Tuesday, 11 February 2020

part 3 : The Bookstore: An AR story


He was surprised to see the bookstore in total darkness. He wondered if he was very late and she had closed the store for the day. He didn't expect anyone to respond when he knocked the door but was surprised to hear a muffled voice saying ' "It's closed."

"It's me." He said. At that moment he realized that they had not yet introduced themselves. Till that moment it had not mattered much to him. When he thought about, it really didn't matter at all.

"Hi, it's you!" She whispered opening the door. Only then he realized that there were no lights burning in the store. She had a candle in her hand which was giving her an ethereal look.

"Yes, it's me." He whispered back.

"There is something wrong with the power supply. I think the fuse is blown or something along those lines." She again whispered.

"Oh OK. But why are we whispering?" His tone held mild amusement. She cleared her throat and spoke in a normal tone.

"Darkness inherently makes me whisper. I have always associated silence with darkness. Thus, for me, speaking in dark is like breaking silence. So I whisper."

"And you call me odd." They chuckled.

"Why are you surprised to see me?" He asked her as they settled on the floor across each other in one of the aisles. She had placed candle between them and their faces were hidden in semi-darkness.

"It's been a month since your last visit so I thought you know'" She trailed off.

"Thought what?" He had an inkling of what she thought.

"I thought that you might never come back. We have met only twice before and honestly lets face it. I am not exactly the kind of person that a guy like you would come back for. Over the years, I have gotten used to feeling that." She shrugged to hide how vulnerable she was feeling. It wasn't something that generally shared with people. It wasn't as if she had too many friends in the first place. Her handful of friends knew how shy was with new people and how she took time to get used to them. The ones who had patience to find out what she truly was had remained very close to her. But with him, her frazzled nerves found a strange sense of serenity. She didn't particularly care if he judged her. Maybe deep down, she somehow understood that he would never judge her. Maybe that's why she was being completely honest with him. Maybe she found a comfort of sharing her innermost insecurities in this darkness. She saw him shuffling around and he finally settled next to her, shoulder to shoulder.

"I don't know about other guys but you are the person I personally would love to come back to." She was again floored by the honesty and conviction in his words. Generally she would have felt a thousand questions arising for a statement like this accompanied with lots of self doubts. But in that moment, she accepted his words without a shred of doubt. She completely relaxed herself next to him. Even as the silence stretched, she felt his mute companionship extremely soothing.

"There were many instances in college when guys spoke to me or tried to go out with me because I had a beautiful roommate. At first it hurt me a lot, but in later years, it was quite amusing. I never got over that, I think." She was feeling oddly melancholic.

"You give yourself too little credit." She simply shrugged. They fell silent for few minutes.

"In younger years, not many people look for a mature partner. You get to be young only once so it's natural that one might want to make most of it. But its ironic how one would miss out on the real deal even when it is glaringly obvious in front of their eyes." His voice had taken a softer tone as if he was trying to console her. But she couldn't be sure of that.

"Now, who is whispering?" She taunted him. He understood the underlying plea in her words. She wasn't comfortable sharing her insecurities about guys with a guy she barely knew. He simply rolled his eyes, not that she could see that.

"I think your absurd theory of darkness and silence is not so lame, after all."

"Why do you say that?"

"In darkness everything looks the same like in silence everything sounds the same. Both have an amazing tendency to hide the pain, don't you think so?" She wasn't sure if he arrived at this conclusion because of her predicament or it was something he figured out on his own. He sure was smart.

"In a manner of speaking, yes. I am weary of both because of the unexpected component that they both present."

"What is it?"

"In darkness, I don't know what I am looking at. I don't know if whatever I am looking at is in reality what I think it is. Just like in silence, I wouldn't know what the person is thinking. If a person is talking, then at least I know what is going on in his or her mind. It's safe, that way."

"Are you worried about what people think of you?"

"No, but are you?" He didn't answer immediately and that answered her question. She was surprised that a good looking intelligent man like him was emotionally dependent on others' approval.

"I try not to. I constantly find myself in a dichotomy of what I really want versus what is expected out of me." His voice sounded distant. They both knew that things don't change overnight. They knew that a person's innermost insecurities take years to heal. But sharing and accepting was the first step in healing process.

"You know if this was a spy thriller, then you would have declared your love for me and would have given me a trinket which would have super confidential government data encoded inside it and you would ask me to wait for you till you finish your current assignment. Then both of us would be crying and you will be telling me ''wait for me' over and over." There was a moment of silence and then both of them burst into laughter.

"Reading spy fiction, these days?" He asked her in between laughs.

"I went through a phase couple of years ago when I used to get obsessed with a genre of books and even watched movies of the same genre."

"Spy fiction was one such genre." He sounded amused.

