Sunday, June 12, 2011

Slip Sliding Away

She walked in somewhere between the time he ordered for his fourth cup of kahwa and the time the cocoon warehouse caught fire caught fire in Kawabata's Snow Country.

She walked in with the afternoon melting fretfully into evening which made it easy for one to make a choice between the cane outdoor chairs or the air conditioned couches inside the cafe with the artificial lights and the still cinnamon laden heavy air. He never like cinnamon all that much anyways.

It must have been the glasses. What about her glasses? He wasn't quite sure.But yeah..must have been the glasses.

The cafe overlooked a wide street across which was a grey ash brick wall. Inside the grey ash brick wall was a grey ash brick one room house . A dog wrestled a cock into the ground .The cock in turn tried to peck the mongrel when it had a chance to get up and noisily flap its wings into a little private dust storm.

She chose a chair overlooking the entrance, across his table, partially hidden behind a rather inconveniently located pillar.

His kahwa arrived. She beckoned to the waiter. She didn't look like a coffee person. Must have been the glasses. What about her glasses? She didn't take too long to place her order. She was possibly a regular here? Quite unlikely though as this was a new cafe and he was here most weekends since it opened and had never seen her.

A brisk breeze not quite a wind, was blowing. Monsoons had hit the Andamans already.. the confident looking, business suited newsreader had said and was fast progressing towards the mainland.The dusty leaves swaying with a practiced carelessness cast moving rusty shadows on the walls of the cafe. Filtered sunlight.

A Mango smoothie arrived at her table. Yup. Not a coffee person. She opened a book,tweaked the straw at the bend into a convenient angle, pushed up the bridge of her glasses, drew a sharp sip from the glass and proceeded to read.He tried to read the title on the red colored cover. The pillar was definitely inconveniently located.

More people were walking into the cafe. Some of them still numb mouthed from a comfortable afternoon siesta in a shaded dark curtained neighborliness with the ceiling fan creaking randomly rhythmic overhead. The curtains occasionally forced astray to cast shards of bright light.

The book she was reading was fairly thick. His Tolkien in his bookshelf didn't look too dissimilar. Was she a Tolkien reader? He remembered a random conversation he had with a friend some years ago about women who knew their Simon and Garfunkel and what defines them.Very few women he knew ,knew their Simon and Garfunkel. He met one on a beach on the West coast on a rainy weekend ..but he didn't know then that she knew her Simon and Garfunkel. She was a something in the media business..he couldn't quite remember now.. and had a little gap between her two front teeth and her name reminded him of snow in a teacup.

His tea was now cold. He didn't particularly mind that .The shadows were getting longer, the streets busier. Each table had a little plot unfolding. Some more interesting than others.

She seemed to be a slow and a thorough reader.Unlike him. She took her time stopping occasionally to stare vacantly into the street. Which Tolkien was her favorite? What did she think of the movie? He wagered that she too would have thought that the movie never did justice to the book. He was right about the coffee,wasn't he? A phone call interrupted her. She disposed of it quickly with a series of shrugs and a none too cheerful goodbye.

He walked down to the restroom . She looked up as he went past and their gazes met. Before either could register much he walked past. What about those glasses? By the looks of it..She hadn't started reading the book too long ago.

On his way back, he caught her mid sip staring into the vacantness ahead and he could read the title lit in a shaft of light.

“Word Power Made Easy”.The same book thats been crowding the pavements of the cities of the country for the last decade along with babble like “Who moved my Cheese?”

It was like someone switched on a fluorescent industrial tube light in a cozy candle lit room ,switching off the BB King record playing in the background at the same time.

He got back to his table. A stray dusty leaf had found its way into his tea cup in the meanwhile. And he was no longer sure when he claimed in conversations that life had taught him how not to be judgmental.

Wry smile.

He closed the Kawabata, put it into his backpack,paid the bill at the the counter and cycled home humming “Slip Sliding Away”...Damn.What about those glasses?