SHE’LL NEVER KNOW
I run to my spot at the end of the lane. I check my watch, it is 5:58 PM. I take a deep breath to relax my heartbeat. I can’t attract attention. I hear the office gate open and feel the back of my neck tingle. She was walking out the gate. I turn my head to look towards the gate and confirm that yes, it is her. She is wearing a green kurta and blue jeans. The jhumkas in her ears peak out of her hair as she walks down the stairs. The mask covers half her face but I can recognize her. As she reaches the last step, she takes out her phone and plugs in her earphones. She prefers to talk to her family on her way back home. Her family lives in a small town and she stays here alone. She shares her flat with another girl who works in a different company.
I bend down and stare at my phone screen as she walks toward me. But I can feel her every step as she comes closer. As she crosses me, I catch a light whiff of jasmine. She has been wearing this scent for a month now. Her last scent had lasted a month, maybe she will change it soon. But till then, the smell of jasmine is all I dream of at night. A minute after she crosses me, I start following her.
She walks slowly towards the metro station, her hips swaying hypnotizingly underneath the kurta. She laughs at something someone said on the phone and I quicken my pace to hear her more clearly. Or maybe she knows that I am following her and laughs to entice me more. As we reach the station together, I reach close enough to smell her scent, close enough to touch her. She laughs again and my heart stops at how beautiful it sounds. Like a million butterflies taking flight at the same time.
We go through the security and reach the platform. I take care to remain at least 5–10 steps behind her. I have followed this path so many times, I don’t need to keep her in sight. I know where she is at every second, every minute of this journey. As the train comes, we get on the train. I come closer to her during the bustle of the rush hour and breathe deeply. I’ve taken care to remain invisible to her, just one of the passengers on the train she takes. She’ll never know how many bottles of Jasmine scent I have purchased in the past month since she has changed to it. She’ll never know how sometimes I pour drops of jasmine oil on my palm at night to feel her presence.
Suddenly she turns and faces me. Her eyes roam my face for a minute and she breaks into a smile. Taken aback, I try to remember how to make my face smile. Suddenly her hand is on my chin and she pulls me closer. “So, it’s been three months now, right?” She asks. Yes, three months since I started stalking her. Here I thought I was invisible. “Excuse me?” I reply. I fake ignorance of what she is saying. The announcement for her station echos through the train and her smile turns wicked. Her thumb moves across my lip, “This lipstick shade you’re wearing, is mine. And it won’t compare to the real thing.” With that, the doors open and she walks out of the train, her hair bouncing. As the beep for the door closing begins, she turns to look at me, “You coming?”.