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More than once
by Sandisha Sai (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 06-Sep-2015

For reasons best known to him, and for a lack of any perceivable trend in thoughts that could be easily penned into words, I will leave it to him to make sense of his own meandering musings. But having watched him for weeks from my lonely place in the café, I can’t help but try to figure out a rhythm and a routine from his devoted snooping. For weeks I watched as he watched and waited to make some sense of what was happening in front of my eyes. I waited for something to unfold from the drama I watched every day. To my seeing but unknowing eyes, it was as if it were a déjà vu, as if some unseen force had pressed the rewind button again and he and I took our positions yet again to watch the same story being replayed in front of our senses. I say senses, because by now, the whole plot was tingling every pore of my being, riffling my curiosity and shrieking to me and saying that I had to find out why.

And so I waited there yet again, at my lonely place in the café, waiting for this morning’s episode. No, I cannot say episode as nothing changed, nothing altered, nothing got added on. It was the same, the people were the same and so were the actions. As always, he (my mind just refuses to give him a name, as I find him too unique to typecast him in any sort of mould, even if it is only a name) sat on the last step of the staircase that led to the corporate office of some multinational giant and with the same look of resigned amusement mixed with some measure of irritation he watched as two little girls giggled and chattered with full abandon, while waiting for their school bus. As always, it was obvious that they were excited about a new day as only kids that age can possibly be! I will put their age down to be somewhere around seven years, not more, as the childish giggles that caught the fancy of the passers-by did not have the measured and pretentious ring that the more mature children often hide behind. Dressed immaculately in neatly laundered uniforms that indicated a disciplined yet loving mother somewhere in the background, they were quite oblivious to the fact that there was a man who watched them day in and day out for weeks with a fixated stare that could only indicate that there was something he wanted with them/ from them ... well as I said earlier, it was quite difficult to make out from his impassive face what aeons of emotions must have been drumming rhythms behind it.

He neither moved, nor said anything. He just sat and watched, while I waited for something to happen next. Was today the day? Would he finally do something so I could understand something out of this silent play? No. He just sat there as always, watching them giggle without any other expression on his face, except for the mild amusement interspersed with the momentary glimpses of irritation.

I was running late for my morning meeting and no matter what lure this scene held for me, the possible wrath of my employer was too strong a force to reckon with. So I got up, paid my bill for my usual filter coffee and the tiny plate of button idlis that had become my staple fare for breakfast in the past five years since my wife had left me for better career prospects. Well, all the best to her, I have no regrets whatsoever. If at all, it was a blessing in disguise, as it meant that I could now slow down and become more aware of my life in all its glory and losses. I was finally tuned to things as they should be. I got up with some sort of unexplained uneasiness in my heart. My entire being told me to wait, to linger a bit longer, that today was indeed the day.

And so I held on for a bit, tarried paying the bill a while longer, looking for an excuse to postpone my flight. I waited and watched. Nothing happened. He was still sitting on the last step of the staircase that led to the corporate offices of some multinational giant. The girls still giggled and chattered noisily and the rest of the world moved on as it was supposed to. The only thing that had changed today was that I had stayed a bit longer. I watched with some sort of helplessness mixed with curiosity to see if something would change. And nothing did!

Well actually, something had changed. And as I became aware of it, as realization dawned on me, I was quite shaken. I stood there helplessly and watched myself on that last step watching the giggling girls with an amusement mixed with irritation. Amused at their childish abandon, and irritated with myself that I had goaded myself into believing that I was happy in my own slow-paced, lonely and miserable existence. All these weeks of waiting finally seemed to have worked their magic. I began to see things as they were, not as a spectator but as a participant. It is my life and I had to take charge. Life is not about endless cups of lonely coffee, it is not about waiting and watching. It is about being in the moment. As this hit me, I got up as if awakened from a reverie, hurriedly paid my usual bill, and walked out of the café that had fostered my loneliness long enough. 

 

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