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At Second Sight
At Second Sight

© Dilip Davidar


17 Minutes   37.5K    502

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It was an early autumn morning. The coffee woke me up with a start. Jay stared at me long and asked, “Are you alright, Loni?” I didn’t have it in me. I felt quite like a zombie. Maybe I looked like one. It seems ages that I had looked into a mirror.  What I craved most was a long hot shower and a nice curl up inside a blanket. I didn’t know if that was possible. After all I was meeting my phone friend after almost an entire decade. It was good enough that he had agreed to pick me up from the Greyhound Bus station. He had stared at my rucksack for a moment. I don’t think the red and black combination made any difference to him. “Is this all?” He had not asked anything yet. His car was warm. The Starbucks cup sat snugly in its holder. He glanced at me again. “Shall we move?” I looked back at him. I don’t think he expected an answer. As the car purred to life, he latched the seat belt on. All places look alike in the face of darkness. The roads stand still. There’s not a single sound apart from police cars patrolling the neighbourhood. It was one thirty after midnight when I reached Toronto’s bus station. Jay was just a call away. It took me an extra half hour to decide who to call. I didn’t know a single soul in the heart of Canada who would come and pick me up in the middle of the night. I was lucky that it was a Friday night. The weekend was ahead and nobody went to bed early. I had to give luck a chance. When he moved to the United States Jay had never given me his contact number. By that time we were no longer in touch. His mother did. She wanted to give him one fat envelope. I had told her that I would post it the day I took my flight to Boston. No doubt I also had his home address. But you just can’t drop in at a friend’s no matter how long he loved you in the past. He was fifteen years older to me then. He still was and he would remain so in the future. I had to buy a calling card to call anybody. It was only five bucks. I decided to get an international one. After you were done calling anyone it told you the change and the hours remaining in your card. How convenient! When I punched the numbers into the phone operated by Bell, I wasn’t sure. Is he going to take the call? Is he going to recognize my voice? What if somebody else picks up the phone? I had keyed in a mobile number so I didn’t really believe that he would respond to an unknown number. But he did. As soon as he said hello, I was like, I must speak. All I uttered was, “Jay, this is…” I was interrupted. “What are you doing in Toronto, Loni?” He had recognized. He had remembered. I didn’t need to utter my name.“Jay, I need help.” “Where are you?” “At the Greyhound bus station across Bay Street.” “Give me fifteen minutes.” “Thanks.” “Stay inside. It’s freezing out.” I decided to sit in front of the reservation counter. It was closed. The sign above said it remains closed between 1 and 5 in the morning. I couldn’t imagine how fast the fifteen minutes went by when I found a very handsome, clean shaven guy sitting next to me staring at me. I was taken aback. He put his hand on my arm, “You need to sleep.” The look in my eyes gave it away. “Have I changed that much?” I smiled. “You haven’t changed one bit.” He looked older then but he didn’t look it now. I had grown up. Grabbing the backpack across his shoulder he simply picked me up from the chair and walked out the swinging glass door. He opened the front right door and placed me on the seat. I had not asked for it. I was thinking coffee when he pointed at the cup in the holder. “It still is cappuccino, isn’t it?” He slid into his seat and smiled. Was I going to ask him inevitable questions or was I not? I decided not to. I had four nights in Toronto. I would have to put up somewhere. Toronto had innumerable apartment complexes made in chrome, gold and silver. I didn’t know which one Jay inhabited. I didn’t have to wait much longer. I had barely had a sip of the rich, creamy cappuccino when Jay opened the door and picked me up again. “I can walk you know.” He looked into my eyes. “You really haven’t changed at all.” I remained silent. After all I was in his city. He was the boss. He placed me on one of the benches inside the corridor. “Sit tight. I’ll just park my car.” I was almost about to doze off when he came back with my backpack and the coffee cup. I immediately grabbed the maroon chocolate and had a sip. I stood up, grabbed his arm and gave him the cup. “Which floor?” “The 16th.” A minute’s walk to the elevator and a two minute waiting period brought us to our destination. A very uncomfortable feeling grasped my throat. Was he living alone? Was he married? As he took me round the corner, I dreaded the feeling. