01. Where we left off | Unconditional

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

“Nine two zero one”, I said, shutting the door. There were confirmatory beeps from the keypad as the cabbie keyed the digits into his tracking device and started the engine. “Shall we start?” he asked, without turning back but looking at me through his rear-view mirror. I nodded and turned to look out the window…


“Nine two zero one”, I said, shutting the door.

There were confirmatory beeps from the keypad as the cabbie keyed the digits into his tracking device and started the engine.

“Shall we start?” he asked, without turning back but looking at me through his rear-view mirror.

I nodded and turned to look out the window as he pulled away from the kerb and joined the long queue of vehicles getting out of the airport. As we left the final gate and joined the traffic headed into the city, it started to drizzle. Absently, I traced a few drops actually on the other side of the window glass, with my fingers and tried to get them to form patterns.

It had been six years since I had last seen her. The day before I had flown out, I had called her.

“J, I’m moving out of this city soon.” I had said, kind of apologetically. “Meet me for a cuppa?”

“I can’t.” She had refused. “I am too busy here at office.”

“Take an hour off or get off early.” I had tried to reason with her. “I am really moving away.”

“I don’t think I would be able to.” She had insisted.

“J… don’t know when we would see each other again.”

She hung up. I had been miffed.

Four days later, I had flown out of the city. Initially, I had only flown to Mumbai. After spending a few days there, I had bene invited to join the primary team of the project in Adelaide. By that time, Juhi and me had had an ugly fight. And she had told me not to try to talk to her again. I had left without saying goodbye. She had been the one person that I missed as I had sat on that long flight to Adelaide.

Months later, browsing through my contacts list, I saw that she had unblocked me.

Hesitantly, I had said “Hi”.

Not really expecting a reply. But the next morning, I had been happily surprised to see that she had replied. Not just a reply, she had sent me a long message.

“Hello! How have you been? Where are you now? I think about you a lot. I am happy that you are talking to me again. Do reply.”

And then, we had stayed in touch.

The driver braked suddenly to avoid another car. My bag almost slipped off the seat next to me. I put a hand on it and felt the brush of the special gift I had brought back. For her. I pulled it out and held it in my hand. It was wrapped in gift paper, but I knew what it contained. A picture. Of her favourite restaurant in another country. She had never been there herself. She had read a book once and had fallen in love with the place.  I placed it back within the bag and turned to look out. It was already dark, though nightfall was technically two hours away.

We approached an intersection. One could go both ways. But almost seven years ago, she had showed me a shortcut that avoided most traffic. I bade the driver disengage from his map and follow my directions. Finally, we were at the main gate.

I paid the driver and stepped out. Something… caused me to look up. There she was, on the third-floor balcony, smiling down at me. The ceiling light in her balcony framed a cascade of rain drops in a halo around her head. As I headed into the basement of the apartment building, I felt her run to her door in anticipation. I could feel my heart beating faster.

“What would it be like?” I wondered. “After all these years…”

“Ting!” The bell rang and the pre-recorded robotic woman’s voice followed with.

“Third floor. Please close the door…”

The door started to open, and I saw her standing there. Just by the lift.

She flew into my arms and I hugged her tight.

Finally, she started to let go and pulled back.

I cupped my hands to her face and said, “J, I missed you.” And I kissed her softly on her cheeks.

Tears streamed down her face. Taking my hand and holding it tightly, she led me to her apartment.

After I had washed up, she brought two plates of upma with coconut chutney and sat down beside me on the couch.

“Eat.” She said.

I took a spoon of it. The aroma was already making me ravenous. “It tastes exactly like I like it.”

She smiled. “Am glad you like it.”

We didn’t have anything new to talk about, because we had chatted such a lot over the years. I knew everything that had happened in her life and she knew everything that had transpired with me. Except of course, the past few hours I had been on the long flight over.

“You must be jet lagged.” She said, showing me to my room. “Take rest tonight.”

I spent a few days with Juhi. She took me to all the places she had talked about, took me to her new office and showed me off. I liked the attention she was showering me with. Then it was my last day with her. I had to fly to Chennai for some office meetings, before I flew back.


About the author:

Sujay Sarma is an IT industry veteran, about 43 years of age. He has spent 25 years in the IT industry and has done it all, and seen it all. Now, his passion is writing [blogs, stories, novels] and music. He has his own YouTube channel called "Sujay Sarma's Musical Adventures" where he posts his covers and originals, and a Podcast named "Interesting People Interesting Stories".
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