You are the man who offered me his seat the first day I got onto the bus.
I don't know whether it is a strange sympathy for a schoolgirl taking the public bus - I see the mute, fatherly pity in your eyes, and I wonder how to tell you that I do it out of a strange adolescent desire to assert my independence, not out of compulsion. I wonder how to tell you that my school bag is not the biggest trial in my life. I don't quite know how, so I mumble a word of thanks and sink gratefully into my seat.
Unwittingly, you have given me a moment. A moment that allows me to forget the boredom of the forty minutes I spend in that bus, fighting a wave of perspiration and clutched briefcases. You have given me a compulsive belief that someday I will chance upon you again when I am older, and offer you my seat to return that favour on that first uncertain day.
I do not forget faces.
I invent a game. I observe all the people climbing into this metal contraption, and I study their faces. I look for the nuances of features and bone structure, note the interweaving of brows and lashes and nostrils and teeth. I give them names. I weave stories about them and recount their histories - fabricate tragedies and romances, workplace problems and marital spats. And sometimes, I forget to get off at my stop.
Now you are in a sari, defensive and gruff, elbowing your way through the mass of travellers hanging onto the railing. Now you are in a worn kurta, fanning yourself with a newspaper. Now, you flick your bunch of tickets at me, indicating that I should respond with my jingle-jangle bits of change. Now, you are every other person looking towards the door, waiting to get off.
And the journey seems over so soon, but it is different everyday. The only constancy being that I still have not run into you.