They sat facing a freshly dug grave. Its wet smell heightened their incredulous grief. Mamta did not know where to look. It hurt to recall the last moments. She skirted David’s entreating eyes. “Oh my God, how am I going to live with this? She was my wife, how could she?” he was bewailing. Anguished sounds punctuated his piteous refrain, “I feel betrayed. Are you certain about this? We had our differences but Annie couldn’t have been so bitter.”
Mamta plucked at an autumn leaf absently, her mind’s eye replaying the frames before the impact. “When I’m gone, I don’t want him touching my body. No goodbye hugs or kisses or caresses. He is not to lay a finger on me. I am calling upon our friendship to ask this of you. Please give me your word,” Lotika had been insistent, reaching out to switch on the wipers while smiling wryly at the look of shock on Mamta’s face in the passenger seat. The hail was crashing like an overturned drawer on the windscreen and the clouds had begun their wispy descent.
She remembered reaching out to wipe the precipitation, squinting at the road sign; twenty three kilometres to go, it had read. Briefly distracted by the lush green ice berg in her brown sandwich, they always carried food in these reaches, she had registered the “No overtaking” sign. The rocky yellow neon rotated away as the car turned around the steep gorge. “I know he is not a talker and the non-committal silence is eating you up. But have you tried counselling? He is such a great guy in every other way. Perhaps you need to be more accepting?” she had mumbled through a crunchy mouthful, glad for the comfort of food in that cold downpour. Unknown to the driver, Lotika’s forlorn frame around their block and her listless marriage to David had long been grist to the local gossip mills.
Lotika’s eyes had welled up. Mamta would remember the tear as long as she lived, one moment it was sliding down the pale cheek and the next, there was a spray of tiny violent shafts. Her ears still burned at the clangourous thwack. The oncoming tanker had nicked their blue ambassador, winging it across to sail into the chasm.
She took his hand gingerly now, her shoulder throbbing even more at his lament, “I could not say goodbye. Her folks wouldn’t let me close to her body. No closure for me it seems. I would have wanted to give her one final hug.”
The words stuck in her throat. There had apparently been a will, a last wish from Lotika.