My feet hit the tarmac from the air stairs. I took a deep breath and inhaled the familiar smell – saltiness, humidity; but something was missing. I fought the urge to run back into the flight and rewind the last hour. “No”, I said to myself, “you have been avoiding this too long.” I dragged my feet to the conveyor belt and stared at the bags. You loved airports so much, the people, the chaos and the air miles. Wasn’t it you who taught me the game of guessing where people bustling around the airport come from? I finally spotted my big black suitcase and made a dash for it.
I walked out half expecting to see you. When was the last time your freshly scrubbed, smiling face wasn’t eagerly waiting for me? You knew how I loved it when you showered right before picking me up, the freshness of my life, I had jokingly called you. I saw my driver instead, and walked toward him as he frantically waved.
On the journey back to my house, I drove past those familiar places – stretches of the road we loved, my favourite ice cream shop, that speed breaker you always forgot, all those places that witnessed our relationship grow. You were always there, right by my side, expertly maneuvering the gear while not letting me go. Had I known the last time we drove this route would be the last ever, I would have never let you go. The heavy clouds began to splutter as little drops of water patterned the windscreen. I turned to my right, but all I saw was an empty space, just like the one you had left within me, a void so deep that it seemed impossible to fill. “Baby, we’ve reached,” said the driver, and brought me back to reality, this place that was supposed to be home, but didn’t feel like it without you.
I drove to The Place this evening, the place we first met. Remember how we’d sit here for hours till somebody had to ask us to leave? Just as the Cokes turned into beers and Eminem gave way to Swedish House Mafia, the gawky you and the brash me transformed into the beautiful us. You spelled out music for me as I taught you to listen to the intricacies of the English language. You wanted your music to speak volumes and take over the world, I wanted to sit back and let my words do the talking. I am still here writing today, but I can’t hear you anywhere nearby.
The ocean called out to me, as if trying to compensate for you. I have no option but to go to it. It had been the only constant in our lives after all. Remember how we’d chased through the waves that one summer? All your body wanted was to press against mine, the salty water, cooling down the burning passion as I let you chase me along the fringe of the sea. The same water now touched my feet and all I wanted was to feel you. The rain Gods decided to let go once again and I felt heavy drops engulf me. How ironic was it that this was the exact place we’d shared our first kiss? The rain was falling just like it was today. I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. For the first time in four months, I cried. I cried for the part of me I had lost; I cried for the end of an almost perfect relationship; but most of all, I cried for losing the place I once called home.
And right there, in that moment, it seemed as if Goa wanted me to give it another chance. A little kid running by splashed the salty water in my face and flashed a set of pearly whites. I couldn’t help but smile through stinging eyes and tears. I splashed some back at him and saw him disappear along the coast.
No, I hadn’t healed yet. That would take me a long time. I still had to fill that void within me. I was yet to forget a heart full of memories I had drawn, which you had patiently coloured over the years. What I had now was home, my home. I could smell it in the air – saltiness, humidity and that weird mix of ketchup, stale fish and French fries that can’t be found anywhere else but here. As I walked back toward my car, I realised I had just created a new memory. This would always be the day I got back home.