It’s been a strange evening. Maybe it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve left office really early, without a definite plan. My evening has followed approximately this kind of a pattern – nostalgia, delirium, nostalgia again, sadness (because Anand lost), yet another bout of delirum followed by yet another bout of nostalgia; then the inevitable full-blown NED, followed by declaration of NED, and then a long storytelling session.
I don’t write much fiction. In fact, I think I’ve written not more than two short stories in my entire adult writing career. There have been a number of other projects that I’ve started, but most have been stillborn. When I write fiction, my method of choice is what can be called in Digital Signal Processing (DSP) terminology as “sampling and interpolation”.
My memory is organized in a way that it mostly remembers snapshots. Usually in pictorial form. When I try to remember a certain incident, I remember it as something like a slide show. A series of images flash in my head. They are usually enough to tell the story, but not enough for the story to sound complete to a second person. Hence, I will need to supplement these pictuers with commentary. It’s like drawing a line through a set of points. Interpolation. It’s late in the night and I don’t want to get technical, but I suppose you perfectly understand what I’m talking about if you know DSP.
I revisited one of the two short stories a week back, and was horrified as to how badly it was written. This was written some four years back, within the first year of my writing career. And when I had written it, I had thought I had written a masterpiece. Now it seems all so juvenile, and cliched, and definitely not something I would be proud of.
After the storytelling session an hour back, I found reason to revisit the other short story that I’ve written. I’m not perfectly happy with it – I still think it needs a lot of polishing, but I like the basic construct. I like the way I’ve structured this story. Maybe two years down the line I’ll find this to be crappy too, but right now I still like it. I want to re-run it here for the benefit of readers who have started reading my blog in the last two years. As for the rest of you, I still think it’s woth it if you would read this story again. It’s fairly good, trust me.
I begin: (story behind the fold)
This time the lenses weren’t at fault
She took my hand in hers and started gently stroking my fingers. One by one. Starting from my pinky, all the way to my thumb. The time she spent with each of them would put an art movie to shame. Her stubby, yet artistic, fingers trying to connect with my long, slender, clumsy ones. Exuding the kind of warmth I had hitherto felt only in my parents’ laps.
Elsewhere, another couple was trying to connect. Her soft kohl-lined eyes and my small sunken ones were trying to get past the barriers posed by my anti-reflective-coated glasses and her contact lenses. It was about a year since they had last made love, after which they had been cruelly shut out of the relationship thanks to that treacherous invention called telephone. It was much harder than they had thought. Months of exclusion had taught them to stare into emptiness whenever the rest of us connected.
My other hand quietly reached for the bag I had left in the back-seat of my car. Yes, it was still there. A pair of crystal-studded ear-rings – Swarovski. I had won it as part of my literary exploits at college, and mom had taken it away saying she’d give it to me once I found the girl of my dreams. It had taken a whole morning and afternoon of begging and pleading and making up stories to get hold of the thing.
She was similarly prepared. “I have brought this special gift for you, something really close to my heart”, she had announced as soon as she had got into the car. “I’ll give it to you later in the afternoon, when the sun beats down on us at the perfect angle”.
This date was the culmination of a year-long long-distance relationship. We had met a year before, and just couldn’t have enough of each other. That time round, our eyes had created jugalbandi, with our voices merely providing accompaniment. Can’t recall a more blissful two hours. “We’ll meet again soon”, we had promised, but then the forces conspired to keep us in different cities for a whole year.
The evaluation process began soon enough, as we prepared to make the final push. I started mentally filling up the Likert scales that I had prepared for the purpose, and I could sense that she was also doing something similar. It was the first time for both of us. Soon our faculties started cribbing ? maybe too much effort was going into the form filling. The jugalbandi was beginning to go besura, but the musicians didn?t find enough processor time to make amends.
?The flow of thought is just not there. I?m forcing myself to talk to him?, she must?ve thought.
?Last time she seemed so interesting. Don?t know what has happened to her today?, reckoned I.
“Both of us suffer from frequent and violent mood swings. Not good to make babies together”.
“We are both extremely arrogant and individualistic. She wants me to make too many compromises, not sure if I?m prepared to do that?
?No, no, this is not going as planned. Is he the same person I met last year??
?We don?t seem to be connecting at all. Whatever happened to all our beautiful chemistry??
?No. I don?t think this is going to work out?.
?No way will we be able to make this relationship work?.
?I think it?s all over?
?I think it?s all over?
?It?s all over?
?It?s all over?
Four hours spent in a daze. Neither coffee nor a long drive through Bangalore’s maddening traffic can help. Our eyes have finally managed to connect, and are just staring into each other, looking for emptiness. My left hand sits limp between her palms, while my right tries to conjure a beat on the steering wheel. The next half hour is spent comforting each other, trying to convince ourselves we’ll find replacements soon enough. She is forced to hold back her tears lest her lenses and make-up are disturbed. I have no such constraints.
Shortly, we drive to her place. The crystal ear-rings are still snug in my bag (mom will have to endure another long explanation). The notebook with her most personal poetry remains in hers. A short kiss and a promise to keep in touch, and I drive away into the sunset. Alone.
It has happened once again. My latest love affair was still-born today. Not a word said, nothing written. Just an avalanche of thoughts, and it was all over. There is still the twinkle in her eyes; her voice is as soft and sensuous as over; I don?t recall her looking more beautiful ? but she is not mine anymore. Something has gone wrong somewhere.
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