Nia returned to a lonely apartment every evening like she had for five months now; it was a vast spread of chaos and clutter and yet, somehow, empty. It wasn’t like she didn’t like living in California; she loved it. She loved the sun, the beach, the people, the trees. She had grown to love all of it in the five short months she’d spent there and it didn’t seem like the city loved her back.
Back in February the same year, when she shifted to LA, she spent most of her salary from the last three months on decorating this barren apartment. It looked so much like her home back in India that sometimes she would step out of it and only then realize she was in a foreign land. But even so, it failed to become a home to her. There was no warmth, no familiarity, no love. It was as if she couldn’t seem to belong.
As she dropped her bag to the floor, she realized that she missed her country, she missed her city, she missed her friends and someone she had to leave behind; Aarav. Even five months later she could see him, unable to say goodbye as she started to leave.
Nia’s job demanded her to move; Aarav’s job demanded him to stay. But of course, when she was leaving, he disagreed; Aarav thought this meant that they broke up. Nia thought otherwise, she told him they didn’t have to and that it wasn’t written in any rulebook to break up every time one of you went away and anyway, Nia didn’t believe in rules. It made him laugh and it also took a lot of strength but he agreed. So when they parted, they decided to act like they’re in the same city, act cool, casual because why not. But who were they kidding, they knew these long distance things don’t work out.
So when her phone blasting rock music, she picked it up without even looking at the screen. She knew it was him; it had to be. As soon as his face appeared on the screen, her face brightened up with a smile.
On the other side of the screen, Aarav smiled back at her. He’d just woken up and made some coffee for himself. It was his ritual, wake up, make coffee and then take your IPad around the house so that you can get ready for work as well talk to your girlfriend. Hectic life, but that’s the most they could do.
“You’re early,” she said. Usually, he would call her some ten to fifteen minutes later than this so today had to be different.
“I figured you’d be home, so why not?” he said, taking a sip of his coffee and realizing he still couldn’t make it right. When Nia was here, she would make him coffee every morning before they left for work. She had indeed taught him how to make it before coming to LA but he just couldn’t seem to get it right.
“Ah coffee, I could use some too…” She said to herself and got up to refresh herself as well. Inside his head, Aarav wished he could be with her more for her company than for the coffee but yeah, for the coffee too. Coffee’s important.
“How was your day?” He asked her, as she set her phone down on the shelf tilted at an angle so that Aarav could still see her. He scratched the back of her as she walked around having taken off her jacket, she seemed at ease and was relieved to know that her job was treating her well.
She was so excited when she was leaving, he remembered. She’d always been the adventurer and he the one who stayed back home. So obviously, Nia wanted to go to California and experience new things, meet new people, have new stories to tell. She deserved all of it, she worked hard to reach where she was and she deserved to stay there. So when she was leaving, he didn’t say goodbye, because he didn’t know if that would mean never seeing each other again. Goodbye is a strong word, you should say it wisely and obviously not to those you want to keep.
It’s weird how two people could have such different memories of the same day. It’s weird and it’s sad.
“Nia?” He said when she’d finally settle down on her couch with her steaming cup of coffee.
“Yup?” She asked, raising her brows like she always did when she was paying attention to him completely.
“I’m going to Mumbai tonight,”
“Mumbai?” She frowned.
“We’ve got this meeting and a whole bunch of events for a week there,” He said, stepping into the bathroom where he planned to brush his teeth.
“Wow, that’s cool…” She said, her voice deep and somber.
“Yeah but I wouldn’t be able to call you often throughout the week, I hope it’s alright?” He asked. They talked on the phone all the time on weekends and moderately so on weekdays so being able to talk to each other only a few times throughout the day could just be a problem. If not a problem, it would definitely be different. He didn’t want her to feel lonely or ignored.
“That’s –that’s alright,” She said, “I have a lot of friends who want to catch up so I’ll be busy throughout the weekend and work…work is so hectic at this moment. So I’ll be fine, totally fine.” She told him with a smile. He smiled back.
“Okay great,” he said, picking up his toothbrush.
“I need to go to bed now, I’m so tired. Remember to call me when you board,” She told him.
“Sure, he said through his mouth full of white, minty foam.
“I love you,” He mumbled. She laughed muttering it back before she hung up.
As her gaze fell away from the screen of her phone, she came back to her empty apartment again. Realizing she had nothing to do, no people to meet this weekend, she went to bed but not to sleep.
The next Seven days rolled away like a blur for Aarav, he’d met so many people, he’d experienced a lot of things and everything that could give his career a huge leap. But that didn’t mean he was excited when he landed at IGI at 8:30 in the morning. Instead, he was tired and groggy from sleeping uncomfortably through the flight. Hotel rooms aren’t home you know. They’re fun, yes, but not comfortable or warm. So he decided to sleep through the cab ride as well. He wanted to get home and sleep until 2020 if that’s what it would take the exhaustion to go away.
He realized he’d only called Nia about four timed throughout this trip and it was not good. But since he thought she had those ‘lot of friends to catch up with’ she wouldn’t even have missed him. He knew she loved to work, so he supposed she loved to work in LA anyway.
Finally, at about ten, the cab pulled up at his flat and he was relieved to finally get home. He yawned all the way through the elevator ride up to the sixth floor and yawned again as he entered his flat. But that’s when his grogginess faded away when the strong smell of coffee wafting in the air hit his nose. He took a sharp turn to the kitchen and started to poke his fingers into his eyelids with disbelief.
“Want some coffee?” asked Nia and oh yes, he did. So much.