It was for the 5th time in the last ten minutes that she had checked her phone. Her thumb knowing its way to his message window, tapping on it to see if he was online. She knew she had to stop this obsession but felt miserably helpless. She had no control over her desperate heart, responsible for this stalker in the making.
“Are you expecting a call?” an enquiring voice pulled her out of her mobile phone.
“ umm, no, it’s just…” she flushed as if was caught in the act.
The man sitting on the other side of the table held her in an eye lock, not intimidating yet powerful enough to make her look away.
“ Let me guess, a guy?” he asked with a confident grin, this time.
A faint smile was all she could gather.
“Trust me, I know all about it.” “Want to talk?”
“But there’s nothing to talk,” she was too brisk with a reply this time, but she figured her flat tone wasn’t convincing enough. May be she did have things to say. In fact, she knew in her heart, she had a lot to drop off her chest. The emotional baggage she had been carrying around had started to reflect in her eyes and she knew it was about time someone perceptive enough would ask her the cause of the visible despair.
“I am here today, tomorrow and whenever you want to talk, you know that, right?”
“And I know what would help for now. Coffee?”
Taking a cue from her smile, the man flagged down at the waiter who was already looking at them expectantly. Gliding effortlessly, making his way through a row of tables bustling with people, the waiter approached them in no time.
The restaurant was unusually packed today, which wasn’t a regular sight on a weekday. The torrential downpour that had started hours ago didn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon and the restaurant manager was generous enough to open their doors for as many people as they could accommodate. The waiters were frantically running around, serving hot coffee to their customers, with a welcoming smile.
There’s was a corner table, resting at the far end of the hall. It was her favorite place in the restaurant, sitting by the window, sipping on her coffee, she could spend hours just being there with herself. And that’s where she had met him – the man who was now sitting right across from her, exuding elegance from politely greeting the waiter to ordering two cups of cappuccino.
It was amusing how she hadn’t really looked at him this closely before. There was something surrealist about him that she couldn’t quite put a finger at – like how every time he smiled, his emerald green eyes would light up like two bright stars, that beautifully sculptured nose impeccably placed on his face, the prominent jaw line tracing the sides of his stubbled cheeks, he loomed a little too ethereal for a man – he was beautiful! Like some mythological character had jumped right out of those paintings we see at the Art galleries.
“Here,” pushing the cup towards her, he smiled her mysterious smile again.
Coyly, she picked the cup and held it in her hand for a moment, and then placed it back on the saucer.
“Have you ever been in love?” she wasn’t sure if she desired to know the answer or it was just a rhetorical question – an innocent effort to give a voice to her aching heart may be.
Though his smiles had been quite a regular sight, but he hadn’t really laughed before that – “Yes! A lot of times”
Seeing the unreadable expression cross her face, he continued “Is that a bad thing, loving a lot?”
“um, I don’t know. I don’t know about anything anymore.”
“I don’t even know how I feel.” Her face changed from being a stoic statue to a grim tale.
“It hurts, doesn’t it?” he helped her find the right words.
“It does! It hurts a lot. And I don’t know what to do about it. I…”
“You do nothing,” he completed the sentence for her, again.
She raised her flooded eyes from the cup to his face as if all her answers were written there.
“Would it make you feel better if I tell you it’s the same for everyone?” he asked.
“ But Isn’t it unfair? ,” she asked.
“It’s the perspective you see. Teaching of a sort, which brings us close to ourselves is bound to come with a price, isn’t it? Love introduces us to the dark corners in our soul that aren’t accessible without the pain it brings. And the pain doesn’t even last forever. It’s a fair deal, if you look at it”
“What do I do?”
“Just be hopeful. Hopeful that the pain is going to fade away and love will find its way back to your heart, sooner than you think.” And he closed the conversation.
A distant voice pulled Jenny back from a deep siesta, she wasn’t sleeping though – just day dreaming.
“Miss Woods, can I get you something else?”
“I am good, Sam. Thank you.”
Outside the window, the world was the same as it was two years ago and the picture inside the restaurant too hadn’t really changed much – Jenny would still walk a few blocks to the “Simpson’s Grill” every Friday, pick the same spot in the farther corner, order her regular cup of cappuccino, while her eyes would longingly scan the crowds for that familiar face she hadn’t seen in years – but she never saw her mystery man again.
She felt a wave of gratitude wash her inside out. She hadn’t had a chance to say a goodbye to an almost stranger, she met many times but knew nothing about. And she knew in that moment, she was going to remember him as – “ The man she met at a grill and who healed her.”
Jenny looked at the empty chair across from her one last time, “Thank you for healing my heart, my friend.”With the fondness in her heart, she turned and slowly walked away.
“That’s what guardians are for, my child,” came a voice from across the table.