Thursday, 13 February 2020

part 4 : The Bookstore: An AR story


She was talking to one of her employee who was just leaving for the day. The two of them were the last ones left in the deserted bookstore. They heard the familiar tinkle of opening of the door and she could see that her employee was about to yell that the store was closing but it never came. She turned around to see that he was standing by the counter and she caught her employee was blatantly staring at him. The way he looked tonight, anyone with two X chromosomes would be staring at him. Dinner jackets had never looked better. He looked amused to see two women staring at him unabashedly. He placed coffee cups on the counter and waved a hello at her. She locked the door when her employee left and turned to see that both he and their coffees were missing. She found him standing by a window at the back of the store waiting for her. She thanked him as he handed her a cup.

"You have plans for tonight?" She asked him pointing at his attire.

"I had plans, yes. There is a party tonight for which I was told that my attendance was mandatory. This party was arranged in the garden and when I arrived there, the evening frivolities had begun. It's a beautiful autumn evening and somehow the noise was kind of running my mood to enjoy the evening. Then I found myself driving here. So, here I am."

"You are not a fan of parties?" During their last meeting, both of them had been brooding and the whole conversation had had a melancholic ring to it. Sitting in darkness hadn't helped to cheer them up either.

"I am not fan of anything that involves too loud atmosphere. I feel that I cannot even hear my own thinking." He chuckled and continued.

"I don't mind going to parties occasionally. But it gets tiresome when one has to pretend something that he or she is not feeling. It is too beautiful of an evening to be spent with strangers and acquaintances." She didn't hide the smile that was blossoming on her face. She was under strict orders from her roommate that she had to find out everything about the man who was currently sipping coffee and looking out of the window. She had felt exasperated at her roommate's continuous innuendos and unashamed teasing.

"But you are a fan of autumn." It wasn't a question. He had made it quite obvious in past few statements.

"There is something melancholic and romantic about this season. It's an end to glorious golden summer and onset of white winter, thus the melancholy. Then you have purple skies, occasional rain, beautiful color which adds to the romantic element."

"I honestly didn't peg you for a romantic; sensitive yes, but not exactly the romantic type."

"Autumn makes me romantic I guess. I especially love taking a stroll in the park amidst fallen leaves. The color has an amount of charm associated to it, but it's the onset of the white winter makes them look even more beautiful."

"When we know that something that we love is going to disappear even if it were for a few months, that invariably becomes the most beautiful and treasured thing for us in the world." Her subtle insinuation wasn't missed on him. He smiled in acceptance. She had an uncanny ability to summarize everything that he was feeling in a few sentences only. He found that utterly charming.

"Who is your favorite?" She asked him.

"You know, almost every famous poet or author has at least one poem on autumn. A few of them have even had a handful. Poems by John Keats and William Blake are my favorite. Other than that, I generally enjoy poetry by H.W. Longfellow and P.B. Shelley"

"Recite your favorite verse please." She was looking like a little girl asking her mom for extra few minutes on the swing. Her enthusiasm curbed his desire to deny her. At that moment, he wondered if he could deny her anything at all.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless

"Ode to Autumn, John Keats." She said, recognizing the words. She liked the way he recited poetry. There was an enchanting hum in his voice when he ended a note. It reverberated in the space around them making the ambiance truly poetic. She found warmth around her even when the evening was chilly. Was this how autumn was truly supposed to feel?

"It's amazing in the way he builds up everything that leads to changing of seasons. How boisterous summer reduces to bleak winters, how both spring and autumn sport colors but each gets interpreted in a completely different way."

"You have a Byronic soul." She blurted out before she could edit things that came to her impulsively. He laughed. She joined in his laughter a moment later. On an impulse, he recited another verse.

Birds are darting through the air,
Singing, building without rest;
Life is stirring everywhere,
Save within my lonely breast

She was actually surprised at the tone of his voice. It seemed as if he was trying to tell her something which he could not have possibly done so without this verse. She had read it before, of course. But that poem had never stirred the feelings that she was currently feeling. It was as if the poet had summed up the feelings for every lonely heart in this world.

"Autumn within, Longfellow. He is my favorite poet you know."

"I assumed as much. His poetry is generally an allegory to something parallel in an average man's life. When I read this poem back in high school for the first time, I understood the autumn part of it. After high school, the first time I remembered this poem was when I had my first taste of loneliness."

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.

"Albert Camus. I didn't take you for a reader in philosophy." He sounded surprised.

"I am not that much into philosophy, quite honestly speaking. But these are the closest words that would describe autumn for me. Beginning of autumn celebrates life and its end decorates death." He was stumped by her words. Never was he so utterly attracted by someone's words. He decided to find out more about her perception about poetry.

"Why Longfellow?"

"Therapy." He stared at her for a moment.

"You lost me." He looked genuinely confused.

