Transit for Beginners – by Rheea Mukherjee

by TBLM

I met him at Changi airport. After a seven hour flight from Tokyo, preceded by an eleven hour flight to Tokyo. My breath was stale and my deodorant had long since given up. Changi was a festival, packed with dazzling places to shop at and strange luxurious things to do. Showers with towel service, a spa, a movie theater, a twenty-four hour gym, and even a swimming pool in case the urge to swim struck while you were in between flights. Most importantly, Changi airport served to buffer me for the radical change of Delhi’s climate, the throngs of people and pollution.

I stepped off the plane with my purple backpack, my black, long-sleeved shirt stained from the airplane curry and rice dinner and my cargo pants crumpled. I went into one of the hundred bathroom options and freshened up, discreetly trying to wash my underarms at the sink. There were a bunch of Bangladeshi and Indian women who were using the bathroom as some sort of hostel. By their measure, I looked far more sophisticated. There were showers in the airport too, but I didn’t want to pay. One of the women in the bathroom wore a red sari and flashed me a large, toothy grin. Without hesitation, she began to talk to me as if we were old friends.

“Indian? Where are you going? ”

“Yes. Delhi. Where are you going?”

It was more than obvious they came from either Bangladesh or India, and judging by their apparel of gaudy synthetic saris, I was sure: they were going to the Middle East to work as maids. She smiled at me and then started to talk in Hindi.

“Yes, we are going to Dubai. Very happy, my husband is working there too, more money there. Are you living in America now?”

I had heard stories about the Middle Eastern lures, working for big houses or small companies. Poorer South Asians jumped at opportunities like that. I couldn’t really blame them; India can really pay shit to the poor. But I had read in a paper once how some of those employers enslaved them, robbing their passports and such. I smiled at the lady. “Yes, from there, but going to India now.” I fished out my lip gloss from my bag and looked into the mirror. The lady nodded her head in response. One of her other travel mates said something to the lady in the red sari in an Indian language I didn’t understand. The lady in the red sari turned to her and was quickly engaged in another conversation. They were probably wearing all the gold they had right now, on their ears, noses, and necks. It was ironic; these women moving away from home, running towards opulence, in hopes of money and first world pleasures. And I running back to a homeland my family had left decades ago.

I applied a layer of lip gloss and fastened my hair into a bun. I walked back out into the glimmering terminal, and walked onto the people-mover belts to the other side of the terminal where most of the duty free shops were. One of the shops had samples of Jack Daniels served in tiny plastic shot glasses. I walked around that table three times, the first two times rather casually, with some measure of careful dignity. The third time, the lady at the table gave me a look but I feigned innocence and picked up the third glass. I don’t drink on planes; it makes me sick, so I had to make merry here. But the truth is that the samples were each less than a tiny fraction of a real shot. I doubt I had more than half a shot even after my third round.

That’s when I saw him. He was browsing through the Absolut section. Tall for an Indian guy, with a trimmed beard that made him look artistic. An unmistakable smirk on his face. Men who smirk so confidently at a woman are the men that interest me. He was smirking as he fiddled with a citrus flavored bottle of Vodka.

“What’s so funny?” My voice was deeper than usual.

“Nothing, I was just admiring the way you went in for the third round so easily. I stopped at one and have been pretending to browse for the last ten minutes, trying to figure when I could swoop in for the second.”
He had an urban Indian accent, one that I was familiar with from my parents and cousins who lived in Delhi. I walked closer to him. His hands were large, his fingers tiny in comparison.

“Are you on your way to India too? Let me guess, you’re going to Mumbai?”

“No, Bangalore. And you are going to… Delhi?”

“Not bad,” I said, genuinely impressed.

“My name is Rudra.” He had an interesting smile; something about his lips. They were kind of thick but really thin at the sides.

“ Meera.”

He walked up to me. He was big built, his chest wide and shoulders muscular. But his stomach protruded a little. I felt vaguely uncomfortable. Why did I even have talk to him? I picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels and inspected it like I never had seen a bottle of alcohol in my life. One of the shop assistants came up and asked if I would like a bag to shop with. I replaced the bottle on the shelf and muttered that I was just looking.

“Hungry Meera?” I bit my lips and looked up to him. His smile was still plastered on. This guy was annoyingly self-assured.

“How long is your lay over?” I asked confidently.

