Monday, March 6, 2017

The Scent Lingers

Wednesdays are very flat days, tasteless as ice, and no feelings to their name. But this was no ordinary Wednesday.

I carried a book. I would need one. Reading in public is not my forte but then idling is depressing. John Greene’s ‘Fault in our stars’. A masterpiece of its kind. I needed the book to make time move. Sometimes too, a cultured read is the wall standing between me and insanity. 

That and prayers. 

My thumb pressed between pages, keeping the book open. I read in bits. Occasionally, I raised my head to think, to break, to wander, to match a body to movements on the entrance to the right. I was bored. 

Men in suits and ties flocked in, ladies too, in formal wear and heeled shoes. Cat walks. Slow modest steps. Average working-class lads. You could tell. Joyless as hornets. I never bothered to catch any faces, after all I had a whole semester for that. 

Time is a good thing. 

“So this is it?”, I thought to myself, looking around at the indoor picturesque. Not that I had expected anything else in particular.

The room was silent. No words were exchanged. Muffed up sounds came up indeterminately and thumbs fiddled with phones. Heads were bent down like un-watered plants as they typed away things and swiped over and over and over; scrolling through texts and pictures on brightly lit screens. 


I read.

I had sat at the back. Alone. The rows and rows of velvet blue, cushioned seats that slanted upwards were now mostly filled up. I remember the feeling of strangeness at the sight.

Over a reading break, I lurched my weight forward, resting my elbows on my thighs. I was uncomfortable. I had to shift. The worn-out cushion didn’t help much and my butt hurt. I moved one seat to the left, right behind her.

She typed away on her phone. 

Peeping Tom. 

The WhatsApp message was to a number saved as UNK. Whatever that stood for. I entered her private space. It became our chat. I hated that moment. My sudden fixation with her private conversation. 

Deep sigh. 

I closed my eyes and leaned back. Mortified. 


Thoughts. Wandering.

My intrusion to her conversation left my mind dangled on a half-plucked narrative. A puzzle that begged to be solved. I constructed what I thought was her chat. And deconstructed it.

Was she texting a boyfriend?

Hi babe. Won’t see you tonight.

Her father?

Hi dad. At the orientation right now. So excited!!

Her workmate?

I think I need a raise. This shit might be too expensive for me.

A man went up the stage. He spoke and spoke. Our journey began. 
Long evenings of learning things would follow.

This is about people I have gotten used to. Strangers that I know. 


I belong now. 

Being in the right place is exhilarating. Its artistic how we move from the unfamiliar, unknowingly yet willingly, to the familiar. Seeing the blurred lines of strangeness whizz off.
Outlandish spaces become our new homes. 

Mama said I should go out and explore the world. And win. Her words;

You have to try your best.

Keep the faith.


You’ll win.

I remember these words. The light they ignited. The fight the raised. But you know it gets darker and thicker, and harder. The war, like dough, grows with time. Makes you gulp. You slide into places you never thought you’d belong. You seek help. A friend. I wanted a friend.

Then comes a friend. 

A stranger that you get to know. 

I tapped on her shoulder. “One stranger won’t hurt”, I said.


“You are here for the programme, right?”

“Yeah, of course, yeah”.

“Well, I was wondering if we could be friends”.

“Sure. Pleasure to meet you…”

“Peter, I’m Peter”.

We walked to the bus stop. Took few words to get the awkward chit chat out of the way.

“I’ll see you on Monday”.


I turned and watched her disappear into the maze of people. Gone and present; her scent and warmth dawdled behind. 

Her scent hang; a trail of happiness in the air. Her lingering warmth brimming a certainty of friendship. 

Nothing beats that.   


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