It took a long while to sink in. It was really HIM. Him? How can he barge into her life now like this? Suddenly? Just like that? After ages? At an airport! She wasn’t ready for this. Though she had played this very scenario in her mind umpteen times, it was nothing like that. It wasn’t supposed to take her off guard like that! She found herself stone still. What should she do? He had seen her too. They had to do something about that now. It was a tricky situation.
Then he smiled. And she found herself smiling instantaneously. As if she had no control over it anymore. She was surprised. She was known to be more or less a control freak in almost every aspect of her life. But she was relieved at the same time that she smiled, anything else would have been really awkward.
Then he started in her direction. And she too allowed herself slow, measured steps. Smile was intact on both their faces. It felt like a distance of an eternity. Perhaps it was. There was so much she needed to ask him, so much she wanted to say. How will this whole thing unravel, she wondered. She had complaints – with him and for that matter, with herself too. How will she be able to communicate all that she’d been holding inside her all those years?
She had desired this to happen. Even prayed. Not that she needed a closure but… just that there were so many questions… so many grievances.
Will he have some questions too? Some grievances of his own? Would he have prayed for today to happen as well? A surge of something sweet… something tingly ran through her on the mere thought of that possibility. Much like the current she had felt when he had touched her for the first time.
Oh… the first time!
The first times are so good! They have a sensual flavour that nothing else can beat. The first time eyes meet and admit what no words in the world would… the first time a hand is held… the first time one discovers the taste of hungry lips…
She wondered how it would be if there were no second or third times… if all the times felt like the first time. Then perhaps more and more people would die of delirium of ecstasy than other boring reasons. The silly thought widened her smile even more. And she realized that they were quite close now. Probably he took the broader smile as a cue to stretch his smile too.
Oh, how she used to love that smile!
The smile that spread to his whole face and peeped through his eyes in a sweet yet mischievous way.
It was the same smile. Although there were added lines of senescence, and crow’s feet around the eyes she didn’t remember seeing before, yet it had the same magnetic power she was so drawn to.
And now they were face to face. Perhaps neither of them knew how to proceed further. There was so much to say, so much to ask… it was like meeting after a lifetime. In a way, they were meeting after a lifetime. A lifetime which was no longer shared… where they had their own separate paths… the paths the other had no clue about.
It’s not like the idea of looking him up on social hadn’t occurred to or tempted her. She just couldn’t bring herself to face the new actuality. That he wasn’t the same person anymore. She didn’t want to meet this new person he would have become – someone who was someone else’s husband, someone else’s father. She didn’t know that person and had no desire of getting acquainted to him.
For that matter, she would never visit the city they were together in, ever again. She didn’t want to tarnish its memories by seeing it sans the love and joie de vivre they had shared there. She wanted that place to be immaculate in her heart forever.
Now that they had seen each other up close for a good long while and had smiled enough, they needed to say something… but what…?
And then, she didn’t know who initiated, but they simply hugged each other.
It was so spontaneous… so instinctive… and so congenial. There was not an iota of awkwardness. As if they had been doing that every day. As if no time had passed between their parting and this…
And there was the same tenderness as before. As if she had no questions, no grudges ever… nothing to be said… nothing to be heard.
What grudges, really? All melted away in the moment… even her… never to be unmolten the way it was. What remained was what it was… this instant.
She thought how it was so simple and effortless to connect to some ‘special’ people and how we sometimes spend our whole lives in trying to bond with some others… often not to much avail.
She could feel her eyes welling up a little and she wondered how he would be feeling at that point. Would he be feeling the same overwhelming emotions – very chaotic and very serene at the same time? Did he also feel the unshakeable bond that defied time and space… and… reason?
Would he have found something similar with someone else as well? Or something better?
What could be better than this?
She wasn’t the possessive, jealous sorts at all but she felt her throat choking up with… envy? Not envy really, something like envy. More like resentment at losing something what could have been absolutely amazing.
Would she have loved him the same way if they had never parted ways? Or is it the invincible distance between them that had her make him sit on a pedestal?
Did she still love him? The same?
What? Where was all that acrimony, that heartache? And that pragmatism that she was so proud of?
How could she be melting in a pool of schmaltz like an ignoramus simpleton?
She didn’t know. She didn’t want to know.
She closed her eyes and two little drops fell on his shirt… got absorbed into the intricate mishmash of weaves never to be found. And yet she knew they always will be there, as a part of his being.
Yes, they took a little longer than what acquaintances would take to hug, still it wasn’t so long. Perhaps a few seconds more. Oh, those preciously perspicacious few seconds…
The embrace had to be unlocked eventually.
They smiled again.
This time more deeply and fondly.
They were calling for passengers on flight AI 144.
“This is the final boarding call for passengers flying to Delhi on flight AI 144. Your flight is ready to leave. Please go to gate 14 immediately.”
So he left.
He had to leave, didn’t he?
She swallowed hard as she turn towards the exit. There was something heavy at the back of her throat while simultaneously she was feeling light like she had never before.
What had happened just now…? She would never know.
No one would.
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