“My flight is in 8 hours, how about we go get dinner? Or is it breakfast time, who knows?”

If this was a bar in LA and a guy came up with such a cocky attitude, I would have walked away. The truth is that I was bored. Airports, even big fancy ones, are more fun with people. Two years ago, when I was last here, I talked to this hippie from Germany who sold shoes at a resort in Sri Lanka. He spent two months in Japan buying and selecting shoes for his shop, seven months selling them in Sri Lanka, and then the remaining three months in a small town near Frankfurt, I forget the name now. He told me about these wild Tokyo parties, and about the tourists in Colombo. He was fun for a bit, but he talked about drugs too much. I was traveling with my father that trip, so I couldn’t traipse around the airport by myself for too long. But this time I was alone, with a lot of free time, and Rudra seemed like a harmless boy.

He walked out of the duty store abruptly, just expecting me to follow him, and I did. He seemed to know the airport better than I did, and I was frankly irritated by that. He walked to a food court area and turned to me and nodded, more like a nod to himself, acknowledging his accomplishment. He cleared his throat and then pointed at the various food vendors, as if he owned them. I walked to a sushi stall without looking back. I ordered shrimp tempura and miso soup. Just when my tray was ready, I felt a tap on my shoulder. He was behind me with a tray of burger king.

“Seriously? Burger king? You get the best Asian food here.”

“It’s the last time I can get a beef burger for three months; the McDonalds in India only serve chicken.”

“I know that,” my voice was on the brink of revealing my slight annoyance with his know-it-all attitude. He set his tray down on one of the smaller tables. I sat opposite him and started stirring my chunk of wasabi into my soya sauce.

“So Meera, an American Indian I assume?”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

“Ahh, American sarcasm, bravo.”

“Let me guess what you are, a Bangalore-bred IT worker who goes to San Jose every 6 months on work.”

“Nope, I am doing my PhD in Dallas and am going home for the summer,” he said, allowing his eyes to squint with gleeful righteousness. His maroon button down shirt had two buttons open, revealing the beginning of a hairy chest. He unwrapped his burger and took a large noisy bite. I bit into my crunchy tempura. I almost closed my eyes in pleasure as my tongue coated itself in the oily batter.

“Your mother knows you eat beef?” I asked, trying to tease him.

“My mom loves beef, Miss. America.”

“You’re going to call me Miss. America? Just because of my accent? Actually, I am going to India for quite a bit of time.” Rudra scrunched his eyebrows in confusion, his tongue swiped across his lips.

“Yea, but you are only going to be visiting there, right?”

“My parents are from Delhi originally, now my grandparents live there.”

“How cute, Miss. America going back for her annual cultural pilgrimage? Parents hoping you will return some good Indian values? Can you even speak Hindi?”

“Yes I can, and probably better than you.” I replied to him in perfect Hindi.

“Well, fuck. Not bad.” He had a good voice, deep and steady.

“I am going to Delhi to live with my grandparents for a bit actually. I am going to be studying journalism there, in a Master’s program.” What did it matter, I could tell him anything, I wouldn’t meet him again.

“Oh nice, so you can apply to American PhD programs later and write in your application : I did my Masters in the third world and learnt all this developing nation stuff, this makes me an ideal candidate for your respected program.”

“I have no interest in doing a PhD, and what are you getting your American PhD for? So your mother can command a higher dowry for you when you return and marry mommy’s choice?”

“Touché, Miss America.”

I picked at the crumbs of my tempura and attempted to study his face without him noticing. The way he ate was uncouth and messy. But also assured and confident. Even though all his conversational tactics were so adolescent, I felt a desperate need to play his game. Perhaps this is what happens when you are on a cramped economy airplane seat for too long. I caught him looking at me again; I met his eye and for a few seconds we were caught in an awkward something. He chickened out first, lowering his gaze to his food.

“Do you know there is a swimming pool in this airport too? And a pretty awesome gym and movie hall.”

“I know, Rudra, I have been here half a dozen times.”

“Or we could take the city tour. If you are in Changi airport for at least eight hours before your next flight they give you a free city tour. The bus is outside the terminal.”

“I know, but I don’t want to do that again, I want to enjoy the luxury of this airport.” I opened up my bun and retied my hair. His eyes lingered on my chest. I stood up and dumped my tray into the trash. Rudra did the same and then stood with his hands on his waist, his face suddenly tightened in contemplation.

