“Just stop waiting for me,” she said, almost as if she was saying it to herself. Her plea sounded half-hearted. The words were left hanging, waiting for an insistence.

“Stop waiting for me to stop waiting for you,” he smiled back with an aura that betrayed the confusion in the air. She was a little surprised at both the witty reply and the manner in which he delivered it. His smile was contagious. For a moment she forgot about everything and looked up at the ceiling light of the lobby. She could feel his incessant eyes on her. Those eyes weren’t expecting a reply. They were merely admiring and bathing in the happiness that had taken over the atmosphere before either of them could notice.

The next Wednesday came too fast to his liking but at just the right time for her. She was starting to feel assimilated back to the hustle-and-tussle city. Habit is a dangerous thing. It can suck you right back to the old comfort zone if you don’t pay attention and give it enough time. It’s like a sneaky python slithering quietly around your sleeping body and by the time you open your eyes it’ll have been too late to get out of the vice grip.

She cleared the customs check and looked around at the cosmetics store. It was her old airport habit. She didn’t always buy anything but would pass by the cosmetics store to browse through. Looking at the shelves full of mascara and eyeliners, she recalled that this was the last item on her list of “possible future career choices”. She felt grateful that she was able to work on all other career choices at such a young age. “Well you can always start one of those cheap makeup channels on Youtube, “ his words echoed along her thought, “ I won’t watch those things but I can keep the video running, you know, for view count and all.” He had never been a fan of makeup.

The phone started vibrating in her pocket. The familiar number.

“Hi.”

“Hey you’re flying today right?” his voice sounded forced. It was denial thinly veiled with enthusiasm.

“Yea I’m going to the waiting room soon.”

“Oh. Lucky I caught you before you fly off. How are you? Eager? Second-guessing? Thinking of turning back and walking out of the airport?” His voice was back to the joking nature she had grown fond of since the very first day. “There’s always some truth in jokes,” she recalled his words from long ago.

“I’m good. Don’t be silly I’m not turning back. So don’t wait outside the airport until you rot. I’m going to be away for quite some time.”

“How do you know I’m waiting outside the airport,” he played along. “Don’t worry I’m well-trained in this waiting department. I’m outside the airport with a tent, a decent saving account, a copy of “The Terminal” as my guidebook and two years of experience in waiting for someone.”

She imagined his witty and pretty annoying face. He had a special way of mixing a straight nonchalant expression with an aura of sarcasm in his voice and the raised eyebrows. She let out a little laugh.

“Do you have time to talk?” asked he.

“Yea I suppose I do have a little time to spare.”

……

“Have a safe flight, Hazel. If you get lost out there, call the magic digits. The spirit will arrive with the magic chariot and carry you Home.”

“Thanks.” She didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t know what other words she could say. The queue had shortened significantly and she was almost inside the airplane.

“If you’re waiting for me to hang up you know I won’t,” his playful voice broke the silence she was taking refuge in, “The mere idea of you on the other side of the line is good enough for me. So if you don’t want to hang up just keep the call running. Like the old time.” He was referring to the night he lay listening to her sleeping after she dozed off during their chat. She woke up to find a dead phone and later a four hours long call in the history list.

“Okay I’ll hang up now. I need my free hands. Thanks for calling. See you,” the last two words slipped out too fast for her to hold them back.

“Okay. SEE YOU most definitely,” he pressed on those two words like an excited child. Then came the words that had become way too familiar to her, “Let me know when you arrive safely. I’ll miss you.”

Silence took over for a second. She could sense his restlessness on the other end. She wanted to reply to that last sentence of his but something was holding her back. She knew what that something was. “Don’t be afraid to face those moments when your heart flutters and your head is a blur. Face them and listen to what your true self wants to do,” his words from the other day rang in her brain.

“Yea I will let you know. See you.”

“Damn it,” she murmured to herself as she realized the mistake she just repeated.

His phone went silent after the tooting sound. He stared at the image of the sunset skyline on his phone’s background and thought of that conversation they once had about which one each of them preferred — sunrise or sunset. She liked the former better. He looked at the two the same way. To him, the beauty lies in the fact that the day “starts” and “ends” in an identical fashion. There’s no beginning or ending, pretty much like this never-ending story he was sharing with her. He thought of an old quote, “… until the beginning and end blur into something called ‘until we meet again’…”

He looked up at the airplane that was running up towards the western sky and uttered the words as if someone was next to him, “See you…”

t/p