I sit at the café with a mug of hot chocolate going cold and a half-opened Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore. The impression outside is equally damp as the mood inside – the heavily overcast grey sky is pouring incessantly and streaks of lightning flashes across the vast expanse.
The hot chocolate gets colder as my eyes focus on the abstract wall clock. “Already four o’ clock” I mutter to myself, “where is he?” With this storm, the afternoon feels like late evening. Laughter from across the room diverts my attention towards the French windows. A young woman smiles coyly at her friend as he regales her with a story. A couple are engaged in lively chatter over what to order, at the counter. Outside, bikers race through the rain, dodging people on the sidewalk. The allure of the rains seems to have filled everyone with an ecstatic sense of happiness. I dial his number. After two rings he picks up and I fire away
“Hey, where are you?”
“Sorry was taking a shower, I will be there in 5 minutes.”
“Well, if you not here in 5 mins, I am walking away!”
“Ok, at least tell me in which direction you are walking away so that I can follow you!”
A profanity later I disconnect and realise that over the years we have both changed – in numerous ways – and our friendship has changed too. We are closer and more personable which is a stark contrast from the days of working together at the financial firm. From day one, we were at war. He would get on my nerves and I would irritate him to no end. Profanities were shouted on the work floor and we took pleasure in slamming doors in each other’s faces. However, through all this (and countless fights later), we have managed to gain a deeper understanding of each other which has led to mutual caring, respect, and lasting conversational jibes.
He finally enters the café wearing a lightweight jacket that gives his slender frame a better proportion. “Should not mention this to him; I won’t hear the last of it” I remind myself. Brushing the few drops of rain aside he searches for my table.
A smile lights up his face as he spots me through the crowd. He shuffles around the tables and sits across from me and says, “I know it has been rough lately, but things will start getting better soon, and stop reading these depressing books!”
Pushing aside the half-emptied cup sitting between us, he places his hands into mine and he says “Tell me now”. He fixes his eyes on my face as the tears flowed with the words.
He gently passes me a tissue and says, “cafés are no good, let’s get some fresh air outside”.
Even before I can open my mouth to protest, he swiftly gets up, pays for the coffee, and leads the way out of the café. The rains have reduced to a drizzle and the washed roads are dotted with a new sprinkling of yellow flowers from the trees alongside. Leaves rustle in the cool breeze that whips through the street.
“Look, don’t give these stupid situations too much thought, your already tiny brain will wear off”, he says. How typical of him, I thought to myself. Just the words to expect from him. He has this knack of bringing a smile and cheer to gloomy moods. He sees me crack a smile and starts off with another rib tickling comment, “Did I tell you about my date last week? No? You have to listen to this!” As I hear him sputter out the details of another awkward attempt to find a partner, the same gloomy mood seems brighter and the heart – a little bit lighter.