A young couple met Samuel Patrick on a rainy Saturday morning. A middle aged man, he looked harried and lost. He was reasonably well-dressed and had a bunch of red lilies with him. They met for eight consecutive Saturdays. Find out why they never met again. Here’s an interesting story from Madhumita, in her weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
I first met Samuel Patrick on a rainy day in the streets of Calcutta. I was going to Alliance Francaise du Bengale, on Park Street, where I had classes three days a week. It was a Saturday and my newly-wed husband, who had his day off on the last day of the week, was driving me there. The other two days I managed on my own but on Saturdays I was pampered and lovingly chauffeured by him. It was a two-hour class, during which he would sit at a coffee shop, mostly at Flury’s, where I would join him and the two us would go off to spend the rest of the day as we wished; going to the cinema, having lunch, at times shopping or what I loved most, going on long drives.
It was a drizzle when we started from home but it soon turned to a heavy downpour. The car had stopped at a traffic signal and we saw a man, middle-aged, waiting at the bus stop there, looking harried and lost.
He was reasonably well-dressed and what interested me most was that he was carrying a pretty bunch of flowers in his hand. He had no umbrella. It was obvious to me that he was going somewhere special, to meet somebody. Impulsively, I asked my husband if we could give him a lift in our car.
“Don’t be silly,” he immediately quipped. “How do know where he’s going? He might be going in some other direction.”
“We may reach him wherever he’s going, can’t we?” I suggested.
“Won’t you be late for your class?” My indulgent husband asked.
I don’t know why I was so intent on helping the man.
“Doesn’t matter if I get late one day.” I told him and without waiting for Aditya to say anything more, I rolled down the window glass and called out to the man with the flowers.
“Excuse me. May we help you? Please come in. Where would you like to go?”
The man looked surprised and came towards our car. The signal now turned green and the cars in front of us began to move. There was a lot of honking and I opened the door behind me and told him to get in fast.
He climbed in awkwardly and sat down in the middle of the back seat, keeping the flowers down carefully beside him. The car started moving and I began talking to him.
He didn’t talk much and answered in monosyllables to some of my questions. Most he ignored. He did not tell me where he was going. He told us his name and that he stayed near Park Street.
“Oh that’s wonderful! We too are going there! See,” now I had turned to Aditya, “you were saying he was going in another direction.” I was excited like a schoolgirl. Again, I don’t know why. But he was not going home, he told us and would be happy to be dropped anywhere midway. The rain, hopefully, would stop and he would find a bus or even walk it to his destination, he said, in a very low voice. And where was his destination? I had asked. He mumbled something and at the same time Aditya honked and I could not hear what he said. The rain, surprisingly, did stop almost immediately and he requested Aditya to stop the car which he did, without a word, and the man got out. He thanked us very politely and strode off with long eager steps. We obviously didn’t wait to see where he went. While getting down at Park Street, I looked at the back seat and saw, very surprised, the seat was completely dry with not even a little wet patch. Aditya said it had dried up as the air-conditioner was on. I shrugged and went my way.
It was next Saturday when we met him again. At another bus-stop. This time it was not raining but he stood there again, with flowers in his hand. I was curious. I pleaded with Aditya to give him a lift again and he didn’t refuse. Samuel Patrick got into our car. And this time he talked. About himself and his flowers. About his wife who succumbed to a fast-spreading cancer and that he was going to her, with the flowers, to the cemetery. She had died on her birthday, a Saturday, the last and only birthday he could not wish her. He had meant to, but could not. “I had bought lilies for her. Red lilies, the ones that blossom in the hills. She loved the hills.” He was reminiscing.
“But why couldn’t you? Were you out of town?” Aditya asked.
“The flowers didn’t get delivered?” I added.
He didn’t reply to our questions but carried on with what seemed a monologue. It was the only birthday in her life she had not received flowers from him, her husband, and one she loved most in the world and pained and frightened to leave. Samuel has been taking flowers to her grave since then, every Saturday, to wish her and show her his everlasting love.
“I know Rosemary waits for me every Saturday,” he said. We didn’t talk, my husband and I. Aditya drove on, without a further word, and I sat listening to him talking of his Rose, as he called her, looking out of the window at the world rushing by, my eyes moist. We dropped him at the gate of the cemetery and waving him goodbye, drove away.
It was a ritual since then. The cemetery was almost on our way. Every Saturday we picked up Samuel from a bus stop and dropped him at the cemetery. I never wondered why he was always standing there at one of the two stops, as if waiting for us. I was only too happy to see him there with a bouquet in his hand, lilies or roses. Red, pink, yellow and white. Saturdays added colour and a new-found joy to my life.
We talked along the way, exchanging information about our mutual lives. I had grown to be fond of him in the eight Saturdays that we met.
And then, one day, he was not there. In neither of the bus stops. We waited for him for a while but he did not come. Aditya and I looked at each other and we both knew immediately what we wanted, as if one reading the mind of the other. We were soon at the gates of the cemetery. I forgot about my French class and Aditya did not remind me. We went around the graveyard, hand in hand, looking at the graves, separated by broad paths and surrounded by flowering bushes. After walking around for more than an hour, we found what we were looking for. In fact we found more than we expected to find. There were two graves side by side. Our eyes briefly scanned the headstone that had the name Rosemary L. Patrick inscribed on it and were fixed on that of the other. We stared, in shock. Samuel M. Patrick, it read. We forgot our voices and clutching Aditya’s hand, I gazed at the two headstones, in disbelief. April 5, 1980, both read. There were flowers on Rosemary’s grave, a little wilted, and none on Samuel’s.
Truth is stranger than fiction. I would never have believed this had I heard such a story from anyone else. But I was not only a witness to the happenings but a participating character too. I did not wonder why Samuel Patrick came to us and why he took us to the cemetery. We knew. Both of us. And since then we have been taking flowers every Saturday for Rosemary and Samuel. Lilies. The red ones that blossomed in the hills. We have placed an order at a florist’s shop in New Market. They keep a bunch for us ready, every Saturday morning. May their souls rest in peace!
Pix from Net.
Professor Dr. Madhumita Ghosh is also a poet and editor. Her poems have been widely published in print, e-books, journals and magazines all over the world. She has authored four poetry books titled For All You Lovely People, Pebbles On The Shore, Flowing with the River and My Poetry My Voice, and also William Blake; A Prophet for Mankind, a critical study on the British poet. Madhumita has presently a novel and a book of short stories are in the pipeline.