When the mind runs free..

I want to open the car door on the highway. As soon as the accelerator pushes anything over 60, I want to open it and fall out. I’ve seen people pretend to do it in movies, it looks so easy. Gravity really helps you. You just have to push that button. Anything can happen with a push of a button, right? Then you’re free and the air would be like a high pressured vacuum, and my body will bend and I’ll scream so delightfully but on the inside I’ll be scared. Not scared enough to stop though. And my hair will fly all over the place and it’ll be dark and all the people in all their cars would open their mouths slowly and wider as they realize what I was doing. To me it’d feel like 5 years, but really in 5 seconds I’d be from the passenger seat hitting pavement. It would be so hard; The concrete, slamming and slamming my face. The skin off my knuckles will lift and fly away in disintegrated little pieces. My knees would be too weak to survive impact and crack, joint after joint would break. I smile in my thought at the beauty, so much broken everywhere. I’m not suicidal, I just want to see how it feels. There’s a difference. Although, most people can’t see it. So I didn’t do it. But I wanted to. 


You have power.

People don’t tend to forgive people easily, if ever. They think holding on to that anger and hate is better, thinking it channels all their energy into not making that same mistake again. The mistake of opening yourself up to someone, of trusting people, of missing the signs of betrayal. What they don’t seem to understand is that despite of what they do or don’t do, they will get hurt. We’re human; we’re bound to make mistakes. Holding on to that anger and hate is just going to keep reminding you of the past and never let your wounds heals. It’s going to make you question everything and everyone, make you wonder who’s going to be responsible next for breaking your heart again. It’s not fair to anyone. You can’t punish yourself for what they did. Forgiveness holds power. You need to forgive them. You don’t have to like or love them, but forgive them enough to release that hold they have on your decisions, on your life. Not only is it going to make them feel better, it’s going to move you, change you, shape you, because that’s how you grow.

Nothing is more powerful than having the strength to forgive someone when they’re wrong, whether they ask for it or not. and having the courage to ask for forgiveness when you’re wrong.



Afia Asif Mahmood.


I don’t like sharing. From personal items to food, life and not even my day to day stationery. When you share something with someone.. unknowingly you start to develop a sense. A feeling. You know that this person is here, right now. with you. Slowly that feeling turns into a habit and then you develop an attachment.. a bond so deep and strong that you just start believing that this person is here to stay. When relationships get serious, they get messy. You give, you compromise and people change. Then, one day, somebody goes away and you’re left empty. and I don’t want that, I don’t want to be empty. So If this is being selfish, then yes, I am a selfish person. and I am not going to change myself. Not for you, not for anyone else.

Our differences.

“I don’t find you to be this incredible, god-forsaken mystery anymore. I don’t find depth within you. I don’t wanna walk further down into you, into the conception caves of your heart or any of that shit. I feel like I’ve been there and worse- I feel I’ve discovered it is empty. As if you’re all that you said you are and that is all there is to it. That’s the biggest disappointment. I opened the empty treasure box. You added nothing to me. I’m not complaining, I’m explaining why I won’t be resonating with you- why my name belongs with someone else. You make life boring because you think things should be exciting. I need to find someone who will know people are what’s exciting. Not things. Not activities. Not hobbies or pastimes. Not anything. But people. Us on our own. You and me. That’s exciting. The words people speak and the silence people hold. The hesitation in knowing-smiles when there’s nothing to say but we both want to say something. The unexpected laugh. You running your hands through your hair. That’s exciting.” She stopped talking and looked straight at him.

“All humanity needs is humans” 


For a writer, I’m not very elegant. My words tumble out from fingers or tongue, rushing and jumping over each other, fighting to hold more weight, to be more important. Can “I” be stronger than “you”? In the grand scheme of things, does “than” hold more importance over “with”? I’d rather be with you than without. Coherence, what a beautiful thing. Harmony. Like a river caressing rocks, I’d like to be harmonious with you.

Skyhigh – A one shot.


The one thing I specifically ask for and I have to fight for that too. This is not fair! I should have known something would go wrong; it always does when someone wishes me a safe flight. Curses! The plane is filling up so fast. It’s going to be an almost 14 hour’s flight with a lot of chatter. Great, just what I needed. I keep staring at the black duffle bag on my window seat. MY. I paid for it and I am so going to be the one sitting there even if I end up in handcuffs for assault.


