The light of the overhead signal turned red as I was about to speed past it – just like all the other times. The brakes screeched hard and the vibrations of the old car sent my whole body reeling. Not that I needed my body to tremble any more, which was already doing so, out of anger and desperation.
“Countless days, countless!”, I said to myself as I stood looking over the red light and was lost into the labyrinth of branches that lay beyond it. My anger was boiling rapidly, fast approaching tipping point. I could however, not get my eyes to focus away from the bare tree and its branches. I realized, subconsciously I had begun counting the number of offshoots this tree had begotten. The intrigue caused by this naked, yet in some inexplicable way magnificent tree, always had a similar calming effect. The clouds seems to be tediously caressing these disfigured branches, in a way maybe, consoling them for being sterile and unlike the rest of the peers; green and lively. They seemed to unanimously probe into my consciousness, seeking an answer for their depravity. As to why the branches of the other trees made merry – riding the winds and dancing in the rains, while they stood alone, with all progress halted. They had in these unspoken verses, calmed my senses and I found myself thinking straight again.
Just like all the other times, I’d leave Payal’s house in a fit of rage, the red light would stop me and this strangely benevolent tree would comfort me – tutor me. And in due time I’d be lost, inconspicuous to the cars around and their incessant honking. I would forget Payal’s continuous transgressions of my faith; forget the fact that I caught her red-handed with Rohit; and forget the grief and emotional breakdowns I had suffered the previous day. And once the trance would break, I would quietly drive away. Drive away from her house, and her memory; only to return wailing back to her in a day’s time.
When I looked back up, past the steering wheel and onto the road the signal had not yet turned. Glancing across into the cars lined up alongside me, I could see happy content faces; gazing at the rains and talking to their loved ones, maybe making elaborate plans for dinner. Almost all bore the look of a pleasant, cheerful disposition.
I immediately gave a sign for a U-turn and drove back to Payal’s. I had finally got the subtle hints the Red Light and the Naked tree had had been trying to give me all this while. I went to her and told her things I should have told her months back. When I drove back out towards the avenue, there was no more Payal in my life. She could live on in her promiscuous ways and I wouldn’t be bothered at all. I was finally free, and a great sense of closure seemed to manifest somewhere deep within. The relief on my face was palpable.
I drove past a green signal at the overhead crossing this time, and for a split second, I could swear seeing a leaf in singularity on the naked tree – waving to me as I sped by.