I did not sleep the whole night due to many reason. For starter, I was apprehensive about this day. Got up from the bed where i was watching movies and playing with my gadgets all night. The first beam of sun usually gets into my window. I opened the curtains and stood there for a while looking at the horizon on the city. Street lights are still on and traffic was almost nil. The city has a beautiful blend of concrete and greenery on its horizon. After taking the glimpse of that beautiful city I went out of the room and made myself a cup of tea in the kitchen. My eyes were swollen due to lack of sleep but I wanted to look the best today. It was the big day, it was The Beautiful Day. The day I had been waiting for past 16 years.
Tea smelled intense. Or maybe it was my sleepless night that every sip of the tea was kicking in instantly. Not for single moment I was feeling sleepy. Roaming into various rooms in my PJs i was trying my best not to feel any excited or overwhelmed. I should have been!
I got to know about this day only a week ago. I was not sure if there was enough time for me to prepare. It’s not like I never dressed up in past 16 years. But this day was very important. I was checking the clock again and again. I had never been a big fan of wall clocks, but i had to get one for the kitchen because I usually have to check it while cooking. I opened the fridge and looked for the ingredients of warm bread pudding. Last I remember he used to like it a lot. Especially the one that I made. I decided to add an extra ingredient today as I had been working on this recipe over past 16 years to bring perfection into it. The only problem with this dessert is that you cannot make it before time. It has to be baked right at the spot. Vanilla ice cream on the other hand was nicely frozen in the freezer.
It is 7:21am. The flight lands at 12:45 PM. It was a direct flight so the chances of getting it delayed were minimal. I thought of checking the flight schedule on my phone. This new app that I had recently installed on my phone for this very day. I guess all these things that i had been doing for past one week are a little abnormal of me. I usually do not do all that otherwise. But I have my reasons.
I sat on the balcony looking at the rising sun which was brighter than I thought for a winter day. Signifies a clear sky, another reason for no flight delays. With a cigarette in one hand and a mug of tea (without sugar) in the other I kept repeating my words in my head, analyzing them and re-analyzing them. The words that I am suppose to say today. The words that will answer to all the questions that he will be asking me.
But what about all my Questions? They are not going to be tough to answer as compared to what he will be asking. But these questions that I am going to be asking should be well phrased and well rehearsed as I might not have much time with him and I have to make up for the past lost 16 years.
The usual preview of the big day is normally quite different from what I am portraying. But for me this day has its own festivity, its own guests list, its own preparations and its own longings.
When I was done with my morning tea and a smoke, I walked to my closet and fished the clothes that I had thought about wearing for the day. And yes I did not buy new clothes for the day, nor I pressed them and hanged them in a hanger the night before. These were the things that I had never done in my life and no, I am not going to be doing it on any big day ever. After looking at a few different shirts I decided which one to wear. A denim is what I always wear at any given day. The major reason for not getting new clothes for today was because I wanted to look myself and not someone who is specially altered for the day. I strongly believe in WYSIWYG (Google it if you don’t know what that is).
Shower was nice and warm. I used my favorite shower gel, it has cocoa butter in it and it smells astoundingly heavenly. I was out of the shower by 8:45. My short hair didn’t need drying, not that I didn’t have much time. I spent fairly longer time in front of the mirror today. Most of the time I was just looking at myself. Back of my mind I was probably just rehearsing the words but majorly it was just the empty mind which is racing to comprehend a lot of voices at the same time. I know this all sounds very weird but I was just clueless about what am I going to be doing today at the airport when I will get to see him, touch him after 16 years.
Last time I saw him was also at the airport, he had tears in his eyes. He didn’t want to go, but he had to, I had to let him go. I knew it that day that this day will come when I will get to be with him again, I just wasn’t sure when. Sixteen years are quite a long time, its almost a quarter of an average human life span. I wonder how much he had changed over all this time. We never saw each other in all these years.
By 9:35 I was ready to leave for the airport. I was nervous, I was happy, I was scared and I was hopeful. I was nervous because I don’t know if I will be able to say all that I had been rehearsing for past one week. I was happy I will be seeing him after such a long time. I was scared, what if he will not like what I will say. I was hopeful because hope was the only thing based on which I let him go sixteen years ago.
I entered the freeway at 10:04 AM to be more precise. It is going to take me at least one hour to get to the airport from here. I had all the time to get to airport, so I thought of stopping over some gas station and get some munches, and may be another cup of tea. But I also had planned to stop at some nice place to have coffee or tea with him on our way back from the airport. I am not sure if he likes coffee or tea more. I am hoping tea!
I don’t mind another cup of tea so I stopped over a gas station which has a nice cafe in the service area. I had been to this place many times before. This had always been my route to airport even if I am going by myself or picking someone up. I don’t know but I had never felt tired for going to airport anytime of the day. Whether I have to pick someone up or drop someone off. It always unwinds me. I don’t feel ashamed saying that I had been to airport all alone sitting in the parking lot or on the drop lane for hours looking at the landing and taking off airplanes. The people from my past know that. Some of them have even accompanied me there many times.
