Sunday, April 17, 2011

Love Affair

jdomawa © 2011* All Rights Reserved

I want to sleep. 

My body feels too heavy from the long travel. The long line that snaked ahead of me towards the Customs booth is starting to look like a mirage to my tired eyes as it struggled between lucidity and stupor. For a moment, I entertained the idea of bolting towards the exit but the prospect of having myself manhandled by airport security quashed that thought up.

Might as well try to catch a few winks, I thought and closed my eyes.

The flight from Melbourne was punishing to say the least and the time lag will be hell to pay once I manage to get out of this line. Deciding to join my friends' invite to the Sydney Opera House festival now seemed to be a bad idea in retrospect. It has left me sleep deprived and jet lagged. Even for me, used to traveling a lot, the combination it created is hellish. And the prospect of spending the rest of the day shuttling into downtown LA and attending another book signing didn't help either. I wondered if I can somehow manage to convince my agent to postpone that engagement.

It would be futile.

If there is one thing that I both loved and hated about Anna, my agent, it was the fact that she considers each appointment and book signing engagement as a code writ in stone. There would be no way I could weasel her out of it. My hopes rested in the possibility of a traffic jam along the way. It just might give me a few minutes of rest before the rest of the gruelling day comes knocking.

My reverie was abruptly broken. I felt a hard nudge behind me which nearly toppled me over. I staggered at the impact. Groggily, I turned around not really welcoming a confrontation with the soul who did it. I am short on patience when I'm tired like this. The combination of the lack of sleep and the exasperation of waiting in line can bring out the worst in me.

I whipped around and stopped..

It was a kid.

Brown plaintive eyes stared inquisitively at me as I locked eyes with the culprit. My irritation subsided as I managed to return a weak smile. Despite my irritable state, there are social lines I will never cross no matter what. I will always be respectful of the elderly and the young.

She was about four or five years in age, her long curly hair tied behind her in a dainty pink bow. She was pushing a small trolley which was the offending object that nearly toppled me over. She seemed proud of her feat and her smile was contagious.

"Sorry, mister." She apologized, a dimple forming in her right cheek.

I felt a sudden jolt of pain in my heart as she smiled. A nearly forgotten memory surfaced. Years ago, I knew someone who had a dimple in nearly the same place as hers. I have buried that memory or at least tried to. It's a part of my life which held so many painful things I have resolved to forget.

I looked beyond her. Save for an elderly couple who are way too different-looking to be her grandparents and a pair of returning mountaineers, nobody seemed to be with her. Concerned that she would be on her own at such a large airport, my grogginess was replaced by the sharpness of concern even as I tried to ignore the memories her dimples dredged from my mind.

"Who's with you, honey?" I asked. At least my weariness left me, replaced by an adrenaline surge which awakened my spent muscles. I glanced around. The elderly couple shrugged off my unspoken question and the two mountaineers shared my concern. The little girl merely looked at us, oblivious to the conundrum she posed.

"She's mine!" A voice came over from the crowd coming in from the gates. I saw a woman frantically pulling a trolley filled to the brim with luggage coming towards us. The little girl beamed at her direction. I gave a sigh of relief.

Little girls are never meant to be left alone in the company of strangers.

I made a mental note to give her mom a tart comment when she arrived. I'm not normally verbally critical of other people but lack of sleep can make me a bit abrasive. And it will be for good reason. Moms should never let go of their daughters in airports.

Buried under a brown scarf and her mountain of luggage, the woman was formless at the distance. She was petite. That I can discern but as I continued to stare at her direction, there was something about her which awakened something inside of me arousing more of the memories awakened by her kid's dimples. I mentally ignored it and reasoned that it probably was another side effect of my weariness. I debated whether to go and help her and was saved from that decision by one of the mountaineers who approached her offering his help. The man exchanged places and she bowed to him, expressing her thanks. Her scarf fell off revealing a crop of silky black hair -

I froze.

I know that hair. I felt my breath catch in my throat. As she straightened, more of her face was revealed. A soft, gentle face untouched by make-up; eyes which crinkle when she smiles; a nose that twitches when she's angry. Gentle cheeks which blush colorfully at the slightest provocation and a dimple right just beside her mouth.

I know her.

I remained frozen. My eyes reflexively went to the little girl who held my right hand without me realizing it.  

The resemblance was strong. I felt my pulse race. There was no mistaking it.

This cannot be happening, part of my mind was saying...

I turned to her mom again. This time, she was likewise rooted to her spot. She had seen me and was likewise frozen.

Around us, the world simply dissolved to a motley mass of grayness.

Emotions warred inside me. Happiness grappled with anger; fear with joy; doubt with certainty. I didn't know what to act. I felt suffocated by the sudden wash of emotions that drowned me. Unable to come up with anything, I merely nodded at her direction and shifted my eyes away, the hubbub of the airport returning as the spell was forcefully broken.

I realized that I had been holding on to the little girls hands with a shaking grip. She looked at me quizzically. I reluctantly let her go and watched her scamper free towards her mom. Now I knew why I thought she was familiar. The resemblance was strong.

My eyes were drawn to the label on top of her small trolley. Written in a child's squiggly hand was the name I once gave her mother. NYSSA...

It took all my strength to stop the tears that threatened to fall.  I knelt towards the trolley and made a show as if to dust something off it. But my hands were touching it as a poor substitute to something I should have done years ago.

My daughter is all grown up... I struggled to wrap my thoughts around that fact.

I desperately held the tears at bay. A pair of legs materialized before me. I know those legs. Tears dropped, defying my stoic attempt to hold them back.

"Mister, you are crying." I shifted my sight to the little girl. The brown eyes I inherited from my mom stared back at me. She was grabbing on to her mom's skirt and was looking at me with a mixture of wonder and pity. I brushed the tears and smiled at her, reaching out to crumple her hair.

"Something got in my eyes, honey." I bent over and willed my tears to stop. It seemed like an eternity and I felt her head squirm beneath my hands. I looked at her again and let go of my hands, smiling.

"What's your name?" I asked, knowing the answer but wanting to hear her speak it.

She seemed to be a bit fearful now and she partially hid herself behind her mom. I saw her mom's hands caress her. I didn't dare look up.

"Tell him, honey" I heard her mom whisper. Judging from her voice, she was also holding back tears.
She looked up at her mom then at me. She seemed confused for a bit and then she answered.

"Nyssa." She said, softly.

It took all my will to suppress the desire to just grab her and give her a hug. This was just too much.

To be continued...


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