Midnight chimes for those who love too deeply.
It strikes for lovers in waiting.
Toils for the sleepless, as they brim with words for someone who isn’t there.
His room was engulfed in endless gloom. Fingers trembled around the cigarette as he lit it, the smell and taste just as bitter as he was. Sucking the smoke deep into his lungs, he held it there, trapping it inside of him. His stubbled face searched for peace within that entrapment, like an angel crossing the valleys of Hell.
Grey smoke that blew out of his lips, also twisted in agony, like a snake in torment, and eventually got lost in the darkness. Facing no resistance from the static air, the ash sprinkled across the aging marble, as soon as he flicked the filter. Each floating piece, a moment, a memory of his life, slowly shredded away and condemned to die with the ashes. He inhaled deeply, wrapping his lungs in a warm blanket, letting the smoke seep into every cell of his body.
A temporary comfort – a cheap painkiller.
He thought to himself, “Maybe one day, her memory too will disappear into nothingness, donning the wings of my cigarette smoke.”
And then he, himself, laughed at his naivety.
But in this darkness, even the smallest shred of hope, as hopeless as it seemed, protected him from other, more dangerous ways of forgetting. Somehow, only for a little while, it paused the sadness that threatened to destroy him.
At the stroke of midnight, that night, the phone rang.
The same phone that had still not forgotten the silence endured between them.
The silence of slightly parted lips. The silence of words restrained. The silence of ears pressed against the glass, straining to hear a voice, hoping against hope to hear the desired.
The beating of his heart got louder. Surely it wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.
He could hear a thrumming inside his chest, the sound becoming intolerable. Almost straining to breathe, he picked up the phone and said,
And then, just like a tornado, he was sucked in. A whirling mass of nothingness, he was collapsing into the familiar sound in his ear.
Everything was suspended: Rain drops on the window, the steam of coffee in mid-air, his breath, time, law and prohibition. The camera lens of the world, zoomed in all the way, the world paused for that tiny span of time between the opening and closing of the shutter.
Just this pause had become endless.
He never wanted it to end.
Now nothing was exhausted, nothing more wanted: all desires abolished, for they were definitively fulfilled. A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one. A deranged, suspended, exaggerated interval.
Something had been successful: He had been fulfilled.
His agony of many endless years was now finally over. In this moment all intellect, aspirations and sanity drowned into the sea, while he emerged as a humble believer. The cynic would now become the convert. The permanent, forever sceptic, an ardent zealot.
She had always been the nucleus. The vortex. His life had always revolved around her. She was the chink in his otherwise impenetrable armor, yet his love for her was never crippled by need. Her absence had the strongest presence. She was everywhere. All the time.
Even when she wasn’t.
A part of him had exhumed itself out of his body and got entangled with her. There it had remained. When they had parted ways, she was a free woman, but he could never be free again.
This was his cage of choice.
After a lifetime of searching for her in every person he met, every voice he heard, every fragrance he smelled….
“It has always been you.”