“You are yet to write your best piece Neil, now will you please turn off the lights and come back to bed?” I would tease him, every time he recited one of his poems. Being woken up and dragged out of the bedroom by my arm on a work day, as I tried to stroke my bed head back to senses wasn’t exactly my idea of romance. But for Neil it was everything romantic and more. Sometimes I cursed myself for getting so carried away by his charm and his poetry of course. My adoration for him actually drove me to say yes to share the rest of my life with him.
“Last time, I promise.”, he would assure me for the seventh time in that very week. He would stand next to the wooden television stand on a tiny pillow. It was his personal make believe podium. With a crumpled sheet of paper in his hand, he would read out the poem. This one would probably be the hundredth draft, which was painstakingly perfected through the night. And this sheet would have survived the history of several sheets which had laid down their lives just because they did not have the right metrics or rhyme or simply because they were too illegible to be read out of.
He would look up at me after each word. Perhaps a little longer whenever he thought he had made use of a brilliant word or captured a genuine emotion. He tried with every glance to read my face, get a reaction out of me, or a glimpse of some change in body language. The “non verbal communication” expert in him would later try to interpret these changes for the rest of the night while lying beside me.
It was almost ten years since we first met and this highly successful journalist who was a hopeless romantic since the beginning of time was now also an aspiring poet. And what I hated most about these die hard romantics is that their hearts did not seem to conform to the ways of the world. During these years while most things had changed, one thing had stayed the same. I was his first audience and also his worst critic.
“So? What do you say? Did you like it? Do you think it could….. maybe go into the book?” he would ask, arms akimbo, speaking confidently about “his” book which was supposed to be a collection of love poems. It was yet to be published of course.
“You can do better than that” , would be my only reply as I would turn around to walk back to the bed room, hoping that he hadn’t caught the color of my cheeks change to a fuchsia pink and my smile stretch a mile. How could I ever give him the satisfaction, of having made me smile? Or sometimes even weep in joy, as I turned my back and lay in the same bed as him. That would do him no good. Would probably stagnate his feelings and saturate his pride. But that was a long time ago.
Today, yet again, he stands there, at that exact spot, thirteen days post my weak body lost its battle against cancer. He stands there with a piece of crumpled paper in his hand, dragging me out of my slumber “one last time”, like he once promised. And at my funeral he begins to read a eulogy on the death of his heart. Only this time, I am sure that the fuchsia won’t be noticed, neither can I say that he is much better than that.
“ She smelled like a magnolia, sweet and divine
Her heart was sacred, her soul was a shrine.
Like the sun at dawn, she scattered and shone,
She touched my heart and made it her own.
Like a walk in the rain, like petrichor,
She would wash my pain with love and care.
Her voice was a melody, one I can never forget
Wish I told her more often: now, I regret.
Now that she has left me all alone
In a place I can’t call mine anymore
For one last time,
I wish to drag her out of her sleep,
And read this out and probably weep.”
With trembling fingers, he drops the sheet, as his right hand reaches the bridge of his nose, trying to contain the tears that would flood out nevertheless. The weight of our wedding ring was still burdening his right hand ring finger. And for the first time, his poem was beyond all metrics and rhyme. It was just what he felt. It was mine.
Dear Neil, I wish I could stay, I really do. May be a little while longer to show you how I blush. Because darling, this has to be your best poem yet.