She waited. She'd arrived a minute early. He would be 17 late. She doesn't know that yet, and she doesn't mind. Arriving early is noble and she does it with a practised ease. She pities the late arriver, of course, for he starts with a disadvantage, but she never admonishes them. She has always graciously brushed aside apologies for lateness. It's tough to be punctual, she knows. No, she didn't mind. She wasn't bored. Nobody is bored around her, least of all, herself.
She waits still. Quaint blue tea-cups on mis-matched orange saucers arrive. Earl gray at 8. She takes a deep breath, exhales and takes a sip of the tea. All's right with the world. She lights a cigarette. Stray glances, at a woman smoking in public, hit her face and slide off at her non-chalance. Lookers-oners look away. It hurts them to try and penetrate her private bubble. Her oasis of solitude affects the cheerful mood at the next table and the converstaion dies down a bit.
She waits still, now contemplating her next move. Should she smoke her last cigarette? She let's it be. Play SuDoKu? She doesn't feel like rummaging through her vast green bag to look for her phone. Instead she gazes ahead and tries to concentrate on the noise around her. The collective hum of the conversation of the 17 tables around her gathers her in and soothes her with its benignity. She looks for a rhythm in the voice of the crowd and smiles to herself. It is so easy to feel alone, to experience solitude amidst a crowd. The urbanity of the in-comprehensible hum lulls her to comfort like it always has. It reminds her of her childhood mornings when she would wake up to her mother's chants. The noise of the chants spelt Morning, God, Clean Room, Incense and a Mother Smelling of Sandalwood. She had never known the individual meaning of the sanskrit words. Suddenly, she catches a few words from the table closest to her. She frowns. She turns the other way and starts humming to herslf as if to shut her ears. The table laughs in unison. She smiles and her palms unclench. She lights the last cigarette in the pack and awaits.
'What does it even matter what he has to say, really,' she thinks, 'I know why he wants out of this....' She stops to look for an appropriate word. She looks around to stare at the Jackfruit tree. Her friends would have provided 'Relationship,' she settles for 'Entanglement.' 'He is scared of course.' She continues to talk to herself, her tongue actually moving behind her clenched teeth. Her jaws tighten with the effort of not speaking aloud. She laughs at herself.
'I need to keep a blank mind. I can't let him know what all I presume for all my presumptions are right and he will get more scared at being so transparent to me and run faster. I'll keep the topics neutral. I'll talk about my sister or the Weather.' She decides and pulls the scarf closer around her neck.
She looks around now for him. 18 minutes have passed by.'Where is he?' She spots him entering through the door, with a phone in one hand at his ear, calling her and a book in the other. Her phone rings in the vast green bag. She ignores it and instead looks at him frantically searching for her. She smiles. He looks so young. So vulnerable, So his age. She waves at him and beckons him over, relieving him of his fear of having to wait for her alone.