Kathmandu doesn’t flinch
when I openly flirt with Patan and Pokhara.
He doesn’t show any sign of envy or anger,
he pretends not to notice.
But when the night comes
and the cities are fast asleep,
Kathmandu slides into my bed and hugs me tightly.
“When I closed my door for you,
I didn’t want you to go and open your heart
to the next city you meet,”
I wanted you to explore the world,
experience new thing,
meet New York,
have a summer fling with San Francisco,
have a one night stand with Istanbul
and possibly settle down with London.”
Before I could protest,
he kissed me softly,
making me change my mind.
Kathmandu knows me too well.
Kathmandu knows me too well.
Mother always used to tell me, “Be careful who you choose to love.” I used to shrug her off, as if it’s a choice. Love for me, always happened just like that. You can’t choose who you fall for, you don’t get to decide who your heart wants.
But you see, mothers are always right. Right now, I think what she meant was not to be careful who I fell in love with, but who I decided to stay with. Because staying in love, in a relationship, in a place is always a choice. You can’t choose who you’ll fall in love with, but you can always decide whether you want to stay or move on.
So now I tell myself, be careful who you stay in love with; don’t let a weak soul destroy your strong heart.
“Who are you waiting for?” she asks.
I take a good look at her face. Her dark brown hair is tied up in a bun, but not in the way you usually see those young girls of her age do it. Her tied bun looked more like maa’s hair tied into a bun. There are a few strands frizzy and dried, flying off as if they are naked wires, searching for plugs. I laugh remembering how mother always complained that she looked like a grandmother from behind when she tied her bun like that. She must be looking like one even now. My eyes fall on her forehead. It is covered with tiny indistinct spots, almost invisible if you aren’t concentrating hard enough. There are dark bags hanging below her eyes because she had lost sleep for a couple of weeks. Although a sleep lover, she’d been refusing to sleep for some unknown reasons to both of us. Her nose is sunburned and a little tanned than the rest of her skin. There are light speckles and scars in her face. Sometimes, I feel like if I looked hard enough I could find more furrows. But right now, she looks tired and worried. Even as she looks straight back at me, I somehow feel that she is looking beyond me, searching for answers, seeking escape, looking for a way out. She is tired and worried.
“You,” I finally say with a sigh. “It’s time for you to come home.”
Because I’ve realized that even the girl in the mirror needs a reminder of the love you have for her. Especially during time like this.
“When do you miss her the most?” he asked.
I looked away wondering how to give an answer to that. An answer that wouldn’t make me sad. An answer that wouldn’t make me realize, if I haven’t realized it already that I miss her. Outside, dust had settled down with the downpour of the afternoon. The sun was subtly setting, the hint of orange was slowly spreading in the cloud. It still felt like February although it was almost April. It still pinched my heart when I thought of her although it was almost a year since she was gone.
I tried to articulate an answer. But there was a lump in my throat and I had to fight the tears trying to roll out of my eyes. I took a deep breath and cleared my throat before opening my mouth and closing again. I didn’t dare to look at him.
“When I…” I said, trying to find my voice, raising it louder with each word. “… when I come back home and there’s no one asking me what happened to me that day. When I cannot sleep because my feet are ice-cold and freezing. When I am on my laptop on a Saturday afternoon, and no one calls me for a nap. When no one remembers that I hate kerau, any kind of peas and when people complain that I am still wearing four layers of clothes because I am that kind of person who always carries an extra layer because I feel cold easily. When I don’t know who to call first to say I will be late which I don’t want to at times because I will have to explain ‘why’. But I would have come back home to tell her everything anyway.”
I sighed, realizing I still didn’t have the confidence to look at his face. But the silence was deafening. I could sense that he was still waiting for me to say something more, so I asked, slowly looking at his face, “What about you? When do you miss her the most?”
And now it was his turn to look away.
I finally realized what they meant when they said people will forget what you did or said but will always remember how you made them feel. Because right now, my memories aren’t haunted by what we did or said but how you made me feel when we stared at the tall temple counting the terracotta Buddhas and discussed about how lions must have entered Nepal. I don’t miss holding your hands or seeing your face or talking to you but I do miss how I felt – the feeling of being loved, cared and cherished – that there is a smile slapped across the face no matter how messed up life is at that time. I remember those feelings all too well, as we walked around the long narrow gallis of Patan, holding each other as you would pull me close. As you looked at me while I tried working, sitting in a cafe, sipping perfectly made chiya but couldn’t concentrate because I could feel your stare and thus my cheeks were warming up and turning various shades of pink bit by bit. What you made me feel that day, I wonder if I would ever feel it again. But what you made me feel that day also made me realize that I don’t miss you at all. Just the feelings. And the feelings will guide me one day to find what I have been looking for.