He had a little skip in his walk today, people were beginning to notice. It was probably because of the three cups of coffee that he took before his meal. It was all that he had an appetite for. Today, time was his enemy, not ticking as fast as he wanted it to.
He was supposed to meet her at a cafe near the airport so that she’d have just enough time between the two flights. He rushed to the parking lot as soon as the clock struck 9:00 P.M. and raced to avoid the happy hour crowd. He slowed down at the intersection and pondered. The exit to the right would take him straight to the airport, where he would meet someone who, 6 years ago, he thought to be his soul mate; if he drove straight, it would take him home, where his wife waited for him.
He flicked the right indicator and took out his phone to type a quick text.
“Left something at the office. Going back to find it. Be home soon.”
He had his share of little lies, but there was something exhilarating about this one.
It began to pour as soon as he sat down on a corner table, and so he focused on the droplets scurrying down the window to occupy his idle mind. As he sat there, watching the rain, a familiar voice called out his name. He saw her, dressed in plain jeans and a hoodie, covered in wet patches from the rain. There she was, he thought; his biggest ‘what if’.
She sat across him, and they smiled. The conversation flowed seamlessly as they spoke, catching up on each other’s lives, jobs, marriages, and kids. He learnt that she got divorced and raised a daughter all on her own. He learnt she drank tea now, not coffee; that she liked her hair short as it’s easier to manage; that she had changed. When they finally reached a point of silence, he took a minute to just look at her.
He had played this moment out in his head a hundred times, yet he was always unsure of the ending. 10 years ago, he would’ve jumped at the opportunity to hop on the next plane and fly off to an exotic location.
Yet as he sat there, ready to pounce on her with questions that had bothered him for long, all he could ever think about was the rain. The rain made him smile, these days, mostly because of his wife. He was never a big fan but his wife’s relentless requests of devouring ice-cream as they watched the downpour from the balcony made him grow fond of it over the years. She said that rain resets everything and always gives a fresh page to start over.
It made him wonder if his wife knew the answer all this time, and that maybe today was his clean slate; to start over and to let go of the “what ifs”.
After an hour or so, they said their goodbyes and he saw her off. On his way back, he stopped to grab a can of mint-chocolate chip. As he entered his house and took off his shoes, his wife called out from the balcony.
“Hey! Did you find what you were looking for?” She asked, reminding him about his text.
He smiled. “Nope. Turns out I had it with me all along.”