Two wrinkled figures face each other in a coffee shop right beside the sidewalk. A mini chessboard with tiny pawns scattered on either sides lay on the table.
“My father amassed a fortune when he returned from the war. While it had its own traumatic effects, war made him realise how important family is to him. He worked harder and harder to give us a comfortable life.” Said Schwartz tossing another black pawn to its right.
“We lost everything in the war. Our mansion was ransacked, family scattered. We were damaged morally and financially.” Said Nikolai, sipping his coffee, lukewarm, just as he liked it.
Schwartz paused for a moment and looked at the Russian he searched for months to meet. The day had finally arrived but all the courage he gathered was now lost.
“I started my life as a petty thief, snatching purses” continued Nikolai, “spent what I got on drugs, cursing my life. I slowly started peddling doing well for myself until I got caught.”
“I did my time in jail, got out, took rehab and was on roads again, where it all began. About time I was thinking to get back to business.”
Schwartz gulped his pie down with difficulty as Nikolai continued;
“That day I was passing through the suburbs in a scary lane where we first did drugs. In the corner, lay a kid with broken bones and bleeding nose. A woman, supposedly his mother sat beside him, crying and cursing whoever did this to him. He was thrashed by peddlers because he couldn’t pay for drugs he borrowed. His face was pale, elbows, green. I didn’t see a beat up kid. I saw murder. A mother’s dreams were killed.”
“What we do to ourselves is worse that what war does to us.” Schwartz muttered.
“I picked up the boy’s guitar from the corner and slid off the street. Started basking there. At least that way, I wasn’t hurting anyone.”
“What happened to that kid wasn’t your fault.” Said Schwartz, reaching out to Nikolai’s shoulder. Nikolai shrugged him off and went on:
“I was once a part of. I wonder how many dreams I murdered; how many relationships I’ve broken. I travelled around the country searching for my mom with the little knowledge I had about her before I ran away. Two years later, there she was, managing her own business. Small time, but enough to feed a family.”
“What was it?”
“This restaurant. Your food is on the house.” Nikolai got up and walked out of the restaurant.
“Wait! You don’t know what I came for. I need to have a word with you.” Schwartz yelled, adjusting his throat after.
“I know. I received your letter months ago.
Your father killed my father.
Let’s hope there won’t be another.
Have a great day, friend.”
Schwartz quietly finished his food, swallowing his guilt.
Life goes on
One doesn’t move forward if he’s still holding on.