Unreturned Love — By Vinitha Rajan

A postman professes his love to one of the women he delivers letters. What happens next? Read this intelligently crafted little story by Vinitha Rajan for #RomanticRendezvous. 

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I fell in love with her right hand. Every Tuesday as I pedalled along the red dusty road under the merciless sun I dreamed about her fingers – slender, slim and the colour of the mild tea mother served me every evening. I would imagine those hands serving me food and whole lot more. I would be at her yard before I could really relish my dream.

Chickens would scatter and the dog would growl from a distance pretending to be brave. No one else would be around. Tring! Tring! Her window would open partly as I rang the cycle bell and Parimala would stretch out her bare hand to collect the letter I had for her and pass me another with coins for postage. It was always addressed to the same person – Purushottam. Her writing made my heart race. “I will see that it is on the van tomorrow,” I would promise and wait for the shiny brass tumbler filled with frothy buttermilk. I would then sit on her front pouch, pull the sweaty khaki cap off, wipe my sweat off on the hanky I always carried as I savoured the buttermilk.  It always hit the spot. I attributed it to the hands that served them. Yes,  I was in love.

We never spoke. Or rather she never spoke.  Shyness, I told myself chuckling. I knew her name. I knew her right hand as well as I knew the roads that connected the six villages I served as the postman. The tiny knuckles rounded like marbles and the yellow under her nails were all I ingrained in my mind. I imagined the rest – hair dark as night, a face round like the moon, a smile shy and yet bold.

I delivered letters to her for 2 years – a single letter every week from the big city. I could have opened her letters (like I did with others) but I never did.  I preferred the suspense and made up stories about a busy father or a dutiful brother writing to her. Maybe I just was being fanciful.

I tried to write her a letter – a word at a time, discarding easily and often. I brought her yellow and red bangles, wrapped them in my hanky and placed it in the envelope.  I placed the envelope in my left pocket, right next to my pounding heart and started pedalling.

I delivered two letters to the unadorned waiting hand. “I don’t need anything to drink,” I muttered and cycled without looking back.  All week I dreamt about the yellow and red bangles jiggling on her right hand as I handed her the customary letter the following week.

The next Tuesday, she handed me two letters – the usual and the one I had given her. I could feel the shape of the bangles within as I held it in my hands staring at my own writing. There was something else; two lines across the top left corner and “Return to Sender” written in bold.

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