She sat morosely on the park bench unaware of her surroundings. She did not notice him coming. Not that she would have noticed it any other day.
He came and sat besides her making no sound or attempt to announce his presence.
After what seemed like an eternity (but was actually a few minutes) she saw him. But even then, she made no attempt to acknowledge it. She just sat there teetering on the verge of bursting into tears.
Finally, she looked at him and asked the question she already knew the answer to.
“Why are you here?”
He looked straight into her eyes. She made no attempt to look away. Rather she continued looking into his hazel eyes. Unable to take it anymore, he looked away and spoke.
“I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“What difference would it make to you?”
He was surprised, rather shocked, at this accusation. He had half a mind to leave but he restrained himself. This had been a long time coming. He had known it was coming. He said with all the calm he could muster.
“It would, wouldn’t it? Or else, I wouldn’t be here.”
The sarcasm in his voice wasn’t lost on her. She opened her mouth to deliver a repartee that would shut him up and closed it instantly. That was the last thing she wanted. Today she wanted him to talk. And talk he did.
“It isn’t that bad, you know. Things could have been worse.”
“Oh, really?? You keep saying that all the time? What do you know?”
“You could take things positively. Really, it could have been worse.”
“Oh, yeah? And what do you know, what’s been happening with me? Or is it one of your standard lines that you throw at damsels-in-distress?
“Why don’t you tell me what’s troubling you?”
“Why? So that you can throw me more of those standard lines? I thought you’d have known by now…”
“I can’t read minds, you know.”
The tears she’d been holding back welled up in her pretty brown eyes and clouded them. There was no use fighting them back now. And she started to cry.
It wasn’t the first time he’d seen a woman cry. Nevertheless, he was flustered. He wondered if he should reach out and comfort her. Or if he should stand back stoically and wait for the flow to ebb. Before he could transform his thought into actions, he heard words between sobs.
“Why? Why does it have to be me?”
He knew it was better not to answer that question. There was no answer to it, really. He waited for a few moments trying to decide the best course of action (or inaction, rather) But he was saved the trouble of having to make a choice, because she continued.
“I am not asking for much, am I? Tell me, is it really that difficult?”
There was no escape now. Although, he knew better than to answer the question he had no choice now. Still, there had to be some way out.
“Did someone insult you?”
“Did someone tease you or taunt you?”
“Did someone -”
That was as far as he got.
“Shut up, will you? I am not asking for an analysis of my mental state here. I am not asking you to counsel me. Nor am I asking you to cajole me. All I am asking is an answer to a simple question. Why is appreciation so difficult?”
He looked at her. Her big, pretty brown eyes were now red due to all the sobbing. And the decision was made.
“Come. Let’s take a walk.” And he stood up and started walking.
(To be continued…)