The crescent new moon, low in the sky, was minutes from bidding adieu to this part of the planet and leaving the rest of the night in the dark to fend for itself. Passing by the mighty Pegasus, it appeared – from one of the rooftops of that cozy little town on the foothills of Himalayas – to be a flailing attempt to illuminate the stallion by its weakening strength. Ayberk loved this time of the year for its offering of clear skies to indulge in stargazing, a leisure pursuit losing its hold over mankind in urban spaces, of which he was a resident, a proud one at that; but every year he made an attempt to escape to a Himalayan sojourn in the month of January in order to revel in the chill of the air which he was denied of in the metropolis he was inhabiting. The peak of the winters and hence the absence of tourists made it the perfect time to visit Himalayan towns to experience them in their natural, indigenous glory, he believed, along with studying the night sky with minimal light pollution. It gave him the much needed solace that he sometimes craved, away from work and all the bustle of the bay by the sea, to someplace where he wouldn’t run into someone known.
The rooftop was a serene place, with the valley on one side and the snow clad Himalayan peaks on the other. The crisp January air on that cloudless night was as still as it could be. Lying on a portable recliner with his glass of neat whiskey in his hand, Ayberk’s glance was subconsciously fixated on the Gemini twins above. He was not in the moment. He had seen something that day, something he wished he hadn’t. The pictures didn’t mean to reach him but he inadvertently stumbled upon them while on his laptop that evening. He knew he had to face it someday but he didn’t know that it would still prick him to this extent. He shut his laptop, poured himself a drink and made himself comfortable on the rooftop for the rest of the night. The pictures took him to a time in the past not too long ago, to some other city, to some other rooftop, where some sweet memories were formed; but it was that one particular night that was on his mind…
Feriha was standing by the balustrade on that mildly chilly night, staring towards the lake that was supposed to be with her stole wrapped around her shoulder. Ayberk, a feet from her leaned on the balustrade smoking his cigarette. Both hadn’t spoken in a while. It wasn’t their first time on that rooftop. This rooftop was their private space, their purdah that shielded them from the world beyond. Those numerous nights, lying on the rooftop, getting intimate beneath the stars, talking for hours about things ranging from their day to the glory days of the Hippie Trail… They had many of their memories centered around that rooftop.
It was late in the night and both were in a quandary. Probably that was going to be their last time on that place, or maybe their last time ever if they didn’t work out a solution of the situation that they were in at that moment. Ayberk had his priorities defined ever since he could recall, and Feriha was aware of the same, but she was not in a position to work around them; or so she thought. He meanwhile had done his part and reluctantly accepted the circumstances. Though he wanted himself and Feriha to sort out their differences but he knew after attempts galore that it was not going to work out for them due to reasons beyond his comprehension, despite how badly he wanted to be with her.
Without any warning, Feriha came close, took the cigarette from his hand and started smoking. Smoking was something she had never indulged in before, but today she had this urge to try the cigarette, just like the numerous other things she experienced for the first time with Ayberk. Her first drink, first nightclub visit, first chicken leg, first lie to her family, and her first kiss. With him, she felt liberated, felt like she was breaking the rules, like a rebel and she loved it. For the first time she had experienced freedom in her life, in a different city, away from her folks, and the person who made it memorable for her was Ayberk, her only support in the city, the only person she truly knew and someone with whom she could be truly free without a care in the world. With his leaving, all of it was going to come to an end.
She smoked and blew the smoke at his face. Taken by surprise he held her back and threw the cigarette from her hand off the rooftop. Instinctively he lightly wrapped his arms around her waist and smelt the fine fragrance of her hair. It was surreal, more surreal than anything he could imagine. She reached up and lightly brushed her lips against his while moving her fingers through his hair. At that moment it felt like nothing else mattered around them, the priorities, the compulsions, nothing; everything else was fading into oblivion… Until the phone beeped in his pocket and awoke both of them from their daze. The moment was gone.
She stepped back and looked into his eyes, looking for something, but she couldn’t seem to find it…
Ayberk was woken from his stupor by the sudden gust of chilly wind that blew by. His drink was still unfinished in his hand. He realized he couldn’t do anything about the situation now. The pictures he saw could not be unseen and in a way he felt a bit better about it, kind of glad that he finally got to see them. He had to one day. It bought him a sense of closure. He could now move on without that speck of remorse that sometimes used to encumber him.
He finished his drink, stood up by the barrier of the rooftop to look towards the valley. It was a beautiful night. He once again glanced at the starry sky above and awed at the vastness of the universe. The moon was not there in the sky anymore. Or maybe it was there, bright and high…
Picture Courtesy: http://www.cosurvivor.in