"I read Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and fell in love with whole charismatic spy thing. That was my initiation to spy fiction. After that, I read whatever I got my hands on." She giggled at the thought of some of the cheesiest titles that she had come across.

"I am not that much of a fan of spy fiction, to be honest. Apart from Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, I am afraid, I haven't read anything else." He confessed.

"They are the best. These days most of these spy fiction genre books are filled with more and more technology based details rather than actual spy work. Like an everyday man, even a spy is more dependent on his gadgets rather than doing the snooping around on his own. In James Bond, it was cool to read about these fancy gadgets. But when half the stuff is discovered using gadgets, then these books kind of defeat their purpose. Spy fiction these days are more dependent in tactical ability and weapon usage as compared to intelligence and common sense."

"Isn't that true for most of the people?" They shared a smile, not that they could see it. She jumped at the sound of tires screeching outside her store.

"Not too fond of dark, are we?" He asked her, amused of her jittery behavior.

"Inherent absence of light makes me nervous."

"The answer is yes, then." He laughed outright. She grumbled something under her breath.

"You know if this was a B-grade horror movie, then a zombie or some poltergeist would have been awakened and we would be running around your bookstore trying to find a way to end them. Then you, because its always the girls who get all the limelight in these kind of movies, would remember a story or an anecdote that you once heard as a child from a fortune teller, who would be a gypsy by the way, that you hold a key to something important and would save the world. So, you, a person who is terribly scared of dark and everything associated with it will save me once or twice and save the whole world by finishing of the dark forces."

"I think I have seen at least a dozen movies with the same storyline." She giggled.

"I think writing horror novels is the most difficult of the lot. Because people get scared of situations in which their senses are not very useful, like when it's dark. It's a little easy to achieve that in movies with the help of sound and light. But to evoke that kind of an emotion with words take a lot of effort."

"You are a fan of horror genre?"

"I am. It's fascinating to see how effect of light and sound can be traumatic on human mind, even when we know that whatever is happening on the screen is not real. Horror fiction can be truly enjoyed by those who have a good imagination. Otherwise, they are simply words."

"Which one is your favorite?"

"The shining, by Stephen King. It was one book that really scared me and the movie scared me even more."

"I remember bits and parts of that movie."

"Bits and parts?"

"I was covering my eyes for all the scary parts you see." Her voice was sheepish.

"So basically you didn't watch the movie."

"No." She laughed.

"Really, why are you so scared of the dark?" He asked her.

"I am not really sure. I am from a single parent household with an elder sister. She was someone who was the exact opposite of me in every aspect. While I shrunk away in dark, she glittered. I would try to walk across the hallway and enter my sister's room but I would hear sound of laughter and happy voice of her, talking over the phone and I would slither back to my room. Had I entered her room, I would have definitely been embraced by my sister. But I am not really sure what stopped me from doing so. Perhaps the slightest and remote possibility of her rejecting me, however irrational it seems now, made me not to knock on her door."

"When I was eight, I slept with a cross, a rosary and some garlic everyday. My brother had convinced me that there was a vampire on the prowl and using these items kept vampires away. Just to make sure that I don't tell this to my mom, he had added to the story saying that, if I say this to any elders, they will face a gory end. After a few days my mother got a hang of the constant smell of garlic in my room and got the story out of me. I was embarrassed when I found out that my brother had played a prank on me." She imagined him as a little boy, tearing up because of a prank played by older brothers.

"How did you get over your fear of the dark?"

"I don't think anyone gets over their fear of the dark. Till there is light, everyone is brave and not scared of anything. In darkness, even the bravest of the brave will have a touch of fear of the unknown. Everyone have their personal nightmares. As we grow older, they become more pronounced and sometime intermingle with reality." The candle that she had lit was almost dying as if indicating them that their time was up. He seemed to catch on that fact and got up, ready to leave.

"Shall I fix that fuse thing now?" She got up and motioned him to follow her. After a few minutes, the bookstore again lit with evening lights.

"Thank you for being there with me, in the dark today and thank you for helping me to find the light." The meaning of her words was not lost on him. He wasn't sure why but he wanted to simply hug her and never let go. He imagined her as a little girl, curled up in her bed and praying for dawn to come soon. He shook his head to clear his thoughts.

"I took a drive a few days back you know, just a few hundred miles from here." She was grinning at him now. His brooding state was replaced with sudden happiness. She had not only thought about his advice but acted upon it.

"I am glad you did. You have any epiphanies to share?" He wanted to know every tiny detail of her road trip; perhaps sometime in future, he mused.

"I realized why jade and emeralds have become my favorite gem stones." They shared a smile. There was no reason for any more words, anyway. He disappeared into the night after offering her a gentle good bye, with a promise to visit her soon.


Tomorrow (Thursday): She tells him why she thinks certain poems are better than self-help books and he tells her his fascination with poetry on autumn season. And, she has a good news for him.

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