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him. But I was already there with him. I couldn’t change what was already done. He looked at me. “I have lived alone, Loni for the last twenty years.” Oh! Boy! Was I in a fix! The pain in his eyes was evident. He unlatched his double locked wooden door. It was a sprawling studio apartment meant for a single person but was large enough to seat twenty. Everything was transparent. You could see the entire city laid out in front of you. I could understand why he had chosen the corner. The sun rose in his bedroom and set in his kitchen. The floor seemed to be hanging on a ledge. The entire apartment was surrounded by glass windows. It was fantastic! You were surrounded by light almost all the time whether it was sunlight or city lights. I looked around with a lot of enthusiasm. “I have turned on the tap. You need a soak in the tub.” Taking off my about to be worn out sneakers, I practically walked into oblivion. “Don’t unpack your backpack, I’ve got clean pajamas for you.” “But they are yours.” “Of course, they are mine. But they are clean.” What could you say to that? It was like nothing had changed between us. I didn’t know what to say. Understanding my hesitation, he said, “Together, we’ll wash up your entire load and they will be dried in no time at all.” I suppose that made sense. After all we belonged to different genders and different age groups. But somehow that didn’t matter any longer. He was willing to share himself now the same way he had been willing to share earlier. The only difference was how he came across now. I was glad that he had become more expressive. If he had only said it then. A knock on the door brought me back to my senses. “French toast and hot chocolate?” “What time is it?” “Three after midnight.” A long pause. “I’m hungry. You must be too.” Having dried myself well, I reached out for the set of pajamas. Dark aubergine. My favourite colour. I didn’t know it was his as well. The sleeves had to be folded half way through. The same was true for the pants as well. He was 6 feet 2. I was only 5 ft 6. But they were made of viscose and flannel and therefore quite snug and warm. No air passing through. “Feeling better?” The air was filled with chocolate. All of a sudden I became conscious. There I stood in front of an extremely fetching tall man of fifty dressed in a light blue pajama suit, hardly looking fifty at all. I pinched myself. Ouch it hurt! My hair was somewhat wet. He stared at me and stretched his hand out to me. I was apprehensive. He continued to stare at me. I slowly moved closer and touched his hand. He immediately pulled me closer . I was in his strong wide arms. It felt good when he wrapped his arms around me. “I’ve missed you all these years.” He touched my chin. He seeked permission. He whispered into my ears. “I want you. May I?”  Was it the look in my eyes or the touch of my hands? Don’t hesitate you fool. Just kiss him! Jay searched my eyes. It wasn’t going to be easy. Had we not been seperated too long? I didn’t let go of him. My heart pumped harder. His lips were on mine in how many minutes? Was I counting? His embrace tightened and my arms went round his neck. I could feel his tears on my neck. Good God! I’ve always wanted to do this!  I was getting involved. I wiped the water from his eyes. He took my palms and held them tight. “Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to hold you in my arms?” “Nobody was stopping you.” “I stopped myself then. I didn’t want you changing your plans for me.” He stared at me. Smelling my hair, he asked me, “How long are you here?” “I’ve got some time.” He took me to the large window by his bed where he had already laid the food. Taking a blanket out of the closet, he plopped down on the carpet. He held his hand out to me. I moved closer and he wrapped the blanket around us as I sat beside him looking out the window. Before I could start thinking why this had not happened earlier, he pulled me closer to him. I didn’t know what to say. He did have a right after all. He had always wanted me ever since the time we met when I was twenty. He never said how much.  