The plane took off from Los Angeles four hours after the stipulated time, enough to ensure that I would miss my connecting flight from Hong Kong. The airlines had arranged for a hotel in Hong Kong and the flight to New Delhi was scheduled for 2 PM the next day. I was standing in the queue to collect my hotel and meal vouchers, that’s when our eyes met. She was standing in a separate queue, 20 feet apart, the Mumbai passengers who had missed their flight. I smiled meekly and so did she. Her modest smile came as a surprise. Both of us had at least seven or eight more passengers ahead of us. I sized her up from the corner of my eye. She looked gorgeous in a new curly hairstyle, red lipstick and a short sparkling blue dress. She was always dazzling, but standing there she looked even more ravishing than what I could recollect. She had definitely shed some weight. Her slimmer waist made her breasts look bigger than what I saw two years ago.
We had met only once before. Two years ago, aged thirty two, I had decided that it was time to get married. I always believed in the I-will-find-my-partner-on-my-own theory but hadn't found someone, not everyone does. I had just thought that someone would find me. It never happened. I was averse to the idea of logging on to a matrimonial website but that seemed to be my only choice. I created a profile and started hunting for faces. There was a sudden rush of emails, phone calls by the day and night, text messages and in some cases Facebook profile shares. I met few girls as well and enjoyed the varying personalities. The conversations however were boring, the run of the mill reserved how-are-you, I-expect-blah-blah-blah, what-are-your-expectations, no-kids-for-x-number-of-years and what-are-your-long-term-professional-plans, the list went on.
One of these meetings was different. I surprised myself when I flew from Delhi to Mumbai on a weekend to meet this girl. For some reason, some people call it chemistry, there were no reservations from the moment I started talking to her on the phone. When we met, we warmed up to each other instantaneously, like fast college friends who had met after ages. We giggled, joked, shared our banal stories, and even some dark secrets. It was flawless. This-is-it was the thought running in my mind and I'm sure hers too. We had drinks, one too many in the evening and that's when it went wrong, or right, I'll leave that up to you. We woke up in the same bed the next morning. Call it embarrassment, call it guilt, call it denial, call it the sexist she-slept-with-me-in-just-one-meeting thought, it was the last time we met. The fizz disappeared overnight. It ended as spectacularly as it had begun. She didn't try to get in touch with me either.
We came out of our respective queues together. "Hi" I said. "How are you?" she smiled. I felt embarrassed and found it hard to see her in the eyes. The hotel was a five minute walk from the airport exit and we started talking, gazing in opposite directions. She was working with the same company, so was I. She was hitting the gym regularly, which I had guessed. She was traveling a lot, so was I. "Are you married?" she asked suddenly. "No". I wanted to ask her too but refrained from it. The five minute walk could have melted a glacier. The estrangement that I felt had disappeared. It was a ten minute wait to check in at the hotel. In the little time that we had been together we spoke about hundreds of things, we got our room keys but still a million more conversations were left I thought. I regretted the fact that I hadn't seen her in the plane. "Dinner?" I asked. "Why not?" she giggled. Our rooms were on different floors. We decided to meet in the hotel lobby in half an hour.
I got into my room, quickly entered the shower and replayed the night two years ago in my mind. It was hard not to. I came out of shower, dressed in polo and shorts, made an important phone call and rushed to the lobby. "We will eat, probably have a quick drink and then head back to our rooms". That was the script that I played in my mind repeatedly. It vaporized though once we seated ourselves in the Japanese restaurant, just like the rote learning vanishes during a Mathematics exam. I had forgotten most of her life-stories, so a repeat wasn't as bad as it might sound. I repeated the same vanilla stories of my banal life. Nothing had changed much in last two years I told her, so did she. We moved to the bar after the dinner, the conversations flowed, as effortlessly as a flood and before we realized it was way past midnight. The bartender hesitantly asked us for the last order. "Repeat." I said. "Finish the drink. Say good bye and head to your room." I repeated in my mind.
I woke up at 10 am the next morning, in her room, she sleeping besides me, naked. I slipped out of the bed quietly and walked towards the full length mirror in the bathroom. I gazed at my naked body and was filled with an instant rage. I wished I was the mirror so that I could smash myself into million pieces. My heart was an ocean of guilt. The thoughts sprang from I-shouldn't-have-done-it to why-did-I-do-it to I-will-never-do-it-again. I dressed up quickly and moved towards the door when I saw her cell phone that was lying on the small round table buzz. "Hubby" it flashed.
"Bitch!" I said and rushed out of the room. The thick smoke around me, that had choked me, disappeared. The how-could-I-do-it had turned into how-could-she-do-it. I slept relieved in the flight. I collected my luggage at New Delhi and made a quick call. "Honey, I've landed."
"Waiting for you, you know what, I felt the baby kick me inside this morning" she said excitedly.