Dressed in a full-sleeve purple shirt and contrasting beige pants, he stands in the corner. All around him hoards of weekend shoppers are busy with their purchase. Beads of sweat trickle down his face. He glances nervously at his watch and looks expectantly towards the entrance door, his eyes scanning the crowds. A thin frame in the distance catches his eye. Could it be her? As the individual draws closer, he looks again and his face betrays a smile - a relief. This is it. This is the moment. This is the encounter he has waited for all his life. For twenty-one long years. She is here. Finally here.
She notices the man. Middle-aged. He looks vaguely familiar. He appears to be looking for someone. Their eyes meet and she knows it is ‘Him’. She walks towards him with conflicting emotions raging inside her. Her legs wobbly, her stomach churning, her heart beating at an unimaginable rate. Did she have it in her? Should she walk away? She had rehearsed for this day a million times but somehow all those practiced lines seemed to evade her. What was the point? Her preparation felt vain. The sight of ‘Him’ waiting for her was something she couldn’t have possibly prepared herself for.
Like two perfect strangers, they found themselves seating at a tiny table of a coffee shop. Strangers estranged by the vacuum each had left in the other’s life. Silence. Awkward silence flowed between them. What would they possibly say? What words would be adequate to describe what they felt? Emotions had names. But what would a range of emotions gushing like the waters of a river meeting the sea, be called?
Then, just like a cloud that bursts into a heavy torrent, so did ‘He’. Not knowing what else to say, he began the story of his life. The part of his life that had no place for her in it, she reminded herself.
He narrated his story. The story of their separation all those years ago. She asked him to explain some parts in detail. She had a lot of questions for him. He had twenty-one years to account for.
He answered each one of her questions. Some questions required him to revisit his darkest, most painful memories. He obliged her.
She was not ready for the answers. She wanted to know all the reasons but she wasn’t ready for the pain they caused her. Their separation was the constant focus of her life. Her constant obsession. Her constant pain.
They sat there deep in conversation. Discussing life, love, forgiveness. She had discovered new meanings of these words. She sat across him staring at the man. She could feel his heartache, his longing, his hurt. She had her own heart to pacify, her own longing to quell, her own hurt to nurse.
She had so much in common with this stranger - DNA, blood, traits - but somehow there was something amiss. The encounter had failed to conjure up a sense of belonging within her.
Dejected, she prepared to leave. It had indeed been an extraordinary day for her.
She hailed a taxi. He stood by her side her seeing her off. Stoic. Controlled. Unemotional.
She din’t know whether she wanted this again. She din’t know whether he wanted this again.
As the taxi began to move, she turned to catch a glimpse of him. Last one perhaps.
There he was. Transfixed at that place, tears swelling up in his eyes, blowing a kiss in her direction. That exact instant tears came down the sides of her face in great cascades. For in that moment, the stranger who had called himself her father had suddenly become HER father.