She is frantic. She cannot find the keys to her flat. It’s cold. She needs to pee. And the phone is ringing from inside. Each shrill ring adding to her urgency. She falls to her knees and begins to empty the contents of her bag on to the concrete ground. Her diary. The black leather notebook she bought to writes poems and feelings in but has filled with doodles of three leaf clovers and little hearts instead. Bills, receipts and sanitary napkins follow. Tissues soiled by pink lipstick stains and her runny nose.
She calls her husband. Perhaps he is on the way and she won’t have to wait that long. It goes in to voice mail and she is asked to leave a message. She curses him instead.
Her wallet, lipstick and the crumpled see-through wrapper of the chocolate muffin she can’t remember when she had. Tiny chocolate crumbs cling to the folds of the wrapper and reminds her that she is hungry. It can’t be that old she reasons to herself as she licks the wrapper clean.
Ipod ‘How long has that been playing? I’m sure I switched it off’, headphones and six pens clattered to the ground. Her bag is almost empty now. And still no sign of her keys. Her bladder begins to send messages to her brain that it is ready to go in to action. ‘Did his phone actually record what I said?’
A pay slip threatens to take flight. And the balled up tissue papers rolls away like tiny snot filled marbles.
She is scraping the very bottom of her bag now. A length of yellowing twine catches her eye. She takes it out and studies it. It is knotted along its length and a black hair slide dangles at one end. She looks back inside her bag. Scattered among the dust and errant chocolate crumbs are the tiny, shrivelled corpses of wilted flowers. Jasmine. She takes a few in her hand.
Her mother had caught hold of her as she left the house and tucked the then fragrant strand of fresh flowers in to her hair.
‘But Amma! I’m wearing jeans. Next you’ll make me wear a pottu.’
‘It’s ok. Fusion fashion. Take it out after you’ve checked in. And wear a pottu – what will your maamiyar think?’
She had grumbled about not caring what anyone thought and then agreed.
The ride to the airport, the long queue, checking in, tearful goodbyes, the dull ache in her chest.
As she had leaned back in the narrow, faux plush seat on the plane something had poked the back of her head. Her fingers had fumbled in her dense black hair, searching for the offender closing around the slide and pulling it out, stray jasmine buds freeing themselves from the confines of the twine only to be trod on by the heeled foot of a snooty air hostess.
She had dropped the flowers in to her bag, rubbed off the pottu and taken out a magazine.
The twine appears blurred.
‘Hey! Why did you swear at me on that message?’
She looks up at her husband.
‘Is everything ok? Why are you sitting out here? Why’s everything on the floor? Have you been crying? Why are you crying?’
‘I can’t find my keys. I can’t get home.’