“Meera, tell me something you never have told anyone else,”

“Huh?”

“Tell me something you would never tell anyone else, what have you got to lose? You will never meet me again.” He said this with some sort of an authoritative confidence that made me want to laugh and take him seriously, all at the same time.

“Ummm, no,”

“Come on Miss. America, take a few risks. Here, we can move to a more comfortable place first,” his lips curved back into that smirk again. I began to walk out of the food court with no particular area in mind. Rudra didn’t follow me immediately, so I stood right outside the food court on the carpeted area and stared at the passengers on the people-mover across the terminal. Rudra tapped me on my shoulder and moved his chin up in the direction of a waiting lounge to our right. I considered telling him I was just going to wander around by myself, but he had started walking a few steps ahead of me, and I followed him again. We walked to the resting area where they had black La-Z Boys facing a gigantic window that displayed a bunch of Singapore airline planes boarding and getting ready to take- off . I plopped myself on one of them. Rudra paused standing still near my seat. I saw the bunch of Bangladeshi ladies in saris passing by; their voices were loud and giggly. The one in the red sari who talked to me in the bathroom recognized me and smiled. I waved back at her, like we were old friends.

“You know her?”

“Met her in the bathroom,” I said. My lips puckered, something that happened involuntarily when I was nervous.

“My maid in Bangalore worked for us for nine years, and then took off to Malaysia to be a maid at a bigger house. I heard last that she was in Oman working for some rich Arab family.”

“No one to do your laundry anymore spoilt Indian boy?”

“Oh stop, I was just commenting, I meant to say I actually miss her. She used to tell me stories from her village when I was growing up. Some really fascinating shit.”

“Alright, so what is your secret?” Secrets are always fun to hear, especially if they are not your own. He paused pensively. I couldn’t make out what this guy was up to. Was he just some lame ass, really looking to play some warped version of airport Truth or Dare? He cleared his throat.

“I ran over a stray dog in Bangalore two years ago before I left to the US. It didn’t die instantly. It howled so loudly. I stopped my car the moment I hit it. Then I saw it, writhing on the floor, a bloody mass of mangled fur and limbs. Twenty seconds later a truck ran over it and put it to death. But those twenty seconds haunt me, still.”

I felt the tempura rise in my throat. I undid my bun and let my fingers crawl through my black strands. “I love dogs. That must have been horrific.”

I wanted to tell him three years ago on my last trip to Delhi I saw a slum kid get beat up by a nearby shopkeeper. I don’t know why he was beating him, but the kid was screaming and his nose was bloody. I had just frozen. No one did anything, and there were plenty of people on the street. I had raised my voice weakly to the shopkeeper. Something along the lines of “leave him alone”. But the shopkeeper had just paused and looked at me for a second, like I was a mere interruption . It was a typical raving hot Delhi day that much I remember; I could still feel the dry heat in my lungs. But I did not tell Rudra this, because I didn’t save the kid. And I wanted to be more heroic in front of this this guy.

“My mother left my father two years ago. She left for India, I am not sure where but I am going to find out. I am going to find out why she left. My grandparents just think I am coming to India for a change.”

Rudra let out a whistle. Then he sat down on the next chair and shook his head in what I think was sympathy. “God, really? I am so sorry Meera.” His face rearranged itself; his smirk disappeared and his forehead squiggled in concern.

“Nothing to be sorry about. It just is. Plenty of problems in the world, far worse than mine.”

Rudra fell silent. He closed his eyes in some sort of meditation. I pulled on the lever on the side of the chair and the leg rest sprang up on the lazy boy. God bless these couches. For a bit there was silence between us. The numerous airport announcements were gentle and assuring, all the different languages hummed together in some sort of glorious international peacefulness.

People: fat, thin, yellow, white, black, brown and in-between walking from gate to gate from terminals to duty free shops. So many damn people, like it was the epicenter of the world. To think this country is just a tiny speck on the globe. I watched a bunch of young American boys and girls sit on the carpeted airport floor on the opposite side of the people-mover. They were in a circle and were laughing loudly. I noticed their sweat shirts. They were all wearing the same kind, but I couldn’t make out the print from where I was sitting. Rudra turned to me, his arm behind his head, his elbow jutted upwards to the ceiling. He looked at the circle of teenagers for a bit too. They were singing some songs now; I could not make out the words. His arm was inches away from my head. I wondered if I smelt good.

