They were all there to greet me when I arrived. Andrew was still at home on his winter break from college, Robert had a day off from school and on their way to the airport, they collected Florentina from NYU. I was overjoyed to see them, they looked well. I wondered if they had missed me as much as I had missed them. Yet I didn’t want to find out. I would feel hurt if they hadn’t, and guilty if they had.
Cold in my thin Indian clothes and sandals, I was grateful that Hugh had brought the car to the terminal and I quickly climbed in, glad to be in the warm again. On the drive home I looked at the familiar landscape speeding past the car and the beloved faces inside. It’d only taken one smooth plane ride to get back. Would I one day be similarly amazed at finding my Self? Amazed perhaps to discover that finding myself involved nothing more arduous than waking up from a dream?
Walking into the house I took in the familiar smells of hardwood floors and of the espresso Hugh was making.
The cat came down the stairs. Nose twitching, she cocked her head and looked at me, then like a model on a catwalk she slinked toward me and rubbed her body against my leg. She had not lost weight.
I took the hot café-latte from Hugh, the rich vapors wafting to my nose and I breathed deeply as though from an inhaler. I like Chai and while in India I looked forward to it in the morning and afternoon, but I had missed the milky coffee that Hugh and I have at the start of the day.
In my bedroom the turned-down bed was inviting. It looked just as I had seen it in my mind’s eyes that first sleepless night of the tour, on the floor in the school in Telassery, Northern Kerala. Soon hot water was filling the tub. I had looked forward to a long soak and when I came out, my feet were finally clean, no more black around the toes and heels.
I climbed into bed and turned to face the window. The trees outside were still bare but I fancied I could see the hint of buds on the branches.
“Mummy, would you like to come down for dinner or do you want to eat in bed?”
My goodness; it was already dark outside. It was seven o’clock in the evening, had I slept that long?
The precious silence that I found in India had come home with me and I didn’t want to lose it by plunging back into the world. Many days went by before I left the house, or talked to anyone other than the family.
With my tiny pocket mirror forgotten in my bag, I’d only rarely seen myself while in India; now that I was home, I stood in front of my bedroom mirror and saw that my stomach had shrunk. My appetite had also shrunk, and I dared think that I had conquered the hungry ghost within.