The aroma of chai in the air and the pitter patter of the Bombay rain against her window momentarily calmed Ruhi down before she started pacing around again. The bell rang and she took a deep breath before opening the door.
“Oh my god, Ruhi, this place is gorgeous! The pictures you sent me did it no justice. I cannot even-”
“Hi”, Ruhi sighed and pulled her into a tight embrace, while Jhilmil just continued speaking, “-believe you just moved in here last week. Where are you flatmates?”
“Only one of them is home. Why don’t you actually step inside and I will show you?”
While Ruhi poured the chai from the kettle into two zig zag mugs, Jhilmil ran around the space picking up random objects and squealing in excitement, “Oh my god I love this!”
“Ruhi this colour is gorgeous!”
“You have to tell me where you got this from!”
It was the first sip of the chai that seemed to centre her, after which she pulled Ruhi close, “I cannot believe that the last time we met you had an actual curfew. Look at you all grown up!”
“It was just four months ago, Jhilmil”, Ruhi giggled, “and you are a year younger than me.”
“JUST four months? Just?! Are you kidding me? And also what are we eating? I’m starving right now.”
“Whatever you want. It’s my treat!”
“It better be. After all the money we lost because we had no shoes to tease my brother-in-law with”, Jhilmil fake wiped a tear, making Ruhi want to simultaneously roll her eyes and kiss her.
She decided to go with the latter, but halfway through Jhilmil suddenly opened her eyes, “Wait! You said one of your roommates is home?”
“Oh, I was talking about Rani. Wait…”, Ruhi got up and went into her room, bringing back a small black ball of fur that was purring softly. She handed Rani to Jhilmil who immediately put her in her lap and began stroking her.
“She has the cutest purr I’ve ever heard!”, Jhilmil whispered.
“Yes, and that scares me because that’s all she does.”
As if knowing that she was being discussed, Rani jumped off Jhilmil’s lap and lay down in her basket in the corner.
“Oh my God, she doesn’t like me!”, Jhilmil had a look of horror on her face.
“Well…I do”, Ruhi said, placing her head in Jhilmil’s lap where the kitten had been. Jhilmil giggled and started stroking Ruhi’s hair instead. They stayed like that for a few minutes, both of them enjoying each other’s physical proximity with their eyes closed after months of longing, with the background sound of the rain.
“What were you scared of?”, Jhilmil finally asked.
“Oh.” Ruhi was startled, “Rani doesn’t meow. All my life I have been taught that cats are supposed to do that. Am I not meowing around her enough?”
“Wait, what?”, Jhilmil started giggling.
“Don’t laugh. I’m the only cat mama here, it’s not exactly like she has relatives who she can visit where she picks up the habit. Don’t babies learn words by imitating us? What if she’s not feeling loved enough to see me as her family?”
“Ruhi”, Jhilmil took a deep breath, “You emit love. You are the last person that needs to worry about this.”
With that, she bent down and started kissing Ruhi. First on her eyes, then her cheek, and finally her lips. Their lips brushed at first, as Ruhi nuzzled Jhilmil’s cheek, then Ruhi pulled Jhilmil closer, and they both lay next to each other on the mattress on the floor, kissing. Ruhi’s fingers traced the distance from Jhilmil’s neck to her waist, and Jhilmil’s hands found their way inside Ruhi’s t-shirt, which she slowly pulled up. Ruhi started unbuttoning Jhilmil’s shirt, and with each button that opened, she kissed more and more of her chest, letting her tongue trace the distance between her breasts.
An hour later, they were comfortably wrapped around each other’s glistening bodies on Ruhi’s bed, with her single purple blanket ensuring that there is no scope for distance. Jhilmil had once again begun stroking Ruhi’s hair and she whispered, “You do emit love, you know? I didn’t just say that.”
Ruhi sighed and pulled Jhilmil closer without opening her eyes, “Then why are you leaving?”
“I thought we had decided not to talk about this.”
Ruhi could hear the pain in Jhilmil’s voice, which made her finally open her eyes, “Hey, I didn’t mean it in an accusatory way. You have to take this opportunity. You’ve worked hard all your life. It just hurts that we finally meet after all those months and now there’ll be…nothing.”
Ruhi took Jhilmil’s hands in hers and kissed her knuckles and she spoke, “I know this is technically only the second time we’re meeting but all those video calls, those texts…you know what?”, Ruhi sat up, “Let’s talk about something else.”
Jhilmil leaned against the bed and enveloped her arms around Ruhi, with her lips resting against Ruhi’s neck, “Ruhi…you know how people say that believing that you have a place in the universe makes them feel happy each day when they wake up?”
Ruhi planted a kiss on her lips and nodded her head.
“I don’t feel that. Because if the universe has a plan for me, then I’m significant. I don’t want that.”
“What do you mean?”, Ruhi sat up straight now.
“I don’t mean I want to be insignificant to you, or to myself, or to the people I meet or love. I mean insignificant to the universe, to history, to the course of life in general. I want the universe to be so busy elsewhere taking care of the people that will contribute to the butterfly effect that changes the world so that it leaves me alone. And in that insignificance I can be happy. Knowing that the only consequences of my actions will be on my life and the immediate people around me, making sure I make decisions that give me and everyone that I love, happiness- I want to be a moment in the history of the universe, and nothing else.”
“Sure Jhilmil”, Ruhi squeezed her hand, “but we don’t get to choose that. Those people that you are talking about making happy- including me- you are altering the course of their lives. Your life might be a moment in the universe and this night might be a moment in your life, but that means nothing. Moments give us something to hold onto, to draw strength from on what might have been a tough day. That sounds very significant to me. Almost as significant as this. You and me, here. I don’t know if we will ever meet again, because I cannot imagine buying a ticket to London while paying rent in Bombay…” Ruhi paused to give Jhilmil a second to giggle, “…but what we have cannot be judged by the number of moments spent together. Hey, you can’t judge a firecracker in the sky for not being the fairy lights in your bedroom, can you?”
“Is that all we were meant to do, then? Light up each other’s sky briefly and then disappear?”, Jhilmil was holding back tears as she leaned in to kiss Ruhi again. And again. And again.
“Jhilmil…”, Ruhi began, just as the alarm on Jhilmil’s phone signalling that she needed to leave for the international airport went off.
“I don’t know…”, Ruhi whispered in her ear as she drew her close, “but right now I want to hold you tight for five more minutes.”