“What?!” I don’t turn around to see who it is. I’m still very much staring at the black duffel. “If you keep shooting daggers at it, I’m afraid I’ll end up with all my stuff on the floor.” I turn around to face the owner of that voice. “This is your duffel on my seat?” He looks surprised, like I’ve tasered him or something. Not a bad thought.

“I’m sorry, this…”

“You should be.”

“.. Is your seat?” I look him up and down, the nerve of this tall, tall very tall guy. Ugh, disgustingly tall and not bad looking. He has no idea I’m mentally judging him so hard right now. He’s biting his bottom lip, nervous much? “What?” I ask, totally annoyed by now. “You said ‘ugh’” Oops. There goes that mind to mouth coordination. I realize a little late that he’s not nervous; he’s trying to not laugh on my face. The airhostess starts with their announcements of safety and emergency exits. I pay no attention. “Listen up, you Qutb minar (it’s a really tall tower in India), this is my seat, so pick up your duffel and find someplace else.” I move to pick up that black evil thing from my seat and I hear him say “Quth minar?” I can’t help it, I smile to myself. That’s a good one I came up with. I can see he appreciates my humor too because I hear laughter in his voice while he keeps repeating my given nickname. “Here, help your little buddy find a good seat.” And as if on cue, the announcement starts again. “Ladies and gentlemen, please settle down and fasten your seat belts.”


“No, you listen to me. This is my seat. Look, F21. Mine.” I show him my boarding pass. With a smug smile, he takes out his own boarding pass too. F21. Bold and very much there. I keep looking at it. I’m pretty sure he saw a crazed look in my eyes because what I said next would pretty much come under unfiltered. “I’m not leaving this seat. If you want it, you’ll have to physically make me get up to leave it.” I move to sit but I don’t. I feel a weight on my elbow so I turn around to find him holding it. Not an angry grip, it was actually quite gentle. When he sees me looking at it, he withdraws his hand back. Poor guy, he seems troubled. Good. “I will not do anything of that sort. It was clearly a misprint on our tickets, it’s yours. I mean the seat, you can have it. I’ll just sit here.” I raise my eyebrows. Not an attractive look.. “Here? As in next to me? For 14 hours?” He smiles. He has dimples. Curses. “Yes, here, next to you for the duration of this flight.” He puts his duffel in the overhead compartment and sits in his seat. I shake my head like that’s going to get rid of my thoughts and sit down. I sigh softly and look out. I’m where I belong, peace finally. The plan starts on the runway and I close my eyes and say a quick quite prayer. I’d pretty much forgotten everything, but God had other plans.



His laughter rang in my ears as we took off into the sky.


It’s been an hour of almost radio silence. Almost being the keyword here. As soon as we took off, I switched off to work mode. I was reading an ARC of some author I don’t remember the name off, when all of a sudden; I heard someone’s fingers clacking away on the keyboard. Someone very close to me. From the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Qutb minar furiously typing on his laptop. For the tenth time, why God, why? I can’t get irritated at this. It’s 10:00am and we’re on a plane, he’s probably working. Plus, showing irritation to everything he does would imply that he affects me, which he so does not. But my god, is that sound irritating! Can he not type a bit softly? Deep breaths, deep slow breaths. I go back to my ARC where a certain character is trying to make a decision, to kill or not to kill. Surprisingly, I find myself thinking the same thing. He’s thinking if it’s worth it, if killing this man would get rid of his problem. Violence is never the answer to a solution, except maybe at times like this. I can’t take this anymore. “Would you cut it out?” I turn to my left and give him my best look, the look that says You-are-dead-meat. To my surprise, he closes his laptop. “Your majesty, another problem?” Grow up. “Yes, could you not stab your keys so hard? It’s disturbing me.” He pulls at his earlobe. A habit, maybe. “I’m so sorry to be disturbing such a leisure activity.” Deep breaths.

“Save the sarcasm, I’m working.”

“Is that so?” He leans back on his seat, cracking his knuckles. If he could just keep his mouth shut, he’d look pretty decent. “Yes, I’m reading an ARC.” “A what?” I’m met with a puzzled expression. As always, I’ll explain my job and within seconds he’ll get bored and go back to stabbing keys.

