She already knew which gate to board her flight from. It always has been the same, Gate 30. Every year she would take the same flight to go back to her homeland. Alba puts a lot into her once in a year trip to India.
Every year I see her before the holidays. She always has a spring in her step, an aura of cheer around her. Things were different this year. There she was, sitting at a cramped corner of The Sanderling Wetherspoon* with a pint of a strong alcoholic drink. I watched, as she gulped the amber liquid, thinning and shutting her lips tight as it passed her throat. It must be so difficult for her……She is a teetotaler.
She knew he didn’t love her, but today she was going to cross continents for him. There was a thin ray of hope “things will change once he sees her”. They know each other for a year now. He had helped her to put plans in place, helped her decide things they’ll do, together.
It is Christmas Eve and the boarding starts in an hour. He has deserted her, hours before she is supposed to fly to meet him for the first time. Tears rolled down the pale face, now almost entirely covered by the unruly auburn curls. Wiping them with her sleeve, Alba turns to steal a glance if someone is noticing her breakdown. She was unaware, I have been watching her all along.
I have seen people’s love stories. I have seen them begin, end and have their happy endings. Alba’s was different. Today her love failed her, the sacrifices and compromises she had made for him, let her down. It was too late to cancel the flight, the trip. Too late to let all those people down, who she has promised to meet back home. Today she couldn’t let herself be washed away with the streams that emerge from her eyes. Instead, she chose to wash the painful knot in her heart with alcohol.
With her face cupped in her hands, she was thinking of what lay in front of her. There were no plans of which he was not a part. Now that he was not coming to meet, she had no idea what awaited her. The closer she gets to Mumbai, the more will she be groped by the uncertainty, fear and shame of being left on the road.
It was almost time. With the last boarding call, she sat up straight, wiped the tear stains off her face and arranged her beautiful curls in place; pulled her peach woollen scarf from the behind and wrapped it around her neck. She got up and started walking towards Gate 30.
I could see the effort with which she was walking straight; the alcohol had hit her balance. It took her a few minutes to gain posture, walking on the blue carpeted floor dragging her hand baggage where she carried his favourite homemade sweet, the jilbi*.
She had loved in silence; she had done everything she could for him in silence; she will live through this in silence.
I wish when I see her again, I find the happily infectious Alba, I have been waiting to see all year.
Glasgow International Airport
*The Sanderling Wetherspoon is an upscale airport pub located inside the Glasgow International Airport in Paisley, United Kingdom.
*Jilbi or Jalebi, is a sweet, popular in the Indian subcontinent. It is made by deep frying all purpose flour batter in flowery circular shapes and soaking in sugar syrup.