I’ve been sitting in my hotel room for three hours, reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and waiting for you. Your flight into Mumbai has been delayed over and over again. First, you were due in at noon. Then two. And then finally you told me that your plane was taking off, and that you’d be into Dongri by six. The whole time I’ve had butterflies. And now it’s ten to six, I’ve just finished a chapter in my book, and I’m leaning out the window, smoking a cigarette, and waiting for you.
Down below, four stories deep, the goats are tied up, ravishing mysterious greens. The pigeons are engaged in a mating dance on my air conditioning unit. The rats on the roof across from me–rats the size of possums–are weaving in and out of abandoned pipes, scouring for food. Mumbai is covered in a thick paste of haze. Dilapidated buildings, perhaps once beautiful, melt in the heat. The workmen across the street stand on breaking walls with sledgehammers, demolishing one of those dilapidated buildings brick by steady brick. Saris sway in the breeze, drying in the heat–red ones, purple ones, yellow ones. Blues. The rooster crows again (as he does all day, every day) jumps from a hand rail to a motorcycle to the ground, to chase his hen. Men and women buzz by on mopeds and in taxis, tooting their horns, the toots saying, “Pedestrians, get out of the way, or I will kill you.” Children walk home from school, dressed smartly in their academic uniforms, little ties for the boys, little skirts for the girls. Bicyclists ring their bells for no apparent reason. The street vendors cook their kebabs. The big sign on Tantanpura Street–pockmarked and browning–floats aimlessly. And I lean out the window watching it all, pulling on my cigarette, waiting for you.
Suddenly–and somehow–I see you. Strolling towards me on Tantanpura. Hauling a big bag. It looks heavy. Your jeans–this is how I identify you. No one here wears tight jeans. No one.
I wonder if you can see me, too–white guy with a cigarette, waiting by the window for you.
And then you do. You wave. I wave back. You smile, maybe laugh. I smile, not quite believing, wave again. Gulp.
Then I throw on some pants, and rush down the stairs to meet you. Because I’ve been waiting for this. Waiting by the window for you.