“An ARC is an advanced reader’s copy of a book not yet published. This is my job. A part of it actually, I’m a commissioning editor at a publishing house in downtown, Toronto.” I’m waiting for the ‘oh, okay.’ to come, but it never does. “Really? That sounds fascinating. What do you do apart from reading ARC’s?” Okaayyy. “You look surprised.” I break out into a nervous laugh. “I don’t often come around people who seem genuinely interested in my job, hence the surprised look. And to answer your question, my job is to find new stories and writers. I buy into their ideas and help them develop it further, and at the same time keep an eye on the latest trends in the market and see what the people are most responding to.”

“You have a look in your eyes.” Those dimples are out again, very distracting. “What look?” I ask genuinely curious. The cabin crew seems to be taking out late breakfast. I don’t like airplane food. It’s not fresh and it rarely tastes good. “Stop wrinkling your nose, it’s not going to make the food taste any better.” I look at him with the same expression and we both end up laughing. He looks at ease. This isn’t so bad. If he keeps behaving normally, we’ll survive this flight. As our laughter dies down, I ask him again. “You didn’t answer my question. What look?”

“You’re passionate about your job, you love it. You get this light in your eyes when you’re talking about it.” Oh. A light? “Interesting choice of word. Most people would call it a spark.” He pulls at his earlobe again. Definitely a habit. I wonder if he’s aware of it.. “I’m not most people.”

The food trolley reaches us and he gets busy deciding what not to choke on. But his words stay with me. Cold eggs, warm juice and an almost burnt toast greet us. Out of the corner my eye again, I see him digging in without any complain. “No, you most certainly aren’t.” A whispered confession. “Did you say something?” He asks over a sip of that lukewarm juke. Ugh. “No, I didn’t.” Instead of a glass, he takes his butter knife and clicks it with my own. I laugh.

“Cheers” I say,

“Bon Appetite.”


15 minutes later, I’m holding the same butter knife to his throat.

“Take it back.” I’m close to seeing red. “I will not take it back. Stop poking me!” He rubs at his shoulder where I just poked him with the plastic end of the butter knife. “I am not a hypocrite.”

Breakfast left half eaten; we’ve been at this for a couple of few minutes. “You most definitely are, I saw you mentally judging me.” He looks at my hand which somehow moved from his shoulder to the front of his chest. Very close to his throat. “You say you don’t like judgmental people, but at the same time you are judging others. That’s called being a hypocrite.” Shit. Flying monkeys. “If you want to threaten or seriously injury someone, I’d suggest a sharper blade. If your point was to make me laugh, you’ve got it. And if to threaten…” He’s shaking from laughter. “Shut up, you don’t know me. I don’t judge people. Sometimes by mistake, my thoughts take me somewhere else, that’s all. I don’t do it intentionally.” I put the butter knife back on the plate and straighten up, staring at the bald head of the passenger in front of me. There’s a moment of silence. I turn to find his piercing gray eyes looking back at me. “I believe you.” Huh, that didn’t take much convincing. “Just like that?”

“Yeah, just like that. You voiced out your thoughts, you didn’t try to deny it anymore. Constant denial either shows that a person is lying or not ready to believe the truth yet. You didn’t do either, so, I believe you. It’s as simple as that.” Weird. People don’t believe people that easily anymore. It takes long explanations to explain your views and even after all that, do they really believe it or just say yes to end the discussion? I’ll never know. “Are you a psychologist or something?” He looks like he’s going to have a fit or something. There’s that shaking again. “From what angle do I look like a psychologist to you?” I look him up and down again. I’m not checking him out; I’m just checking all angles. “That would be that head of yours.” Eyes crinkled, he replies, “No, I’m not a doctor of any kind. I’m a lawyer, public prosecutor.” How can that be possible? He’s not bald, old or sleazy. I’ve watched too many movies. I snap out of movies scenes where old, bald and a very shady lawyerly self of Mr. Quth minar is having a go at a witness. The look doesn’t suit him.

“Truce?” He asks over a hopeful expression. “Truce,” I reply, testing the word out. To make it more official, I extend my hand. We shake on it and smile. It reminds me of my fond memories of school.



“It’s nice to meet you, Mishi.”

