Short Stories TerminalSeries

Love in Transit

I see him every day, same time…sipping coffee while his eyes await someone’s presence. And this has been happening every day for a few hours. In the beginning, I thought he must really like the coffee here at Costa…where I work. But then I thought there must be more to it. I observed his constant gaze at the Arrivals. Even while trying to pay for the coffee, he would try to look at least a few times at the Arrivals. Who was he waiting for? I wondered to myself often but I would get so busy dealing with other customers that as he would take a seat somewhere in the café, he would fade out of my mind. I would go about my business till he would show himself up again in the morning almost at the same time.  

There is such a buzz at the Airport and usually so much going on at a café that is next to Arrivals. Then how come, I remembered him in the crowd? How?!

I guess there is something very charming about him. He is not overtly stylish or in line with trends. Yet he walks with a certain élan, adding a certain enigma to his personality. Everyone around him notices as he walks past them. He cannot be missed just as any guy. Maybe it is his height or his light blue crisp shirts or just his casual demeanour. Or maybe there is this uncanny feeling that surrounds him… cannot place it to date.

Usually, as he enters the cafe and places his order for his cappuccino, there is an announcement about a flight from the United States. And there is this noticeable excitement in his demeanour. There is this slight sprinkling of emotions on his face, a smile and a look of longing in his eyes as he looks towards the passengers coming from the flight…as if someone special is about to come. And this would carry on for two hours every day…till the last passenger has deported the flight. And then almost instantly his face looks grim as if a thousand clouds have covered an otherwise very sunny morning.

It is indeed heartening to watch him go through such doldrums of emotions every single day. But he speaks about it to no one and no one speaks to him about it. As soon as the hustle of the flight comes to a still, he seems to gather his thoughts and emotions and make his way out of the airport…only to be seen again the next day at same time.

Anyways, since his face has become so familiar, I start preparing his favourite brew as soon as I would spot him in the coffee shop. Gradually, he too has started acknowledging my presence. From a glance to a smile to casual greetings to slight conversations on weather, we enjoy this light chit-chat.   The conversations are light, nothing personal. He comes across as a very fine light spirited man, doing well in life. Then why would someone like him spend two precious hours of a day waiting at Arrivals and for what? As days are going by, I notice myself becoming inquisitive about him. I want to know why he is here. Is he here for somebody special? A girlfriend? Or someone else? Or Something else? I keep my questions to myself. Till one day…

Today also it seems just another fine day. Except that, it has been raining a bit more than usual for London weather. I hurry my way into the coffee shop, take my trench coat off and grab a tissue to wipe a few rain droplets off my face. As I do so, my eyes graze the coffee shop for him as I knew I was late for work. I knew it is his usual time of being in Costa…but no sign of him. I get to work.

I start serving customers at the counter as a whole line has gathered. And then as the crowd disburses, I notice someone fold a huge newspaper away from his face in the corner of the coffee shop. It is him, strangely enough hiding behind the newspaper all this while and not even looking once towards the Arrivals gate. Yet a grim expression sits on his face.

There is something about his expression that I could not contain myself. I grab his favourite brew and walk towards his seat.

‘Hey, here’s your favourite brew!’ I gave him a big smile and try to peep in the pain in his eyes.

He smiles faintly and looks in my eyes, ‘I don’t feel like having it today… I shouldn’t be here. I don’t know why I’ve come every day…it’s all been in vain.’ There is a pain in his voice and eyes.

I looked at him in disbelief, ‘Why, what has happened? Are you ok?’

I pull a chair and sit next to him.

‘I wanted to ask you for so long…what is it…why…but could not…did not want to ask you something personal…but now…looking at you like this…please…if you feel comfortable, you can tell me.’

‘No it’s ok. I have been coming here because I have been waiting for someone. Someone special…we met in New York. But today has been the last day of the promise. She did not come.’

‘Who? Your girlfriend? Why were you waiting for her? Can’t you call her and ask her?’

‘You see, she is not my girlfriend. Yet, she is someone special. I always thought that woman of my dreams does not exist in real life till about last few days but then as the date started approaching, I was drawn to the airport and in the process got to know my deep feelings for her.’

‘You might feel better if you just say it out… what you are feeling, and how it all happened…but if you do not want to…’

My words get faded as he starts to speak again.

‘I met her for the first time when we landed at New York Airport. Our bags got exchanged…I took her black carry-on bag by mistake which was identical to mine. As I started to walk outside, I heard a little noise behind me…turns out it was her. She, accompanied with Airport authorities were running behind me for the bag. I must say, she was in distress and quite tired due to the long flight… yet she was a gorgeous girl with beautiful brown curly tresses to her waist and a very unlikely fresh morning face at the airport.’   

He paused as if he was admiring her beauty in his mind.

