When my flight lands at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, my blood does not pulse like it always does on absorbing my country’s air. Today, your breath is not mixed in my inhales.
I don’t elbow past tired passengers toward the immigration counters, don’t race to the conveyors to claim my luggage, don’t rush to the phone booth to hear the frisson in your voice on hearing mine. The reward for my 22-hour journey.
You always emptied the moth-filled lamp at the house entrance of the dead wings and feet, to make it shine bright for my arrival. You swept and washed the verandah, pruned the rosebush, like I was an honorable guest. You stood at the gate with a torch in your hand, shining its light on each taxi and rickshaw that appeared on the street, disappointed when they sped past you. Your next stop was the terrace to get a panoramic view of the street while Ammi cautioned you from the kitchen to watch your step on the stairs.
That’s where I found you, leaning against the parapet. You shouted my name and instructions to Ammi for making chai, and hurried down the stairs to pay the cab driver, forgetting to take the change. You insisted on carrying my bag inside; I gulped at the diminishing flesh on your arm, year after year. After latching the gate shut, you kissed me on the forehead, your lips cold from being outside.
Today, I don’t stop at the duty-free to buy a Toblerone for you. I pull my bag and body out of the airport toward the taxi stand, one heavy step at a time, gravity forceful, as it never was.
At the house, I’ll pay the driver and ring the doorbell beside your nameplate. Ammi will not hear it the first time amid the clatter of pots and pans as she prepares dinner. I’ll press the buzzer again. She’ll peek from the window, and then emerge, wiping her hands on her tunic, and cry in my arms.
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American. She was born in a middle-class family in India and will forever be indebted to her parents for educating her beyond their means. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee; her work has been published online at Spelk Fiction, Fictive Dream, Barren Magazine, and also in print anthologies like the National Flash Fiction Day collection. Her work can be found at saraspunyfingers.com she can be reached at twitter @PunyFingers.
Artwork by: sk