The aroma of coffee always intoxicates my senses. Coffee and cigarettes. What a heavenly combination! I spend evenings like this in my armchair, slowly sipping the strong, black liquid that I swirl gently in the mug that I had picked up in Paris last year. I take a drag of my sixteenth cigarette of the day and let the smoke eddy down my throat before I let it out again in bluish white tendrils that dance their way into the cool monsoon air and disappear.

The phone rings. I glance at the name that flashes across the screen and turn away. She can wait. Beethoven continues to play in the background. The sound of rain pelting down on the pathway outside has now faded into a gentle drumming on the roof. I close my eyes. A familiar ache, centred somewhere in the chest, rises,  much like the music that has reached a crescendo. There are no tears. Just this deep ache. Others drown their pain in a drink. I cannot. I had promised I would not.

The phone rings again. I cut the line. She knows I will not answer her call as yet. I will never understand why she even bothers to call.

I get up to pour out more coffee for myself. A stream of black liquid gracefully flows out through the spout of the coffee pot into  the mug, allowing the steam to rise and float into oblivion. The rich scent of roasted coffee beans fills the air. Like the perfume she wore. Yet again I feel a sharp jab – an aching blend of anguish and yearning. I pick up my phone and browse through the photographs I had taken of her. I run a gentle hand over those images. My eyes settle on the picture I had taken of her last diary entry which her mother had shown me. Christina Rosetti’s lines, “Remember me when I am gone away … far into the silent land” stare at me beseechingly. The lines were left incomplete. Like our story. I close my eyes. I wish I could touch her, hold her, kiss her, as I had done so many years ago. I wish I could read poetry to her as I had in those days. The ache deepens.

The phone rings again. This time I answer. “ Yes, Rita, I will be home in a bit.”

I drive back along the rain drenched city roads, slicing through the still darkness. This time, Lata Mangeshkar’s lilting voice accompanies me. “Lag ja gale…”. Another of her favorites.

I know I have  been unfair to my wife. I would never have married her if my parents had not coerced me to. But then, I never been unfaithful to her. I think she understands. At least I hope so. Maybe, one day I will learn to love her. But I can’t now. How can I, when broken pieces of my heart still lie scattered among the ashes of my beloved?

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