She was late. Not like I was in a hurry or anything, and she called to say she was running late and sounded flustered and it really didn’t matter as I had plenty to do anyway, so I told her it was fine.
I waited in the mall. Just outside of the restaurant we were to have lunch. I looked up from my papers and there she was. A vision of red. I smiled. I knew why she wore red. It was a gorgeous red. Standing out among all the other pales as she stepped out of the elevators and came forward to the railing and peeped down. We were on the 3rd floor of the mall and I was on the other end of the circle. With her large bag slung from her shoulder, hair loose and framing her oval face, I saw her look all around, searching for me.
There is something perverse about watching someone search for you. Romantic at times, it kicks in a certain want, a lust even to be wanted and searched for. I get up and walk towards her along the other end. She catches my eye and smiles and starts walking quickly along to reach me. I see how put together she seems.
The gorgeous red cotton sari draping her curved full hips, the swish of the pleats as her legs carry her gracefully towards me. The pallu draped casually on her chest, the careless way it fell off her shoulder, hovering over her waist, with an occasional show of her skin. The rounded arms ending in slim wrists with the two thin gold bangles that caught the sun, her waist length hair flying away from her temples and shoulder as the wind blew and her small round black bindi between her arched dark eyebrows. Thick chunky silver beaded along her neck accentuating silver earrings, the jhumkas I gifted her, as she told me afterwards.
How she could pull off a worried yet smiling and an apologetic face is beyond me but she did. Apologizing for her late arrival, she tucked her hair behind her ears and looked at me with liquid brown eyes. I wanted to hug her, but instead steeled myself to just touch her elbow and say it’s okay, and steered her towards the restaurant while she kept a steady flow ore excuses, reasons and complaints on why she was delayed. She hated IST, and how laid back folks were, and how she didn’t have a ride and how she hated being dependent!
Steering her clear with an occasional nod and pacifying her at the same time we arrived at the restaurant and luckily were led to a quiet corner. Heaving a sigh of relief as the cool air hit us, we took a deep breath and looked at each other. A little quieter but yet annoyed, she smiled forcefully.
“This is how I wanted you to see me. In red. I luckily found this two days ago, and I HAD to wear it.”
I take in her enthusiasm, her childish excitement and peeve for how perfect she wanted for things to be, to fall into place and I nodded.
“You look beautiful”
She blushed. I could see the now disappearing sweat around her temples, the glistening skin on her forearms, the curve of her lips and the softening of her eyes.
Of random ness. Of the mundane. Of the daily. Of the routine. Of the memories. Mine. Hers. Things I had not thought of for many years came by quickly through me. Of pickled onions. Of manholes. Of money. Of truancy. Of guilt and ethics of the past. Of doggy bags. Of the less fortunate. Of food. Of lives long gone. Of apartments.
She handed me a brushed bronze pocket watch, a small dial on a chain in a small bag. It was a gift. She smiled, just a little something to remember this time. I took it, unsure of what I would do with a pocket watch, but it was a watch and she knew I liked watches, so that made me happy.
We barely ate. I could tell she wasn’t. I didn’t eat much either. Maybe it was me, but neither felt hungry enough, or maybe it was the anticipation of meeting. Maybe it was the heat. It was time to go.
She leaned on my shoulder as I gave the taxi guy directions from the back seat. I was making conversation, and she nodded and remained silent, preoccupied but yet very present. The way her eyes flickered with interest, her lips curved with a slight dimple above when she felt happy, as I pointed out familiar landmarks. The hotel I stayed the last trip when I spoke with her, the buildings that were once work, the roads that I had traveled in another lifetime, with other souls.
With barely contained excitement I opened the door to my apartment of the last few days. The place that was mine more than anything else I owned. The details, the time spent in hashing details, the journey and the pains and travails to become a home owner. For the first time. I had worked hard to hold on to it, through the empty walls, the offers that came and ones I refused to the ones that fell through. The investment, the memories it carried, and clearly all that emotional investiture was coming to a head. I had never dreamt of her walking in along with me here one day. I did hold this place as a back up for her for one day if needed but to actually see her walk around the empty rooms, touching the walls, the kitchen counter, the tiles in the bathrooms, the balcony and then the mirrors, was almost surreal.
She walked with rounded eyes. Slowly. Following my lead as I showed her the little parts of a long ago me that raised this place with so much care and love. The balcony, we were high up and the winds were strong. She lent on the railing and immediately lurched back.
Head spins! yes, I laughed, Let’s go back in, here, this is the master bedroom. See, we had two closets.
She twirled around in the middle of the hall. Her sari flying, and from where I stood, the light streaming in through the balcony framing her, she looked divine. A mirage. A vision even. I still couldn’t believe she was here.
Come here,. the kitchen is neat. See the space here in the corner, had to think so hard on how best to use it. Yes, that’s for the maid to use for wash. Through this window you can see those buildings in the corner far away? They seem far form here, but they aren’t. Just about 10 minutes of a drive maybe less. That’s where I worked.
I stood behind her. Over her shoulder as I pointed in the distance. Erect, with her shoulders square. Her hair smelt good, as I bent forward. Smiling, she turned slightly to look at me. Nodding, she breathed in sharply. I couldn’t help but touch her waist. My fingers had hovered ever so slightly at her waist, barely touching, but feeling.
Our voices had dropped to a whisper. The apartment was getting warm. The wind from the balcony barely reached the kitchen. Standing there in the quiet, our thoughts climbing to a crescendo and slowly finding harmony with the other.
She started walking out of the kitchen, when I held her left palm and pulled her close to me.
..and we hugged.
I felt her body relax and tense and heave a sigh of relief, love and happiness as she collapsed into my arms. I cradled and buried my face into her right shoulder and her arm held my neck tight. The skin at her waist felt cool and hot against my right forearm. She rested her neck on my shoulder and held on to me.
I’d waited so long for this moment. To be able to hug and hold her close in a space in my mind that had no room for anything else but her. That’s the least we owed each other I reasoned.
She snug closer to me. Whispering into my neck on how long she had waited. I replied. I don’t remember now what I said, but it didn’t matter. We held a little longer. Neither wanting to let go. Our lips finding skin, cloth, and just in a suspended state of motion to be in touch. The touch. The flaming touch of skin on skin. The happiness, the wait, the pleasure and the agony, interspersed with the love and then lust.
I withdrew to look into her eyes. She looked up at me and then into my eyes and there was just raw emotion as she parted her lips and closed her eyes. A truant thin lock of hair had called across her brown face, dancing on her lips and chin. I gently tucked it away behind her ears, and bent down to touch her lips with mine.
Soft. Cold. Flutter.
Soft. Touch. A pull. A nibble.
The slow dance. Of lips. Of emotions twirling within, of the flutters that held us and rocked us within us, towards each other, as we stood in the closest embrace and kissed. Gently. Slowly. Savoring the moment, with controlled rush in the most natural way possible, to just be with each other.
Like we were meant to.
A simple kiss. A kiss full of love. A love that was pure. A purity that could be tasted in that simple kiss.
And we held each other, and the moment in an embrace that was special. No one mattered. No one else would know. It was just us, in a cocoon, stealing a moment from our lives, defiantly.
This one was for keeps.
For the memory books and for the tales that I may one day tell my grandkids.
I smiled in pain as I let her go.