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  • She sent an email - Will be returning home for the weekend. Since her town was only couple of hours drive, I took the road and was at her house by 11:00/11:30am on the agreed weekend.
    She worked for a Hong Kong based airline, and was home on her regular break. We met for the first time.

    We had lunch. A rather elaborate buffet.

    As she saw the familiar animation of a man reaching his wallet in his back pocket, she immediately insisted that she would pay. I had not come on a horse, nor did I have any armour, shinning or otherwise and we were well into the new millennium. I had no false pretentions.

    After a brief, midway, freeze of my wallet pulling animation, I just as smoothly reversed the entire sequence and eased my weight back on my seat. I didn’t protest.

    I visited her couple of times more. Sometime, with a gap of more than a month. It depended on her flight schedule.

    I liked her.

    The best compliment that I had ever got from a friend was ‘..you are even more screwed up than I am’. I didn’t give her that compliment, but that’s what drew me to her. She was just as much or perhaps more twisted and screwed than I was.

    On her part she did give me a compliment ‘You don’t seem to have any hang-ups’. That clearly was important for her. Not that I was thinking of it at that time, but not insisting on paying for the lunch did seem to have earned me a few brownie points.

    When I like someone, I buy them a book. Sputnik Sweetheart. That’s what I thought of her. So that’s the book I gave her. Like the satellite Sputnik, we were just orbiting, sometimes crossing each others path.

    I knew we would not be meeting for long. I could see our divergent orbits. She was scarily similar to me – at least that’s what I thought. She had even asked me a question which I usually asked, but had not asked thinking it was too stupid to ask. We could not have gone too far.

    ‘I’ll be travelling to London for a few months on work.’ I said.

    ‘I’ll try and see if I can make it to London’. Working for an international airline had its perks.

    Now I wasn’t sure why I was continuing to see her. Was I not guilty of setting false expectations? Anyway, in all we had only met twice. If we met again it would only be our third meeting.

    Where are we heading? Why am I meeting her? I continued to ask myself.

    Sometimes things are beautiful in their own right. Beauty is the worth of something which is appreciated without any idea of a goal! There was no goal or end to be achieved. Let life take its own course. I had answers for myself.

    We next met in London. We had dinner. ‘N I am in love. I have met this man and I will be marrying him’.

    I have no idea what expressions I may have betrayed to her, but I do remember being torn inside between relief and a sinking feeling.

    Relief I could understand, after all the situation had sorted itself out neatly. But this ‘sinking feeling’ just took me by surprise.

    The reaction was not psychological. I recognise such reactions within me rather immediately. It could not have been.

    It could not have been emotional, as my mind was pretty clear. Anyway, we had hardly made any emotional investment. Three meetings over four months!

    I reached home and threw up. It was just an extreme physiological reaction. Why? I don't know! Despite being clear in my mind of no possible future together, I suspect that my body could not immediately, even if for only few hours, come to terms with the sudden end.

    We met again the next day as planned. For the last time. We saw a play together– The Mousetrap.

    We went down to take the tube. She was headed for Heathrow, while I had to eventually go to Victoria. I intended to accompany her a few stops before turning back.

    ‘Its ok if you want to turn back from here’ she said. Both of us knew 15 more minutes would not make any difference, either way. This strong person, who lived alone in Honk Kong, flew around the world, smoked heavily - and yet there was this, almost childlike innocence and vulnerability in her words.

    At that moment I had this strong surge of affection for her, standing close on the tube station, waiting for the train, I just planted a small peck on her cheek. It took her by surprise. Actually, it took both of us by surprise. She was already feeling guilty of having broken my heart. I perhaps just accentuated that.

    We boarded the train. I don’t remember us speaking much. She was seated, I was standing waiting for my station.

    As the train slowed and approached my stop, I looked at her to say good bye. She got up for a quick hug. We had hardly curled our arms across each other and had barely come close when I had to pull away in a hurry to leave the train. The doors were open and someone was yelling M-I-N-D T-H-E G-A-P.

    She missed my cheek and I could only hear her kiss the air.

    The Sputniks are still orbiting!

    ***
    PIC - London Tube Station - unrelated but taken during that stay in London
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