He couldn’t remember when he had met her for the first time. Was it at the office or at her apartment with the others? Or had it been on that first trip to Nice? No, he had definitely met her before that trip, but for the life of him, he couldn’t pinpoint the exact occurrence. That irritated him. Almost as if the first meeting would have been insignificant. That couldn’t have been. He believed in love at first sight.
He looked out of the window. It was quite dark now and the bus rolled along merrily on the new highway. The lights of shops on the busy highway zipped past. Now and then a petrol pump would emerge out of the kaleidoscope of images and seemed to stay for a fraction of a second longer than the rest. He was glad nobody was sitting next to him and patted himself mentally for traveling on a weeknight. His bag lay on the seat next to him. He opened it and took out a book of poems that he had purchased at ‘Crosswords’ the last weekend. He never read poems. But one of his acquaintances at the last party he attended had claimed to be enthralled by them and had gone into a long and fascinating monologue of his favorite poets and the beauty of their individual works. And so the next time that Vikram had gone to his favorite bookstore, he finally looked at the poetry section and picked out a thin book of poems from an Indian author whose novels he had read earlier and liked. He had flipped through a few pages right then and had thought- ‘This doesn’t look so bad’-and paid up. But he hadn’t gotten around to reading it as yet. He had been avidly following the football world cup on television these last few days. Everyone seemed to talk about it everyday. One couldn’t be in a position of being ignorant about such an important event. He had made a mental note of even watching the English Premier League next season.
The reading lights didn’t work. “Shit”, he muttered. He considered drawing the conductor’s attention to the malfunctioning bulb but then decided against it. What if he asked him to move to a seat where the reading light worked but which happened to have a fellow traveler seated next to him? He would then be in an uncomfortable position to refuse. Vikram mentally weighed the pros and cons of that situation and decided that he preferred to sit in isolation without his book of poems than share his immediate personal space with a stranger. What if that stranger turned out to be an inquisitive busybody and quizzed him endlessly about his book, life, career and the objective of his trip to Jaipur? Vikram was truthful and polite and frequently found himself drawn into conversations where he was an unwilling participant. His only means of defense was avoidance.
Fuck it, he thought, and put the book back into his bag and took out his iPod. Book and iPod, Vikram never traveled without either of them. A seasoned traveler, he was now ever cautious of boredom, which used to hit him quite frequently earlier when he wasn’t wise enough. Nowadays he carried spare batteries.
Dire Straits, one of his all time favorite bands. He loved Knopfler’s voice, his lead guitar work and the simple lyrics. He yawned. It had been a long day and he was still suffering from jet lag. Wait, no, it couldn’t be jet lag. It was almost two weeks since he had returned from Paris. It had simply been a very long and stressful day; he decided and closed his eyes.
He had definitely met her at the office the first time, he thought, and slept.