"If one makes an effort to understand his poetry, then one can actually write a book on self-help or self-motivation kinds."

"I see a point there." She gave him an example to emphasize herself better.

The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept were toiling upwards in the night.

"This verse is not exactly therapeutic, but it's extremely motivating. Everyone knows that if you work hard, you will definitely reap the benefits. But to tell the same thing in poetic way truly soothes a frazzled mind. When nothing seems to be working and life in general seem to be overwhelming, I take shelter in these poems."

"When did you discover Longfellow?"

"In high school, we were asked to write an essay. While searching for potential candidates, I came across Ladder of St. Augustine. I fell in love with that poem. The simplicity in which he writes always blows my mind."

"It's a little more than that I think. Keats, gives you a visual glory where as Longfellow gives you a new perceptive about yourself." They fell silent with their thoughts.

"Sometimes, poetry was an escape from reality. The meaning of words changed with my mood. Sometimes the lines that soothed me, made no sense the other times. It was fascinating to see how interpretation of a poem dependent on a person's perspective rather than the original intent."

"Isn't it true for every sense of literary works? An author would write a story which most likely would be influenced by society, culture, upbringing and his own experiences. A person cannot rule out the influence of his own personal life on the words that he pens down."

"The same logic is extended to readers also correct?"

"Yes. The way I see poetry is very much different from the way you perceive. For you, a poem has to be intellectually stimulating where as for me it has to be emotion stirring."

"There is this poem by William Blake, which I don't remember fully, but the initial lines were stunning."

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

"Auguries of Innocence." He recognized it. He thought it would be something that someone like her would like. For him, the verse had simply translated to - get the big picture. But after talking to her about so many things in their last few meetings, he was sure her point of view on this is going to be drastically different from what he thought about it. And he couldn't wait to hear about it.

"A few years ago my father met with an accident when he was driving back from work. We got a call when he was taken into surgery in the same hospital where he worked. When I waited for doctors to tell me something - anything, I felt that it was the worst and longest hours of my life. An uncertainty of future of a loved on can make even an hour feel like time is stretching till infinity."

"It's a matter of perception. Because I feel that even an eternity that I spend with you would be like spending just an hour." He said it as if he was going to buy a cup of coffee to her; casual and forthright.

"Then isn't it a matter of circumstance that influence the perception of poetry?" His earlier statement had caught her unguarded. But looking at the way they were heading, it was an inevitable outcome. She was delighted in the fact that this strange attraction that she had for a stranger was working both ways. But his words had an absolution while she was still hovering her feet over the boundaries.

"Perhaps you are right." He idly mused. The silence that they shared was one that of mutual consent. She remembered to give him an update on her financial situation.

"My partner has found someone who is ready to invest in this book store." The day she had heard the news, she was worried for a minute. Her lawyer had convinced that the new buyers of the other half were pretty decent people. However he was surprised that the people who were buying were very well established and had never invested in these kinds of businesses. She told him the same thing.

"Are you happy now?" He asked her.

"I am relieved. Happiness is a state of mind that I am a little weary about. I prefer to be content or satisfied."

"Why is that?" He was surprised.

"Happiness is truly achieved when sadness completes its course. I honestly don't want any of that."

"You really are absurd." He smiled. She simply shrugged.

"The people who are buying out from my partner didn't even visit this store before the made a deal. Everything happened between two different set of lawyers."

"You wished to meet them?"

"I would have liked to. They have given me complete freedom in maintenance and execution of my plans for this store and they will provide me full financial backing. But the whole idea of partnership is sort of defeated you know. Its more like one party invests and the other party executes."

"Isn't that relationship good; when one gives and the other takes and the one that takes gives back in a different form?"

"I guess it is." She sighed. Apparently she wasn't explaining it well enough or he was one of those people who believed in keeping business and people relationship completely different.

"You don't believe in that, do you?" She looked up. He gave her a tender look.

"No. I don't. I am glad about the fact that my new partners are really nice people who are ready to trust me with a lot of responsibility but I just assumed that even they would be actively involved in running the bookstore." He couldn't reply to that. With a silent agreement, they walked towards cash counter. On his way, he picked up a bookmark from nearby shelf.

"You are buying that?" She asked him as he took out his wallet and when he took out a pen, she continued.

"For me?"

"Of course" He grinned at her. She rolled her eyes and accepted cash. He dropped the bookmark into her open palm and wished her a gentle goodbye. Once he disappeared into the night, she turned the bookmark around to see his words in his neat writing.

I want to bottle your laughter and hang it around my neck,
I want to see your brilliant smile reflecting in my tea cup.
I want to paint a little picture with my pocket full of dreams,
In every stroke of that picture there is a dream of you and me.

As she ran her fingers on the words, she knew that the words were written just for her, by him.


Tomorrow (Friday): Where they talk about their childhood dreams, failed relationships and best friends.


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