“Is it, is it really? I just held a butter knife to your throat.” I recall back to a few moments ago.. If I were him, I wouldn’t say that. He chuckles and shakes his head. “Believe me, I’ve seen worse.”

Our breakfast is taken away and our little tables cleared. Ayaan gets up to go somewhere. I look for my glasses in my bag, but they aren’t there. Great, another pair gone. No point in taking out my ARC again. I can’t read without my other two eyes, even if my life depended on it. The whole point of bringing the ARC on this flight was to finish it and write up notes. God knows I won’t be able to work for a single moment once I land. So far, I’ve done everything else except work. This is supposed to be a one month vacation. Why am I stressing out? I sigh and look around. Most people are working, and thank god for no crying kids. I love kids! I just can’t stand it when they cry. It hurts to watch them tear up. I see Ayaan making his way through, He really is quite tall. I bet he never got lost in a carnival. It’s really hard to when you are this tall. I try to imagine him as a kid. Nope, not happening. My imagination sucks at times. I like the ruggedness of his face. Sharp jaw line, those baby gray eyes, killer dimples and an almost stubble. He sits back with a thud. He’s such a child. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” Such pleasantries. “And what have I done to deserve such an offer?” Why couldn’t I just say yes? Idiot. He looks like he’s going to say something but stops himself. Fine, I’ll then. “Yes, I’d love some.” He looks up and blows a breath. “Are you sure? Because for a moment I could have sworn I heard you say something else.” Before I could say anything, he calls the airhostess for coffee. Within minutes, we are sitting with two steaming cups of cappuccino and nothing to talk about. Or so I thought. I could read but I’m blind. I could play games on my phone or watch a movie. I start checking for movie options on the seat screen. I’m in a mood for something horror.

“Am I boring you so much that you resort to watching movies?” What I had in mind wasn’t an appropriate response. “You haven’t said a word. What am I supposed to do? Stare at you face? Because trust me, it’s going to get boring in 2 minutes.” He smiles but I see the disappointment on his face. “Never mind, I’ll get back to work. I suppose you’d like the same thing.” I would if I could find my glasses. I like to think God heard me that exact moment and decided to help me out. “And before I forget, here. I think these belong to you, I found them on the floor next to my seat.” My glasses! “Thank you so much. I’ve been looking for them. I wonder how they got there…” He nods and opens his laptop. Back to work, I guess. I pop my glasses on and get back to reading my ARC. This time there’s nothing disturbing me. No noise. And yet I feel disturbed. I feel awful actually, he’s been nothing but nice to me since we got on this flight and I’ve been rude, downright mean and a little overbearing. My mother raised me right. Curses! I close my ARC and turn towards him. “So?”

“Are you talking to me? Must be my lucky day!” Hand on his heart, giving the performance of his lifetime. He seems satisfied when I don’t play along. “Tell me about your work, about your cases.” Someone’s profession is always a conversation starter. “Why? What has you so interested all of a sudden?” Fair point. He closes his laptop and stretches his legs. A good sign? Maybe. “Why, because I’ve watched too many movies where lawyers are shady and bald and really old. You, on the other hand, aren’t any of those. I’m curious. Plus, I want to rule you out as a serial murderer. Come on, be a sport. I’m sorry about earlier, my mind to mouth coordination is a little, let’s say-difficult at times.” He seems to take in what I’ve said. I know I’ve gotten through when he breaks out in a mega watt smile and the air around us instantly lifted.

“Alright, what would you like to know?”

“Have you put bad people behind bars? Does it feel satisfying? How old are? And how awesome does it feel so to ‘I object, your honor!’ in a court room?”

He pulls at his earlobe again while answering. I’m really starting to find this habit cute. “So many question, Okay. Yes, I’ve put ‘bad people’ away. I’m not a fourth grader and neither are you. What’s with the vocabulary? It is very satisfying to see them go away. I can peacefully sleep at night knowing that those people won’t be able to hurt anyone anymore. I know there are lots of people like them still out there, but it’s a slow process. I’ve learned to live with what I have. In the moment, as some people would put it. I’m doing my bit.” He pauses and I take the time to study his face. There’s something on his face. Content. Pure, peaceful happiness-lucky him. Try as I might, I can never live in the moment. I’m a natural born worrier.

