And she lolled on my shoulders, the whorls brushing against my ears, tickling me in an eerie manner. I tried to nudge and adjust slightly without disturbing her sleep; moments of respite then again the situation would get to me. Half an hour had passed like that and the bus was still sailing through, halting occasionally near the roadside food joints. I had not taken my dinner; maybe the food on platters or the ambience around left me feeling anorexic. The bus halted again, I checked my watch it was about 1:30 A.M now. The shimmering yellow glow outside and the aroma of simmering lentils outdid me this time. My stomach churned, pang of hunger, I fathomed. Then an irritation in my throat, I moved my face towards the window and let out a cough, a bit louder than anticipated; I felt abashed and moved to check if her sleep had been disturbed. Maybe, that was my first glance at her face in the 3 hours journey that we had already completed snuggled to each other. When she came in, I had been too engrossed in my novel to move my eyes elsewhere. Not even moved by the rustles and clinks of her ornamented scarf. But now I was caught spellbound. Hunger, itch, thirst- nothing could stir my hypnotized soul. The bus started with a jolt, the moonbeams seemed to dance on those placid eyes eluding the sculpted lashes. On her face it performed a chasse, now on those chubby cheeks, then on that cute little nose which gave me a feeling that it just was about to sneeze. Then the rays would poke the chin and move to the glitters and embroideries of the scarf. I smiled to myself like an admirer of a mime show. Now I wanted the journey never to end, more precisely I wished never to unburden my shoulder.

Another halt and another jerk interrupted the show, I blinked, 2.30 A.M and still insomniac, the hunger too had attenuated but curiosity never ceased. What was hidden beneath those bud like structures in reddish hue, I still had no clue. Those lips seldom moved, even when they did, they never parted but rolled over each other. Her eyes too were equally cryptic, like an ancient treasure hitherto unexplored, protected by lids and girded by fine brows which furrowed each time the wind touched her face. I wanted to cover them, shield them from the passing wind, absurdly starting to hate the wrinkles as if they were creasing my own face. Subtle breeze landed a strand of hair on the eye lids, hint of waves again in the sea of tranquility; I considered putting the curls back to place but dreaded waking her up. I tried to blow them away instead, but they would always return back to caress her visage, like a former lover. For the third time I blew air through my mouth, by now it had turned into a competition between my breath and that strand. A fourth, a fifth, then I gave up and sighed in defeat. One look at the furrows and I was tempted again, “Something new”, I thought this time. She was inches away from me, resting on my shoulders; I could easily pick that part up with a mere gesture of my face. I took my face closer to her, the curl still resting firm; I picked the bundle with my lips and accidentally touched her eyes in this process. A feeling like never before, my virgin lips had touched feather, it felt. I tried curbing the temptation, but a voice inside pushed me to do it again. This time more conscious and confident I moved again, a sudden bump with a creaky noise did the rest, I fell on her face, my lips partly on her upper-lip and partly on her nose. I saw the eyelids open now, the bluish iris tilted towards me leaving me befuddled and bedazzled at the same time.

“Will she slap me? Or shriek in horror?”

“Sorry it braked suddenly, I could not hold back”, I tried my best to cover the mess.

“No, I must say sorry. I don’t even know when I fell on your shoulders. Must have been an arduous journey for you,” she apologized with the same set of lips and eyelids which I had kissed just moments ago and they looked seriously embarrassed.

We saw the other passengers rush forward jostling each other in quest of their destination. “Damn, Time to depart!”

“No, it’s perfectly alright. No big deal”, I murmured.

By then, she had started removing her luggage from the bunk above. An air of fragrance I felt, as if freshly plucked jasmine had covered my face but it was only her arms which hovered over me. I kept smiling foolishly in a puerile fashion.

“Goodbye”- her last words as I walked out of the bus. Years later, I still wish if silence had been the lingua franca.

Debojit Dutta