We were traveling together in his car for 6-7 days. Today was the last night of the trip. My heart was heavy recollecting the first evening of the trip, how I entered this state with a list of some 12-15 places having no clue about the further plan. I boarded his car from Guwahati Airport to Shillong. While I inquired about the local transport and a few other things with him, he volunteered much excitedly to take me around, saying 'Aapke Saath Hum Bhi Thoda ghum lenge, jitna bane utna de Dena paisa.'
And hence we bonded. We shared meals and tales, laughs to falls, joys to wounds. Trekked, rode, and wandered together.
From the deadliest trek in Meghalaya to the offbeat hanging bridges and waterfalls, we did it all together. He kept mentioning that, the last time he explored this way was years back when he was in his early 20s and younger. He would go out with his wife and a little daughter only once a year on 1st Jan. And the rest of the year, he earned a living operating to and fro between Guwahati Airport and Shillong.
On the second last day, we gave a lift to an Israeli couple, they didn't understand Hindi and the driver couldn't speak English. So I became the translator between them for a day. He was the talkative one. No doubt, my translation job was restless. In between all this, he smiled at me saying, I remind him of his wife. She helped him in English the same way I did.
We were both relieved of doing well on the trip, though exhausted. We stopped at a wine shop to grab some beer. He wasn't a regular drinker and me neither. Yet a little celebration kicked in.
On the last night, we were in the most remote location and found just one option to stay. There wasn't much staff (only three of them). They had only two rooms available. As the other rooms were under renovation. Like all the other days, I wanted to check the driver's room first then mine. But they said he would have to sleep in the car which I disapproved of. I decided to take the bigger room of the two, which had two separate cots on the opposite walls. I asked him to occupy one of them.
We got some snacks, enjoyed our drinks while he spoke non-stop as usual. I was tired and hadn't eaten much in the day, hence I passed out. He cleaned the floor and the area. I was embarrassed and he laughed. He even tied my hair. I laid down for a while and he went out to smoke.
By the time dinner arrived, I was nearly asleep. He tried to wake me up and I refused. We had ordered together. I asked him to have his portion, and he kept saying, 'I can't eat without you, if you are not eating then how can I eat.' In all this chaos, I woke up to find him sitting on my bed. We agreed to eat later on. After some minutes, he said something which moved me. He wanted to lie down next to me on the same bed. I resisted and kept resisting. He said he was feeling bad that the trip is ending, just wanted to spend some time close, and promised that he won't touch me. I refused and hesitated the situation we were sharing. By this time we had built up enough comfort zone with each other but not enough to sleep next to each other. Yet I allowed him and pushed myself to the corner. He started with his stories about the people he had met. He showed me the pictures of friends and family and a very few places he had visited on his phone. Then he cracked a joke and while we both laughed hard, he snugged and kept his hand on my waist grabbing it gently. I pushed him away. He affirmed that he won’t go further. I was stringent and asked him to move to his bed immediately.
He got off the bed and apologized. The lights were off still I could see his face with a weak flash that was piercing through the window panes. He didn’t feel good about himself at the moment. While I tried to act normal and not have eye contact with him, our eyes still locked into each other for a second or maybe less. He smiled and pulled the blanket over me, caressing my hair he said, ‘Goodnight’ (oh I started to feel relieved) and then he planted a peck on my forehead. He left the room.
The next morning we left for the airport. There was complete silence in the car. I kept looking outside the window avoiding any conversation about the last night.
‘Sorry for making you uncomfortable last night, I am sorry. I don't feel good about myself. I am as embarrassed as you.’, he said with tears in his eyes.
Yes! This is why I was looking outside the window.
I was broke. I felt terrible. Reason? Maybe, because he grabbed me by my waist? Or because the bond that we had built in those 8 days shattered?