“And to answer your question number 3, I’m 27 years old. I turn 28 tomorrow. And lastly, yes. It feels pretty awesome to say ‘I object, your honor’ in court. It’s been my life dream.” We goof around a little bit. He teaches me court terms and acts them out in an authoritative voice which just makes me laugh uncontrollably. I enjoy his company a lot and before we know it, its lunch time. Not wanting the conversation to slow down over food, I ask him more. “Have you ever had a weird case?” He was reluctant, which made me all the more curious. I waited for him to say it on his own, not wanting to push. After a few minutes, he decided to tell me. “My most recent case was rather an odd one. There was this guy who the media fondly called ‘Butt Bandit’ because of his signature. He left Vaseline imprints of his nether reigns on the windows next to the ATM’s he robbed at night.” I tried not to laugh as I held the water glass in front of me to hide my expression. I failed miserably.

“Sorry, I’m sure it must have been a very important case. How did you ever prove him in court?” I started to laugh again. “Did you make all the suspects drop their pants and do a lineup in session?” I can’t help it; the idea just cracks me up so bad. I had tears coming out of my eyes. “Ha, ha. Very funny,” It was. It really was. “No, we, the cops, caught the perp because he got Vaseline on his hands while smearing it on his ass during one of the jobs. He left some fingerprints behind and we found a match-he’d been jail before for robbing a convenience store.”

“I wish I could’ve seen you presenting this in court.” I said, leaning my head against the window, taking a sip of water. “Yeah, it was the highlight of my career.” Ayaan replied dryly. There’s this comfortable silence between us while he finishes up his meal.

I close my eyes and drift away.  


There’s something wrong.

The sensation of falling while sleeping. It always gets to me, but it’s different this time. I’m not asleep anymore, but I can still feel that sensation. I open my eyes and move but find myself strapped and covered with a blanket. Before I had the chance to utter a word, I felt the plane drop. It was the kind of drop that actually slows your heartbeat to an almost stop. Turbulence. I look around and see some calm and some people just scared. Turning to my neighbor, I’m met with a trying really hard to stay calm Ayaan. I’ve never been a nervous flyer. I like to believe that nothing will stop your death. If it’s supposed to be in a plane crash, so be it. But recently the world has been experiencing not plane crashes, but disappearances. And that is actually a bit scary. Not for the passengers because, well, they die. The families are the ones who suffer with the unknown.

I stretch my arm towards him “Do you want to hold my hand?” If looks could kill, I’d be dead. “When did you wake up? Ignoring my out-stretched hand, he asked with a hoarse voice.

“Just now, it seems I slept for only an hour. Last I remember, I didn’t have a blanket on me and I wasn’t strapped.” The slight color on his cheeks confirms my suspicions. “Um… yeah. You looked cold so I got you a blanket and within minutes the turbulence started. I tried waking you up but you said something along the lines of ‘get lost’ so I just strapped you. I didn’t want you to hit your head and not wake up. I’ve grown quite found of your company and we still have a few hours to kill..” He winces at the sound of his chosen word. “… to spare on this flight.” I pat his arm like someone would of a small child. I decide to distract him with a conversation. “Tell me the reason behind this trip. Is it a few days or week’s thing, business or just a getaway?” He looks confused but answers anyway. “I’m going to my mother, grandmother and my little sister for a month. What about you?” I don’t know why but knowing that makes me feel nice. I guess I’ve always liked people who take out time for their family. “I’m going for my cousin’s wedding. It’s a month long celebration. I’m meeting them after a long time and by some miracle, every one of them is going to be there. I’m really excited. God knows when we’ll meet again; I can’t miss this for the world.” I recall back a few memories of the last time we all got together 7 years ago and share them with Ayaan. We talk about family and all the things we missed out on while living away from home. He tells me about his family, the only man in the house being bossed around by 3 different generations of women. I laugh as I try to imagine a sweet bossy grandmother pulling his ear, a mother going on and on about how he’s become of age, a little sister who looks through his stuff, trying to find something for herself. That’s how my family is anyway. “You’re lucky. I’m an only child.” He looks surprised. “I thought there’d be more of you in other forms and sizes. This actually explains your closeness with your cousins. We look for love in strangest of places.”

Huh. “That’s a pleasant thought, I think.”

