As she stepped out of the passenger seat of the car, the engine came to a halt. The rattling of the windows and the cacophony that was on earlier had stopped. Time didn't.
It was just three days ago that she had flown down. He had been visualizing her arrival, the smile on her face, the look in her eyes, the way her hair would cascade down her forehead and the way she would tie it in a bun when it did, the conversations they would have and the hugs they would share. He was a dreamer, she was full of surprises. He was a lover, she was a mystery. He was her friend, she was his destiny.
There was a little bit of tension during the drive to the airport. Words were spoken less, but lots were communicated between the two. The gentle music playing in the car stereo was enough to bring a smile on her face. As he was concentrating on the road, his mind was racing. What would it be like in a few minutes from now? How would he feel when she gets down from the car and boards her flight? Are things going to be the same? Questions like this, he thought always came at the right time. Made him come back to earth. He had always been someone who walked around with his emotions on his sleeve. He never held back. He spoke his mind. She was no different.
They had been friends for a while. But their bond felt like they had known each other forever. Their friendship blossomed because of their love for words, their passion to explore, their aim to make it big and their drive to achieve.
"Kannamma", his soft voice called out to her. She turned around with the innocence in her eyes that made his heart skip a beat. The sudden rush of blood to his temples made him lose it for just a bit and it showed. The car swerved to the right and the driver of the adjacent car on the road gave him the look. "I had a wonderful time", she said. And when you see those eyes when she spoke, you would know that she meant it. He smiled, placing his hands on hers. There was silence once again. The song changed.
"You better be free when I come," she had told him before she came. Without a blink of an eye he had said yes. But he knew his work had its own special way of messing things up for him. But her presence, he felt would change everything for him. He had always been the hardworking type. Work was always something that he was proud of. He was passionate about. And he knew that she was too. In fact, even more than his. He would sit in the terrace atop his house, with the cold monsoon winds caressing his face. He would sit with his legs folded, his hands wrapped around his knees, looking up into the sky and seeing the stars. He would think about how she loved her work, about how proud she made him feel with the kind of things she had achieved. "You still have a long way to go Kannamma," he would constantly tell her. And she knew what he meant.
"Things are going to be different in a few years from now and I don't have much time", she said sipping on her cold coffee. The cream from the coffee left a trail around her lips. She took time between her words. And every pause from her made him realize the depth behind those words. His eyes completely meeting hers and his hand on hers. He would gently run his fingers on the back of her hand in a reassuring way telling her it was all going to be ok. She had her own thoughts. He felt like he didn't know what was going on in her head. He wanted to. He wanted to be a part of her world. The world that was making her say those things.
The phone beeped. The light was shining and he ran to see what the message said. "Come soon. Am waiting for you", it said. Without him trying to do anything he smiled. It was instinctive. Even if the whole world had come crashing down at that time, he wouldn't have cared less. He was happy. There way joy and lots of it at that.
The drive to the airport took longer than she had expected. But for him every wrong turn he took, was in a way giving him an extra five minutes with her. He had always been good with directions. But somehow he didn't get it right this time. Maybe he tried too hard. Maybe he didn't try hard enough. Well, there are more questions to think about on his drive back, he chuckled to himself.
'It's cold", she said, shivering in the cold night standing on the highway. The tiny plastic tea cup clutched between her fingers. Her face turning a shade white thanks to the chill air and he could see a hint of a pink spot on the tip of her nose. "The tea is hot though", she said and smiled. He was standing next to her, taking a deep drag from his cigarette. "Take your time love. We have all the time in the world", he said. She looked at him sipping on the tea and smiled. The traffic on the road was less and there was not much noise. One could hear the cold wind.
“Cleaned you guys up didn’t I?” she said and laughed loudly. She was rubbing her hands in glee before taking all the monopoly money that was used as poker chips. He was a silent observer. He loved the game, but there was no doubt what he loved more. He walked up to the door and stood there outside the house while he heard voices from the group inside the house. The sky was clear and the few stars that were visible were shining bright. He wondered where the other stars were. “Iyer,” a voice called out getting him out of the world of questions that he was getting into. He turned back to see her standing there blowing him a little kiss and smiling beckoning him to come next to her. He just walked slowly, all the while looking at her, at how happy she was and how happy she made him.
He had told her before to not worry about anything in life smile. “Rubbish,” she would say nonchalantly. He wanted her to understand that he was always going to be there for her. “Life is not all rosy and you know it as well” she would say when ever he said something about just taking it easy. She had so many things in that little head of hers.
He received a telephone and he left work. The bike ride to the coffee shop had him thinking again. Standing at a traffic signal, he was just playing back the happenings of the last few days that he had spent with her. The smiles, the words, the emotions, the sharing, the caring, he could go on with those thoughts. Another call on his phone made him snap out of the new world that he had found. The world that was for him and her with the others entering and leaving the stage were like actors.
“Your latte sir”, the waiter called out. He loved coffee and he loved spending time in coffee shops. She did too. It was all these, the number of things they had in common that made him smile and wonder where she had been all these years. After taking a gentle sip on his cup, he looked up to see her. She was lost in her own world. She wanted to go home. She wanted to get back to her world. She was missing her life. He knew that there was much that he could do to help, he felt bad for her. It broke his heart to see her upset or sad. There was no way he would let that happen. Not before, not then, never.
He sat in the car and wore the seatbelt. He knew he needed support for this drive. He had a sinking feeling. He knew this was the hardest thing he had ever done. He hated goodbyes. He was never comfortable with them. Somehow he just didn’t want to let go. He just didn’t want her to go. They reached the airport and she had made it right on time. This was the moment. She stepped out of the passenger seat of the car; the engine came to a halt. The rattling of the windows and the cacophony that was on earlier had stopped. She walked away with her little bag, dragging those wheels on the concrete floor. He stood there looking at her. She never stopped, his feelings never stopped.
Time didn't stop.
He got back in the car, holding back his emotions, holding back his thoughts, holding back… when he heard a beep on his phone “I had a lovely time. You are very special to me. Will call you once I land.”