"Hey L, I'm going home now. I've forwarded the weekly report; thanks for sending it in time, as usual. It's a friday! You should head home early, too!" said the manager.
"That's fine, M. I have no plans, none at all.".
Or did he? L, right now, was a bleeding vortex of conflicting emotions. There was somewhere; somewhere he really wanted to go; someone; someone he wanted to be near to; to scream out those unheard words, express those pent up emotions, make it all right; one last time; before it was too late.
But that was not all. A part of him wanted to leave it firmly in the past. It was done; over with. It had no future. He was a different person now. He had a life of his own. He had moved far away.
The clock struck 9. The last of the weary office workers were sleepily shuffling out to the bus. He moved his leaden, unwilling legs, and boarded the bus home. He closed his eyes in the dark interiors of the bus, and as others slept around him, four years of memories relentlessly beat against his chest.
There was a light drizzle as he alighted the bus, and as others scurried for cover, he started to walk hypnotically, as if being drawn in by his destination. There was an uncomfortable mass somewhere between his chest and his throat. It was suffocating him. He wanted to scream out loud; he wanted to cry till his eyes hurt; but all he did was, walk.
As he rang the bell, a familiar, welcoming voice invited him in. "I knew you would come. He is in his room, packing." said Light's mum. He felt the mass growing uncomfortably bigger. His expressionless face did not betray the seething emotions, lurking just below. He smiled quietly, and walked towards his room. He was not alone. It wouldn't have mattered if he was, for he hardly acknowledged his presence. Most of the extended family was in the house. The first child from their family going all the way to the US of A to study, was a huge affair, one that warranted everyone's presence, and the passing on of words of wisdom to the boy that would make their family flag fly high in a distant land.
Though everyone had something to say to him, Light had nothing to say, except a polite nod, and a muttered "thanks". He still didn't meet L's eyes.
L had never met most of the group, but, everyone seemed to know him. He was the brilliant "best friend", who was as good in the kitchen as he was in mathematics. Their eyes scanned him with approval - the perfect male companion to their star son. And in the midst of the two-way human traffic that filled the room, L sat quietly, on his bed. Folding his clothes, wanting to say a billion things, seeking one single gaze of companionship. Yet, it felt good, this. Feeling the warmth of his clothes as he folded them; taking in the familiar smells of his room; of him, for one last time. And when an inquisitive cousin inquired, "Have you two fought? Why aren't you talking to each other?", neither responded.
But there was a gleam in Light's eyes, a tremble in his hands, a frantic need to stay in control. He left the room for a while, and came back, having succeeded in pushing back the feelings that he was terrified of revealing.But that was all that L needed. The tiniest gesture, a minuscule tear drop, some meaningless damn thing - that told him, that he mattered. That they mattered.
All packing done, not a word exchanged, and everyone was in the large van bounding to the airport. They sat facing each other, eyes never meeting, mouths never uttering a sound. Light kept himself busy listening to endless chants of last minute advice from mum. And then suddenly, the driver braked violently, making them all jump.
As L almost fell off his seat, a firm, steadying hand grasped his. A hand that never let go till they reached their destination. The sweaty palm of that hand against his, told him everything. Everything that the owner of the sweaty palmed hand would never muster the courage to tell him. Now, they could cry. Cry for all that was, and all that could have been, and all that would never be. As the rain pummeled against the windows of the van rushing them towards their moment of separation, two grown young men held hands tight, and wept like little kids, unmindful of an audience of an extended family.
As the hand left his, and they walked together as a group, L felt lighter. He felt happy that he had come. That he was there to experience this moment. As the farewells began, and each member of the family bid a fond goodbye, he patiently waited his turn. Those eyes looked into his, if only for a moment. It didn't matter. He already knew.
"Will you forget me, after you go there?" it was hardly more than a whisper.
"You aren't someone I can ever forget. That question needs no answering." came the reply.
As Light took hold of his baggage and walked away, never looking back, someone he had never spoken to before came and stood next to L. "It is difficult, isn't it? When such an important member of our life goes away?"
He couldn't reply. The tears fell. Hard. Fast. They took an eternity to stop.
But when they did, he knew he was fine; just fine. The mass was gone. He could breathe free.
This story is inspired by a moving real life moment that I heard from one of my closest friends. The protagonists are named L and Light, to honour my favourite characters from the Japanese anime, Death Note.