With the plane steady now, the chatter begins again. I gather my things and get my bag. “I’m going to freshen-up now.” He gives me a look that suggests he doesn’t care. I stand facing him and he still doesn’t move. I start tapping my right foot on the floor and that gets his attention. “What?” The guy is clearly clueless. “Would you mind moving so I could go? You see, the last time I checked, It wasn’t considered decent or comfortable when you kicked someone to the floor. What do you say?” The expression on his face was priceless. “Sorry, I was just thinking something.” I take a step out in the aisle and turn back to him, “Don’t try to steal my seat.” I say pointing a stern finger at him like a teacher would do to a naughty student. He winks, “I wouldn’t dream of it.” I walk away shaking my head.

I’ve never been a fan of airplane lavatories. I’m not claustrophobic; it just feels like the floor might disappear any moment and I’ll fall to my death. I wash my face and do my kohl again. I’m not much of a makeup fan, but I do like lining my eyes. They’re chocolate brown in color, they look pretty. As I brush my hair, I think about Ayaan and the last 12 hours on this flight. Given, it started out rough, but I’ve come to enjoy his company too. So much so that I think I might miss his face for a few days.. It’s a nice face, Cute even with dimples and all-great hair and beautiful eyes. I guess he’s got a nice sense of humor too. I brush my hair and look at myself in the mirror. I know I’m pretty and easy on the eyes, I’m 5.9, a bit tall for a woman but it works well for me. No heals. I’ve got long thick wavy hair which everyone seems to love. I’m quite fit and above all, I have a fantastic sense of humor and a good heart I suppose. What’s not to like? I snap out of my inner monologue, get my stuff and leave. So I like him, big deal. He seems like a nice guy and apparently, that’s what I’m attracted to. Although, the last few almost relationships suggest otherwise. None of which were with ‘nice guys’. One tried to clean my bank account, the second one tried things with my best friend and the last one hated cats. Who hates cats? I keep nodding my head to whatever my inner audience says as I make my way back to my seat. I reach our seats and find Ayaan gone. He must have gone to freshen-up too. Feeling cold again, I wrap the blanket around myself and stare out the window. It would be around 8:00am by the time we land which makes now 5:30am.

I gaze out the window at the large glowing sphere rising slowly into the dull morning sky. Casting sunbeams in every direction, illuminating everything around it. I stare out the glass as the rising sun changes, growing more vivid by the passing time. Climbing higher and higher, making the sky more radiant.  “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Ayaan’s voice is a whisper. As if he’s scared of chasing away the sun. “It’s breath-taking.” I say, and turn to face to him. He’s still looking out the window, a ghost of a smile on his lips.

“What do you see out there?” He doesn’t look away from the sunrise. I don’t blame him, its exquisite. “What do you mean?” he asks, still looking out. “I mean, what do you see out there when you look?” His confused eyes find mine, “I don’t know. What do you see?” I turn to look out again, the sun fully out now. “I see a light finding its way out of the darkness. I see all the shadows being chased away. I see a new morning, endless possibilities, and a second chance.” I inhale a deep breath, “It’s like a chance to erase yesterday and redo everything again. Call it a clean slate if you want to.” I turn back to him, “So, tell me what you see.” He takes a few moments to think. “I guess I see what you see. But you can’t erase yesterday. You can try all you want, but the past sticks to you like a gum. The more you pull, the longer it stretches. And if by some miracle you get rid of it, there’s still the sticky residue to deal with. It’s never gone.” I toy with my watch as I think about what he said. “I like to believe that if determined enough, you can get rid of that sticky residue too. After all, you are defined by the choices you make.” He nods his approval and we fall into a comfortable silence. I stare at my footwear. I’ll need a new pair of white sneakers soon. I start making a mental shopping list. Ayaan’s voice interrupts my shopping induced thoughts. “We’re about to land; I think it’s time you tell me why you were at throat for this seat. Pun not intended. Do you just happen to like the window seats for their view or do you enjoying harassing people?” I grin at him, “I enjoy the view. Flying amid the clouds, so close that you could touch them. Staring at a screen or the back of people’s head doesn’t interest me. Why look at them when there’s a whole world out there? But I must say, this flight was a bit of both.” His laugh was contagious and sounded more like an evil cackle than an expression of amusement. I joined him in. The bald man in the front seat gave us a look which just caused us to laugh more hysterically.

