They’d repainted the gates
To a pastel cyan instead of the usual cream.
There was still a hibiscus tree on the left hand-side,
And a half-filled bucket on the right.
You were fidgeting at your spot
As we waited at the door.
The nerves had kicked in and
Living on the second storey didn’t help cut time.
I held your hand and pressed your knuckles lightly.
This was it.
We were here.
I could hear you take deep breaths and
Exhale them after a handful of seconds
To help calm your nerves.
A familiar face greeted us, squealing in happiness.
The trips were never unplanned
But the reaction was the consequence
Of the extended months and distance in between.
They cupped my face in wrinkled palms
As I gently held on to their elbows,
Both of us soaking in each other’s presence.
Her focus soon shifted to you
And she caressed your face before
Resting her hands on your shoulder and
Embracing you like someone she’s known forever.
I could tell you were taken aback;
Unsure what to do with your arms hanging by her side,
Looking at me for the right response.
I mimic a hug to tell you to hug her back –
This was a good start.
There was a seven course meal with
Each course having four dishes to itself
Prepared specially for you.
He’d picked out his burgundy blazer
That brought out shine in his white mane and beard.
This was also the blazer of special occasion.
He’d worn it the last time when we’d gone for dinner
To celebrate my promotion that posted me
In a city away from here.
The floral cutlery with gold rims were also plated today.
You start off shy with your helpings unaware
Of all that’s going to be forced onto your plate
In the name of love and hospitality
As we converse about our life in the city away from here –
Work, people, home and more.
They’ve gotten you to sit in between them
Taking turns – both theirs and the others –
To ask you about you.
It’s twilight by the time lunch is over
And there’s still more to come.
We laugh and joke amidst nervousness of the different.
I can tell how the three of you measure your words;
Sometimes forgetting to in between the growing comfort.
We leave after a cup of darjeeling tea with salted biscuits,
And the promise to return tomorrow evening
And staying till the end of the trip.
They’ve hugged you three times by now
After saying goodbye and kissing your forehead
But still come till the corner of the road, three houses away
To wave us goodbye.
Once inside the taxi, you laugh, shudder and exhale loudly
Before you start off on how you felt the last few hours
And how they make you feel now.
You tell me about the food and the interiors of the house;
The flavour in the tea here and the weather is perfect for it;
You tell me how you’d already thought of the worst case scenario
But this was so much better than your best case scenario.
I ask you what’s the matter and you tell me
How it was a feast of a treatment and
That you’d usually give that to a special guest.
I understood your concern and agreed to your statement –
This was a feast of a treatment
That you’d usually give to someone you wished to impress,
Same as how you had your favourite shirt on
That you considered lucky.