At a Cafe

August 6, 2012 § 6 Comments

Sitting at a café on a busy intersection and watching the rush hour traffic flow by- a slush is the only evidence of the rain a few hours ago. There is much ado about something. An organized chaos flows through the city like a drug through the blood stream. There is a hope to reducing some swelling but there is nothing to show for it. A medley of horns from clandestine vehicles emerges from the desperation, the need to get to somewhere before everyone else does.

A quick glance at the watch and people are always late. A little smile. Here in another city, which feels far from home. But that’s nothing the nice weather and a good cup of coffee cannot set right. The addict that he is, the caffeine kick helps him settle down. He searches the crowd for a pretty face. Any pretty face would do. He just had to see a pretty face. Not a beautiful one. Not a face with tons of makeup on it. Not a face held together by a deliberate nonchalance or decoction anger. But a simply pretty face- Without the air of high pretension, one that will knock you out with a slight smile. Maybe a hit of recognition would help as well.

One always likes to know people. Meet new ones. Especially pretty new ones. Another kick from the caffeine, he sits a little deeper into the couch. The couple at the next table rip apart the value of humanity to shreds. He wonders if they could shred paper with their mouths. Some purpose might be served. There was enough paper in this world waiting to be shred. Loveless love letters, thoughtless resignations and hopeless letters to distant homes. Some are written never to be read, others are written to be shredded.

The coffee cup stood there in an expensive stance, drawing the attention of anyone who would bother to look at not its contents but its shape and size- an appearance of something fantastic. He took out a ragged book and turned to page eighty-seven, took out the bookmark and began reading.

If only the world was written by Hemingway. If only we measured our sanity against Kafka. If only Shelley had lived longer. It didn’t matter, in the books he left the alarming crime rates of the city and immersed himself in the world of bulls, roaches and winds. The world is but an illusion after another, in between books.

Every page held another minute in a life which could have been written by anyone; or by monkeys on typewriters;  or drawn by a surrealist; or sung as a voppari*. The words are but sounds which the tongue rolls, but what mighty things they do to the little recess of our senses. The way some words are the emotion rather than just a mindless blabber. If he could be a word, he would be spoken by everyone in this world.

He could never be sold or owned or hurt. He would be hurled but someone would catch him. He could be out on the streets and someone might pick him. But some day, he might go out of use, just like that- because no one felt for him anymore. Now, he was a little word in an unknown corner. Waiting to be born- he might become a noun, or be a verb or an article for indecisiveness.

He flipped the page. The world around him stood in perfect oblivion, passing through the motions of existence, contemplating origins from miniscule particles which might never exist. The world didn’t bother to prove its existence and he didn’t search for it. He would rather think of it as a fictitious mystery, a supposing God striking a furious pose behind a closed screen. No atlas was drawn and none held the world, not on shoulders, not on a boar snout.

Page eighty-seven became page eighty-eight and eight nine. A sudden rap on the nearby window- a familiar face looked in. The warmth of recognition followed by implications, struck him. He smiled politely and got up. He walked past the couple who had by now come close to triggering the Gods to unite in decimating them. He walked as fast as he could towards the wash at the far end. His friend from the window, realizing what was happening, made for the door with a mighty rush, shopping in tow.

As she reached, he disappeared. She stood there looking intently at where he disappeared. She knew, he would never come back. But there was his bag, his book and signs of him. She sat where he had just been moments ago. The wait, she had felt was over, but evidently not.

She flipped the book and stared at it. Page eighty-nine. She flipped till a hundred. And ran through till the end and then forward. Nothing.

The book was a blank. So he was, so he was, she told herself content. The world might live another day.

“Sorry madam, this seat is already occupied.”

Startled she looked up. A young waiter looked at her. His face is a blank slate with no emotions.

“Ohh, sorry.” She murmured and walked out.

*Voppari : Tamil. Crying loudly for someone dead. Mostly over the dead body.

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§ 6 Responses to At a Cafe

  • Aarti says:

    Damn neat stuff da… 🙂 totally enjoyed reading, the visuals, the reality, the setting…

  • Love the detailing and crisp emotions.

  • Srini says:

    I always love the sense of mystique that wafts gently across your tales, just like the ‘steam from a cup of coffee’. I completely agree with the earlier comments: exquisite detailing, enviably sharp prose, and, as always, rich images and metaphors (what does one expect from a poet of your calibre though? ;)) which make the story come alive at multitudinous levels.

    And there were some lines/phrases/expressions which made me stop – and I had to read them again and again:

    (1) “The world is but an illusion after another, in between books.” (I guess I will throw that around to look all posh acknowledging your copyright though :D)

    (2) “Loveless love letters, thoughtless resignations and hopeless letters to distant homes. Some are written never to be read, others are written to be shredded.” (This is first-rate writing. Class!)

    (3) “Waiting to be born- he might become a noun, or be a verb or an article for indecisiveness.” (Appealed to both the linguist and the dithering poet – or the poetic ditherer – in me)

    (4) “An organized chaos flows through the city like a drug through the blood stream.” (Drawing attention to the commonplace through a unique and beautifully befitting comparison!)

  • Reema says:

    wow! loved the piece! the descriptions, the details..enjoyable read!

  • Beautiful writing! And lovely use of metaphors! I’m looking forward to reading more 🙂

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