The seat belt light goes on as the announcement lets us know that we’ll be lading in a couple of minutes now. We buckle up and looked out the window. Ayaan touches my arm, “Hey, before I forget. Thank you for distracting me earlier. I don’t like turbulence.” I look at his hand on my arm, the bass of it so close that the warmth in between is shared. “Oh, you’re welcome. I couldn’t stand the scared look on your face. You reminded me so much of my nephew when he saw a clown and I felt it as my duty to help you through that fear, like I did it with him. Before he peed his pants.” I say it all with such seriousness that the look on his when he understands my last line is absolutely ridiculous. “I was wondering where that sass went.” Before either of us could say anything, a sudden bump lets us know that the landing gear’s released. My ears pop and I open my mouth in an attempt to release the pressure. Everything whizzed by as the runway stretched bellow us. The plane made its final turn onto the waiting runway and with a mild rumbling, the tries kissed the tarmac and the plane slowly brought to the arrival gate. Before the seat belt light could go off, the people around us start getting up and taking out their luggage from the overhead compartment. I hate this part, the rush to get out and get on with their day. As the plane door opens and people stand in line to get out, I look at Ayaan. He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get out. I finally undo my seatbelt and stand up to see if I’ve dropped something. He does the same. He gets his duffle, and I get in line. Him behind me. We exit the aircraft, the cabin crew standing in line, wishing people a good day. I love this walk. When you get out of an airplane and step on solid ground, the air changes around you. There’s chatter of different kind now, you can hear the beeps of machines, different announcements being called out. The anticipation of meeting your loved ones, just outside the doors, waiting for you. It’s all here and more. We cross the immigration quite quickly and move towards baggage claim.

Another interesting part about the airport, colorful bags moving in circles. People around it making attempts to get theirs off the belt before it move out of reach. I look for my bags and instantly find two of them coming towards me. I make a go and grab them, dragging them down on the floor. My third bag has yet to arrive so I quickly go and get 2 trolleys from the corner. Ayaan’s just getting his bag down when I spy my bright yellow bag coming forward. I try to drag it down but it’s too heavy so he helps me with it. We load up our trolleys and walk towards the door and stop. We both turn to each other at the same time and end up saying nothing, just smiling.

“Well, this is it.” He says as he pushes his hands in his jeans pockets. “Yep, it is. How are you getting home?” I look out the door pretty sure a dozen of my cousins are waiting out there and sure enough, as the automatic door opens, I see a group of guys oblivious to everything around them, taking a selfie. I smile to myself. Blithering idiots never change. Ayaan turns to where I’m looking and asks, “Are they related to you?” I can hear the amusement in his voice. I nod. “You weren’t kidding when you said they’ll all be there.” I giggle.

“My sister must be here to get me. So, time to go?” He drags out his question like doing so might answer it. Honestly, just ask me out already! I don’t bite, you stupid man. People all around us, moving at a speed that can only be called happiness, walk out the door. And the two of us, standing still amid it all. Annoyed by his actions and by him, the filter disappears yet again and I half say half scold him, “Ask me out already! God, you are slower than my grandmother. You aren’t getting any younger standing here.” He presses his lips together and pulls at his earlobe yet again. I’m going to miss that earlobe. Not ashamed of what I just said, I look him in the eye and fold my arms in front of me.

“I was going to if you had let me.” Eyes twinkling with mischief, he goes on to bump his trolley with mine. “I’ll take your earlier outburst as a yes.” Inside, I’m dancing around crazy but on the outside, I try to keep my expression to minimum. “Alright, I’ll see you a month later, right here. I suppose we both are taking the same flight on the 24th of September?” He is grinning now. And I realize, so I am. “Yes, it’s a date.” This time, I bump my trolley with his “Happy birthday, Mr. Quth minar” I say and move towards the door. He moves too, both of us going side by side, smiling to ourselves. Just as we step out, my cousins spot me and break into a silly song and everyone around them starts laughing. Including us. I approach my cousins and he finds his sister. As I get crushed in hugs and hugs, 12 of them actually, I look in his direction and wave. He does the same.

“Took you long enough, Mish.” My oldest cousin says and looks in Ayaan’s direction. “Who is he?” his voice a little stern, brotherly even if you want to call it that.

“A friend,” I reply, and we all walk away towards a new day.