‘As luck would have it, a mild argument over the exchange of suitcases transformed into full-fledged conversations about so many random things. We both got out of the airport and waited to take a taxi to Manhattan. She was here to spend a day and then was taking a flight to LA where her family was… I just thought this one day is so special! I asked her if she would love to see the touristy side of New York City…with me and…to my surprise, she agreed. I was also in New York for business, just five days. I thought if I get to spend one single day with her, I will feel blessed my entire life. And god! I was so right…

It was like the most beautiful gift…that day with her…most blissful. There was this fascination that was almost magnetic, between us. She seemed drawn to me like I was to her but we spoke nothing about our fascination initially. It felt like we’d known each other for a very, very long time.

We casually roamed the streets, took refuge in local cafes, took some insanely funny pictures using random street knick knacks as props. Sometimes, you get that feeling that you could be yourself with someone…without any fear of judgment…you know what I mean? She was like that to me…we just shed that inhibition of being with a stranger and started clicking pictures together. We walked so much the entire day, we must have covered the entire Manhattan and observed such mix of cultures and colours as if everything around us had become more vibrant- just because she was with me. Our conversations seemed to not end, food was tastier and weather… just the icing on the cake! I was on top of the world!

And then we kept on partying till the wee hours of the night. But as the morning was drawing…just a few hours away, I started feeling that nudge in my heart that she is going to go away. And then I popped her question, “Would you like to spend your life with me?”

She looked at me as if I had cracked a joke like I have been doing since morning. But then my eyes spoke the truth. She knew I was serious. And then what she said pierced something in me.”

“Why? What did she say?”

“She said, she is already engaged. She cannot be with me as everything has been fixed and she will just return to London once in June…to receive her certificate in fashion design. My heart broke when I heard that. Looking at my face, she could not contain the sadness brewing up inside her. She too was not happy with this prospective marriage as she did not know the guy she was marrying and today was the day she had taken out to just soak in the moments before the D-day. She wanted to soak in so much happiness, freedom and chilled out time today that if tomorrow she does not feel like this, she would not feel bad. She had wanted this day to be special and it had been just that. As the morning was slowly approaching, every moment was… as if taking away a piece of us. And then it was time. We took a taxi to the Airport and waited for her flight…with a heavy heart.”

“So that’s why you were here…to meet her? She had said that she would be in London for collecting her certificate? You did not exchange any email or phone number to be in touch?”

“When she told me she was engaged and showed reluctance on taking this day, this relationship any further, I did not ask her for any contact details…little did I know I will go crazy at this airport trying to find her pretty face in this sea of people. At least, I told her I loved her. I wanted to hear she loved me too. But she was reluctant. And so I told her, if she makes up her mind I will wait for her at London Airport -the entire June.”

I start to smile. He notices it and says, ‘You are smiling but she started to laugh. She said I am crazy and that since we’ve not exchanged any contact info, how can we meet? But then I told her if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. How did we meet today? It was not planned by you or me. Besides, I cannot force you to be with me if you have decided to be with someone else…

“But you know now that I have not chosen him…” She started to look away and I think she had tears in her eyes.”

There was this excitement of feeling really connected to someone, but then we had to go our own ways.

“Then don’t go. Marry me…”I said to her.

She just smiled and took her phone out to feed in my phone number. But I did not say anything further. And she knew if it was meant to be, it will be.

So after a long pause, as if she was collecting her thoughts, she smiled and asked playfully where she should look for me when she reaches London Airport.

And I told her, “I will be at the Costa Café, next to Arrivals.”

But then I asked her how will I know she has come for me and not for collecting her certificate only?

And she said, “I will wear this same peach dress and order your favourite brew at the café.”

And then with a heavy heart, we gave each other the longest hug and she went towards the flight.’

I think I did not move for a good five minutes after he took a long pause.

I am thinking to myself does true love exists? Because if it does, then I am in complete awe of this man.

I cannot stop myself and ask him ‘But how could you let her go?’

I am genuinely pained by his sacrifice.

‘What meaning love has when you don’t have the persistence to have that special someone in your life? Tell me.’

I am listening awestruck and tongue-tied.

‘She kept on turning back and looking at me while she was walking away.

I said to myself, “I have to meet her.”

So I showed up every single day, the entire June. Although we’d known each other for only a few hours, it seemed like eternity…like I knew her all along. It didn’t seem right without her. I knew as the plane took off that she is the one… but seems she has decided something else.’

The moment he said this, he just broke down. It seems he was carrying a heavy burden and as he spoke to me, and that pain surfaced.

As another flight arrived, there was a commotion in the café again. I gave him an understanding look and walked towards the counter. As I start serving people, I notice someone enter the café. She starts to give the order but has a strange inquisitiveness in her eyes.

‘One decaf cappuccino with add-on milk, a vanilla spoonful and whipped cream please.’

As soon as she said this, I looked at her and gave her the biggest smile.

She looked at me, stunned for a second. I just pointed her in his direction in the corner of the café. In a split second, I saw so many exciting colours on her face…much more than a bright sunny day!

She ran towards him. He gave her an astonishing look and then they embraced each other.

As they did, I remembered his words and knew the depth in them. True love isn’t about obsessively getting someone in your life at the cost of their happiness. When you let someone chose for themselves so that they could be happy and still that person comes back to you, then that love is yours forever.

True love is indeed about letting go.

And I, for this first time witnessed a true love story at Arrivals.

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