Word count: 976 | Estimated time to read blog: 10 min
Harry parked his Mercedes into a nearby lot and stepped out into the open, covered by a full-length raincoat and an extraordinarily large parapluie. The wind was laden with minuscule drops of drizzle and the sweet smell of earth. He took a deep whiff of this pleasant combination of freshness as he walked past puddles that had formed on the pavement.
He decided to linger on in this mood for a while and observe the sights and sounds that the fresh drizzle had brought about and entered an old, almost dilapidated café. The café was dark and he could barely make out the rows of benches and tables. He sat down at the one closest the door, by the side of a large glass window and looked out. The pane was covered with ten thousand droplets and he could vaguely make out the scene outside. He could also see his breath transforming into a thin film of mist on the glass.
His reverie was broken when he saw the reflections of ten thousand droplet-sized waiters arrive at his table. He turned away from the glass for a brief moment, ordered for a coffee and continued gazing at the glass, the film of rainwater and the view it permitted of the outside world. Somewhere in the background, a faint audio began to play:
“Where were you, when I was burned and broken;
While the days slipped by from my window watching…”
It was quite faint and didn’t intrude much with his thoughts or the sounds outside so he let it play. He sipped his coffee slowly, lost in thought of the years gone by.
So engrossed was he in his thoughts that he didn’t realize the entry of a neatly clad woman into the café. He would have continued to gaze at the window when-
“Remember me?” she smiled, sitting right opposite him with a twinkle in her eye.
“Annie!” he exclaimed. It was the one face Harry could never forget.
She smiled that warm smile, full of joy and mirth, which Harry had once adored. It always reminded his poetic self of sunshine and it came as a welcome break to his otherwise gloomy thoughts on this side of the window pane.
“I saw you getting into this café and decided to see how you have been”, she said.
“Coffee?” he offered and she assented.
“I have been fine. I don’t know if it could have been better or worse because life doesn’t offer you iterations, does it?” he remarked.
She smiled and nodded her head vigorously, her pony tail dangling merrily behind her. Harry’s observant eye noticed that she was quite much the same as he had last seen her 5 years ago. He could never tell her then, how much he loved her and she could never understand his meaningful silence. And then it was too late.
“While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words,
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun…”
“Oh! You got a car? Which one”, she asked, picking up the keys from the table.
“A Mercedes”, he said and pressed the remote lock. One white Mercedes in the parking lot went ‘Tuick – Tuick’
‘Nice!’ she said and smiled her sunny smile.
“Well, what about you?” enquired Harry.
“I have been here in this town for the past 2-3 years. I stay at ‘Mansion Villa’. Have you seen it?”
“Oh wow! That’s the biggest house in this town. I have passed by it a couple of times”.
Their coffee cups were drying and so was the conversation – in fact there never had been enough verbal conversation even in earlier days. And what the eyes said went unread….
“Lost in thought and lost in time,
While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted.
Outside the rain fell dark and slow
While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime…”
“OK. I need to be leaving now”, she declared.
“Alright, Annie. Nice to have met you after so long. You bring back memories…” he said.
They exchanged smiles and goodbyes after which he walked away towards the washroom and she headed for the door.
Just as he entered the washroom and closed the door behind him, his cell phone rang. He had left it back on the table besides his car keys. Annie heard it and received the call, thinking she might convey the message when he got back.
“Where are you fooling around you sly rascal. I haven’t hired you as a chauffeur to have fun with my car. Now get home as fast as possible. I have an important appointment…” and the line went dead.
Annie placed the phone back on the table as she headed out of the cafe.
When Harry got back from the washroom, it was the same melancholy ambience that had prevailed before Annie’s arrival. The sunshine that Annie had brought with her had vanished with her departure.
He headed for the table to pick up his keys and phone and to settle the bill. As he was picking it up, he noticed a small white envelope on the floor, on the side where Annie was sitting earlier.
He picked it up and opened it. It read –
“This is to confirm that Ms Annie has been appointed nanny to my baby and will be permitted to stay with us during her….”
Harry folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. He left it on the floor where he had found it and headed out of the cafe into the drizzle.
PS: Inspired by O.Henry’s story “Gift of the Magi” and Rituparno Ghosh’s movie “Raincoat”. All lyrics used in the story are from Pink Floyd’s classic “Coming back to Life”.