It was 4:00 PM that Thursday evening when Mary-Lisa sat down with her pen and paper. The boy next door had arranged for an envelope and stamps and had also offered to post her letter the next morning. There lay the task of putting to words all that had happened in the last 3 months ahead of her. She had a lot in mind but her pen could only etch the following words:
The wind has waged a war in our quiet little Nongpoh, and I fear for the house that we’d built together. The wood planks are rattling as the air rushes in through the gaps in a ‘swoosh’ to attack stray bits of paper that I keep by the bedside table. The leaves have withered and come to the ground, searching for solace, a quiet winter’s retreat. All they want is time to hibernate, to ponder to assess their doings and address their misgivings. But the wind has come to attack them as well, like in the worst nightmares they’d dreamt of- lifting them up and knocking them down to the ground, incessantly, as they scream in anguish. I sit here by the window, curled up in the blanket you’d stitched for us using your mother’s sarees. It still smells of your hands, and the edges are marked with little burnt marks courtesy the ashes of your cigarettes; and on the far right, in the corner, there is that stain from the spilled orange juice so many years ago…
I sit here and lift the cup of coco to my mouth, it is my last cup I fear, for I have not the stamina to make it down the hill to the market to fetch coco. Maybe you could pick up a tin when you return? When I flipped the table calendar today I realised that the December of our loving is here, for I may not survive this harsh winter. My legs seem numb and I worry that my arms and hands shall soon follow suit and then I shall sit still even as the bee hums close to my ear.
But you, you shall always be my valiant soldier, protector of all things you and I believed in together. I have decided when you come home this time from war, you shall retire and we shall go live somewhere warmer where we can go fishing in the mornings on holidays, and picnic after, by the river where maybe you could make your famous fish roast. Everyone in the village still remembers it and we offer prayers for you at the Church every Sunday. Come home soon my lover.
I shall now go set the rice on boil for dinner. I shall make some extra, lest you arrive in the middle of the night and have to go to bed starving. I also made beans and charred tomatoes plucked from the garden, just the way you prefer it. Come soon now.
Loving you always
Six months from that day her Lover, her Themsu did arrive to read the letter which lay still on the table where they dined, with family, with friends, with themselves. The house was a mirror image from the day when he’d left it. When the boy next door came to tell him of his Lisa’s new address, he made two cups of coco and went to the cemetery and sat with his Lover, telling her tales of the places he’d seen in the past 3 years and reading our passages from his diary to re-assure her that he’d indeed remembered ‘them’ every morning and every night.
– Nilanjanaa Bhattacharjee