The mobile phone rings in my pocket as I rush to pick her up from the bus stop.
“How long will you take to reach?” She asks.
“Give me a couple of minutes,” I reply, “Almost there.”
“Are they all there already?” she asks.
“I don’t think so,” I am not sure though.
“Ok, waiting,” and she hangs up.
I walk down the pavement, under the flyover and across the road. As I approach the bus stop, my eyes starts searching her in the small crowd gathered there in patient anticipation. There is an old man sitting on the bus stop seat, constantly checking his watch and the road. Two young boys stand leaning on the railing, chatting. A lady with a big bag keeps talking over her mobile walking up and down the stop. There are others too.
And then I see her, standing in the left corner of the bus stop, looking around, not sure where I would be coming from. She has not seen me yet. I check my watch, its 7:05 pm, already 20 minutes more than the time I told her, I would be there by.
“As usual,” I smile, thinking what she will say, just like she always said whenever I was late, “2 minutes is same as 20 minutes to you. Right?”
I am about to move towards her when something holds me and I stop. I stop there in the dark, barely 20 paces away from her, looking at her.
I remember, looking at her from the bus every time as it was about to pull up in front of the bus stop. She used to stand there, holding her folder in front of her chest, with her hands holding it criss-crossed and her head leaning in front, her chin touching the folder. Her eye brows would arch up as she would look around to see if I was coming. And when I would reach up to her, she would complain, “2 minutes, right?” Together we would go to the tuitions. Most of the times there would be other friends too, keeping her busy, as I would struggle to have a word with her, alone.
I still don’t move, and keep looking at her. She is wearing a black saree today. She looks beautiful in this. I remember she used to wear a certain maroon salwar suit often then. There were other dresses too, but I used love seeing her in that. There were times when she would wear that and I would go up to her, telling her that she looked awesome. She used to thank, smiling. I would move away instantly, lest she should read it in my eyes. Tonight, when I see her, I struggle to compare. Did she look more beautiful then, or does she look better now? I think she has grown more beautiful with time. Then, she was a charming girl. Tonight, she has the aura of a complete woman.
She still waits there, looking out for me. Uncertain, she keeps looking on either side. I wonder if she looked for me that day. That day, when her friends were applying mehendi on her hands, when her family was preparing her. I wonder how she would have looked for me that day. May be she was looking, or, may be she was just too busy, for she had a lot of things to go through that day.
I see her fidgeting with her phone. May be she is trying to call me back to check where I am. Almost at the same time my phone rings. But its not her call. I take my phone out to check an incoming message. “Hi,” the message reads, “I am going out with ma. You are meeting them all after 10 years. Take your time and enjoy. Waiting to hear all from you when you are back home. Ok? I love you.”
Just as I look back up at her, I see a little figure coming out from behind her and holding her hand. I didn’t notice her earlier. She may be three or a few months older. May be she is asking her how long they will have to wait. I look at my top right corner of the mobile screen. Its 7:07 pm. 2 minutes have passed.
“Sure,” I type back replying, and then add, “I love you too,” and send back the message to my wife. As the phone flashes delivery report, I smile shaking my head, keep it back in my pocket, take out the chocolate bar I got for the little girl and start walking towards her.
There was a story then, and there’s a story now. In between, don’t know when life interfered. May be someday, somewhere, we shall talk about it, just you and me.
© Arindam Dey