She was lightly drumming her fingers on the Mahogany table. With a slight tilt of her head rested in her left palm, she looked breathtakingly beautiful.
Would you like to have a coffee? I asked.
Sure. Milk please she said.
I looked around there was no waiter in sight. The place wasnt that cheerful. I had never been there before. In a table next to ours a young family sat. The husband was trying to serve the noodles from the larger plate into the smaller plate but the strands were too slippery and he kept missing the spot. His wife was nursing a baby while his elder son looked on. The baby was sound asleep but I couldnt hear it snore. At the other end a boisterous group of teenagers were having merry. They were sharing food and talking loudly. With the noise of cars outside it was too difficult to discern what they were actually saying. She too was looking in the familys direction and when she turned our eyes met. She smiled. And I smiled back.
I said I cant see the waiter
Me neither she replied.
Perhaps they didnt notice us coming in.
No, they should have. We came through the counter.
She was right we did climbed upstairs and there was a counter around the stairs. They should have noticed us. Perhaps they were understaffed I guessed.
Hey you know what? We have become the waiter instead. We are waiting. Arent we? I quipped.
She laughed heartily. Thats funny. She said. Her laughter made her look even more beautiful.
It had been years since I had last seen her. And I had never thought that I would ever be sitting next to her, talking with her. Even earlier in the morning the idea would have been far-fetched till I received her email saying that she was free this afternoon. But ironically now as I was there I couldnt think of anything to say. It was akin to brain freeze that one goes through in the most inopportune moment. After being seated for a while the idea of ordering food finally came into my head.
But there was still no waiter around.
Lovely weather isnt it? I remarked.
Yes, it is lovely indeed. She replied
I looked outside the window. The fall had settled. With setting sun the cool breeze was blowing. Earlier it had rained little but now it had stopped. The cool breeze still carried few drops of moisture along with it. Host of sparrow were perched on the telephone line below. Most were pecking their breast with their beak, while some were simply hopping around. A kite was stuck along the lines. Its color was still bright. Telephone lines together with electrical wires and television cable were all entangled. Their appearance was ugly.
What are you looking at? She asked
Birds. Carefree animals. I said
Of course. Free as bird. She acknowledged.
Its the next best things to be .
Excuse me! .
Sorry. I was reciting Beatles song Free as Bird.
Oh! I havent heard that. She remarked.
Its beautiful song. You should hear it. I suggested.
She glanced at her watch. I looked at mine as well. It was quarter to four.
Are you in hurry? I asked
Yes. Need to pack
At what time is flight?
Tomorrow at eleven
Oh!. I remarked and stared blankly at rafters.
There was a lamp hanging on top and stationary ceiling fan that was all covered with dust. The charring sound of Sizzler brought by waiter to table behind us broke my animation. I beckoned the waiter to take the order, but instead he looked at me scornfully. I was taken aback by his attitude.
I think it is self-service. She said.
The waiter chimed in - Please do place the order below
Grudgingly I stood. I will get the orders. She didnt reply. The aisle was too narrow. And while walking towards the stairs I bumped into one of the boy from the rowdy group. I nearly spilled his beer. I said sorry. He glared at me for a while and then went back to his stupid talk.
I reached downstairs to counter. There was crowd of people all pushing each other for the order. The girl at counter looked tired. People were ordering sandwiches and chopsueys. I ordered two milk coffees.
Anything else? she asked.
I had thousand rupees note and it seemed bit odd to ask for change. So I looked at the delicatessen inside the cake display. I ordered the brownie. She placed the cake on the tray along with two coffee cups and handed me the change. I carried the tray and walked upstairs. The stair was made of wood and creaked at places. It seemed to be recently varnished and there was strong smell of turpentine. I walked through the aisle carefully this time avoiding bumping to anyone. Finally I reached the table and placed the tray on it. She was looking outside of window when I arrived.
Youre back. She said
Yes. Sorry, I took long. It was crowded at the counter
No, need to apologize. Hey a brownie. But sorry I am full I cant have it
Dont worry. I am hungry. I told
She smiled and prudently grabbed the cup. She took the sip and carefully placed it on the table. I also tasted the coffee. It was frothy and light. Not much my liking.
Its too thin. I said
Yes. Seems like the milk is watered down. She remarked.
I dunked the brownie and it was too fragile and crumbled at the bottom. I laughed at my clumsiness and she too laughed. She took another sip. I tried to change the conversation.
So when will you return
I dont know. Perhaps after exam. Problem is exams are never in time
Stirkes? I asked
No, not strikes. Just bureaucratic indolence.
Is it exciting going to wards?
Yes, it is She said.
My coffee was nearly finished. I looked at her cup and there was still plenty. I took bite of brownie.
So what are your plans after studies. Any specialization. I enquired.
She shook her head. Havent thought about it yet.
Thats also an option. Lets see. What about you?
Well either go for teaching or join industry.
Hows job market? She asked
Not that bad. I replied.
We both looked outside the window as if our thoughts were synchronized. The wind was still blowing and some peddlers were soliciting tourist to buy their curio items.
So do you think war will end? I asked
You mean war on terror?
Yeah, that as well as our own Maoist insurgency
I hope so. She remarked
Me too. Things would have been better if it had.
After a while we both finished our meal. We went downstairs and into the road.
So which way will you go? She asked.
Where are you going? I interjected
Catching the micro? She said.
I too am going the same way. Let me accompany you.
We both walked through the crowd. Though the major festivals were over there were enough sellers and buyers in the road. A guy nearby blew smoke from cigarette and she waved her hand to and fro.
You dont like smokers?
I hate smoking She quipped
In a little distance a woman stopped me and asked me to buy a fountain pen promising me that the proceedings will go to charity. She walked little ahead and turned around. Though I was being fleeced I bought the pen and caught up with her. I showed her the pen and she smiled. Pushing our way through the people finally we reached the bus station. A micro was ready and already people were seated in it. She had to cross the road to get there.
I have got to go now She said
Well have a safe trip. And do keep in touch. I said
Good luck. She smiled and we parted
I walked few steps further and took a final turn. She was getting inside the bus. And she stood out among the crowd looking exceptionally beautiful. And the bus drove away.
That was the last time I ever saw her.