He should have. His lips were on my neck. “Jay, we have a lot of catching up to do.” “You are so beautiful.” Any woman would smile at the way he said it. And it was automatic that I would do the same. “You haven’t lost that smile.” “What smile?” He touched my lips. “This smile. For now this belongs to me.” I held his hand. We finished the hot chocolate and French toast in silence. “You are a great cook!” With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Hungry for more?” I smiled. “You’re a full grown woman now. How can you have the same appetite?” “I just can’t eat more, maybe later.” He took the tray to the kitchen. By this time my hair was dry and had curled up around my ears. I leaned against the back wall. I suddenly felt extremely tired and hot. The bed seemed so inviting that I took off my pajamas and slid under the covers. I was used to sleeping naked. I didn’t know if Jay was. But as soon as I was just becoming comfortable, I felt his arm around my waist. I was a trifle surprised. I turned around and opened my eyes. The bedside night lamp was on and he looked so very patient and kind. All I said was, “Jay..” he put his fingers on my lips and said, “Shh.” I felt his warm naked body against mine. I knew he wanted me at that moment but I was oh so tired. Couldn’t he just wait a little longer? I let him hold me. He whispered into my ear, “You are mine. Only mine.” I fell asleep in his arms. When I woke up, I was still in his arms. He looked so innocent in his sleep. It must have been nine in the morning. The sun shone through. I was about to get off the bed when he grabbed my arm. “Nothing doing.” “I need to go.” I put on the aubergine shirt and was gone in a minute. I peeked into his kitchen and switched on the lights. I had to have that morning coffee. His coffee machine was interesting. It would brew the beans. I didn’t know he didn’t like instant coffee. There were two boxes of milk sachets and brown sugar sachets neatly placed in the cupboard above the machine as was the beans in the jar. I was about to plug the machine when I had two arms around my waist. “I was wondering what took you so long.” I had goose bumps all over. “Do you feel it?” I wasn’t going to ask what. He didn’t want to let me go. He plugged the machine while I poured one scoop of beans into it. He took out two mugs and placed them on the counter. While the smell of the roasted Mexican beans filled the kitchen I stared at his bare pink back. What had I done to deserve this? How could have I slept with an unknown man? He was the same guy who had called me up to know if I had written the words for a song that had been aired on AIR FM. I was really freaked to know that the FM channel had agreed to give my contact number to those who really wanted to talk to me. As far as I remembered I had never agreed to any such thing. I had of course gained a lot of really good friends but I wasn’t very keen on being over friendly with boys. And this was a man I was dealing with. He seemed perfectly okay when he had called up and asked for my address. I was somewhat apprehensive. I had simply asked. “What do you want my address for?” “Since I can’t meet you I’d like to write to you.” I was like, “Gee Jay, we both live in the same city.” He understood but was persistent. I gathered from his phone calls that he loved to talk to me over the phone. He would often call me from his workplace. I never called him up because I truly didn’t know how he would react or if he was in a meeting. I was in my 4th semester. I had two more to go and I had already been accepted at Mt. Holyoke. When eventually we met, he wanted to meet me at home. I had no restrictions about meeting people outside but he had not wanted that. I was a little surprised but I realized later that he had wanted to assess my environment. He did know how to impress someone. He had brought chocolate pastries. He had not got me any flowers. Would I have been floored if he had given me roses? Maybe. Maybe not. He wasn’t surprised to see me but I was. He was way too handsome then, he was way too handsome now. It had taken us more than a year to get to know each other. He was only off on Sundays and that was the only day we could meet. It was agreed that our Sundays would be spent together. On one such evening he said, “I would like you to meet my mother.” I wasn’t sure if he was serious so I remained silent. We liked being with each other. But he had never once said that he wanted to be with me always. He never once tried to touch me. He maintained a safe distance. He said, “I think you should meet mother.” This time I looked up at him. There was intense longing in his eyes but I couldn’t figure out what was stopping him. “Have you told her about me?” “I want to give her a surprise.” I looked right into his eyes and I asked him, “How will you introduce me?” He looked away. “As a very good friend.” I had wanted to touch him then. I had wanted to ask him if he could stay away from me from next Sunday but I didn’t. I had fallen for him but I was not going to say anything. If he denied his feelings I wouldn’t be able to face my family. Father knew but he never asked me about it. He believed that once I would leave for my higher studies he would be a forgotten chapter. I stared at him. I looked at my watch. “I have a lot of packing to do. I leave for