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Lying on the grass, under the wide starlit sky.

With her.

What more could a guy – particularly his age – even want from life? The evening had arrived. Even at 6:30, the sky was but a shade away from completely dark. The earth beneath them was soft. Not exactly dry, for they could feel dew.

But they didn’t mind.

At least he didn’t. For her, well, the fact that she didn’t complain – which she never did, something he greatly admired about her – one can presume she liked being here too.

There was a fragrance in the air, the delicious mingling aroma of flowers and exhilaration. They were young, they were in love, and, being here right now, they were free. Bandem’s head was a reservoir of sweet thoughts. Lying beside her, her perfume – sandalwood, if he wasn’t wrong – wafting about, a part of him wished this moment would never end. He thought it was cheesy, even bordering on cringey, but a melodic tune he had heard on YouTube came to him; and stayed there, accentuating his joy.

His head was resting over his left hand, while his right was on the ground. He experienced a tingle of excitement, like a current running through his nerves, when he felt her fingers on his right hand. It was the barest of touches, there and then gone, but the aftereffects of it lasted much longer.

“I love it here with you,” she said in a whisper.

Her hand came into his again, this time staying there. He held it.

The two were in a little clearing tucked away towards the east end of the park; surrounded by trees on all four sides. And, so, it was not frequented by the many strollers, joggers and runners the park saw this time of the evening. But he knew, as well as you know things in dreams, that they were invisible to the outer world. Should someone enter this sanctuary of theirs, they would still not see them.

They were safely ensconced in their bubble. A bubble he could spend an eternity in.

He had fantasised telling her what he truly felt about her. You could say the fact that they were here together, hand in hand, gazing at the stars up above them, presumably thinking the same thoughts (oh, how he really wanted that), his feelings were pretty self explanatory; even obvious. In his mind, she of course had a romantic inclination towards him. In his mind, she would in fact be lying to herself if she maintained they were just friends.

They just… fit. There was no better way to describe it. Her introverted demeanour, her love for going to the movies, bubble gum and angry music (something that in public they would call “grunge”), and constantly feeling guilty for things she didn’t even know what… All of it matched on an even plane with his.

And yet he hadn’t confessed his feelings to her. Why? Even though he knew with a fair bit of certainty and confidence she felt the same way? If someone had actually asked him that, he would have said it was because there was no need to. If he knew what she felt, and even she knew that he did, how did it matter?

They were here, with each other.

Wasn’t that sufficient?


As the two of them laid next to each other, holding hands, excitement running like high voltage currents through them, someone out on their evening stroll, walking along the path just outside the clearing, saw them. The couple, a term we are perhaps using ambitiously but would not be entirely inaccurate, might have felt they were invisible, protected by the “bubble of love,” but they were oblivious. Of course, this man on his evening stroll could see them.

We should speak a little more about this man, but we can do that later. Maybe in another episode, because now is not the most opportune time.

She shifted her position. Gave a little grunt as she pulled something from under her. It was a small stone. She threw it away, its contact with the trunk of a nearby tree audible. She moved closer to him, their shoulders now touching each other’s. A bolt of electricity ran through him, but he made sure to not let it show. No one likes an overenthusiastic, overeager, overcharged vessel of emotions.

But he couldn’t help smile. A smile that said that he was happy, he was satisfied.

The sky overhead had turned a shade darker. The lights had come on in the park. In another few minutes, the guards would start blowing the whistle announcing the closure of the gates for the day.

None of it mattered to them, though.

Then, as if she read his mind, she asked, “Are you happy?”

The smile on his face widened even more. Of course he was happy. Why would he not?

He didn’t vocalise this thought, though. A couple of seconds passed, and then a few more, and then a minute. She didn’t ask the question again; just laid on her back, watching the sheet of stars up above them. He knew she knew his answer. It needn’t have been said aloud.

“I know I am,” she said instead. Her voice did not betray the words. He could tell she was happy. Much happier than…

At that thought, he tightened his hold of her hand, eliciting a gentle squeeze from her.

Meanwhile, the man on his stroll was looking at them from the corner of his eye. The lights, which did illuminate the outer edge of the clearing, didn’t reach them. But the man could see their silhouettes, and that was enough.

Years later, when Bandem would grow up, he would find himself where that man was.

But, right then, something happened. As soon as the man crossed the clearing, the couple… vanished. The sheet of starts over their heads turned blurry, before turning into a sky contaminated by pollution. The sweetness of the air was replaced with the raw smell of fauna, a forest that after serving its purpose for the day has now gone to sleep. The silence was now a regular, rhythmic chirping of crickets and other insects.

Everything was there… and then gone.

Previous episode: The Other Shanky

Next episode: Midhali's Involvement

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