He had gone there unexpectedly. He had not planned it earlier. For no reason, he just wanted to return to the place it had all began.
The place he met her.
Many people passed him, ignoring the weird bespectacled guy standing there. He knew that was how he appeared to them.
His breath came out slowly. He was forcing it out from his lungs. Everywhere he looked, everywhere he faced, she was there.
Arms wide open, just for him.
Until someone walked through her.
The image that his mind projected vanished. He sighed deeply. He continued walking, passing by couples snuggled up closely to each other as he made way to the small lake at the edge of the place.
He leaned across the railings as his mind wandered back into the past.
He had met her during his second year in university. She was tall, beautiful and sensual. Her silky brown hair hung past her shoulder and was always loose. Unlike the other girls who always ignored him, which he suspected was down to the fact that he was the most geekish person in his year, she always smiled at him cheerfully when they bump into each other in the hallway or in the library.
It was only later he found out her name. And that she was his direct junior. And that she was also his department’s second best student – behind him, of course.
And then there was the fact that she confessed to him that she loved him.
That was a real shocker for him.
A geek like him had made a maiden like her to fall in love?
That only happens in fairy tales.
Or so he had thought.
Though he had never seen her in that way, her confession opened up his heart to the possibilities. And once he began considering, his heart could not stop thinking of her. Which made matters worse for him because he knew that it would not work out.
He remembered how she had cried when he told her that he could not accept her – which was a lie, of course. Those tears dripped down her cheeks, running freely. Her eyes were swollen red and puffy. It broke his heart to see her that way, to know that he was the cause of it. He stood there helplessly as her sobs echoed on that empty night.
It is time to man up, he had thought then.
He walked to her and embraced her, accepting her silently. Her sobs were drowned by his strong arms. Her arms circled his neck as she pressed her face into his chest.
That night, they sat in a park nearby and talked and talked and talked. In that empty night, their words echoed across to each other. They were not alone.
They had each other.
His life had taken a turn the moment he accepted her love. With his remaining study loan, he had bought a second hand car just so that he could drive her back home and pick her up the next day for classes. University was getting more hectic as the days passed on and so they only had the weekends to spend time together.
The car was bought so that he could carve out more time for her.
And it happened the way he had planned it.
As he drove her back home, her hand would always grip his free hand. They would be sharing food in the car, passing biscuits to each other, sharing fizzy drinks.
The car was their home – their regular dating spot.
It was also in the car that he proposed to her two years later, in his final year in university.
She accepted his simple, plain silver ring as a promise and surprised him a week later with a ring of his own.
That moment, everything was fine. Everything was just right. His life was mapped out.
Or so he had thought.
He had graduated a year before her and had planned to work hard and earn enough money for their marriage. He wanted to marry her as soon as she graduated. He wanted to make his officially a part of himself.
He had found a job as an engineer for a local company and was given an upper four-figure salary. He was extremely happy as he knew it was hard to get a job and thus, he could not believe his luck as he had obtained the job after just going through a single interview session.
He broke the news to her happily and they had celebrated by drinking the whole night. Even though the next day was a Saturday, she still had to go to class and the overnight partying and heavy drinking had taken a toll on her.
That was when he realized that he could ruin her future if he was not careful enough. He tried to explain to her, tried to make it clear to her that they should see each other less until she finished studying.
She accepted his words quietly without any resistance. He thought everything was going well.
He worked diligently, sometimes until late at night.
He got promoted in just three months and was often given the job to entertain potential clients.
His promotion took him further into his career, earning him more money and reputation. Yet, it also took him further away from her.
His four-times-in-a-day phone calls became once a day. There were even some days where he would go without calling her at all.
It made her become a wreck, drowning in insecurities. She knew he was always out late at night and she increasingly became worried that he would turn to someone else.
Yet, on the other hand, he was lining up his wallet, filling it with lots of money yet he felt guilty for going further away from her, even though his main intention was to become closer to her.
The short time he managed to spend with her, the small amount of time that he tried to use to make things right, only made matters worse. In the days that came by, the time they carved to spend together became shorter and limited and slowly, they drifted apart from each other, having no contact with each other whatsoever. It broke his heart and hers so. It took her a lot of courage to tell him her heart’s desire and when she had receive the reply that she had wanted so desperately, it was the greatest moment of her life. And to think everything was coming to an end.
The short amount of time that he managed to carve out and spend with her was like morsels of food for her. And yet, as the length of time they were apart grew longer, her anxiety and fear grew too.
It was too much for her to handle, too much for her to bear. The pain of not knowing, not being sure of the direction they were heading to was tearing her apart.
Two months later, she suffered a nervous breakdown and fainted in class.
The first few drops of rain pelted him, waking him up from the dream that he had. He was still leaning against the railings, his clothes slowly soaking up the rain drops that were increasing steadily.
He took a deep breath in. Surprisingly, the rain had cleared up his mind, his heart.
He felt free.
He knew it was a sign that things were about to change, for the better. He knew what to do now.
He sat beside her bed. She was asleep, her heartbeat was normal and so was her blood pressure. He set the flowers that he had brought onto the table at her bedside, intending to sit quietly beside her. But, her eyes fluttered open and they latched onto him immediately. He gestured to the flowers, intending to cheer her up yet her tears started to well up immediately. He went nearer to her and clutched her hands with his, muttering promises and expressing regrets.
He promised her that she was his life and that he had never intended to be apart from her the way they were right now.
She blinked at him, confused. She thought he was about to break up with her, which was what that was eating up inside of her which eventually led to the breakdown.
He smiled at her and assured her that he was not a fool to get rid of the only joy in his life.
“ After all, I’m the one who can’t say goodbye, “ he said to her. She laughed happily and wiped her tears, launching herself onto him, hugging him as she replied, “ and I’m the one who can never let go. “