I had been sitting on the edge of the coffee table with my back against the wall. The sitting stool had gotten a bit shaky over the years. Maybe it needed a bit of repairing. One of its legs had come out, unscrewed itself a bit from its attachment at the top. Why not throw it away?…. Oh! Where will I sit then? No, no, it’s fine all right. Romela entered the room. Same as always, with no change in facial expression, she asked me, “do you want anything with your coffee?”
“A cigarette”, I said in reply. What could be better with coffee or tea? I knew no answer except one. Romela passed me the packet of Bensons she had on the dining table. I fired up my cigarette. I always carried matchboxes with me. I felt pocket-disposable-lighters were an abomination. They destroyed the flavour. The butane gas always stank up the initial drag. Not nice. Romela went off to the kitchen. She hadn’t changed in years. Her slender physique still being the same, her fair milky skin, yes, her fair milky skin was still the same. I did not know if I had changed. She probably knew.
After a minute, Romela entered the living room. Setting the coffee on my side of the table and she pulled up a chair and sat at the opposite. She disliked coffee, it was tea for her. The breeze today was stronger than the other days. Her hair was dancing lightly. Suddenly, the lights went out.
A siren rung across the streets and home, loud and thick, the local police had hired a ship’s siren perhaps. Someone screamed outside “The planes are coming! The planes are coming!”Bastardly Planes! Yes, we had been having air raids for over a week now, nothing new. Our country had gone foolishly into war; the citizens had to suffer for it, it was their coming.
I remember the first day, when the sirens rang, we were excited. Well, Romela was excited, her shrieking like a little girl. She had never seen fighter jets zooming across the sky. She ran to the veranda to catch a glimpse of the flying beasts. I followed her onto the veranda, I still remember, she had worn a black skirt that day. The sky was dark that night; we had seen no fighter jets.
Today things were nothing new, us sitting at our sides of the table, the sirens ringing, total darkness, no, my mistake, not total darkness. The moonlight flowed through the window, falling up on Romela. I was no astronomer or scientist, but I knew moonlight from a full moon when I see one. It was enough to see her face. She only probably could see the lit end of my cigarette. Romela spoke, “Russell, pass me the packet.” I obliged, passing both the packet and the matchbox. She lit her cigarette. I think she had gotten the idea from seeing only that part of me. There was nothing else to see in this darkness.
In these times, when loved ones huddled together under a table in a corner of a room, reciting verses from religious books, we sat at the opposite side of our table, quietly, with the stench of tobacco surrounding us, sipping our warm designated drinks. We had no stories to tell, we could only do but stare at each other as if we were young lovers madly in love. We weren’t so young anymore. And our love had transcribed into this speechless monotony of being so comfortable with each other. It had been peace I think, that I felt. I had read somewhere peace never existed or exists. But, maybe the author had been wrong.
A sound of a rushing jet came closer; following it was a loud noise, as if something had fallen nearby. A flash of light almost blinding swept across the room. All went black after that. No moonlight, no coffee, no cigarette, no bomber jets, and no Romela.