The jingling of the keys preceded Ross’s appearance in the corridor leading to his apartment, as hetwirled them around in a carefree fashion. Turning to face the door, he was about to insert the keys in the doorlock when he was interrupted by his neighbour, who had apparently heard him coming.
“You are back?!”
Distracted, Ross looked at him, annoyance plastered on his face.
“Yeah. I was gone for just a couple of days.” he said.
“Oh man! I thought you had gone for good!” his neighbour replied, sounding seriously put-out.
Ross was about to respond when his neighbour turned around and the actual magnitude of the scenario struck him.
“Guys! The party’s off! Gel-err is back.” the guy announced to the crowd, which seemed in the middle of a celebration, the term ‘Gel-err’ being a sadistic remake of his surname Geller owing to the fact that Ross applied way too much gel on his hair than was necessary, making his hair look perennially wet.
Loud groans and moans were heard following this statement, while Ross found it impossible to believe that somebody could hate him so much simply because he hadn’t paid up hundred bucks for throwing a farewell party for a man he didn’t know at all. And it was something that had happened more than five years back.
“That’s right, suckers! I’m staying!” he shouted as his eyes caught a couple of men bringing down the huge ‘He is gone!’ banner.
Cursing, Ross opened the apartment door lost in thought. Perhaps it would be better to go to Paris after all, if only to get rid of these loathsome neighbors. And it wouldn’t be that hard to do either. En route, he had browsed through various jobs available at the museums in Paris and had found himself overqualified for most of them. Even the Louvre wouldn’t mind having him. Apparently, getting a job wasn’t a problem at all. It was just an excuse at best.
Sitting on the sofa, he hit the button on his answering machine to listen to the messages which had accumulated over the last four days.
‘You have 3 new messages.’
‘Just three?’ he thought, frowning as he did so. Then again, he hadn’t been that social in the past month. Most of his colleagues and friends had probably just given up by now.
The first message was from his ex-wife, Carol.
‘Hey Ross, it’s me. I just wanted to let you know that this Thursday, Ben will be playing his first ever interschool football match…
Carol’s voice was interrupted with a loud ‘Yay!’ from his son and Carol let out a laugh, obviously amused at his excitement.
‘And as you can see, he’s looking forward to it…’
‘Very much!’ came Ben’s voice, yet again.
‘So it would really mean a lot to him if you’d be there. Call me when you get this. Oh and how was your trip to Paris? Let me know. I gotta go, now. Bye!’
Ross smiled at his son’s excitement, which reminded him that he still had a child to father, here in New York. A fact which he had all but forgotten owing to the events in the past month. Unlike Rachel, he still had strings attached.
Well, so that was one SOLID reason for him to stay in the Big Apple. His son.
Unfortunately, Ross didn’t have much time to reflect on it as the machine beeped and another familiar voice was heard, which belonged to his sister.
‘Errm… Ross?… Hi. It’s me.’she said, her voice being unusually quiet which made him miss her loud, bossy self for once.
I.. err… I just wanted to ask you if you would be coming to our weekly dinner this Friday. I mean.. it’ll be totally okay if you… I.. I’d totally get it if you don’t want to. But I just wanted to let you know that I’d be cooking your favourites!’
There was a short but noticeable pause before she continued, obviously hesitant.
‘And… and that I support you no matter what. We… I crossed a line. I’m sorry. Call me when you get this, alright? Or don’t. I’d understand either ways… Bye.’
Ross felt shame coursing through his veins as he recalled his outburst. It hadn’t been her mistake. She simply wanted the best for him. Of course he would be visiting. He owed her an apology for sure.
The third message caught him off-guard. It was from the office of his HOD, which was a rare occurrence in itself. He closed in, so as to hear the message properly.
‘Good morning, Dr. Ross . This is Lidya, calling from the history department, NYU. I’ve been told to inform you that Dr Brandon requires you to call him personally ASAP. I request you to do the needful. Have a good day!’
Calling ASAP?! Why? What kind of emergency had struck the department? There were many running jokes in the campus based on the absurdness of the thought. Some of which involved the dinosaurs coming to life. Well, not some. All of them, in fact. Nevertheless, he picked up the mouthpiece to place the call.
It was picked up almost immediately.
“Hello? Dr. Brandon?” he asked, a little hesitant.
“Call me Rex, will you?” said the voice at the other end.
“I…?” was all that Ross could manage, obviously unaware that the HOD knew about the nickname he had been assigned by the department. Is that what this was all about?
“Isn’t that what you guys call me behind my back? Tyrannosaurus Rex?” Dr. Brandon continued when Ross didn’t respond.
Hearing nothing but static at the other end, Dr Brandon laughed, relieving the tension off Ross’s shoulders.
