The sky was overcast when I stood outside the library that day.
He does have a dramatic way of showing his displeasure.
The bell hanging on top of the door tinkled as I walked in.
She looked up and smiled. There were few customers in various stages of browsing, buying and renting the books. I recognized all of them. I amused myself by evesdropping on their thoughts while I waited for the lunch hour to come. I walked to the autobiography section, leafed through some books. I find autobiographies interesting, not that I read much of it. In my existence I have learnt that all lives are heroic and every life is dramatic. Theres no such thing as an ordinary life.
She touched my shirt sleeve. I turned around . The library was empty. She had already switched off the lights . The keychain dangled from her hands.
“ Today’s lunch is on you” , she said , still smiling and looking right into my eyes.
‘Everything is on me today’ I replied, holding her gaze. Her smile faded.
We stepped out into the humid weather outside. I looked up at the dark clouds covering the sun, betraying the afternoon into appearing like dusk. She locked the shop and followed my gaze.
‘It seems a little surreal, don’t you think? Dark , hot afternoon.’
I didn’t comment; it was not expected.
We walked towards a nearby restaurant. The inside was cold due to the high blast of the central aircondition. We sat in a private corner in the family section. The waiter handed us the menu and stood at a discreet distance while we placed our order. A greek salad with extra helping of cheese and a glass of lemon mint for me and a plate of filfal with hommus and kobus for her.
I sipped the cold mineral water which the waiter had poured into a wine glass. We still had not spoken.
She was watching the level of the water being poured into her glass. Her eyes followed the waiter as he went towards the kitchen to place our order. She averted her eyes towards mine when she realized that I was watching her. She blushed as if I have caught her doing something embaressing. I smiled back.
‘ I will be gone for sometime’ I said, breaking the silence
‘Where? For how long?’
‘ Iam going home for a while. Have some business to attend to.’
She was quite until the waiter bought us our order. We ate in silence.
‘It was nice ; talking to you. Iam going to miss that.’ She said , her eyes on her food.
‘I enjoyed my afternoons with you too. We will meet again.’ I reached out to touch her hand. She held my wrinkled hands in hers. I gently pulled it out. No matter what people think, Iam not much of touchy feely kind of person.
‘ Lets forget that for a moment’, I said, clapping my hands together . The sound startled her to snap out of her reviere as was intended. ‘I do owe you an apology for getting you all worked up the last we spoke.’
She smiled, ‘We always seems to be apologizing to each other.’
‘Who are you anyway? I don’t seem to know anything about you. I went through the registration form in the library and called the number you had listed there. It was not connecting.’
‘My my, Arent you being snoopy! Why did you want to get in touch with me? You could have asked for my number.’
‘No, it wasn’t like that. Yesterday, I could have sworn that you disappeared. Somehow it didn’t seem very real – all of it. The way you seem to bring out the worst in me or is it the best ? I don’t know anymore. I just wanted to call you. Kind of make it all real. That you existed.’
‘I exist. Do you find that hard to accept?’
She looked annoyed now. ‘This is the problem. Why can't I have a normal converstation with you? You take off on this philoshical babble. It tires me out. Theres a part of me which wants to snap at you and never see or speak to you again... and then; then theres this part which is very curious to find out what you can draw out of me , about what you are going to say next. Its all very strange to me.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Well, for one thing Iam not that sort of a person. My life is quite simple. But now I feel a kind of anxiety. I question everything around me. I don’t know. I feel scared, as if all this is a prelude to something bad.’
It was . I don’t make anything happen. I cant. No one can. Everything is the cause of a series of actions and thoughts by the living entity. It serves my need to be available when an opportunity arrives.
I had been sitting back while she spoke. The waiter came and placed our order on the table, hovered around a bit and left us. There was a temporary silence. She broke the kubbos and dipped it in the hummos and inserted it to the left corner of her mouth and started chewing. I toyed with my salad.
‘Do you believe that theres a reason why people meet? That theres a purpose behind it?’ I asked. A cube of fetah cheese pierced by my fork found its way to my mouth.
She looked up; ‘Are you implying that theres a reason why we are having this talk?’
‘That’s exactly what I meant.’
‘Well, I can agree with that to some extent. I think we find a reason to justify the meeting. Like , now that Iam married to my husband, I can find numerous incidents which can look very extraordinary and coincidental ; as if the world was conspiring to put us together. But I do know so many people I have met in my life who have not added or subtracted from my life. Like my school friends and people I have met on the trains and buses , who I have spoken to , exchanged addresses with and never bothered keeping in touch with. So I think it all depends.’
I was not finding the salad very satisfying. I continued playing with it.
‘ Actually theres a reason in every interaction.' I said,' Infact you cannot in some way not be effected by any interaction. Even the interactions which you have discontinued would have changed or altered you in some way, like you have to them. Everything that you are today is the direct result of a lot of things, which includes these interactions.’
‘ What are the others?’she asked.
‘You are what you are today due to a lot of things: your genetics, your birth, even down to the location and date and time, to your choices, people you have met, haven’t met, what you have heard, what you have spoken, what you haven’t said, your thoughts, your ignorance and lots more’
I had given up on the salad. I took the tall glass of lemon mint and took a sip.
‘ That doesn’t sound like a reason.' She insisted,' Sounds more like a random mix of events and at the end of it you got you. How can that be considered purposeful? I do believe what you are saying , which is that , today is the end result of all the yesterdays. But I disagree with the part that one has control over how their life has turned out. You can say it’s the choices that I have made. That’s only one part of it. Iam of the opinion that life is a series of random events and one tries their best to stay a float in it.’
‘Maybe,' I said,' Maybe I can understand why you might think like that. If one day you could stand apart from yourself and see life as it is, you will realize that there is nothing random in this universe. You are exactly where you want to be, how you want to be. The day you can truly see that, is the day you will be in control of your destiny. Until then, I guess , its natural to think the way you do.’ I finished my little speech and finished the lemon mint in one gulp.
She was seething now.
‘Why do you talk down on me?' She asked,' As if you are the wisest thing that have ever crossed this planet. Do you realize how arrogant you sound? Do you see it?'
' Standing apart and seeing the life for what it is?' She imitated me pretty well,' Show me one person who has done it. This is the kind of pseudo intellectual crap that irritates me. Your answer to everything is based on something that no mortal being has experienced . Like a mirage.’ She was gasping for breath. The waiter was looking at our direction.
‘ Jesus.’ I said quietly.
‘What?’ she snapped .
‘You asked me to show you one person who has done it. Jesus. He had done it. So has several others. They were never the same after that. You will never be able to play the game once you know it’s a game. The rules changes as and when you want it. You shape your destiny.’
She was silent. I asked the waiter for the check.