“I’m telling you it was her man!”
“Boy, you must have been dreaming. How can it be her? She is thousands of miles away.”
“No, dude, I’m pretty sure it was her. I even followed her a little just to make sure. She is here. I’m willing to bet on that.”
We were on our way to a party neither of us wanted to go to when he dropped this bombshell. The thought that she was right here, in this city, made my heart race without my realizing it. It had been what, five years I think. We had said our goodbyes under difficult circumstances. I had never expected to hear from or about her again. But the world is small and in this era of connectedness any person from the past can pop up anywhere.
“So are you going to meet her?”
That question had been hanging in the air between us ever since he had said that she was here.
“I don’t know. Too much baggage still to be cleared on that front. So where did you see her?”
“At that hotel you guys used to frequent, you know.”
Yes, I knew the place. It was our adda so to speak. We were there practically everyday, so much so that the people working there knew us by our first names. In fact, we could get a room at a moments notice, a convenience which we often availed of frequently.
The street lights flashed by outside. The traffic lights blinked like owls. Traffic was sparse in this part of the town. It was a beautiful night. The wind flowing in through the window was cool on the skin. It was like drinking a glass of fresh water from a matka on a hot summer day.
The silence between us had stretched into a comfortable vacuum. Any thought was possible.
“Do you think she will look you up, you know, for old times sake?”
When lines converge life looks different. Ideas of fate take on an entirely different meaning. Yeah, that was indeed a million dollar question.
“I doubt it. If I know her she won’t. She is much stronger than me in that way.”
“What will you do if she called?”
“I’ll say hello.”
“Very funny. Seriously man, what will you do if she called up and said she wanted to meet you?”
How could I answer such a question? I suck at answering hypothetical questions. I can never understand people who are so sure about what they will do if such and such situation came to pass. Life is too random for one to be so confident about one’s reaction in my opinion.
Before I could answer we reached the place. Another hour or two of painfully polite smiles. People whose faces I’d never want to remember or see again. I hope the place had a nice balcony. Balconies are my favorite places at boring parties. Get a nice drink, sit with your legs up on the railing, your eyes communing with the stars and boredom can be thrown down from the balcony.
We entered, said our obligatory hellos to the host and went our separate ways. We had a prearranged meeting point to come to after a certain amount of time if we couldn’t take the party anymore.
I gravitated towards the bar without a second thought. There were cocktails too. Not bad. I picked up a couple of Caipirinha’s and started my search for a balcony. I passed many people but seeing that I was carrying two drinks they just smiled and allowed me to pass by. This was another trick I had picked up. Carry two drinks in your hand, look as if you are searching for someone and people will automatically assume that you have company and thereby leave you alone. The party was on the second floor so there must be one for sure. Ah, there it was, to the side, the door hidden by a palm tree of some kind. I opened the door and stepped out to a decently sized balcony which had an incredible view. The house was the last on a hill so the land dropped away below me and the lights of the city were laid out like jewels. It was an ocean of golden light. It was as if the sky had been inverted and the stars had been brought down from heaven to earth.
“Great view huh.”
I nearly dropped my drinks. I had been so caught up in the view that I hadn’t realized someone else was there. But more than that it was the voice. I could never forget that voice even if I wanted to in a million years. It was a voice that brought to mind the sound of a brook falling over smoothened pebbles. It was a sound filled with the freshness of spring and the romance of winter. It was her.
“When lines converge life looks different.”
She smiled that special smile of hers. A single ray of sunshine peeking into a darkened room. A wave of happiness rising in my heart. She knew how special that sentence was to me. I had made it up one time when we were lying in bed in each others arms, after a particularly wild afternoon of endless sex.
I wasn’t surprised to see her on the balcony though. We both had actually first met on one such balcony. We were both lovers of that special kind of solitude that such places offered in ample quantities. She hadn’t changed at all. It was as if no time had passed between then and now.
“What are you doing here?”
Of all the questions I could think of not asking that should have been the first on the list. She smiled impishly.
“I’m talking to you.”
I couldn’t help but smile back. I had irritated her innumerable number of times with that stupid response.
“You haven’t changed a bit, you know.”
“Well, neither have you.”
“It is so good to see you again. I missed your smile.”
“I can’t say I missed your inane remarks but I do miss hearing your warm voice.”
A comfortable silence flowered then in the space between us as we slipped into whorls of memory. The time when she held me tight and whispered, “Do not ever leave me.” Another time, on a cool summer morning, when she looked into my eyes so intensely and said, “You are very important to me.” The time when she hugged me from behind, under the barren trees, and kissed me on my neck gently. I smiled as I thought of the time when she fell off the bed in the middle of the night but still went on sleeping. There was another time when she fell sick and cried like a little baby in my arms. And there was this time when I slipped a snowball in her panty from behind and laughed so hard when she started dancing like a marionette to get rid of the snow.
“Do you still think of what-ifs?”
“No, that time is long past and you know it.”
“I don’t know. As you just said when lines converge life looks different.”
“You know, I don’t really want to go on this road again right now. I hope you understand?”
I didn’t reply. What could I say or do? I couldn’t force her to do what I wanted. Time had burnt so many bridges between us that we had very little common ground left. In the distance the city burned like a jewel. The myriad little light sources coming together to form one vast garland for the gods.
I went back in time. We had gone on a little hiking trip over a weekend. As we were walking on a small path meandering through a breathtakingly beautiful meadow, she suddenly turned back and hugged me without a word. The love I felt in those arms, with her warm soft body pressed against mine, I still remember to this day. Her words brought me back instantly.
“Do you still go to the Hotel?”
“No, but I heard you are staying there.”
“Your invisible sources again?” “Yes.”
She laughed her clear tinkling laugh again. But when she looked back at me she was serious, her eyes intense and hands all bunched up.
“I know this is out of the blue and perhaps foolish but I’d love it if you can come back to the Hotel with me now.”
And with those words my breath flowed easier again. Had she also felt it? She must have otherwise she wouldn’t have said those words. She had never been the impulsive kind.
I took her hand and walked back out. We did not even say our goodbyes. My friend had seen us going out and would understand. Outside, without a word she moved closer into me and leaned her head on my shoulder. A habit as familiar as the slap of the newspaper landing on my doorstep every morning.
I started the car and turned on the lights. As the gears shifted she leaned in and whispered into my ear. I smiled as I heard the familiar words again. The words shimmered and the memory of their sound remained in the air for a few moments. The past had finally caught up with the future. I drove off into the radiant night.
“When lines converge life begins to look different.”