“You need not freak out, Geller. I’m okay with it. In fact, I quite like it.”
Relaxed, Ross decided to pursue the matter in hand.
“Rex. You said I was supposed to call you urgently?”
“Oh yeah. As you may have heard, I’m retiring at the end of this month.”
“Yeah, I did.” Ross replied, nonplussed. They did have a ‘secret’ party planned for just the same.
“Well…the university’s gonna need someone to fill in my shoes.” Dr.Brandon said.
“Nobody can fill in your shoes, Rex. They are wayyy too large.” Ross said, smirking. Dr. Brandon did have literally HUGE feet.
“Haha… You know what I mean.” Dr. Brandon replied, immune to the pun.
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
There was a sudden silence as Ross finally realised the purpose of the call. It was a promotion. A promotion which he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to take.
“Do I have to state the obvious, Ross?!Apply for the position, for God’s sake!” Dr. Brandon said after another long pause.
“You know that as well as I do that currently you are the most eligible person for the job! Just apply and the job is yours!” Rex continued, sounding a bit agitated.
Ross sighed before he finally came up with a response.
“I… I need some time to decide, Rex.”
“Time?… For what?! There’s double the money, you get two assistants and hardly give any lectures.. God, that’s a huge relief! And the office! You’ve been in my office, it’s huge! Million times better than that stuffy cubicle of yours.”
‘That’s true, Rex! But currently I don’t even know whether I want a f*kin’ job in New York!’,Ross wanted to shout. Instead, however, he forced himself to come up with something much more formal.
“I have some personal issues, Rex. I’m sorry, I just.. Give me some time, alright?”
“Look Ross, I don’t know you that well, but what I do know is that life doesn’t present such opportunities often. And when it does, you have to grab ’em! You have two days to fill in an application. Sorry, but that’s all the time that I can give.”
Ross rubbed his forehead, his brain going into overdrive as he said,
“Thank you, Rex. I’ll let you know shortly.”
As Ross put the receiver down, it was Chandler whose voice reverberated through his head, saying,
‘Could my life BE any more messed up?!’
* * *
“So how was your day, sweetie?” Rachel asked the almost two year old as she lifted her daughter in her arms and made way to their apartment from the daycare.
“Did you like your new nanny?” she asked in a baby voice, while Emma did nothing but stare. Nevertheless, Rachel smiled, feeling nothing but pure joy to finally have her daughter in her arms after a rather long and tiring day.
“I miss you.” Emma said after a while, as they reached their doorstep.
“Aww! You did?” Rachel asked, to which Emma nodded vigorously.
“Momma’s gonna be with you all night, sweetheart. I promise.” she said as she pushed the door open with her side.
“Mommy?” Emma asked as Rachel settled her on the sofa and busied herself with placing the takeaway.
“Yes honey?” she asked, her eyes now scrutinizing the freezer.
“Where’s daddy?” Emma asked, her voice filled with all the innocent curiosity that a child possesses.
Suddenly, Rachel found herself glad that the freezer door hid her face. For a fresh batch of tears had just sprung in her eyes.
“I miss him.”
Rachel didn’t know quite what to say to that. And even if she did, her throat was too caught up to give her daughter a legible response.
“I miss him too…” she finally said after a while, her voice barely audible.
* * *
‘Sometimes thingsdon’t happen the way you want them to because you just haven’t tried hard enough. Unbeknownst to you, a last push may be all that you need.
Sometimes it’s because you keep making the wrong choices, yet choose to blame the circumstances over and over again.
While sometimes… it is life’s way of making you realise that it’s simply not meant to be. Not now and not ever.‘
Ross re-read the prologue of the book, an courtesy of the flight that had brought him back ‘home’. He let out a sigh, contemplating. Right until today he had been absolutely sure that it had been the first two statements which applied to him and Rachel. Today however, he wasn’t quite sure.
Letting his daughter go had to be amongst one of the toughest things he had ever done in his entire life, seconded only by lettinghergo. And it wasn’t like he hadn’t felt the tension rise between them when they had closed in on each other, back at the airport. For a second, if only for a second, he had indeed imagined kissing her on the lips, wondering if they would still taste the same. And he had beenquitesure that the feeling had been mutual.
But there lied the problem.
For he could remember hundreds, may be even thousands of situations where he had been so sure of something, only to be proven wrong almost immediately. And every time that had happened, he had thawed, bit by bit, until his insecurities had become paramount.
Could he risk that once more?
Because no matter what he did, it seemed like he would end up being a bad parent to atleast one of his children. With Paris however, there was the added risk of losing a tenured job and not to mention, a guaranteed promotion.
So was it even worth it?
As he stared into the darkened sky, he felt that he knew the answer.