He sat on the reclining chair looking at the early morning Sun. Wearing his favorite black cap, white overalls and flip-flops. They were all tattered here and there but he had a sense of comfort attached to all of it. He was happy and contended with the ones he had acquired for himself throughout his life. He felt the sufficiency of them and did not ask for anything excess.
A man of schedule and precision. Seconds make minutes, minutes into hours and so on was the theory he truly believed. But he seldom lost his temper. If things did get delayed, impatience and impulse was not thrown at others. A self-made man with simple needs and finding happiness in daily randomness was his satisfactory quotient. He called out for Chinoy, his daily helper when he was done with the paper. Chinoy appeared from behind, he made sure not to disrupt the cycle of constancy.
He got wheeled back into his room. Chinoy drew him a bath. The requirements here again were minimal. Normally, the Old Spice after-shave culminated the dress-up. Today, a hint of Davidoff was added. The instructions were clear, unambiguous and easy. He had asked for his best suit to be brought out, called in for flowers from around-the-corner flower store, nothing fancy, just plain white lilies. A bunch of red heart hot-air balloons. He had pre-booked the ride, a BMW 750. At the strike of 10, seated on the back seat, he instructed the driver to roll ahead.
The wind-mills partied away. The serpentine grapevines looked fresh in the Sun. The A/c moderated itself as it got warmer by the minute. But cool as ice, he sat behind enjoying every bit of the drive-out. He handed over a DVD to his chauffer and a medley of rock and country music hit the roof. Few hours of such musical fest led to a huge mansion. Clutching the wrapped gift, he took a deep breath. It was that feeling of the fastening seat belt and flight taking off.
Driving in the front yard even broad in day light made his heart flutter. He would be seeing her in a matter of minutes. She would be readying herself for this date which he had laboriously planned. He smiled at the thought that she would be fussing over her attire and would be piling around those several dresses which were tried, discarded and some put on stand-by. But it was always the last minute thing that worked once he was down and honked. Thus, she had chosen white for the day. Descending with a smile on her face, she walked up and took a seat next to him.
When they headed in town, her eyes sparkled looking at the fair, it was this child-like quality which was most endearing about her. She laughed at the kids who were playing the giant-wheel and she got down to get some candy-floss herself. When he knew she was ready for the next stop, they continued, the car halted in front of the city-hall. Tonight, it was their favorite musical again and they had watched it every time it was up all these years. When they sang their favorite parts, it almost felt way back in time when they were 19, shy and discovering each other’s tastes. A sense of sadness and morose hit him but the thought of dinner ahead helped him regain stability.
Curling her fingers into his fist, he gave her the present he had brought. Opening with so much fragility, she took it out. It sparkled, it shined, it was blue, embedded among the tiniest but the most beautiful diamonds, the sapphire stole heart. It still fit just fine when he helped her put it on. They raised the pink champagne glasses and sat amidst people who looked at them, envied them and wished they would be that when they would travel down the road of love and life.
The time was up, he knew. Stepping out in the night, they walked to the car. The Summer day was now a pleasant evening. The driver knew where to go. It was the cemetery. Mr. Royan took the aid of his crutches one last time for the evening. His legs felt weaker than the usual. Carrying the lilies and the balloons he walked towards his wife’s grave. 10 years ago, while driving, he had lost his lovely wife to a car-crash and now, he was left with an artificial foot and old age. The cripple which the accident had made him was tolerable than what life had made him a witness to.
Placing the lilies on the tomb, he let the balloons fly high. It had always made her happy. She thought just like the bird, the heart can fly too. And symbolizing this gesture, she flew balloons on every birthday of hers. And now he was doing it for her. Except that it was not so much the same without her around laughter. Reminiscing the evening, he sat on the ground covered with maple leaves. Once he was a millionaire, now a simple man living at an old-age centre. He sang a happy-birthday song to her silently. He did not feel left out. He traced back his path to the car holding the sapphire in his palm close raised to his heart.