“I bet they are a church group from Wyoming going to help build another orphanage in India or Pakistan.”

“Yea, probably,” I said. I fiddled with my purple backpack and pulled out Salinger’s Nine Stories. Rudra’s eyes opened suddenly and he looked at my book.

“No reading, more talking. Like I said, we will never really meet again.”

“You almost fell asleep there, Rudra”

“I was just thinking that is all, anyhow, do you smoke Meera?”

“I could, why, you wanna a cigarette?”

“No, I don’t smoke.”

I sucked my breath in. “Why’d you ask then? If I want a cigarette I’ll go smoke, I don’t need your permission.”

“No the only reason I ask is because they have a cool smoking terrace, thought that could be our next venue at the airport.”

“Actually that might be your first good plan, Rudra. We are just here sitting anyway, after sitting for hours on the damn plane all the time.”

We strolled upstairs, and found ourselves near the “movie theater” which was a like a mini movie hall playing movies from a TV network on a big screen. Rudra had skinny legs for a man with big hands; I noticed this as he walked in front of me wheeling his brown carry-on luggage behind him. Finally we arrived at the smoking terrace. The humidity blasted onto our faces. It made me realize the value of air conditioning, even with the manicured lawn and prestigious flower varieties, it was just too hot.

“It’s so hot,” I whined. Always good to start off with the obvious, it leaves the conversation opportunity neutral. Rudra said something back, but it was lost to the sounds of a plane engine roar, we were overlooking
the planes on the runway through the terrace’s black metal rods that caged us in airport terminal.

I fiddled with my backpack again and fished out a pack of cigarettes. A pack I was going to have to throw out as soon as I arrived in Delhi. My grandparents would submerge themselves in the river Ganga if they knew I smoked. I picked out a cigarette and attached it to my lips. I did not have a lighter but there were a bunch of smokers spreading all over the terrace in hungry nicotine starved waves. You could see relief on some of the faces, you could see that the last hours of the flight had been critical for them, that they had waited for this moment, to put a cigarette to their lips and suck that smoke in. I was not that kind of smoker. I was the kind that smoked upon suggestion, suddenly thinking it might be a good idea. I smoked alone usually, never understood the social smoking bonds people made. I asked a Chinese man for a light, he quietly gave me his red lighter and went back to the pleasure of this cigarette. Rudra stared at me as I smoked.

“What? Are you one of those guys who think Indian girls shouldn’t smoke?”

“No, I have no such notions; just that I have not seen too many Indian girls smoking, kind of a funny sight.” Rudra took a seat on a bench next to the ashtray drum.

“So Rudra, what is the story with you, girlfriend in the US? Or did you break a heart in Bangalore before you left?”

Rudra rubbed his hands. Out of nervousness? I wasn’t quite sure. “Nope, no girlfriends. What about you, Meera America?”

“No one now, I haven’t had a boyfriend for a while now. How old are you? Like 30?”

“Close enough.” He said with his usual smile. He picked at the collar of his green shirt and flapped in and out, trying to create an internal fan.

“Oh come on, what are you? A woman? Tell me how old exactly.”

He smiled again. “Meera, I am like 30, what about you, you look like you are 22.”

“23,” I said, even though I was 22.

My cigarette was almost over. It was too darn hot to hang out over here. I looked at the time. It was 1 a.m. Singapore time. “Let’s go get a drink,” I said, with some amount of authority. Secretly I praised myself for coming up with the next plan.

“Sure, I can’t believe it’s this hot in the middle of the night,” Rudra said in an awkward thoughtful tone.

We walked back into the air-conditioned glory and settled on a bar with black cushion stools. The drinks looked colorful and they were served in funky shaped glasses. The bartender was a pretty Asian woman, wearing a black skirt to her knees and a white button-down shirt neatly tucked around her almost non-existent waist.

“I’ll have a Singapore Sling.”

“Coke and rum,” Rudra chirped in. He shook his head at me and laughed.

“Singapore Sling? How touristy is that.”

“I happen to like fruity drinks,” I said, my voice a little too defensive. The lady served us our drinks in a matter of moments. I was still glad I ordered the sling; it was served in a tall asymmetrical glass with a huge chunk of pineapple and fresh cherries on the side. I could have sworn I saw Rudra’s eyes linger on my drink. I took a sip. It was cold, tangy, and sweet, just like I had expected. Rudra took a swig of his coke and rum and then played with the stirrer thoughtfully.

