Things do happen. The details around which you weave several fictitious sequences of life. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful place. Sometimes it’s a hospital canteen where they serve this amazing Chai Special. The smells of antibiotics make each sip heavenly. There’s a waiter who looks across from the serving desk. He bends a little from the upper partition of the steel desk and steals a glance. He always looks amused in this particular sequence. I always find myself sitting opposite him, sipping. Of course, there’s someone else sitting right across the table. He is with me. He has a common name. He, like the waiter, is a regular in this one. So we are sitting and sipping. I am struggling to control the blush of emotions on my face. In vain, yes. He is unfazed, staring and searching my eyes. We are in a serious situation that doesn’t concern us. It’s a common friend whose sickness has brought us together on this table over a cup of chai. We both love this friend, obviously.
He is seeing me for the first time. You know when two people sit face to face and become self-conscious of the ugly curves of their faces. The actual seeing. So every word that my eyes speak is like a brand new addition into his vocabulary. He is also reading the punctuations. The question marks, the exclamations, the semi colons and the full stops. He will know any minute now that there never was a room for the commas.
I am acting normal. That’s quite a task. For once, I am not thinking of my chapped lips or the inner strap that is showing from my tee or the extra greasy corner of my nose. I don’t care if he finds my face pretty or ugly. I am just trying to handle the same emotion he has on his face. Boy, that’s driving me nuts.
Of course there are these absolutely bizarre topics. Too much antibiotics make human bodies immune to some medicines. Kejriwaal is not the answer to our problems, it’s us who need to change. Many people thought ‘Baby’ didn’t have a suspense, how silly! Most espionage movies don’t have suspense. Ha ha. The blaring news channel directly over his head is the perfect setting for these random topics.
They said there’s a silence before a storm. I waited for that silence. But the storm is already brewing. It’s too late. I am seeing it in his eyes. They are telling me he had always wanted me. He didn’t know if he loved me. He still doesn’t. There was just never the right time, or the right intention or the right phase or whatever the rights there were. I wanted to skip this part and nurse the grudge and let it become a balm.
It’s too late now. My eyes are hungry to send the forgiveness signal. He is focused now. He is not missing a single chance of catching my eyes. The topics aren’t helping anymore.
‘ I have hurt you.’ I am avoiding his gaze. My cup is empty. His is half-full. I put both my hands on each of my eyes, as if in fatigue but basically trying to alter the emotions. That does the trick for a few seconds. He is studying every nook of my face. He is not embarrassed anymore. Oh wait, he is sorry.
His eyes find mine. I try the plastic smile but even that façade betrays me. I have a strong urge to scratch my nose at this point. I am extending my hand instead. He extends his, oddly. See you soon, I say, knowing well I never will.
As I descend the stairs in no particular hurry, the smell of freshly brewed chai wafts through the air again.