The perk of being a writer who works from home is that you can start your day at your own pace, schedule your meetings as and when you like, work wherever you want to. If you don’t want to work at all, you can spend all your day in pajamas and no one will ask you why. But that’s not how I figured my days would be like. I always needed a special corner in the house to get my thoughts flowing, a routine so that I could stay true to my work. Sometimes the clutter would put me off, at other times the ringing of the doorbell would. I wanted peace, a place away from the familiar faces, away from the whistle of the cooker or the constant nagging of my mother. My good that there was a rustic coffee shop just few minutes away from my apartment complex. The only hitch was that it was inside the railway station.
Hitch or blessing in disguise?
It served good coffee, there were fair share of visitors, there was no peace but there were many stories. Loud mouths, tired bodies, family feuds, sparkling spontaneity, you could get anything you wish for. The head phones provided peace and the eyes provided the stories.
So for months now, I would wake up, have bath, gobble my breakfast, excuse myself from the all and sundry of the household that would chain anyone’s thoughts, not only a writer’s, and make my way through the bustling platform to this coffee shop that functioned 24*7. For nights, only a small part remained open, the whole facility awakened sharp at 10:00 in the morning, guzzled till 10:00 in the night. I would be among the first visitors to reserve the best seat of the house. Best not only because it offered a full view of the entire coffee shop to observe and shape the experience, a broad window to peep out to the world without being noticed but it also had the power plug right next to it to keep my laptop humming for the entire day. What else does a writer need – a cup(s) of coffee and a laptop that never stops buzzing. Despite being old, rickety, the coffee shop had wi-fi to remind you of changing times.
Neither the mornings were dreary, nor the afternoons stretched out. The evenings, particularly busy. There was always one or the other interesting character marching in. Many times, love birds would drop by looking for free wi-fi and a sweet conversation, either real or virtual.
But today was different. My mom had some important appointment so she had left early and with her, the morning cacophony too. Even at the age of 35, she believed I couldn’t function without her. After a complete set of repeated instructions, the whole house was left to me, the quiet and peace I had always yearned. I thought of staying back but somehow over the months, it was my favorite spot that set my brain cells on fire. So I had as usual reached there and reserved my seat. The ideas just poured with every sip and clunk, the faint buzz of the coffee machine, the light laughter in the background. Just when I was totally engrossed in a story that was titillating my mind for hours now and the typing was just not matching up to the speed of ideas that were flowing feverishly, a dark green summer dress interrupted my thoughts. The sparks of her beauty flew all around. She breezed in with a big trolley bag, a long string purse hanging loosely from her shoulders, her waist length hair moving frantically hiding her face as she sat right in front of me, albeit a few tables away. There was an inexplicable pull that made me lift my eyes time and again from my laptop. Her shapely, full legs criss-crossed in the knee length dress, the tender toes adorned with black nail paint made her all the more tempting. I wanted to see her face but a book, a damn book in her delicate perfectly manicured hands covered all her features except… except her eyes. The arched eyebrows seemed shaped by a master craftsman. The lashes, beautifully curled, drooped on the face as she read line after line without moving the book even a bit.
I had always romanticized the scenes at the train stations. Blame the DDLJ and the cheap novels that I read in my teenage. There was a certain seduction in the possibility of a chance encounter with a stranger. But I didn’t see that stranger as someone this young.
Still, it was the longest wait of my life, waiting for her to lift her eyes from the book and look at me. This suspense was now killing my own story. I fidgeted with the chord, the empty cup of coffee, made a loud clunk with it but to no avail. What is it that she was reading that she didn’t have even one glance to spare for me? I looked good and had a good height. I was not the one to be overlooked by girls. Despite my middle age, I had the edge, so I believed, to make them spare a good thought for me. Averagely handsome but deep eyes and a thoughtful look was enough if you overlook the day old stubble and the home slippers in my feet.
“Kite Runner” by Khaleid Hossaini, the title read. I couldn’t count how many times I had read that book. I had the author signed copy resting with pride on my work desk at home. My all-time favorite book was in her hands and I was jealous. Jealous of the man whose writing was getting all the attention and I was lurking there like a hungry dog desperate for just one look. Puppy love…. Was it?
