The clock was ticking away, 5:30:06; 07; 08……., I had all the time to count the seconds. The ticking seemed to be in sync with my heartbeats which had assumed the form of a deafening noise, putting pressure against my eardrums. The coffee table was strewn with buff colored coasters, sugar dispenser, tissues(with a logo embossed on the corner and stains on some, which were unwillingly ruffled when another tissue was being picked up- absolutely abhor this kind of unavoidable gesture), a z generation magazine WLT or something( half clad chickas staring out of the pages, a potbellied ol’timer with a 12 stringer, and the works), a coffee container(a cross between a cup and a mug) resting unattended for sometime, the froth settling down and the cool droplets rolling down the periphery and making a pool at the bottom; where of all the darn places there was no coaster, and last but not the least the simple yet sophisticated glass key chain molded like a tomb with the initials engraved- G & S. The more I saw it, the more I hated her.
I suddenly realized that my staring at the coffee for a considerable time was giving a wrong impression to the occasional glances and the pretty waitress standing for any further instructions for 30 min or so. Giving her the most civil smile I could conjure up at the moment, my eyes veered to the girl sitting at the table opposite mine. She was kneeling on the chair, arms crossed, her chin resting on them; her gaze intently fixed on me. She had her ponytails just like any 13 yr old and a red T shirt proclaiming her love for Avril Lavigane in bold words, complete with an over washed and over starched jeans. She was overshadowed by her regular looking parents who seemed to detest the kid’s every action ,correcting her whenever they got a chance; the kid seemed the least bit perturbed by that, her only intention being to bother me with her peering eyes, something which made me detest her at the word go.
“Waiting for your G.F?” Her question knocked the air out of me. “Ah, Hugh, what’s a G.F?” She got down from her perch and walked straight towards me. As she settled down on the chair in front of me I tried to gather my wits. “You know exactly what I mean” and leaning towards me she whispered in my ear “your Girl friend or do you have a boyfriend?” Then with her head held back she started laughing hysterically. And our little table was the cynosure of all eyes. Her pa trying to salvage the situation said, “Deeps leave the man alone, and come back here right now or we are leaving”. Neither heeding his warning nor the stares she continued. “What’s she like, pretty? Like me?” “How does that bother YOU and aren’t you a little bit crazy talking to total strangers about personal stuff?” I retorted back. The bewitching smile still played on her face. “You seemed sad from way up there, I just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t be if you had company” Maybe it was just babble but it made sense to me, I lightened up. “Ok, yes, I’m waiting for my girlfriend for the past one hour; guess she won’t be able to make it”. “Why don’t you call her up?” “She works at an all girls travel agency, and asked me never to disturb her during office hours lest her friends tease her.” “But girls love being teased about their boyfriends; well for one I’d love someone teasing me about my lover.”
“Guess I am caught fibbing. It’s basically a question of trust. She wouldn’t like me checking on her often, and that would amount to breach of trust. I don’t think a girl at your age can understand these complex issues. Also, it hasn’t been that long, just an hour or so give or take.” “I once read in a book, a woman’s psychological makeup at the age of 13 is equivalent to that of a 22 year old guy. How old are you?” “That’s an impertinent question and lemme give you a few pointers regarding flirting, you need to practice it a lot kiddo.”
Before she could mount her attack the waitress approached us. “Is that all sir or would you like anything else?” Before I could answer, Deeps jumped the gun, “He would like the Café latte only if you accompany him,” and continued nonchalantly “a black forest for me.” The waitress evidently taken aback, I tried to make the best out of the situation, “I’m sorry for my friend here, she just hasn’t had the proper training in her etiquettes; what she meant was that if you are free now, you could join us for a cup of coffee and probably help me in dealing with this little devil.” The waitress eyed the room cautiously for any more customers waiting to give orders; finding none and waving at the cashier for being excused, she sat down, taking off her apron at the same time. “So this is your friend?” “Well you could call us buddies”, replied Deeps. “But, I saw you come in with your parents while he came alone.” “That’s because I asked him too; so that he could ask you out, but look at him he was out of words so I had to come, bail him out. He thinks the world of you and that you are as beautiful as a spring flower, and you smell nice too; is that Charlie by Revlon?”
I sat there simply amused at the wisdom of a little girl. The waitress sat there too, blushing at the audacious statements. For the moment silence hung thick in the air, everything seemed to slow down, just like a movie unspooling before your eyes in slow motion, the clock ticking away but for the first time that day I wasn’t bothered, for me that day, that moment; time had stopped. Deeps freshness and laughing like a babbling brook, that wonderful aura surrounding her; Jenny’s (the waitress’ name which I came to know of later) beautiful tresses, her delicate fingers trying to pull back her unruly locks into place and the angelic face with those adorable eyes seeking the truth from my eyes; and I, for once feeling blessed to find heaven on earth.
“Deeps beta, lets go, you would be late for your dance class”, Her Pa’s voice shattered the serenity and the tranquility and I was back to ground zero. Before I could take stock of the situation, Deeps once again leaned towards me and whispered, “And you said I couldn’t flirt, just remember I’m too good for you now but not when I grow up. Also, wait for a second chance, god gives everybody a million chances, people just lose hope after a first shot” and kissing me on the cheeks she was gone like the wind. I spent the next few hours with Jenny and then I proposed and then spent another glorious 12 years before we parted ways. In the beginning, I tried to make sense of what Deeps said but after a while just let it go as a fabrication of a child’s mind. Though I still remembered the moment the three of us shared together now and again.
It was an unusually cold evening in Hartford. The residents were scurrying away in a hurry to save themselves from the merciless cold winds blowing through the town. I was caught in a fix, having come to this town just three days back and not having any idea about the weather conditions. I had an overcoat covering my already numb body. With leaden legs I searched for a place to warm my bones. A Starbucks outlet could be seen round the corner and I heaved a sigh of relief. I was elated to find a seat in the crowded café; moreover I’d be sharing the table with a group of Indian students- two girls and a guy. I lowered myself into the cushioned chair, started chatting with them instantaneously. The guy’s name was Rishi and he was from Chandigarh. He told me that they were doing their psychology major from Harvard University. I introduced myself as a project leader in a reputed IT company and I was here on a project (of course). The girl called Neha asked me about my wife and I said that I wasn’t married. They somehow found it pretty intriguing, especially Deepali who went on with her barrage of questions, probably analyzing me. I played their game for the time until the waitress arrived for our orders. Rishi ordered a black espresso while Neha ordered a Columbian delight.
I wasn’t done with the menu when Deepali ordered for both of us,” a Cafe latte for two and a black forest for me. This guy would have asked you to have the second one with him as he finds you really beautiful, and you smell nice too, is that Versace? ; only that he is with me and I don’t intend to leave him.” Before the surprise could register in the minds of her friends and the waitress, Deepali leaned over towards me and whispered in my ears, “I let you go once, physically but neither you nor me could let the moment go mentally; I would be a fool not to take my chances for the second time, and this time I don’t mean to let you go forever.”
I was overawed with emotions as I let Deepali or Deeps take my hand and we went out into the blistering cold and believe me that was Heaven; if you have ever seen one.