a cup of loneliness, and petrichor
She sat by the window. She, and her cup of loneliness. It rained last night, or so the morning soaked in the scent of rains seemed to say. The sun embraced the sea in its warmth once again, and a golden island of sunshine glimmered far in the east. She was amused at how full her cup was. She did not know if she could empty it, or if anyone else could. Trying to empty the sea one bucket at a time might have been less futile. Every morning she filled the cup with filter coffee, but the loneliness found its way back into the cup as soon as the kaapi yielded. That cup of loneliness tasted differently at different times — the kaapi made it bittersweet, yet there were times when it was sour, and times when it tasted utterly bizarre, for these were tastes she could not name. It always gave her a ‘high’, punctuated by moments of an empty sigh. It was a cup of contradictions. She felt she had grown attached to it. Irrevocably. She could not share her cup with anyone.
Meanwhile, he wrote about her, about how they met over a cup of loneliness, and had conversations. About how he felt these conversations would never end. And how, unwittingly, he shared his cup of loneliness with her. He loved the emptiness of that cup then, forgetting the impermanence of that emptiness. When they parted ways, the cup filled itself up again, reclaiming its fullness. He tried to empty it, but he couldn’t do that on his own. For the cup of loneliness always refills itself. It waits, if it has to, until it finds its fullness, which is its natural state. One can only hope to hold it back by sharing it, but no amount of sharing can empty it permanently. He knew this now. He did not know why they had to part, though. The parting didn’t make sense. There was a gap in the logic, a missing piece to the puzzle of their parting. But then their meeting didn’t make any sense either, he thought. Their parting was no more improbable than their coming together. There was no answer to his ‘why’ that he could figure out, and none that she could offer. All he was looking for was some comforting answer, he told himself, something that made their parting inevitable so that he could reconcile with it. It couldn’t be inevitable, he thought. Surely, she could choose to stay, but she didn’t.
When the kaapi yielded to the loneliness in her cup, the smell of first rains on a parched earth wafted in through her window, and jostled with the loneliness for a place in that cup. She knew the name of that smell — petrichor. That smell reminded her of him, of their first meeting at a bus-stop on an evening when it rained after a long and dry summer. He was drenched as he sat watching the rains, while she stood in a corner, undrenched, and reading a book. Others were busy catching buses. He thought it was rather silly of her to read in such a lovely weather, but he didn’t tell her that then. He also thought it was even more silly of the rest of them to catch buses in such lovely rains. Of course, he didn’t tell them either. He noticed her more than the rest of the crowd. When you read a book while it rains, who wouldn’t notice, he thought. When the rains stopped and the bus-stop was mostly empty, he noticed she looked up from her book. He sat still and meditated upon the road, careful not to let her know he was meditating upon her all this while. She asked him if he knew which bus went to the beach. He said he was headed that way and that they could go together. They did. Conversations happened, and they found themselves together at the beach, sitting by the evening moonshine. They did not notice the silvery blackness of the sea, or the white waves crashing ashore. He did not hear the sea. They shared an unspoken feeling that evening, something akin to unloneliness. That had been last year. She wondered why she thought of him now. She never shared her cup with him. She couldn’t. It was an unequal relationship, she had told herself. She wasn’t being fair to him in keeping her cup selfishly to herself and so she decided to part ways with him. When he wanted an explanation, she could offer no more than a sigh. She thought he knew, that he understood, even though he wouldn’t say so.
He considered his cup, and how full it was. The kaapi only added some colour to it, a rich darkness that hid the loneliness, and an aroma he loved. Once the cup was full of unadulterated loneliness again, he decided to take a break from his writing to go listen to the sea. He loved that sound. The sound of the sea was almost a song to him. All the noise inside him succumbed to this song. He did not know a more pure, a more soothing sound. He listened to the music people made, but he never understood it. ‘Perhaps it requires years of training to have a fine ear for music’, he would think to himself, ‘I would rather stick to the sea.’ He understood that sound. Or at least he felt he did. Every time a wave crashed upon his feet, he jumped in delight, a kid again. Growing up had taken a lot of things away, including the fondest of his illusions, but that pure delight of waves crashing on the sea shore, nothing could take away. At least as long as he wasn’t swept away by the waves themselves.
He sat there all day, watching the fishermen and their boats riding on the waves, and considered becoming a fisherman himself. That vocation would suit him, he thought. He watched fortune-tellers awaiting fortune-seekers at the beach, and he thought he too could pretend to know the future. He saw women weaving flowers together, also some men. ‘Malipu’, he knew, the flower was called, for he loved the smell and found out its name. He watched them weave the flowers on a thread and thought he could do that. He could sell flowers. After deciding to take up a dozen different vocations, he realized it was evening already. The sea glimmered in the silver moonshine, and white waves crashed upon the shore. He listened to the sea. He came back home, his cup still full of loneliness, but with a smell and a taste that he hadn’t known, and which was rather pleasant. It was the scent of solitude.
She was sitting on the terrace, counting the stars. She wondered if he would share her cup of loneliness.