He closed his eyes, more to ease his tired mind and body, rather than trying to recollect troubled thoughts. Three rounds of briskly walking round the park had made him desperate for a short rest. It was challenging to find an empty bench even in the early hours of the morning. The park was the main attraction in that part of the city. Mornings, at the park, would be crowded with people engaged in every activity that could lead to good health. The evenings would be no different as the park turned itself into the only hangout place for children and younger populace.
Seated comfortably on a bench at a secluded corner of the park, he waited for her. His meditative pose would deceive anyone but not her. It had become a sort of childish ritual between them. He would sit there as if counting his breaths and she would arrive silently and sit beside him. He would then take a moment or two to open his eyes and they would indulge in a generous dose of gentle laughter.
It was time for him to head back home. But there was no trace of her. He was worried for her, hoping that she was keeping good health. The next moment he reassured his troubled self that she must have overslept. He wondered how their friendship had strengthened in a span of two weeks.
Two weeks earlier
He was popular amongst the members of the laughter club for his never-ending list of jokes laced with childlike laughter. Almost everyone in the group would complain about anything and everything. He was different.
“Life is too short to be spent on worrying about uncertainties. Instead, spend the same time and energy to spread love and happiness”, he would say.
He believed in keeping everyone happy. No wonder all the members were dependent on him for suggestions and pieces of advice all the time. It was during one such instance they had met each other.
It was he who initiated the conversation. They had two things in common. They belonged to the teaching profession and were now retired. Both had lost their companions in the journey of life. Perhaps, it was this similarity that kindled a gentle bond of friendship that was comforting and strengthening to both of them.
They would talk and they would listen to each other. They would laugh and shed a tear or two with each other. They would share the special moments of their lives talking about their respective partners and how they missed them. Their conversations would end with mutual comforting and bidding farewell with a promise of better tomorrow.
At first, he had laughed it off. He found it inane to foster the feeling of love at his age. But, he found it difficult to keep her away from his mind. More than a friend, she had become his well-wisher and guide. He found her smart and adept on many topics. They had come far beyond exchanging mere pleasantries and professional talks. They cared for each other and shared mutual feelings of genuine friendship.
But, did it mean he was in love? He was not sure.
It was a short walk to his home from the park. As he opened the gate, he noticed a letter lying on the floor near the main door. He was annoyed at the carelessness of the postman who had thrown the letter carelessly though there was a post box fixed to the gate.
Closing the gate, he picked up the letter and turned it to check the name of the sender. No sooner did he read the name, he was both surprised and happy. It was her letter.
Yes. You are beyond the name that defines you. You are and will always be my best and special friend.
You may wonder why I am writing a letter to you. I could have called you over the phone or texted you. I am sorry, but by the time you read this letter, I may not be in this world.
I do not have much time to live, my friend. Probably, a day or two is what I have to savour the warmth of your pure friendship. I was diagnosed with a rare disease six months ago. Unfortunately, there is no cure for my disease. At my final check-up yesterday, the doctor informed me that it is the final stage of my painful journey. I am glad he did!
I had no one to care for after my husband left me. My children do not need me anymore. I could only hope to spend the rest of my life in bits and pieces of happiness, if there were any.
I am so lucky to have met you. The moments spent with you will be cherished forever, even after I rest my soul. I found you genuinely caring and the only person who resonated with my pains and joys alike. You are my well-wisher, guide and above all a friend beyond the usual barriers of any relationship.
I am sorry if I have given you any false hopes in our brief companionship. Let this friendship continue even after I am gone. I do not want to name this relationship anything else.
Thank you for being such a special person and making me feel one too.
Your friend forever.
PS: Bondhu – Best friend in Bengali
He had no tears in his eyes. He decided to respect her words, her thoughts. The letter found a very special place in his heart…. forever.