Her eyes were too bright and I knew that if I had really looked, I would have seen them glistening with brutally reined in emotions. I resisted turning around. I knew if I had paused I wouldn’t have been able to move again. So, I had let my muscles move of their own accord, an almost involuntary response, taking me away fast, leaving her standing all by herself. The bright lights overhead reflected garishly against the glass that separated us, and after a while I wouldn’t have made out her silhouette even if I had looked back but I knew she hadn’t moved- she had stared at my disappearing figure, long long after I had gone away, probably unbelieving that I won’t turn back.
I wonder if she still wonders… shakes her head in disbelief that I never came back. Or being the woman I knew, does she analyze all the other ways that last conversation could have transpired? Should she have stopped me? Ran after me? I can imagine her, recreating every scenario in her head, anticipating how they could have turned out favorably… and every foray always ending with her blaming herself for my going-away.
Or may be she doesn’t think of me at all. The day I didn’t turn back, the day her unwavering heart broke, with the immense strength she possessed she cast me out completely from her mind and body. I knew that woman too.
That’s all I ever think about, if she ever thinks of me… keep me in the most private recesses of her mind, and take them out from time to time when she’s all by herself, or in our favorite places, replaying our conversations, when no one’s looking?
I saw her across the room, moving with a lady-like grace I had never seen before. But I recognized the movements of her hands as she talked, her laugh that crinkled her eyes. It was almost as if there weren’t twenty years and a lost lifetime separating us. As if it was only yesterday that she blew me a kiss in front of the whole world to see, promising me tomorrow, and sashayed out of the room.
And then suddenly she was turning, browsing the crowded room for known faces. And I suddenly realized that I was terrified. What if she saw me?!…. What if she didn’t?
Her eyes scanned the room, and moved right over me. My heart stopped for a moment, and uncontrollably I let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding. But it stopped midway, as her head jerked back and those dark eyes widened, disbelieving and amazed. We stared at each other across a packed, bustling room for an eternity as our brains tried to catch up with our overloaded senses. And then she started towards me, years of cultivated finesse forgotten, in that child-like walk I remember so well, with a vulnerable urgency in her movements- almost as if she was scared I would disappear again if she looked away or wasn’t fast enough. All the years between us melted away into nothingness. And my heart started pounding frantically like we were in our twenties again.
She stopped less than a foot from me, bracing herself against the tide of the room, and paused, her eyes intent, unfathomable and a beloved, familiar voice asked, “Coffee?”