Bear Trap Heart – A Story by Vasundhara Mukherjee

The last time I had called, it was a winter night. You told me I had woken you up from a deep sleep. Waking up almost made you tear up a bit. I guess, your dreams had taken you to a faraway place, farther than your daydreams ever could. A land so far off, you didn’t want to return and yet you had to. The phone kept on ringing and they just wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to give up on the dreams we had woven together like a quilted blanket to wear on a cold night. You woke up and picked up my call and I felt that familiar tug in my heart.


“I was sleeping. You could’ve just left a message.”

“I wanted to hear your voice. I don’t know how much of that I’ll be able to get anymore.”

The silence that erupted after this pause was so heavy, so full. It could’ve drowned us both if it had gone on any longer than I’d let it.

“My mother was asking about you. She didn’t see you yesterday at the party. She loves you.”

I don’t know why I said that. I didn’t want her to feel like she had to stay because my mother loved her so dearly.

“What happened to us?”

“I don’t know. One minute we were holding hands so tight, it hurt. The next minute, our hands were in our pockets, freezing cold. Did we just grow apart and didn’t realise when that happened?”

“You are a part of everything I feel, you know? I don’t know how else to step forward without looking if you’re walking beside me.”

“What’s next for us then?”

“I guess, we stay friends.”

But we were friends. I don’t think we could’ve been this close if we hadn’t been friends.

It’s been five years since this phone call. Thousands of leaves have changed their colours and fallen from the trees since then, many clouds have changed their shapes and drifted to some unknown, distant land. It’s another Christmas Eve today. Our conversations had met a dead end after that phone call that day but in my dreams I’ve caught you watching me from a distance. It kept me warm on days when all I wanted to do was just give up. I got to know about you from our mutual friends and although I tell them that it doesn’t bother me when they speak your name, I am lying. Wars break out in my skin, the very places your lips have kissed. But my face smiles so much, it makes my jaws hurt. The pretension kills me. “Why won’t they stop talking about you? Can’t they see that my life stopped after you left and I’ve been trying to walk in circles ever since? Can’t they see that my lungs are aching to take in your breaths but I can’t do that and it feels like gasping for air to breathe?”

“She used to talk about you,” one of them said.

“Oh yeah? I hope she said nice things.” I say.

“She never stopped talking when your name came up”, another followed.

I left.

I’m walking down this road, the same coffee shop where we had our first can’t-get-our-hands-off-of each other date, I’m making my way to the flower shop from where I bought your favourite flowers, the ones you’d make sure to keep forever by pressing them inside books, I’m walking down the path to your home. And I don’t stop.

Ever wondered why places and paths find a memorial space in our brains? It’s not the coffee shop or the late night favourite take out place that makes me stop in my tracks when I pass by. It’s how your eyes followed me back home every time we went to a place. I miss one piercing set of creamy, hazelnut coloured eyes watching me stride past the newspaper vendor. Did I mention how I developed a taste for hazelnuts since we got together? Now when I sit down sometimes to have a cup of hazelnut flavoured drink, I can never recall if I liked hazelnuts before you came into my life.

I reach my house. A small house with one bedroom and a kitchen with just enough room for one person bathroom. I take out our pictures and glance over them. I turn back one of them.

“We were alive in this moment. We lived, even if the ‘us’ died.”

I can’t keep it in anymore. The floodgates come open and I’m bawling. I know your number by heart. I dial it.


There’s silence. It’s hanging in the air. Shall I speak? It’s your voice. The one I wanted to wake up to. The one I didn’t get to hear for so many years.

I can hear the muffled sounds on the other side.

“Mom, who is it?”

I hang up and wipe my face. I lie down on the floor and look up at the ceiling. There’s cobwebs in the corners. I’ve seen them in the morning light.

There was a single, endless scream inside of me. Summer nights dim the cityscape’s noise but not nearly as much as their winter counterparts. The ticking of the clock becomes more pronounced, the train whooshing past somewhere becomes more palpable. The hustle and bustle of the day manages to smother this scream during the day but at night, this scream howls so loudly, I feel like I’ll wake up the neighbourhood even though the scream is voiceless, rendering it “screamless”.

And suddenly, on this Christmas Eve, five years since that last phone call and today’s “Hello” from your side, I realise that I don’t miss you as much anymore. I get up, pull out a cigarette from my pocket and looked out the window. I listen to the embers of the last five years.

The river flows without you.


Vasundhara Mukherjee photo

Vasundhara Mukherjee is  a Masters student of International Relations at Jadavpur University. She dreams to live and reads to escape. More often than not, you’d find her with a pen and notebook in her hand. She is an introvert in person but an extrovert between the lines of a story.

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