One of These Days

by Pradeep Niroula

I knew the street. I had traversed it countless times.

On Saturday evenings, half of St. Louis poured into Delmar Boulevard. And so did we, June and I. In the distance, I could see the red-brick dormitories I used to walk her to after our promenade. It could have been one of those days. If so, she would be waiting in front of the Thai ice cream store.

I sprinted past two blocks, ignoring traffic and onlookers. I was in a rush.

Yes. There she was. With the orange scarf we had bought in a nearby store.

She had been expecting me too. There was no sign of wonder or shock in her eyes. She extended her hand and I took it.

“You, sir, are late today.”

“I am sorry. This is my third trip of the day.” I kissed her on the forehead. Her blush was demure.

“I am hungry, waiting. Let’s get food,” she said, and I let her lead the way.

There was a Middle Eastern restaurant that we used to dine in. We preferred the outdoor wicker chairs.

“Ah, you are back?” The waitress recognized me.

“You still remember, huh?”

“I don’t think anyone has ever made me laugh as much,” she said. “Isn’t he a funny man, June?”

“You know what we want, right? Two lamb kebabs and baklavas. Can you make it really fast? I’m not here for long.” The waitress nodded and left us alone.

“So this is what you do now? Revisit old places and rekindle old romances?” she asked me.

“Yes, I have been going back to as many places as I can remember. I come here frequently enough, don’t I? You had the same scarf the last time I saw you. You haven’t changed a bit.”

“For you, I am always the same, dear.”

We sat motionless, looking at each other.

The waitress was taking too long. Didn’t I tell her I was in a rush?

“You are getting impatient.” June held my hand.

“I have to be.”

“Why don’t you come here more often? And for longer?”

“I try to. Trust me, there is nowhere I would rather be. But I don’t always get to choose”

“You never told me what happened after you left the town?”

“Bad things. I went down a frightful spiral. But I try not to carry those memories when I travel.”

We talked about other things. Her roommate problems. A tattoo I was thinking of getting. Whether she should start medical school right away or should she take a year between. The waitress hadn’t brought out our food yet.

The next moment, I heard a loud thud close to my ear. Then, the clanking of metals. I tried to block those noises away but my hands were already melting.

“I think it’s time, June. I have to go. I will try to be back, okay? Just wait for me for ten minutes?” I begged as I disintegrated into a mist.

My eyes opened. My cellmate, already in his beige jumpsuit, was closing the door behind him.

“Did I wake you up? So sorry, man. I know how much you hate me doing that—sorry, mate. You go back to sleeping. I won’t be back until late night.” He slowly backed away and disappeared.

I turned over the pillow and tried to get back to that street in St. Louis. “If not today, then tomorrow,” I said to myself. She would be waiting. She had nowhere else to go.

Pradeep Niroula is a graduate student trying to punctuate his research in physics with a little bit of writing. He tweets, albeit rarely, at @NiroulaPradeep.
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