By Sudharsanan Sampath
Note: I used to write for the sake of writing. But these days work and other distractions get in the way. I was at an airport, waiting for my flight. It was delayed by 2 hours. The internet was shoddy. I had nothing to do. So, I took out my laptop and opened Notes and began typing. Just wanted to do some free writing. I started with “I am at an airport”, as I actually was … at the airport. Rest everything was where my mind took me.
S T R A N D
Chapter 1 – New Beginnings
I am at an airport. Crowded, noisy, bright artificial lights, colorful duty free shops, just picture any international airport, and you wouldn’t be far off. I am alone, tired, sleepless with bloodshot eyes, huddled on a chair looking at bags being carelessly dumped onto an airplane.
What’s going to happen to me?
I am not sure.
Just an hour ago, I was holding her hand, and everything was alright. Eyes shimmering with hope and glee, excited for what’s to come. She was by my side, and that was enough. We had our own little world, and reality was … just a minor detail. I never, in my wildest dreams, could have imagined what was about to come. We were supposed to begin our new life, in a new country that we’ve always dreamed of visiting and calling home. A country that’s famous for white sandy beaches and lush jungles. We had it all planned out. I was going to offer graphic design services online, and she would teach English to local kids. It was a plan that was years in the making. And we were one flight away from making it true.
What is it that Leonard Cohen sang? Everybody knows?
I have a theory that we are much more intelligent than we realise; our subconscious that is. It knows everything. Everything that has happened, everything that’s going to happen. Not in an absolute sense, but as an abstract idea. Maybe I knew. I had a vague feeling, a pit in my stomach. Maybe that’s why I kept kissing her and holding her tight, knowing that those were some of the last kisses we would share.
We were drinking beers in an overpriced airport pub, celebrating our new beginning and waiting for our boarding call. Naturally after a beer, I wanted to use the facilities. I got up, and walked towards the washroom. But I stopped on my tracks, walked back as if I forgot something, held her face close to mine and kissed her. Our last kiss. She smiled.
“Go, we’re getting late!” She said amidst the smile.
I left to the washroom, and that was the last I saw her.
When I made my way back to our table, I was greeted by empty chairs and a note on the table.
‘I am sorry. I can’t do this. You don’t deserve this and I don’t deserve you. I don’t know what else to do. I love you. Don’t look for me. Goodbye.’
At first I thought it was a prank. In the few years, we’ve known each other, we’ve never played pranks. But the mind needs to rationalize right? It can’t navigate sudden U turns. I looked around fully expecting her to come out of a corner laughing. But she never did. That’s when my heart started to race and my mind compiled several possibilities simultaneously. Kidnapping? Kidnapping? Kidnapping?
I realized all the possible explanations my brain came up with involved some form of kidnapping. It’s frozen.
The waiter approached me with a smile to ask if everything was ok. Everything was not ok.
“Excuse me … Ugh! I … Uh … Did you see the woman who was with me? Black hair, black t-shirt?” I was fumbling through words.
“Yeah! She was on the phone, crying! She left.”
Crying? On the phone?
My world stopped making sense.
The next hour was a blur. It was spent running to different terminals, grabbing random females wearing black t-shirts, hyperventilating and wiping tears. I tried calling her at least a hundred times; not an exaggeration. Her phone was switched off. Eventually, I collapsed on a chair in front of a big glass window. Outside, there was a beast of an airplane, patiently waiting while it was being loaded. I looked around. Life was painfully normal; children crying and running, couples holding hands, young people on phones.
Oh, how I would give anything for some sense of normalcy. But I had a feeling that that ship has sailed.
There’s not going to be a ‘normal’ for a long time.