By the time I was out of the cafe, it was already 11:10, and I was now 15 to 20 minutes away from the airport. The traffic on this route is usually heavy, some percentage of traffic are the cars which are heading towards airport. Nowadays people have stopped going to airports to pick and drop their friends and families majorly because the airports are built a little too out of the cities and secondly the bus/cab services are very efficient, and costs very cheap as compared to someone coming and picking you from all the way inside the city. These cabs can be even booked from within the flight menu. You are also given a bus schedule inside the flight so you may choose to pick which bus will take you to your destination, depending upon your landing schedule. Sixteen years ago I remember back in days in my motherland, people used to come to airports in caravans and wagons filled with relatives along with garlands or bouquet for the person who is arriving. Especially for those coming back from Umrah/hajj rituals. Also the ones whose only son working in middle east or somewhere in Birmingham are welcomed warmly to show the appreciation that how much we value pounds and dirham that he had been sending to feed the families. I never understood why would there always be a cricket bat on the trolleys that they bring out of the terminal. I always thought we used to export all these things from here, why are they bringing them back? But this was a different country, and a different decade.
I reached airport exactly at 12:33pm and I believe the flight was about to land, if not landed already! I was standing outside the arrivals, along with a few others who were also there to pick their loved ones. When I looked at the arrivals board, there were still five minutes to the landing time. I thought I should take a walk. So I started walking towards the drop ramp. If you walk to the end of it, you can see the runway from there. As I told earlier I used to go sit on these spots sixteen years ago. As I got there, the view from their gave me a déjà vu as I saw a plane making its final approach. Gears down, flaps down. Except that the déjà vu was real. It had happened sixteen years ago. The only difference was that sixteen years ago it was a Boeing 737-200, and now it was an A380. Another significance of that flight in my deja vudéjà vu for him was that it was his first flight. Oh and yeah, this time, the poor thing got a seat of his own 🙂
Touchdown of that big metallic bird has always given me Goosebumps. This time it gave me a skipped heart beat. I wasn’t scared, but my heart was pounding. Even in such a brilliant whether my forehead and hands were sweating. As soon as the aircraft got lost behind the main airport building, I took out a cigarette from my pack and lit it. I wonder if he smokes now or not. I am not sure if what would I favor.
It will still take him at least 45 minutes to come out, so I thought I will have some beer. I went up to a beverage shop in the airport and got myself a bottle of beer. I started walking towards the arrivals gate. Still trying to recollect all those things that I had to say to him. I still didn’t know if I will even be able to utter a single word. I would rather like to look at him for at least next sixteen year, but let’s be realistic, sixteen seconds is not that bad, or is it?
The first person that came out of the gate was an old man with a shoulder bag, and a documents folder in his hands. The passengers with no checked in luggage are usually the ones who come out first, nothing changed this behavior in past sixteen years 🙂
Somehow I knew I will easily recognize him even after all these years. His curls couldn’t have gone anywhere. I am sure he would be as tall as I am. He was a fair guy back then and he would sure as hell be a fair guy now. Plus how many Pakistanis would be coming out of this flight anyway. The door would slide open and a gust of air conditioned air would hit my face and I could see inside for a moment. Every time it opens I try to scan the crowd for him. Maybe I will be able to see him before he sees me. I was sure he wouldn’t have much of a difficulty in recognizing me. Not to forget I was the only desi standing there anyway. The doors were not tinted but during this time of the day when sun outside is stronger than the dimmer fancy lights of the terminal, I could only see my own reflection in the glass doors and windows
I remember those days when people used to stand outside the arrivals lounge with bouquets and garlands. If I ever have to go pick someone up from one of those flights coming from UAE or Saudi Arab I would make sure I reach airport at least an hour earlier. Get a cup of tea and light a cigarette and watch the show; you can witness some real drama. I have witnessed fake tears, fake laughs and even fake passing out by family members. We desis are one hell of a drama queens I tell you.
As more and more people were coming out of the gate my heart was pounding faster and faster. As the heart was accelerating to pound the things in my mind were getting even more blurred. I was completely losing it but that was not what I was worried about. More than being worried I was excited about getting to see him, hear him, and touch him after sixteen years and that too right in front of my eyes. I had been waiting this day for years.
The door opens and came out a guy who was about five feet nine inches tall. He was wearing sunglasses and a backpack. In two seconds I figured that he wasn’t the one. I turned away to see if the sun was actually out there. In this part of the world, seeing the sun is like a blessing.
As I turned back to look at the gate the guy with sun glasses was almost at an arm’s length from me and there it was that moment. The moment I had been visualizing since ever. The glasses guy turned away and I saw him looking at me with a soft smile, walking towards me with those shining bright eyes filled with tears. It might sound cheesy but now I know why they make the movies go in slow motion in such situations. I guess long time back some crazy guy did actually experience what I was experiencing in that moment. It felt like slow motion but the way those three years that we spent together flashed in front of me like a time lapse was something that I can never explain in any words. He was now standing right in front of me.
As he stood there, looking at me while carrying that backpack and a hand holding the baggage cart, I saw so much in his eyes. One thing I was sure about was that it’s not going to be as tough as I thought it would be after all. The sparkle in his eyes was clearly suggesting that he is glad to be there in that moment. Yes he wasn’t as excited as any person who is meeting some loved one after a long time, but plus side of this was that it wasn’t as bad as that when two people are meeting up to decide over something whose either outcome will be bitter for both of them. I wanted to touch him, but my all senses had bailed out on me. The only organ that I felt was running was probably my heart, whose pounding could probably be heard even at a couple of yards away. I think he noticed too. But he wasn’t really paying attention to detail at that very moment like myself. I tried moving my hands to make gesture of demanding a hug but they failed big time. I took a step forward and put my right hand on his left cheek, as a tear rushed down to fall on my shirt.
With a crackling voice I could only utter a word, and that was a “Hi”.
And he said: “Hey….., how are you baba?”