The Known Stranger

A few years ago I had to travel out of the city for an event which was happening on a large-scale. There was nothing fancy about the place and life was slow like every Indian mid city life. 

On my fourth day here I was contemplating with myself if I should call in room service or if I should go to the restaurant at the hotel itself. Luckily this five-star hotel didn’t suck as much as the city did. 

I made a decision and decided to have dinner at the restaurant. Before that, I thought I’ll take a walk to the hotel’s shopping area and see what they had in store. I love shopping alone, especially when I’m not rushed, and it usually ends with me buying something not required.

Shopping completed, and I had shopped a lot I headed to the Chinese Rooftop Restaurant. I always had a thing for Chinese food. Five minutes waiting till I could get a table, always hated the waiting part, but the aroma of the food was a good motivator. 

On the way to my table I saw HIM, he sat alone eating something that looked like rice and was checking his phone. I froze in my spot, unable to take a decision on what to do next.   

I had loved him once, maybe I still do. You all know what its like. Your first love. Mad passionate love. Young love. Till death do us apart love. Where everything is just like a fairy tale (until life actually happens) where you think you have found your Mr D’Arcy. Where sex is the best cause you don’t have a benchmark to compare it with. You love the person with such intensity that you feel happiness as well as pain, the person becomes your smile as well as your tears. Yeah, I’m talking of that love. 

Nathan was an architect and a fantastic one at that. Nathan and I were lovers for almost a decade.

I walked over to him. My palms were sweaty. He hadn’t looked up yet. 

‘Hi’ his face lost colour, mouth opened, a few awkward seconds pass. 

‘Hi’ he says, looking around confused. 

He pulled up a chair near him and tapped it for me to sit. I sit on the edge. 

‘How have you’ve been Kiera?’ 

Ignoring his question I ask, ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Client meeting’ he said. ‘Had reservations here, but the client cancelled, so having a lonely dinner.’ 

‘Aha’. 

‘What can I get you?’ the waiter asks. 

I rise from the edge of the chair and decline. 

He seemed surprised. ‘It’s been eleven years Kiera, I’m sure we can have a meal together’

Hesitantly I sit. Properly this time. ‘Ok, I’ll have the same stuff you’re having, what is it?’

‘God knows, some Chinese crap but it’s delicious, here have some,’ saying this he handed me a spoon so I could eat from his plate. 

I tasted it, it tastes good.

“Get this same thing for me too,’ I tell the waiter. 

I turn my attention to Nathan, ‘How’s Ruvina?’  

‘She’s doing well.’

‘And how’s Gayle and Gem doing, they must have started school now?’

‘Yeah, they do. They are good. Tell me about you, Kiera, How’s Kit?’ Nathan asked cutting me.

‘He’s doing good,’ is all I could say. 

‘Its good you found someone who shares the same thoughts as you, about not having any kids,’ Nathan said with a sly smile on his sharp face.

‘Yeah, that’s true, and he sticks by his choice, unlike some who have a change of heart.’ The words were out before I knew it, and I bit my lower lip hard to make myself stop. 

‘You can’t hold it against me, I had a change of heart and wanted kids. What did you want me to do, suppress and sacrifice my desires?’ Nathan said, in a sad tone.

‘I don’t hold it against you, it fucking just hurts so much.’ I blurted out. 

‘It fucking hurts me too.’ Nathan raised his voice. 

Luckily the restaurant was vacant, but the waiters were around and were now looking at us. 

‘What the fuck are we doing Nathan, fighting in public. It’s eleven years. Is it that hard to have a quiet meal after all these years?’ I said instantly in tears.

He stared at me.

All I ever wanted was for us to have a family,’ Nathan was saying. ‘Is it that bad, is that reason enough to leave me and walk out.’ 

‘You changed. You knew what you had got yourself into, I was not the maternal type, it’s not fair neither to the baby or me. All I ever wanted was to have a fucking conversation with you.’ I yelled back. 

We sat in silence for the next few minutes.

‘Does Kit fuck you the way I used to?’ Nathan blurted out. ‘Does he make intense, passionate love to you?’

Well, truth be told, Nathan was a good lover and knew his ways around a woman in bed, Nathan knew it too, but I couldn’t let him know Kit and I had different bedrooms now. 

All I said was, ‘I miss the highs, the passion. He’s happy as long as I’m happy, even if our marriage is not super amazing all the time, it’s okay with me. At least he doesn’t make me cry. You know Nathan, Kit respects me for who I am.’

I finish my cold food, I don’t even remember when the waiter was here with the food, Jeez he must have heard us fighting. The restaurant by now was empty. Nathan just kept staring at me. I couldn’t read his expression. The waiter came and handed us the menu, 

‘Desserts.’ he says. ‘You know, I don’t eat desserts,’ I told Nathan. 

‘Lets share,’ saying this he ordered a brownie with vanilla ice cream. 

‘Typical Nathan,’ I thought with half a smile. We talked little for the rest of the dinner. When the brownie arrived we shared it in silence . It didn’t look like eleven years. The silence is comforting. 

When the bill arrived Nathan volunteered to pay. He never let me pay. I rolled my eyes and laughed. 

‘I miss what we had sometimes, Kiera, I do,’ Nathan said while we were getting up to leave. 

I decided not to respond. His justifications hurt till now. No point going on and on about it. 

As we wait for the valet to get his car, I catch him staring at me. I rub the back of his fingers with my thumb and smile. 

‘You know Kiera,’ Nathan begins, ‘I worry about you all the time. I know your good at masking it, I’m not.’

I find that old lump in my throat, which I have learnt to swallow, I can’t breathe. 

He bends down and kisses me on the cheek. ‘Sometimes love ain’t enough,’ he whispers in my ears. ‘You are home for me.’ 

I have no words to say. His car arrives. Just as he is about to get in, I stop him, walk in front of him and give him a tight hug. I can feel his body tighten as he holds me tight with his head down between my neck and shoulders. His hug hurts like a spear in my heart. With tears welling up in my eyes, I kissed him first on his neck, his ear lobes, his cheek and then my lips finding his warm soft lips. 

‘You have a lot of grey hair,’ I whispered breaking away from his kiss. 

‘Yeah’ saying so he kissed me on my lips giving me his widest grin. 

I can feel his hand behind my back. It’s a sensory memory. I haven’t forgotten. I don’t want him to stop touching me. I’ve missed him, I’ve missed his hands. I close my eyes. 

‘But I’m not there now to give you any stress anymore,’ saying this he enters the car. As I watch him go I suffocate, my nose chokes up, and I fight back my tears.

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