The sun shone all the way down the road. I looked at him and saw him smiling the same smile that would haunt me till I live. Our car reverberated with music that sang of undying love and beauty; my ears were in their own personal heaven as his laughter boomed in the car. So entwined were we in each other’s company that it wasn’t until I woke up on the hospital bed that I realized my husband was no more — that the smile and laughter that were still so fresh in my mind were just memories that would get washed away with time.
“Hey, darling,” he smiled, not realizing how much his smile scared me. It was that smile which made my heart almost stop as I’d try to resurrect the memories I had forbidden myself. So much had changed and not changed since the day he had died. And yet here I was, with another man, still not so out of love, yet open to take chances. It was the smile — his smile that made me stick to him all along.  It reminded me of my deceased husband.

This man took life as an adventure. Travelling was his passion. I could never imagine him settling down with me someday or settling down with anyone, for that matter. Sometimes I joked to myself, thinking I might as well be just another adventure he was pursuing. He wanted to know everything about me — my parents, my past, my dead husband, my favourite dish, my favourite colour and even my favourite movie. It was unsettling, being probed all the time. I felt like I was in an experiment or perhaps a patient being observed by a psychiatrist. He wanted to read me like one reads a book. But books don’t keep secrets. I, on the other hand, wasn’t a bad liar.
That day when he asked me to go on a road trip with him, I wasn’t really sure, to say the least. It had been a road trip I had lost my husband to, after all. He drank in my expression as I gathered the answer in my head.

“Yes. S, sure,” I stammered. He smiled but stayed quite. The road trip proved to be more than just another déjà vu kind of experience. He stared at me and smiled, just before he lost control and the car slammed into a truck.
It was really peaceful, lying like this quietly with no worries. But then I panicked. I couldn’t sleep. I needed to get up and see the damage done. I did get up, after a vehement attempt, and looked around. It seemed as if people had just started to notice us, as there were a very few people gathered around the car.

My hands were bleeding and I had a cut under my chest too; I could tell because I could see the blood flowing. I had been thrown away from the car. Did he push me out? I could not remember. I tried to search for him. Maybe he was around the spot somewhere. “I found him!” someone yelled and broke my reverie. I followed his gaze as the man pointed. He was there, alright. He was very much near the car. I ran towards him.

“Let me see him!” I shouted. He was a gruesome sight. His head was bleeding profusely. His eyes were closed. The difference between the harm done to him and me stood out even sharper to my eyes. I looked clean and almost unharmed. He on the other hand looked like someone straight out of a horror movie.

I reached out to hold his hand. gasped as my hand passed right through his. It was not possible. How in the name of God could this have happened? I couldn’t think of an answer. Not for some time, anyway. But then I realized it. I looked back at the spot where I had woken up in. There I was. My body, I mean. I looked as pale as a ghost. People had not discovered me yet, it seemed. I turned back to look at him again. He was bleeding much more than I had been. Looking at his face, I remembered how I had always mused about those perfect features and the carefree aura he had.

And that smile… the thought of the smile hurt me more than dying had. Perhaps dying had caused me no pain at all. I could not let that smile die. The smile had to live. It was the same smile I had been able to live for all these days. I owed everything to that smile.

And then, I noticed he was breathing. Bad as he looked, he was still very much alive. Hope was not dead. He could live. The smile could live. I didn’t remember how long I stared at his face but it hit me finally – when people tried to put him onto a stretcher, I realized the ambulance had arrived. I stepped inside the ambulance too, inconspicuous.
It had been 3 days. They said he would live. I believed them. I decided I could go now. And just when I thought of going, my husband appeared, smiling — ah, that smile! Placing my hand in his, I walked towards my heaven, beside my heaven.

Anwesha Tripathy


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