Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eyes to My Soul - Part V

Think...think...think hard you fool, I told myself as she kept staring at me questioningly. I was standing at the door of a swanky restaurant, fixed under the skeptic looks of a gorgeous girl and the incessant curious glances of the manager and his staff. I still hadn't made up my mind on what to say, and was starting to sweat when the manager came up from behind and
smilingly asked us to sit down and 'make ourselves comfortable', the last part being directed at me (I'm sure he was thoroughly enjoying this spectacle). She led me to a table in the nearest corner of the room and we settled down. I mumbled an incoherent greeting, something that should've sounded like a 'hi' but didn't, and managed a wry smile. She instantly broke into an amused giggle. So she had noticed my discomfort too. Here I was, feeling dehydrated in her presence, and she just sat there laughing at my plight. So very characteristic of her.

But I could take it no more. Frowning, I demanded to know what was so funny. But she just reached across the table, placed her hand over mine, and asked how I had been. And smiled. Just like that. No questions about my prolonged absence, no visible anger, no complaints. I was taken aback for a moment. This wasn't part of the plan. She was supposed to be surprised on seeing me, and bombard me with a thousand questions and rebukes over my sudden disappearance. I had had this conversation over and over in my head a thousand times before coming to see her. She wasn't meant to smile like that. Like she knew everything. But it was just like her to make all my plans go for a complete toss. I was at a loss of words again. She asked me, "How've you been? Life's been treating you pretty well, it seems" while surveying my appearance from head to toe. A hint of amusement was evident on her face. And I involuntarily blushed. And it suddenly felt like old times - the free flow of conversation, the way she could read my mind and the way she always knew how to make me uncomfortable even in my designer shoes - I could see everything falling back into place. And I resigned myself to the moment.

I told her I had been good and that life had been fair to me so far. I told her about my time abroad (only the good parts) and further plans for my career. It was surprising how I'd come with a plan to play all mysterious and hard to get this time round - to reveal less, to mystify her with my stories and to leave her impressed and wanting to rekindle what we'd had earlier. I'd made a lot of effort in these two years to change myself completely and to be the kind of guy I knew she would love. A dash of mystery and style was all I needed to grab her attention now. But look where I finally find myself - telling her all I'd done over the past two years, about my family, friends I'd made and places I'd been to. More surprisingly, she kept prodding me to tell her more and more while she herself revealed very little. All I could get out of her was that she'd been globetrotting quite frequently and writing quite a lot, and was currently in talks with a publisher about a book she had been writing for over a year now. She never once asked me what had happened years ago, when I'd abruptly and completely disappeared from her life. I actually felt stupid reminiscing about it now. I'd blocked her on all social networks, deleted her number and decided never to contact her ever again. Why? Because she'd liked another guy. Because she hadn't instinctively understood my feelings for her and had let her heart be ruled by another. How noble of me, wasn't it? Realization hurts. I was mentally rebuking myself now. And to add to the guilt, she didn't appear to be angry with me at all.

She went over to her friends and excused herself for the afternoon. We ordered food and some wine. I'd quietly kept the lily on the table and slipped on the little gift-wrapped watch into my pocket. I wanted to leave them as a surprise for the end, since she'd spoiled more than half of it already. She let the flower be where it was, pretending she hadn't noticed instead of asking if it was for her, like she would have earlier. Something in her demeanor told me she knew more than she showed. Did she know why I had come, or what I had in mind? Was she giving me time to work towards it, to surprise her? Was she being supportive??

Or was she avoiding it altogether? Was she trying to dissuade me from doing what I was planning to do? Conflicting thoughts kept muddling my head while she ate and I watched her from the corner of my eye. The silence between us felt odd and strangely familiar. Like the last time we'd met. But no, oh no, I didn't want to think about it at that moment. I was here with an agenda, and I had to go forth with it without fail. This was my only chance. So, summoning some courage, I started talking again. Random topic, which I slowly and as casually as I could, steered towards the past. And then I asked her THE question - what had happened with that guy she'd liked? I was regretting it the moment I opened my mouth. But I needed to know. She did not seem to be offended or uncomfortable about the subject, I noted with relief. She looked up from her food and simply said it didn't work out. And she gave a smile which I knew wasn't really what it was meant to look like. She seemed distant today. She wasn't her chirpy, talkative self. She wasn't cracking any jokes or really laughing at anything I said. She just had a plain smile pasted onto her lips. Every move, every word, every expression of her face seemed too subtle for herself. It was like she thought a lot before acting or talking now. And yet, I knew her enough to know she couldn't fake anything, least of all calculate her moves. It seemed as though this was part of her now. Like she had grown up a lot in these few years. I realized with some pain that it wasn't only one of us who had changed. We both had. I sure knew why I had. But what had happened with her as to subdue her so much? Probably the break-up had been bad. But then it was never like her to be so badly affected by anything. What could possibly have transpired in my absence? Whatever it was, I didn't have the courage to ask.

