{ the hand stretch } running time: 90 seconds

"This is what it comes down to on a very large time scale", she shifts in her seat to turn towards me. She still, after all these years, sits on the car seat like on a sofa, with legs folded in a foetal position.

"I never thought I would have to ask around for you, find where you are in the whole wide world, I thought you'd always be a hand stretch away."

"Look again", I said without taking my eyes off the road, "maybe I am".

{ 909 } running time: 20 seconds

Are those shadows falling
The way you liked them to?

Across sidewalks and buildings
and cities and countries
that have come between
me and you

I have always thought
You would shine....

{ the coffee song } running time: 15 minutes

She was watching raindrops on the side windows. They were racing, with bulbous heads and long narrow tails. She was quiet and I had asked the last question a few minutes ago, the one she didn't answer, the one after which she started looking at the raindrops crashing on the window. The only sound in the car was sound of wipers on the front glass "whip whash whip whash..."

There were other sounds coming from outside, the sound of cars racing down the water covered highway, rain falling on the car - the pitter patter of the rain. An occassional honk, an occassional siren of an ambulance.

I turned the radio on at a very low volume to dilute the silence a little. "Get the party started", I changed station, "More rock, less talk ... guitar ... 'There she comes in the atmosphere'...", I changed the station again, "Are you still throwing bread crumbs, To those pigeons in the park, By that statue where we used to walk", I had no idea what song this was, it just sounded like a coffee song, a Starbucks song, before I could touch the scan button again, she said, "leave it here"; I look at her, she's still looking out the window, now running her finger along the path of one drops, the random footprints of a raindrop.

And one things which came to my mind, far removed from her silence, far removed from that moment, was a wish I had my camera with me. She was made so 'her soul could be captured'. In a photograph, or a sketch ...

The song on the radio went on, "Are you still throwing coins, Into that fountain, The one we made wishes on, Built my life upon, But they never came true..."

She finally looks away from the window, to the road. Between the "whip whash" and "pitter patter", and the coffee song on radio I hear her voice, "i don't know" she says, with a lowercase i. "i don't know, i'm just going with the flow for a change"

{ the bridge } running time: 70 minutes

Vishakha found my whereabouts at the college alumni web site, I didn't even remember I had put my e-mail address there. It's the only thing that hadn't changed about me in last four years. They were the times of Internet boom. 'Registering' was hip, everyone registered everywhere - Alumni, free e-mail, birthday reminder services, whatnot. Everyone was moving one's 'data' from paper diaries or electronic organizers to the Internet.

Next day she wrote me an e-mail. She'd be arriving at the San Francisco international airport sunday morning she said, and asked me to pick her up.

While filling each other on lost time, she told me she had got married some two years back and was coming to live with her husband here. He had to be out of town on business trip at a very short notice and coincidentally she had found my e-mail address around the same time ...

I didn't have enough to tell. I just had too much to ask.

"When did you learn to ask so many questions?", she asked. "You are asking like a kid, the smallest things, the difficult question", she said and half smiled. "Maybe I'm rediscovering life", I smiled back and replied.

"Let me ask a question for a change. Do you have a girlfriend ... again?", she asked.

"You're asking like ... like I'm jumping off a cliff 'again' ..."

"I and you have only one thing in common ...", she paused like she's revealing a secret. "We are both unlucky in love ... once we were kids, we had enough time to get hurt and heal. I had you to heal me and you had me. Don't bruise yourself again ... you may not have anyone to pick the pieces up for you this time. Ask me ... I know what that's like. I missed you ..." She said and paused for several seconds.

The rain got faster. I increased the speed of wipers and slowed the speed of car.

Hadn't I too? ... missed her? ... missed myself? ...

{ the nod } running time: 30 minutes

The meeting points at the airport arrival terminals are metaphors for life. There were many people around me, and everyone was searching for a particular person. The ones who were coming out of the terminal were also searching for the particular faces.

She came out the airport terminal, with just one bag. I could see her looking around for the familiar face, looking for me. If she saw me before I saw her, she would had found me searching for her in the crowd.

Isn't that what I'd been doing all this time we were out of touch - searching for her in the crowds? I've learnt it the hard way ... we all need friends. "Don't burn all the bridges", Vipin had told me ... I guess it was too late already. The way I had alienated everyone ... the way I left everything behind, I am scared to even try to go back to my friends. She's the only friend I had left ... and since we got out of touch for reasons geographical and personal ... I had none ...

She saw me waving a hand and smiled just standing there. She didn't move for what felt like many minutes. Then she waved back and walked towards me. We didn't hug or even shake hands, maybe we were both looking for something proper to say. You meet your best friend after four years, what do you start by saying? Something formal to underline the time gap? Or very informal ... like the time gap never happened ...

"We meet again", I said. She smiled but didn't speak; just gave me a nod.

I took the trolley from her and started to walk towards the elevators to the parking. She walked besides me wordless. Even after we were out of the airport driving down 101 South in the rain, she hadn't said a word.

The wiper blades on the window were making the "whip whash" sounds, and the rain, running faster and slower with the wind made its "pitter patter" sounds.

"How have you been Rishi Chhibber?", she asked. Like she always did ... with my complete name. That was what she was like, she always used complete names of people she was close to. It was my turn to not be able to speak. Now I knew why she was silent. One word, and I ran the risk of showing a tear. Without taking my eyes off the wet road (there were risks involved), I slowly nodded.

{ dream } running time: 50 seconds

"I guess we'll never know what the right way is. All I've learnt in life is that some experiences are not lessons. Some mistakes should be repeated. All one has to know is the answer to this - is my dream worth the price? ..."

I saw that she can not agree with most of what I was saying. The personal experiences, the cities, the countries have come between us. Four years is a very long time, if you were growing up in that while ...

"Is your dream worth the price Vishakha?" I asked her.

She didn't answer. She started to look at the side window at the crashing raindrops.

{ the hand stretch } running time: 4 years

"Don't break her heart ... and take care of yours", she said before saying goodbye.

"I won't and I will ... I'm rediscovering life with her. Rediscovering my self.", I said and she smiled.

"And welcome me!", she said and I felt stupid to had not said that yet. "I'm 'back' ... once in a while, reach your hand out ..."


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