I stopped jogging. Heavy breaths, heart-rate accelerated and a slight pain developed in my ribs. I had to sit down. It was 8:28 am. I sat on the bench eyeing the Hudson River. Sweat soaked my vest. It was a peaceful morning. But it wouldn’t last. I drank some water and stopped the playlist on my phone. It was time. He must be in the office. I dialed his number. He answered on the fifth ring.
“Hello…” He sounded happy. That wasn’t going to stop me. “Hi, are you free for a while?”
“Yes I am.”
“We need to sort things out!” like right now I thought but didn’t say.
“Er…Are you out jogging already?” He asked. That distracted me. He knew me too well. Was I even doing it right? Breaking up three-year relationship over a phone call? Cliché.
“Yes.. I am!” I muttered. “Did you eat?” the minute I asked that, I regretted. I closed my eyes as the silence followed for a brief moment. He knew it. He must have smiled.
“Yes…” He said and paused for a while “Do you want to know what I ate?”
“No. That’s not why I called!” I snapped. That did hurt him, as there was only silence at the other end. “I don’t …I think…We should….” I struggled.
“Hey hey…” He spoke in urgency and my heart filled in awe. “You don’t have to do this if you are not ready!”“I am!” I nearly screamed. “I am” I repeated for self-assurance. “From quite some time….”
He waited for me to speak again. “I didn’t want to do it this way…I get your work….It’s just that I don’t get YOU!” Silence.I hated this too about him. I was the whining one while he masked his feelings all the time. I wanted to say that I have problems…that life was not fair…that I almost feel guilty about admitting all of it.
“You ever admired the view from the North Tower? The city is more beautiful than I thought…” He spoke. He knew I was distracted. Also that this was just temporary and once the storm is over, I would run back to him, like always.
“No… I haven’t been there….” I muttered. “But I hope you know why I have called you! Drop by in the evening…” I swallowed; imagining him home was a real torture again.“You can take your stuff back!” “Oh!” He said and paused. I could hear the beep of the coffee machine.“Hmmmm…I don’t know what time the work gets over! I can’t promise anything as of now” He added.“I don’t care!” I said. “I just ….no more….” That’s all I could mutter.
“Hmmmm…so when are you visiting the physician?” He asked.
“STOP IT! Don’t act as if this is nothing…you don’t care. You never…” My voice shook as I realized that was not true. “I did…I will …” He said from the other end, his voice calm. “For Christ’s sake, speak up! You can’t be this good to me! I don’t want you to take care of me while I am the selfish prick here. I don’t want you to bear it all. Why don’t you break down? Why? Why do you have to be so strong?” I spoke it all, my heart was racing. I took a deep breath and fidgeted in my pockets. I peeled off the foil with one hand and swallowed the tablet and drank water with difficulty.
“Well… I do love you..” He spoke. “That’s all I can say. I don’t want to argue, NOT because it’s in my nature, but because of your health. Besides I am not as strong as you think I am. I am actually not doing that well here!” He added. That took me by surprise. He was vulnerable. He had never been so far.“Oh..!” I was actually concerned. This was new. “I am looking for another job. I have to move out anyway…” He added. Again. As if not because I asked him to but because his job demands so.
“You can blame ME…. I am not going to sit and cry.” I added and felt vivid pleasure.
“Why would I? I would never do that! I don’t want to force you into this.” He spoke.
“Why it has to be for my betterment always? Can’t you say that I am an asshole..and I would pay back and I don’t know…I don’t want to see you again and all that?” My voice shook as I said it. But the heart was fine, also the pain in the ribs had vanished.
“Why would I say all that? I don’t feel about you that way. All I can say is you are acting stupid and I can sort this out once I am back home.”
“Yeah…for the last time!” I muttered. “What if I tell you that I don’t want this to be okay? I don’t want you..” “Didn’t I just said you are acting stupid?” He added. A slight humor?
“I am not playing games..The place is expensive as well.. I cant afford if you aren’t going to share the rent”. I enjoyed this. Money always shuts him up. It did now too. “Hmmm.. I told you about my job. You have to give me some time!”
“Yeah…well that is the one thing I cant right now!” I snapped. “You have had enough..I didn’t want to start the day like this..But couldn’t take it any longer. I don’t care anymore.” “Of course you do!” He said. “So when can I expect the check?” I said. “You know what I am talking about!” His voice was slightly angry. I liked that..finally I have started to piss him off.. I knew what money can do. To him at least.
“So what time I can expect you home?” “Are we really doing this?” He asked. I paused for a while. The sun shone magnificently over the light blue sky. I saw a ring-billed gull soaring up…..”yes” I said. I heard him sigh. He was thinking. I expected an answer. I knew he was thinking…It was 8:45. “I am waiting…”I added. After few seconds of silence..“I do love you..!” He said. Few seconds later, a shadow of a plane passed over me and I stared. Odd ..As I continued staring, my heart froze in fear-it headed straight to the North Tower of the World Trade Center and hit. The call was disconnected. I got up and stared in horror at the fireballs erupting from the acrid black smoke. He would never come home!