September 6, 2011

Across the street

He looked across the street. She was on time and she was looking at her watch. She had always been the punctual one, making fun of his inability to get anywhere on time. He wondered what she would say today. It had been a year since she had said anything to him. A year of hell.

His head buzzed with a myriad random thoughts and questions. Permutations and hypotheses. The email had been short. Almost spat-out. "Meet me for coffee tomorrow evening". No time, no place. None was needed, actually. He knew when and where. He had been then and there almost everyday for four years. Four years before last year.

This was where they had met. This was where they had parted.

She seemed worked up. She kept clenching and unclenching her fist. She always did that when she was nervous or angry. He used to hold her hand to pacify her. She would hold his fingers in a death-grip. Not meeting his eye. It always took time, but she calmed down slowly. And smiled.

He longed for that smile. But her face was hidden by the waiter. He could just see her hand by her side. Fist clenched. He felt the sudden urge to hold her hand again, entwine his fingers with her and calm her down. And yet, he stood rooted to his spot, watching her. What was it that stopped him? He didn't know but he was being torn apart.

She only had to look up once to notice him. He was standing right across the street. But she was making the pretense of concentrating on the menu. She wouldn't look up. Not when she was worked up. He knew what she would order. And yet, she was taking her time. Willing it to slow down.

They had always loved this al fresco restaurant. They would sit there making up stories about people on the other side of the street. And their own too. But all that had happened had never been in the script. He wondered if she would include him in her story if she saw him now.

Now. Here and now. A street to cross. A distance of a year. Would the ten steps make it ten more?

As he came to the table, she looked up from the menu. There was a tear welling up. He sat down and took her hand, entwining his fingers with hers. And she smiled.