.”
She still saw the impounding energy on his face that day. She saw glazy figures of both of them in front of her eyes, in flashes. The eagerness they shared, the books they read, the secrets they confessed, the games they played and the life they lived. But it happened in front of her now, as illusions, as desires she wanted to happen again. Eshana.
The wind blew back her curly locks of hair… locks of hair that danced along the smooth pink cheeks that any man would want to kiss. She bent down from the height of her swing to stare into a murky puddle of water. In consecutive circles of ripples, she saw her reflection reach the circumference of the waters only to reach back where it had started, at the centre. Like her thoughts. She evaded his thoughts, his face, his confidence and hugs... Only to come right back to the warmth of it all, till it lasted. She would then feel cold again.
She saw where she sat. On the throne of happiness, that he once called it to be. Now, it felt lonely, with no one to push it, but the wind to help.
She stared at the past, looking at what once happened. It was one of the many other days where and when she ended up crying on his shoulder, at the doorstep of the bogie. Her first heartbreak.. She cried in his arms for half an hour without stating the reason. He just cajoled her, repeatedly asking her happened to make her cry, beyond his control and hers.
She still remembered like it had happened just a day back.
“He said he doesn’t like me. Oh, I feel so worthless, Rits. Like I’ve never felt before. Useless and stupid.”
She saw the flare in his eyes. She could see anger. She had seen it before, but not to this extent, where she can see it reflected in her own eyes. It didn’t seem like anger on the guy who made her cry, but anger directed at her. He stood up with immense anger as she slowly removed her head from his shoulders to look at him. He was shaking with anger, as he pulled her up with just force that she had never experienced through his hands before, looked straight into her eyes and slapped her across her face.
Her tears stopped right where it was. She looked, her vision blurred due to her moist eyes. She blinked once to let the two huge drops roll down her red cheeks, to look at the man. The man she saw for the first time. The man at nineteen, with fuming anger in him. She looked at him with strange fright and bewilderment.
“Don’t you say that, ever again? Cry; cry till your eyes turn red. Cry till your water wells dry up. But cry for a reason. Who is he? That bloke who you’ve been talking about, for the last four months? So what if he doesn’t like you? For, if he can’t see your worth, he is not valuable of your tears, thoughts or energy. Why! Do you see he doesn’t match up to your standards? Don’t you see, he doesn’t see who you really are?”
He walked out, saying so. She still stood there watching him go out of there. A memory etched in her heart. She was still trying to grasp what he just told her. She couldn’t, for he had never walked out on her. He was always there with her, when she cried and never once had he reacted this way. She slowly walked into the bogie, sat on one of the many cushions, trying to give her brain a chance to think while her heart overruled.
She then heard a creak outside : the creak of a swing, distinct and clear. She walked out expecting him to be swinging on one of their swings in fierce rage and heights. Instead, she saw him, serene, calm and immaculate of any anger. He stood behind one swing. It looked full of life and colour. Bathed in flowers, butterflies and leaves hanging from it... With a jungle look of a throne of a princess so coveted.
“Come here, Eshu. And sit here. We got to talk.”
Eshana walked in his direction, with little fear remaining from his slap. She felt if he smiled, once again, it would be lost to the earth. She turned to the decorated swing with fragrance of the flowers and sat on the swing facing him. He pushed it hard, sending it to the space less conceived. She saw his face looming to and fro…
“Look at me, Eshu. No, look up. Yes. And listen to me now. Like you always have. Like I’ve always listened to you. Learn your worth. You’re a princess. My best companion. It shocks me to know that you don’t realize your own worth. Wake up and see, you idiot. Look at yourself, weigh your value. Appreciate yourself for what you are. You are priceless as you are. Never feel bad or take pity in your own self. Got me?
Every time hereafter, you doubt your own worth, come here. Sit and swing. When you reach the acme of this seat’s ability, when you feel the wind gushing through your face, look around and realize you mean something to me. To this place. To your parents, mine and our subjects. It’s your throne. You’re the ruler. There is no one above you. “
He paused for a while and said, “You’re my best friend Eshu and I can’t see you cry for reasons deemed unfit to shed your tears for.”
She still remembered the smell of him as she hugged him hard, jumping from the moving swing, with no patience for waiting it to reach its point of stillness. His muscled arms wrapped her in a protective embrace as she smiled through her tears of happiness, being loved and cared for. He looked at her, bent gently and kissed her forehead and hugged her back, his chin resting on her head. They knew that each other’s message was conveyed across and that words were no longer needed. That was the first night she slept without any sense of insecurity.
Eshana looked up and faced reality. With a fierce ease, she jumped off the swing while it was still swinging back and fro to, to the heights she loved to reach, defying gravity for that one second. She made her way through the moist blades of grass and reached their hide-out. She sat down on the mattress that lay. The mattress that he last slept on.
It was an evening of few words. He was lying on her lap, trying to sleep. She could see that he couldn’t rest. His eyes kept fluttering, like a language understood just by him.
“What’s wrong Rits?”
She looked at him with a glance that showed she knew. And he saw that she knew..
“Eshu, I don’t feel good. I feel like I’m going to lose something I dearly love. To some abstract factor that I don’t recognize, yet fear. Tell me, what do I do?”
"Sleep, Ritesh. Things are going to be alright tomorrow. Don’t worry about it now. When it comes to you, when it reaches you, we’ll face it. Yes of course, what did you think? I’d leave you to face it alone? Sleep now.” And she kissed his forehead, with motherly love and care…
He looked at her, smiled and slept.
As they parted for the night, he got on to his bike with his regular ease of control. Yet, she saw something was amiss. Just, she didn’t know what it was.
“See you tomorrow! Bye Eshu...” he said, but with the same look of insecurity and loss. “Love you.”
He never returned. Mantled remains of his bike lay spread around with his blood smeared on it. That was all she got to see.
Her head started spinning. She whirled her head back fighting tears and blackness. Suddenly, the black slowly vanished. She saw light filling its space. In the light, she saw a boy. A young boy who knelt by her side, wiping her tears.
“Don’t” he said. And embraced her hard, as she cried.
He then suddenly got up and started leaving. She saw him go and realized he had broken free form the embrace she loved and lost herself in… it seemed like he had to leave. Like someone was calling out for him. She ran to the door to see him go. There he was, walking towards some infinite path, in complete confidence as he turned to wave her a goodbye... A soft breeze gushed past his silky hair as she saw him smile.
She looked up at the sky and heard something that was registered in her senses and emotions”… Until some kid wanders in search of his partner, to soothe and love and take care of….” she saw his eyes from the sky… looking down at her, as if wanting to see her smile and laugh till it can reach there, for him to hear. She closed her eyes for a momentary pause, to see him smile... And then looked out for the kid. But he wasn’t there.
The creak of the swing didn’t stop yet. It still danced with the wind as she got on to the other, to give it the company it sought out for. She kicked her legs into the air as if at some unreasonable loss and sadness, pushed herself back without any ceaseless effort, an action, she enjoyed without the knowledge of time… and as she swung, she let herself cry out aloud. Wailing and laughing.