Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Once upon a time- a short fictional story

Maia woke up out of deep sleep as the air hostess tapped her ‘gently’ to straighten the seat. It was landing time. Early hours had made her groggy. The flight was going to halt for full one hour before taking off from Delhi. Oh! how, she hated these stupid connecting flights. For a journey of 4 hours, this was going to take via- via route of 7 hours.  The cabin crew and on ground staff started their regular routine. She decided to stretch her legs. Walked a bit up and down. The crew again asked all passengers to remain seated. Head count once again and they readied themselves for the drill. Maia put on her reading glasses and buried herself in the book.  

Books are great escape on long distant flights. Since she had a window seat, she was left largely undisturbed. A little movement in the row caught her attention and realized a man in 40’s was trying to put his luggage up. Maia thought her breath just stopped, she froze. Not knowing what to do, she quickly hid herself behind the book almost looking out of the window, so that he couldn't see her face. He settled himself in the aisle seat. Maia almost felt that she wasn't breathing and yet her heart was racing wildly and so was her mind..after 25 years, there he was, looking almost the same, a bit older, and a little plumper but yes it was him. She checked him from the corner of her eyes. He looked older but smarter, graying at the temple and also way sharper than what he was earlier.  

So many scenes rushed past in Maia's head. Their chance meeting in college, the 5 years of graduation, their hang-out joints, the movies that watched together, and their bitter miscommunication about another friend. Their fight. She waited for him to make the first move. And he didn't. And neither did she.They never spoke again, she had just upped left for another city for post-grad course, never turning back. In the days of no- emails and no mobiles, it was very easy to lose touch. Life moved on, she had gotten married. Sometimes when she reflected back, she thought about him and wondered where he was and then brushed it away. She had no complaints now, life was good, well-settled, a loving husband, children, career, all was going great. 
Maia always thought that she had so many answered questions about their abrupt break-up then but slowly over the years nothing mattered. 25 years was a long time for anything. Maia brought herself back to the present, there was a dull ache in a her heart. She reminded herself that she was happily married and very much in love with her family. 

She continued looking out of the window, the sky was still darkish and cloudy, it seemed it was going to rain. All this while she still hadn't dared to look up and continued to be buried in the books. Debating furiously in her mind , should she say hello, smile or continue to ignore. Then she decided it was foolish to ignore, they were going to be seated next to each other for the next 1 hour or more. She turned towards him and he looked up. His eyes registered the shock. He managed a faint smile. Maia mumbled a weak ‘Hi’. Thankfully there was no one seated in the middle seat. There was an awkward silence. He uncomfortably looked down in his papers, she looked out. The air hostess was the one to break the silence. She gave water and left. Finally, he asked, 'Maia' Oh! his deep baritone, 25 years and it was the same.  It stirred strange feelings in her 
 Why did you leave ?  She replied ‘I thought, you wanted it that way after our fight’.
There was dead silence. After an uncomfortable pause, he said " That was not what I had meant then, I wanted to explain you but you just left without giving us a chance.  I waited for you every single day Maia, hoping that you would reach out and then one day I gave up on you. I just wish you had said a bye before going. I wish you had just talked once". There was so much anguish and pain in his voice. Maia was stunned because all she heard in their figh was that he didn't want her. She never realized how much pain she had caused. Maia reached out to him and with tears in her eyes and said 'sorry for leaving without saying anything''. It was a heart felt apology for never speaking out, for making someone wait endlessly. Ironically, she had also waited for him. They both had just waited for each other... stupid egos.  Maia thought today,  they had completed what was unsaid and there was nothing more left for each other. 
She looked out of the window- the sky was cloudy but not that dark. 

They made polite conversations. Caught up about 25 years of life in bits and pieces. She spoke about her husband, children. He about his family. He had lost his mom and both his sisters were now settled abroad. He didn't mention a wife and though she was curious, she didn't ask. There was that weird feeling of being so close at one point, yet distant now. The vast many years that made them strangers today. As the plane landed, they parted like two long lost friends. Before leaving,  he gave her a hug( more brotherly), a pat on her head and then said bye.  She felt his eyes were moist but then chided herself , it can't be. This time they parted again not exchanging numbers or emails. 
They went separate ways, just like 25 years back, although this time Maia had no unanswered questions in her mind. Maia got out and looked at the sky, it looked clearer like never before and all blue.