View from the Bottom
A Short Story
Heathrow Airport. 11:30 AM. Feeda bought a novel from a bookstore. He will have to wait three hours to catch his plane to Dhaka. He looked for an empty seat. He saw one in the distance and started to walk towards it. Something, someone, caught his attention. Casually he turned to his right. A young Bangladeshi girl aged about 18 was standing in the next store. “Faria!” Feeda immediately realised the mistake and quickly began to walk towards the empty seat. He felt like punching his own nose for uttering that name loud enough for the young girl to hear. He began to walk even faster.
“Sir, may I talk to you? May I ask you something?” The voice came from behind. Has he heard that voice before! Feeda turned and saw the Bangladeshi girl standing behind him, nervous, smiling. Once again he felt a pang somewhere deep inside. He looked into the eyes of the girl. The greenish tint! My God, what is happening! He smiled back and said, “Yes, of course.”
“Did you, just a while back, utter the name 'Faria' as you looked at me?”
Feeda prayed for the earth to split so that he could fall into it. He never felt so ashamed before in his life. Now, at this age! How could he do this! God knows what the girl must have been thinking about him! But he had to say something. He fumbled, “Err...you see I am really sorry....actually I didn't intend to....but...”
The girl smiled sweetly and stopped him. “Please do not think I have taken any offence or anything like that. I am just curious that you uttered that particular name. If you do not mind my asking....but...do you...or did you.... ever know... someone.... named Faria? Sir, you don't have to answer it if you feel uncomfortable. I know it's a personal question and we are two strangers. Please forgive me if I am being insolent. But I wish you could tell me...it's important...very important...sir...”
There was something in the girl's eyes and voice. Feeda could not stop the surge of compassion wailing within him. He thought for a few seconds and then said, “Well, I did know someone.... by the name Faria. She was a very special person in my life.... for many...many years. We were good friends. But...one day.... I lost her...here....at this very Heathrow....twenty years ago...when she opted to go to the USA...and I opted to go back to Bangladesh. And do you know why I uttered that name after seeing you over there? Because, you looked like a carbon copy....rather a clone of her. There is such uncanny similarity!” Feeda paused to take a deep breath as memories kept coming in torrents.
“And sir, do you know why I look so much like her?”
“No. I have no idea.” Feeda confessed.
“Because Faria is my mother, that's why.” The girl smiled broadly. “I know all about you and I have been wanting to meet you since my childhood when my mother used to tell me stories of her life with you. Every time she told those stories I used to go to a fairytale world. It's so unreal...so romantic and yet.... so sad. Why didn't you marry her? She loved you so deeply. And you are such a wonderful person!” Her voice cracked.
Feeda felt awkward. He looked to his left and then right. No, no one was listening to their conversation. He didn't know what to say. He was not good with words. “Well, if I had married her then you would not have come to this world, how about that for an answer?” He smiled clumsily. But he noticed the girl was not smiling anymore. She was looking at him with a fixed gaze. She was trying to search for something in his eyes. Then she lowered her gaze and said almost in a whisper, “Do you want to meet your lost Faria? Right here...right now...? Do you still have some feeling left for her in your heart? Do you want to know how she is doing in life? Do you want to know whether she is happy?”
Faria! Right here...now...at Heathrow....twenty years after...! Feeda could not believe his ears. And standing before her was Faria's daughter with the same nose....lips....hair and eyes with greenish tint...like he knew Faria when she was eighteen!
“Feeda...is that you?”
Feeda felt as if he fell in a pond in a cold winter night. He froze. The same voice....! He turned to his right. A beautiful frail lady in her mid forties was standing before him. He noticed the touch of gray and white in her hair. The same greenish tint in her eyes!
“Faria....how are you...?”
“I am OK, I guess. You look much older....tired...are you keeping well...?
“I guess so. Your daughter looks just like you. I mistook her for you a while back. She is a lovely child.”
“ Well...you look happy...you have a such a lovely family...”
“I have to look happy, Feeda.”
“Let's not talk about it. Why didn't you marry?”
“Let's not talk about it, Faria.
“Remember Feeda, it was here that we said goodbye?”
“Yes, twenty years ago.”
“Shall we meet once more, twenty years later?”
“I shall not be alive then.”
“Oh, don't say it like that, Feeda. It hurts.”
“When is your flight?”
“In twenty minutes.”
“You have to go then.”
“Yes, I have to go, Feeda. Take care of yourself.”
Feeda wanted to say something. He fumbled for words. Finally he knew what he wanted to say. He looked up but saw no one. He smiled and started to walk towards that empty seat. But it was already taken.
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