On a cold winter’s evening, I sat beside the window, the blinds drawn out, gazing out at the falling snow, as it piled up high on my front drive. It was only the beginning of winter and I already felt numb all over. The blazing logs in the furnace did not do much to drive that sense of numbness away. Probably because this had a lot more to do with my state of mind at the moment, which matched the gloomy, bleak atmosphere around.
Exactly a week before, I’d received a note from my friend, telling me that the festivities had taken off and concluded on an unsullied note (for which I was glad and relieved) and that he was back home to oversee the renovation of his store. The ‘festivities’ in question here was that of a wedding, one that I had consciously avoided. In hindsight, maybe I should have attended. Maybe, in a way, it would have helped put a closure to things. But fearing further complications in an already complicated matter, I shied away from it. And on a more personal and selfish level, the reality of it all was too harsh for me to confront. I could not bring myself to accept that it was finally happening; that my beloved … was now marrying another man, not so much by choice as by the pressures of circumstances, that were probably once in my hands to take control of and change. But now, the seasons had already changed.
It was only this spring that I first met her. Introduced by common friends while I was out to do my apprenticeship in the city, our acquaintanceship soon turned to friendship and before we knew it, we were deeply in love with each other.
By mid-summer, we were already seeing each other, at first in a more covert fashion and then more openly as we gained familiarity with the circle of mutual friends we’d made over the months. She was in the city attending finishing school while boarding at her uncle’s place and meeting her meant that we had to steer away from all those places that were frequented by members of her uncle’s family and without rousing any of their suspicions by the hours we kept. Despite the restrictions we had, we still managed to spend all our time in the company of each other, while we were otherwise not busy with our respective purpose for being in the city, to start with. All summer long we enjoyed countless hours just wandering around hand-in-hand in the park or on boat-trips to places nearby. Occasionally, we even got to meet late evening or at night when her uncle’s family was away for a day or two. Such rendezvous were extra special as we could rent a boat all to ourselves and then paddle out into the middle of the lake and spend the rest of the evening together, whispering endlessly to each other in the stillness all around, while gazing at the starlit sky or even ride out to the valley and spend time there, with my banjo and her enchanting voice in tow. And thus, by the time summer had come to an end, to say that we had become inseparable would have been an understatement.
With the onset of autumn came in a slew of fresh challenges. With her sojourn in the city coming to an end and my apprenticeship still on, it meant that she would return to her own home in the countryside while I would continue to stay on in the city, for a while. This is turn meant inevitable separation, a thought that neither of us could bear and a discussion that we’d mutually evaded thus far, for the mere thought of it was painful for the two of us. And when it did come upon us, neither of us was prepared. The first few days of her going away were the hardest. Our friends had to constantly hold me back each time I almost packed my bags and decided to call it quits in the city, leaving my apprenticeship unfinished. I finally had my mind all made up to approach her father and seek her hand in marriage when I received the heartbreaking news. A mutual friend, who happened to be visiting a relative close to her place, brought me a letter she had hastily penned before he returned to the city. My beloved’s father had now decided that it was time for his youngest daughter to marry and with the thought had even sought out a groom for her. Without giving much thought to what she had to say, her family had even set a date for the wedding at the end of autumn. To say that the news just shocked me would be underplaying it. I hadn’t expected things to take such a drastic turn, at such short notice. As my mind raced, desperately seeking a way out of the turn of events, a single line at the bottom of the note she had written me, caught my eye. It simply said ‘It’s still not too late, come get me and we will together seek out a new life someplace else’. That very sentence initiated a huge conflict in my mind. While on one hand I felt should leave right away and go get her, another part of me kept telling me that eloping was not the right thing to do. Eventually I decided to go speak to her family anyway and seek their consent to us getting married. To my mind, that was the only right thing to do! With the falling autumn leaves leaving a colourful trail behind me on my path, I set out to claim what I believed was rightfully mine; to claim a missing part of me that would make me complete again.
Arriving at her country home, I must say I wasn’t very welcome. To start with, I was introduced to the family as a friend of her’s from the city. Within the next couple of days I had gotten to know each member of her family and they all seemed to view my relationship with her, with considerable suspicion. And rightly so, for mere friends we certainly were not. Soon I had gathered enough wits about me to have ‘the conversation’ with her parents. No sooner had I broached the subject with them, was I strongly opposed with an almost immediate and vehement rejection. They wouldn’t hear any of what I had to say thereafter. If I was an unwelcome guest before, I had suddenly been further demoted to the status of a sworn enemy. As I found myself thrown out almost literally from their home, I suddenly realized that while I still loved her very much and would never be the same without her, I no longer had it in me to put up a fight and make my claim. With dejection written all over me, I retraced my footsteps.
And today as I sit on what has become my constant perch beside the window and look out at the falling snow yet again, I feel a vast emptiness inside of me. I had, despite myself, let the moment pass. I had, of my own accord, let my only chance at a meaningful life, just slip away. Perhaps I should’ve have heeded her words and eloped with her. And had I done that, right now I would not have found myself in this miserable, ‘shattered and numbed beyond recovery’ state.
The change of seasons had, with them, brought about a lifetime of change in me and in my life. I was no longer the same person I used to be a year ago. The seasons of change had finally caught up with me for good.