These days have been hectic with assignments like never before in my life. Had I done work like this in High School, I would have been doctor or somebody even greater in life. Candle of my energy has burnt out. For last one week, I have been sleeping late and waking up early though it isn’t my style. Fatigue and depression have seized my body and mind. Yesterday, I had stayed late working on one of the never ending assignments. My brain was overworked, eyesight became fuzzy, energy has been burned down but assignment got nowhere near completion. As famously called ‘realization walk’ in the institute, I decided to for solitary realization work. With faded pants and smelly shirt on, I stepped out of the hostel.
The air outside smelled the summer. The wind passing through the atmosphere gave me refreshing pleasure only night could offer to lonely soul. The sky was deprived of its starry jewels but I didn’t care. I was not poet trying to seek inspiration from nature. I was just taking break from hectic work for few minutes even as clock had already struck midnight. The silence of night was deafeningly loud. It was incredible that even mongrels rampant inside campus didn’t make a noise. There were neither cricks of insect nor traces of any noise within institute except for occasional passing of vehicle at far end of campus.
I walked as slow as my tired legs demanded. I crossed the academic and administrative block like an automated machine. Oblivious to my thinking, I had crossed parking and reach the newly launched IT and Library center. The roar of trucks going towards Punakha Tsangchu woke me from my reverie. I had drifted to nothingness even as my body was functioning like machine. And I heard a soft cry. I listened craning my head to gauge the direction from where soft sobs emanated from. The sob seemed strangely familiar. I walked towards the direction of sobs which seemed to coming from direction of RIM gate where there is tiny dark dale.
Even in the day, I felt strange whenever I crossed that place. The tiny chorten above always reminded me of story of saint conquering demon and erecting stupa on it. As I walked towards, sob grew louder. There she was. I could see her through glimmering weak beam of street light which has fallen there through parted cypress tree. She was wearing red checkered kira (mathra gho) and patterned green tego(traditional blouse). The dresses looked familiar. Even her cascading hair looks familiar. She was crying facing the river at lower end of the road with her face planted on squatting knees.
“Hello,” I ventured. She turned her head. She has grown weak. Her eyes were sunken onto socket. Her face was blemished with excessive tears and her mouth was dry and cracked.
“You,” I said disbelieving. She smiled through her drying tears.
“Yes,” I said, “what are you doing here?”
“I came to see you one last time,” she said. “At this hour? Where have you been all these years? Why didn’t you call me?” Many questions blurted out of my mouth. She ignored my curiosity. I have forgotten that there was no mobile phone when we were together.
“I came to see you one last time,” she repeated.
“Where have been all these years?” I asked again.I have never seen here in last eight years.
“After you left to Mongar, I got proposed from my ex-husband. We got married after high school,” she explained. I now remembered that when I left Pemagatshel to Mongar School, she was left behind. We used to write for some months but distance separated us both. That was the time before Bhutan has mobile phone connection.
“How do you know I am here,” I asked her.
“That is not important,” she stated. As it was habit that didn’t die even after eight years, I wiped her tears with my hand. She let me wipe her tears. I wanted to hug her but she backed off when I tried.
“Don’t touch my back,” she said and I complied.
“You have never grown old,” I observed. ‘You have become fatter but you are as burnt out as before,” she said referring to my complexion. We laughed.
“So how did u get here?” I asked as I couldn’t control my curiosity.
“Told you that it is not important,” she spoke sternly. She wasn’t changed. She has her stubbornness intact.
“Where will you spend your night,” I asked concerned. Of course I could smuggle her into hostel for a night.
“Don’t worry about that,” she assured me. Except for reason that she came to meet me, she refused to say where she lived or what was she doing.
We talked of our forgotten high school forbidden relation. We talked of some old friends I could hardly recollect their faces. It was almost three a.m, when I reminded her that I needed to sleep as I had class next day.
She gave me a kiss on forehead. As I couldn’t control my urge to hug her goodbye, I embrace her. She has no flesh on her back. I could feel her skeleton. She became furious because I found out that her body was nothing but skeleton with dresses put on. “Told you not to hug me,” she said. Even as she spoke I could see eyes and ears disappearing from her face until it became skeleton. Finally she disappeared altogether.
I didn’t realize it was not her but her ghost wandering in samsara. I wasn’t afraid even as I returned to hostel because I was thinking about what happened to her. Only when I reached hostel, I realized that I was drenched in sweats. She was not the girl was I knew on junior high school. She was her ghost trying to lure me to death trap.
Today when I was browsing face book, I learned from a friend that she died three years ago in Melong Brak (Mirror Cliff) between Trashigang and Samdrum Jonkhar when she was coming to Thimphu to meet her husband. Yesterday was her death anniversary. Though I couldn’t do anything but I managed to chant mantra ‘OM MA NI PADME H UM’ a hundred times. May she rest in peace wherever she is in samsara. But when I get my first salary I promised myself that I will light a thousand butter lamps for her.