Holyoke next week.” He looked shocked. I could have enjoyed it but I didn’t. “I didn’t know how to tell you.” It seemed so weird but he knew I would have to leave some time. If not immediately, at least after some time. Now he was a complete stranger. And yet it seems we have never been apart. A shrill whistle brought me back to myself. He poured the filtered brown liquid into each mug. “Let’s go.” As he turned around, I wondered. Good God! Why was he so attractive? At his age, he was chiseled! Wonder of all wonders! I didn’t know what it was. I think I was in for it, hook, line and sinker! He placed the mugs on the bedside table and jumped into bed. I crept in. The sun seemed high up in the sky but the light lacked strength. He looked right into my eyes. With two pillows behind my back, I was still and alert. I suppose he wanted to be certain. “Would you like to tell me something?” I certainly had a lot of things to say but I wanted to wait. We would have only the weekend to be with each other, 24 hours a day. From Monday he would probably need to get back to work. “I had always imagined touching you, loving you and holding you in my arms but I had never thought what would happen after that.” “Jay…” “Have I lost out on our time?” I was staring right into his eyes. You had to see it to believe it! So much control! Mothers were always right. The man who really loved you would never take advantage of you. He would ask you first. Yes mother, here I was with someone who let ten years go by without ever uttering a word of what he felt. I was so afraid that he was gay that I didn’t even bother to ask him when we said goodbye. I was 20, he was 35. I was too young to see the signals if he had given any. I’m quite sure I would have understood. Or maybe his friends had told him that I was too young for him. So many possibilities. So little time. His eyes had moistened. “Jay, please don’t…cry.” “I’ve missed out on your growing up.” Geez! What could you say to that! I took a sip of coffee. I gave him his mug. “How long are you here?” “Five days max.”He looked surprised. “I have a reservation at a backpacker’s hostel. I’ll just have to call and confirm.” I didn’t pay ahead. I still don’t believe in the credit card. I didn’t have one and I don’t believe I will ever need one. “Before I forget, your mom sent you a big fat envelope.” Now he looked agonized. “You have never been to my house, even though I wanted you to meet mom so many times. How did you meet her?” I smiled. “Law of attraction.” “How’s that?” “I went to meet a friend in your neighbourhood. Your mom was at her place.” “She recognized you, didn’t she?” “I couldn’t ask her how. She just said she knew me and asked me if I would go over to her place. She had something to give me.” “I had shown her your pictures on facebook.” “Then, she must have told you that I would be here.” “No. She just said that if I got a call from an unknown number in Canada or the US, I should take it.” “You had no idea that it was me?” “I did ask her. She had no qualms about it. All she said was that she understood why I had ignored her wishes all these years.” “Didn’t you ask her the reason behind it?” “She said I would understand when I took the call.” “Let me get you the envelope.” I was about to jump off the bed. He simply grabbed me. “That can wait. I talk to mom once every week. I haven’t talked to you since we said goodbye.” “But…” His lips were on mine within a second. His arms were inside my shirt, around my waist and supporting my back. I had to unbutton my shirt if I wanted to avoid an accident. With his chest pressed to mine and my arms around his neck, I felt safe and secure. This was inevitable. This was love. He whispered into my ear, “Do you trust me?” “Absolutely.” He let me go. He was about to get dressed. “Where are you going?” “You need protection. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” I grabbed his arm. “I don’t want any more protection from you.” He was taken aback. “But baby…” I had to shut him up. “We have a lot of catching up to do Jay.” He was silent. “Are you sure?” “I’m ready. Are you?” For the first time since we met, his face lighted up with genuine happiness. “For you, always.” I couldn’t tell if I was his first or his last or whatever. All I could tell was that all the bottled up emotions were out there in a few minutes time. Looks can be deceiving. I for one had discovered myself. He wasn’t hiding any part of himself. Neither was I. We didn’t have anything to hide. He spoke with his eyes and I knew what I heard was loud and clear. “I am so glad you happened to me. Please stay back one last time.” 

There will come a time when you will wonder why you have so little time in your hands to set yourself free.

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