He wasn't supposed to die. She was sure of this, surer indeed than of anything else in the world, including her own existence. She couldn't imagine anyone more solid, more real than him. Why was it then that everyone around her refused to meet her eyes when she asked about him? When the warmth had still not left his body, why did his eyes refuse to light up? And just what was she supposed to do if he did actually prove her wrong?
As it turned out, he did prove her wrong. He died barely six days after being rushed to the hospital. He died in the same manner in which he had lived - quietly, with dignity. He even chose the wee hours of the morning so that there would be no one around to create a fuss. The next time she saw him, she no longer had the warmth of his body to console her anymore. Her children wept at the sheer incomprehensibility of it all. Her own mind was reeling with questions. How was it possible for the world to keep moving? Or did the world simply not care for the passing of quiet, dignified men? How was she supposed to fill the little voids he left in every single pattern of the life they had crafted together for the last twenty five years? How was she supposed to surmount her insomnia to make sure that the kids got to school on time? Who was supposed to ensure the precise shape and texture of the rotis? How was she going to make any sense of the innumerable minutiae of life that he had stored in the different corners of his mind? Would people ever know that he'd written her poetry?
Her mind came to the only conclusion she could fathom - it was unnatural, it had not been fated. Now every other player in that theatre of illness and uncertainty was suspect in her eyes. Her relatives, there was a reason they had refused to meet her eyes. They were killing him, they had killed him. Friends and well wishers drew away, the ones who remained suggested that to decipher unnatural events she had to consult those with supernatural faculties. Therein began the never-ending line of holy men, yes men and of course men. They were sure he'd been killed. If only they had been consulted, they would've saved him. Even now, danger lurked around her and her children. Amethysts and pearls, emeralds and opals were the only protection. They all visited, sympathized, prescribed and disappeared. She never seemed to find peace. After every holy man left, she would meet a detractor who denounced him as fake, and lead her to another. The wall of gemstones and suspicion had turned into a fortress which left the world outside. She was happy in her prison because it was just the way she liked it - orderly and neat, with thoughts that stayed in their boxes. And yet, all the gemstones in the world couldn't drive away the sight of his face and the little proofs of his existence that still made her weep. Was there any stone in the world powerful enough to drive away the love from her heart?
Within two years of a holy man predicting that she would live to a ripe old age, she lay dying. Her fortress was in ruins and she was letting go of life everyday, bit by little bit. The friends and well wishers crowded around her once again. They wondered if this helpless waif could be the vital, colourful person they had known. They implored her to try living, but how did one live with a heart that was so irrevocably broken? She lingered for a few moments, taking in the faces of those who had meant something to her in an existence which was getting more difficult to remember with every passing second. A few more moments, and then it was done. The ignominies of life were rendered powerless, and with her last breath she found him again, waiting as patiently as he'd always had. For once, love had won over the need to let go.