We had finished our meal by then. She called for the cheque while I racked my brains, wondering when and how to breach the subject. The cheque arrived and I grabbed it before she could lay her hands upon it. She insisted a little too much to pay, but how could I have let her? With that we got up and moved out. I picked up the lily behind her and followed her into the foyer, where she smiled at the manager as he thanked her while giving me a funny look. Once outside I looked about, searching for her car. As if on cue, she explained that she had arrived with the others in a friend's car. Thanking my stars, I gestured for her to come with me. She hesitated, but slowly obliged. My confidence had started to soar again and I wanted to go for the kill before the courage waned. She was behaving particularly tamed presently, but I was too chuffed to give much thought to it. We navigated through the crowded, perpetually under-construction roads and corridors of CP to finally reach the parking lot where my Cruze was parked. She looked somewhat admiringly at the car, though said nothing. I asked her to step inside while opening the door for her. She rolled her eyes at me, clearly surprised at my supposedly new-found chivalry. Once inside, she asked me to drop her off at the nearest metro station entrance so she could go home. I offered to drive her home. But she did not budge. I could feel the courage trickling out of me.

I sat there in the driver seat, looking straight ahead, for a moment oblivious to my surroundings, even to her. I wanted to give her the lily and the present. I wanted to ask her out on a date, yes, that's what I had come down to accomplish today. I was confident she won't be able to turn me down this time. It had seemed completely out of the question earlier. Now I knew not how to even make her stay for two more minutes. My mind was racing but nothing seemed to be coming to it. She suddenly gave me a little nudge and asked what I was waiting for. Sigh. I started to slowly drive out of the lot, deliberately turning my face towards the window, pretending to back the car carefully, so that she couldn't see the anxiety and unrest writ large on my face. Before I realized, we were standing right in front of the Metro entrance. She gathered her stuff, thanked me for the meal and the surprise turn-up and in a swift movement, stepped out without so much as a second glance at me.

So this was it. All those months of maniacal perseverance, all my faith, all the hopes I'd pinned on this one meeting - dashed. Crushed to pulp under her high heels. I could not assimilate what had just happened. We met, I surprised her with my sudden reappearance, we had a great meal, we chatted nearly like old times, and I drove her here - and then she just got up and left. Something was grossly wrong here. I did get a chance to tell her why I had come back. I couldn't manage to voice my true feelings to her - I just failed at it, again. I felt a familiar stab of pain tearing through my heart. When I'd wished we could go back into time to those old days, I hadn't fathomed every single thing would be the same. I'd hoped, rather known, that this time would be different. But it just wasn't anymore. She'd left - yet again.

I thought I'd been sitting there alone for an eternity when there was a gentle tap on my window. I rolled it down and sat looking at her in confusion - was it indeed her or was I imagining again, like I did ever so often? She smiled. Playfully. I gaped at her with an open mouth. She said she'd left something behind. I looked about the car in confusion, but found nothing belonging to her. I glanced back at her with a blank expression to see her grinning. She pointed at the lily lying on the back seat and asked if I was keeping it for another girl I was going to meet afterwards. I picked up the lily and looking at it, suddenly seemed to wake up from a dream. She took it gleefully from me and then began making expressive, overt gestures towards my trousers. I didn't seem to get it at first. She certainly wasn't a nympho to be suggesting what I was thinking. She rolled her eyes. I felt around and then found what she meant - the present! The watch I'd brought for her!! And to think I'd forgotten about it in my gloom. She grinned and said, "How could you possibly think I wouldn't notice? Nothing ever escapes my eye!" and winked. She literally winked at me. And then, just as suddenly as she had appeared, she skipped away to the station entrance again. But just before entering, as I looked on in amazement, she turned back and gave me the most glorious smile I'd seen in an eternity. The sun seemed to shine brighter as she smiled. And then she was gone.

So this wasn't the end after all. I knew in my heart now that it wasn't. It was but a start. A start to something I couldn't, till a while ago, have fathomed would happen. But I knew that smile only too well - it was gonna happen now. And I just sat there smiling to I hadn't in years.

For the rest of the series, visit here.


Sushmit said...

Cruze ki advertisement honi chaiye ye B-)

Mahima said...

Could you further my case to the Chevy people please, Sushmit? :B