She twitched as if she had just heard what I was thinking and then looked straight at me. Her slightly brown eyes lined with kohl killed me. She drank me gently and in fraction of seconds, she returned back to her book, her eyes, fixated again on the pages that echoed friendship and betrayal. I, for a moment, thought of my friends and how they would react if they saw me going mad for someone who I haven’t even properly looked at. But it vanished as soon as I eyed her again, her beautiful hands moving through her silky, slightly wavy hairs that contoured her face. She looked at the boy serving the coffee and signaled him to get the bill. The book was on the table now, her radiance made my heart beat faster. Her nose, her lips, her chin invitingly innocent, looked shaped to perfection.
I had to make my move now or else she would be gone. I walked slowly to her table and in an attempt to strike a conversation, I said, “Ah! Kite Runner. It is my favorite book. ” She looked at me and said, “Pardon?”
“I said it is my favorite book.”
“Oh! That’s good” and she again started looking towards the counter.
Not to take it lying down, I asked, “Have you finished it yet?” I pulled the chair and sat on it.
“No I haven’t.” She said with an amusing look in her eyes.
“I have an author signed copy with a beautiful dedication.”
Her monosyllables were making me go for her even more. It felt as if she knew it.
Her eyes penetrated deeper into me. How I wanted them to look just at me and nowhere else. There was innocence, a sense of calm yet playfulness in them.
They were betraying her now, a slight nervous streak appeared.
I just smiled back.
“So what does the dedication say?” She asked breaking the connection, shifting her gaze to an invisible object on the table.
“Do you want to read it? I will just go and get it for you. I live nearby. ” I wanted her to say yes, anything to be by her side for few more minutes. And added, “Or you can come with me?”
Her lips made a move but her throat caught the sentence midway. “Well…, I don’t have enough time.” She paused and my heart plunged deeper in my stomach. “I have a train to catch. So thanks but no thanks.” She said in a disappointed tone.
“Can I walk you to your train?” I was smitten. I didn’t want to lose any chance of spending some more moments with her though I knew it would end as soon as the train would whistle goodbye to this station. Her nod was enough to make me collect my things, leave my favorite seat knowing fully that I wouldn’t get it again today. But I wouldn’t get to be with her again too.
“So stranger, what do you do except sipping coffee here and practicing pickup lines?” She interrupted my thoughts as we made our way through the crowd and forced me into a full throttled laughter.
“I write in my free time.” I said with a wink.
“Hmmm… a writer. Sounds intellectual. But at the train station?” She questioned.
“Well, I get to meet pretty strangers like you.” I smiled. “Where are you heading?”
“To my college. The vacations just got over. I am in First Year B.E.”
My hand brushed past hers. We looked at each other; a rush of emotions clouded the judgment. When we unlocked our eyes, that lingered on a bit longer than they should have, there was silence. We made our way through the shadows, not talking to each other, hearing our own heart beats.
Her train was already at the platform. As she searched for her seat and adjusted her luggage, I kept pacing outside alongside her, not to lose her in the melee. I could have gone in and helped her out. But something stopped me. The dainty windows of the second class AC could allow only a hazy view. I moved closer. I pressed my hands on the window and peeped inside. The tubelight created a familiar shadow leaning against me on the other side. The hair were now tied in a ponytail, which highlighted her cheek bones. I squinted my eyes to capture the radiance, one last time, to feel her gaze right into me, to touch her hands that were right opposite mine, through the glass. She said something, I could make out. But what did she say? A smile spread across her face. I moved my hand on the glass as if to touch her face and turned away. I didn’t want to know.
I wanted to keep her in my memory, the way it was just now. What we had, the moment, couldn’t last longer. It would have been diluted with the words; it would have vanished because there was no possibility of us getting together, ever.
But I still sit at the same seat, in the same coffee shop, writing, and in the heart of hearts, waiting for that stranger to walk in again. I still go and look at that train, from distance, in the hope of spotting her, wondering if she thinks of me too.
Pic courtesy: en.wikipedia.org