The Sun was descending in the evening sky looking spectacular in all it’s glory. The playful sea waves touched the shores time and again, retreating seconds afterwards. Some tourists relaxed in the sweet spots while few others played the outdoorsy beach games, taking fullest advantage of their vacation. I was sitting in a modest, sea-side shack that offered the cheapest brands of beers.
“Hello, my friend!” the shabbily-dressed man greeted walking towards me in short quick steps.
“What a pleasure! Welcome, Francis.” I replied amicably.
Francis was in his mid-thirties. The unruly uncombed hair coupled with long scars running across his face made people around him terribly uncomfortable. Wearing an unclean wrinkled white t-shirt with a loose, unsettling gray trouser, he spoke politely like a true gentleman. This defied the preconceived notion of the same people.
“I have not seen you in this shack since long.” he said in a surprised tone.
“Absolutely caught up with tasks. So, yeah.”
“How is your family?”
“Great! Like always.” I responded.
“How are things at your end?”
“Wonderful. My souvenir shop is getting lots of customers of late. It is magnificent. You should come and see it!”
“I really love the weather of this place.” he expressed.
“Same here. The sunshine, the sea breeze, everything. As a tourist I fell in love with this island. Still feel the same even after two years. ”
Francis continued to talk to me for the next 15 minutes when…
“Hey you!” Francis called a stranger sitting beside me. “I have seen you somewhere. Do I know you?”
“I don’t think so.” The man in his late-fifties wearing a blue t-shirt and shorts answered.
“My name is Francis. My friend here is Freddy and you are…”
“Peter.” he introduced himself.
Francis: I see you sitting idly. Maybe getting bored. You can join us.
Peter: Perhaps. That’s kind of you. Really! Travelling solo has its downsides but overall I love it.
Francis: Tell us about you, Peter. How come here?
Peter: As predictable as possible, I am on a holiday. Have come here for some recreation and fun.
Francis: Great. I own a souvenir shop. My young, beautiful wife and I have been living on this island for the past ten years, so you can term us as a local. Our baby – my shop – is our world. Are you with your family here ?
Peter: Oh no! They decided to stay back. My children’s school is open. My wife’s a lawyer and I am…” he smiled again “here!”.
Francis: I have an interesting proposition! If you both are free today at 6 in the evening, why don’t we all join today in my sea-side casa and relish some steaks and beers. We can definitely talk stories of our homelands, women-kind and food.
Peter: That sounds splendid! But are you sure? You have just met me. Will your wife mind it?
Francis: You don’t seem to be an outlaw. So, no. She won’t mind it and she can join us sometimes. You two are most welcome at my home.
Peter: Then great!
Francis: You okay with our plan, Freddy?
“Yes.” I said in a flat tone.
Francis: Then let’s cheer up! And meet then. Peter, you can get here at 5:30 and both of you come to my place then. Freddy, you remember the directions, right?
“Yes.” I confirmed.
Francis: Just yesterday Freddy and I met at my house and we talked about our childhood days. My wife also told her innocent stories. Awesome, wasn’t it?
“Yes. Very awesome.” I said trying to sound genuine.
Francis: Alright. Now that, that’s settled. I have a few errands to run. Going to my shop now. See you both in the evening.
Saying this, Francis left in the direction of his souvenir shop.
I: Peter. Sorry to to break the news but let’s forget what just happened.
Peter: Excuse me!
I: Francis is not really himself. He has not moved on.
Peter: Moved on from what?
I: Basically, his wife passed away two years ago. Fell from a Ferris ride. Tragic death. 23 people died, 15 injured. It came out in the local newspapers. This incident hit him hard. He suffered from emotional trauma. Mental instability. Has lived in denial ever since then. Lost his shop. I go in the evenings to his home. We drink and eat. He introduces his wife every time, his figment of imagination. There’s no one there. Later, he tells that she will eat watching the TV after he has himself prepared ‘the best steak in the island’. He and his ‘wife’ see me off then. You want to be a part of this charade?
Peter: I guess not. It is odd.
I: I understand.
Peter: But he just left for his souvenir shop?
I: Like everyday, he will be denied entry. He will fight, the police will apprehend him and more scars will be visible on his face. How do you think he gets them?
Peter: I still don’t believe it. I mean, I am trying to. But…
I: Do one thing. To satisfy your mind, come tomorrow at the same time here again. Sit in this spot again. And let the events unfold.
I: You will find me here too. This is my leisure time.
Peter: Sure. One doubt, why do you visit his home when you know things are odd at his end.
I: I had a friend who suffered a similar misery. Life is truly hard!
On the next day, Peter met me again at the same time. Francis came. Got surprised looking at me. Spoke to Peter as if talking to him for the first time and went away making a plan of meeting that evening at his seaside casa. Peter was left shocked.