This was her third flight in the day; finally taking her home. Toying with the silver ring on her finger, Janhavi, for a change, was too tired to entertain thoughts. There was a time when the mere sight of it lifted her spirits, or doomed them, depending on where she stood on the wave of love. Whether she was riding the crest or drowning in the troughs. That was years ago, when hope still nestled in her heart. That’s when she had cultivated the habit of running her fingertips over the smooth curve of the ring. Strange bittersweet comfort would suffuse her nerves upon feeling that circle of love. Presently, she turned and toyed with the ring absentmindedly. In plain mental ennui.
That’s when his voice fell like sledgehammer on her conscience. Suddenly alert like a dog, she sat up with a start. All senses acutely at work. Within seconds she searched the source. Sitting two rows ahead of her, on the right side of the aisle, she saw the head whose every contour she knew. By heart. By hand. By every living cell in her body. It was him, unmistakably. Engaged in banter, joyous and lively as always, his vicinity flooded with laughter.
Her heart sank into her shoes. Breath eluded her body. Her ears burned. Copious tears emerged without warning. Oh! It was him! The bliss of finding a lost god. Oh! The pain of holding oneself back. Her stomach gurgled loud in the absolute stillness of her body. Sandwiched between two strangers, Janhavi dug her face into her chest, and took long breaths to stay alive and sane. Wiping her eyes and nose discreetly to avoid becoming a sight.
Holding her heart tightly between her teeth, turning her ring vigorously by now, breathing heavily and slowly, Janhavi put her focus four feet ahead; on the head she would press to her chest like life itself. The recall came then, and her fingers paused mid-way. She looked at the ring beneath them, the silver ring, which was bought by her for herself. After having found him, she had handed over her only piece of jewelery to him. To the love of her life. He wore it with pride and love around his neck as a pendant on a silver chain. The ring touched the centre of his sternum – her sanctum sanctorum. A million kisses had transpired between that place her lips the day before he returned it to her.
Only when the flight touched earth in a series of bumps did she realize they had landed. Hundreds of thoughts, dialogues, possibilities and climaxes, that could be in the one-hour flight, presented themselves in all histrionics to her mind, and escaped with equal speed and agony. She hung in a state between indecision and delirium, unable to say or do anything. She only watched him ceaselessly. She rose with him, and followed every move of his. His getting up, taking his bag out from the cabin luggage in one brisk move, giving way to his neighbor. Feeling the gaze of someone standing like a statue in the middle of a row, oriented towards him like a sunflower towards the sun, he turned in that direction.
Their eyes met. Time froze where it was. Unsaid words were gulped down the throat. Tears rammed their way through his insides to reach the frontier of his eyes. Eternities were exchanged through sighs weighing like a few million galaxies. Time and space hung in suspended animation. The spell broke when a hand rested itself on the man’s shoulder, enquiring if everything was alright. “Of course,” the reply came a bit too quick. Visibly dishonest.
The moment, after four years of endless yearning and longing, lasted only a few seconds. She saw his back moving towards the crowd, exiting the airport, getting lost in a sea of bodies. What she didn’t see was his hand clutching tight the silver chain that still hung on his bosom, and an invoice of a platinum ring lying in the crevasses of his wallet, dated four years ago.