“So your mother left 2 years ago?”

“Yea, I think she fell in love with someone in India. Even my dad has no real clue. Maybe she wanted to renounce herself to God in the Himalayas. She was not the type to just up and leave. There must be some grand plan or reason.”

I knew I was rambling; the drink was already loosening my tongue. But it felt good.

“So she never contacted you for two years? She just ex-communicated the entire family?” He asked softly. His voice was heavy with concern. He was being careful.

The truth is that, there were e-mails. E-mails no one knew about, not even my best friend in LA, or my father, and I wasn’t about to tell Rudra. My mother e-mailed me soon after she took off, on my old Hotmail account. No one uses Hotmail anymore, but it’s where my mother writes to me from. She has cancer and lives in Calcutta getting some sort of homeopathic medicine, refusing to go the allopathic way. I think I am going to lose her soon. She left because she wanted to spend time in her home country again, and she did not want to disrupt Dad, me, or the American lives we had created. When I read my mother’s first letter to me, I forgave her instantly. It’s weird, but that is how it is, I never hated her after that one e-mail.

“Nope, never heard from her, but I will figure it out. I just have this feeling.”

“Good, you should always stick to your instinct.”

He ordered another rum and coke. I was almost done with my glass, I felt that wonderful mellow buzz that one feels after one drink, that buzz that makes you need that second drink, that leads you to drink too many in attempt at trying to recreate that first mellow buzz. Rudra asked the bartender to get me another sling. He turned to me this time and caught my hand and inspected the one sliver ring I had on my right hand.

“This is pretty. Is it from India?” His hand continued to hold mine.

“Yea, Delhi.”

I unclasped my hand from his, as casually as possible, and used it to stir my drink. “ So what’s your secret, you just run over dogs? And everything else is awesome?”

He raked his fingers through his hair and took another sip of his coke and rum.

“Sure, I have secrets. Tons.”

“Well, spill then.”

“You are young. You will suffer so much heartbreak, and conflict, and choices, and events and crazy dangerous things in life, and then they will all blur. Then it won’t matter anymore.”

I wanted him to take my hand again. It was the sling; it had to be the sling.

“Why are you acting like you are seventy- five years old? Jeez, I am not that much younger than you. I know about life and I just told you about my mother. Why are you being so secretive?”

“Oh relax, Meera, I am not advising you, and I am not being secretive. I am just older; everything is not such a big deal anymore. Why should it be? Today you and I are having a nice drink at an airport in one of the tiniest countries of the world. I asked you to say something you would never tell anyone else, because it’s liberating to get that opportunity.”

His facial muscles had relaxed. The booze was making him blabber too. He scratched his nose and then he stretched his hands upwards. He continued on his rant, “You know, to talk, to blab, and say shit you never would normally. You could be lying about everything you have told me up till now. Heck your name might not be Meera. Who cares? It’s the airport.”

I played with the wedge of pineapple on my glass and nodded in response.

“I am sorry, you must be thinking about your mother,” he said as his head tilted in a side nod.

I chomped on the pineapple and shrugged at him. I thought about my mother’s e-mails. She had kept writing to me even after that initial apology letter. I started to tell her things I never used to tell her about – boys, college, and my father going through phases of missing her intensely and then not caring, and then going into fits of rage, upsetting his room, throwing laundry in clumps around his room. My mother would write back, most of the letters were memories she had of India when she was a child. Stories about her sneaking around with her best friend Rita, watching Amitabh Bacchan movies past curfew, drinking sips of imported rum from her father’s cabinet. She told me about her boring school uniform that had to fall below her knees and her obsession with ABBA.

I wondered if this trip to India would be different from all the summer trips my parents took me on as a kid. Would I find that deep connection my mother had to it? Maybe it was always there, despite my American birth, maybe that’s why I am here, on my way to live in my parents country for a couple of years? When I told my mother I was going to come to Delhi to do my Masters she did not seemed surprised. The timing was good too, dad had met a Gujarati widow; they seemed to be happy, spending a lot of time together. What was the attachment my mother had to India that made her leave a four bedroom house in LA, her husband, her daughter, her friends, and all the memories she had created there?

I looked back at Rudra. He was stirring his drink in slow motion. His head tilted towards mine and he gave me another one of his smiles. This one was more sincere.

“Nah, I’m not. I’ll think of my mother when I get there. I’m just enjoying the buzz.”

I was silent for a bit after that. I polished off my second Singapore Sling. If he was telling the truth, Rudra’s flight was four hours away and he would have to leave earlier than that to check into his gate. I only had three hours with him, and I would probably never see him again. I looked at him with more fondness, trying to etch his details into my mind. I wanted to tell my mother about him, his chuckle, his way of reversing every question on me, and his thick meaty hands. We lingered at the bar for another hour, our conversation was mellower. He quizzed me on my Hindi movie knowledge and we talked about music and learnt that we detested each other’s musical taste. Who in the world doesn’t care for the Beatles? I roasted him for that one, but he would just laugh out loud in response, asking why I took that band so seriously.

He paid for all the drinks and we walked back to the food court, our stomachs growling after booze and conversations. Both of us got Noodles, spicy with shrimp and pork. We shoved noodles into our mouths like uncouth animals. He pointed out women he thought were hot, and I pointed out men I thought were hot. A bevy of beautiful Singapore Airline hostesses passed us, they walked quickly in their tight blue skirts covered with orchard patterns . Even I appreciated their perfect hips, their shiny hair tucked into perfect buns and their dainty manicured hands clutching their black carry-on bags.

“I like Asian women, they look little pretty dolls.”

“You’re a sexist .”

“Everyone is sexist, darling.”

Later, we went back to the black lounge chairs and looked into the night sky that was on the brink of dawn. My backpack was on my chest, my arms around it as if it was a small child. Rudra let out a sigh.

“I have to go soon, got to go to the next terminal actually, it’s going to take a bit, and so I have to leave,” he said. Somehow his lips were still curved into a smirk. I was surprised to feel my chest tighten with unresolved emotion. Was I sad because he was leaving? How did seven hours pass so quickly?

“Yup, it was great to hang out with you. I guess we should not exchange e-mails or Facebook info. It’s cooler that way, plus if we ever meet in Changi airport then we can take it as a sign and get married!” I immediately felt stupid after saying that.

“Hah! Done Deal. By the way, you are a pretty girl, you should know that.”

I let out a giggle that sounded mortifyingly adolescent. I cleared my throat and re-tied my hair again. He stood up and put his brown carry-on luggage in standing position. He held his arms out. I stood up and gave him a hug. He smelled like airport soap. He reached into his wallet and pulled out what appeared to be a piece of card paper.

“The thing is we never really know anything about strangers,” he placed the piece of paper in my hand. “Don’t flip it over until I have left; promise me. Till next time Miss. America and I hope you find your mother.”

I scrunched the paper in my hand; I couldn’t resist so I gave him another hug and sneaked a kiss on his cheek. I wanted more time in this international purgatory with him. I had more stories for him, so many more. He turned. His brown carry-on waddled on its wheels. He was out of sight quickly. I sat back down on the black couch and opened my fist. I turned over the card paper. It was a photograph. In the picture there was a lady in a purple sari with a gentle smile. In the middle of the picture was a boy who could not have been older than seven, he smiled enthusiastically into the camera. The father in the picture was Rudra. His hair was longer, his arm was around the lady in the sari and his other meaty hand gently placed on the head of his son.

Son of a bitch, I thought. He won the game. I did not know a thing about him. For all I know he could have been on his way to Malaysia or Sri Lanka, maybe back to his wife. Or maybe they had died. Or maybe she had left him, and only the son died. Maybe his son and wife were just waiting for him to come home from a long business trip in the U.S, the possibilities were endless. I wanted to run after him, and beg him to tell me everything. But I did not. He was right, in the end, it didn’t really matter.

Later I was lying on the black couches, my iPod playing a Beatles song gently into my ears. I looked at the planes taking off. I concentrated on this one plane, and I imagined Rudra in it. I watched it lazily roll onto the runway. I watched it pick up speed, roaring with sudden energy, the wings tilted, the nose soared up and I saw it rise into the dark sky that had just allowed the first rays of sun to peak through. I thought of Rudra sitting in that plane, his hands on his lap calmly waiting for the plane to arrive at the next airport. I watched that plane until it was nothing more than a twinkle in the sky, and for the life of me I couldn’t imagine a destination.

***