The icy cold air of the reading room dried every sweat, tension and drenched me with relaxation and calmness. Tugging my laptop and a thin paperback copy under my right underarm I settled in a corner chair. I kept the laptop charger cable and water-bottle from my other hand on the polished yellow table. A curve-edged four-seater table, with comfortable chairs and racks full of magazines and books just beside to read.
Another laptop; a red Sony, open and gaping at me, and a spiraled copy were already resting on the table opposite to my chair. I desired a lonesome corner where I could scribble down something or read the unfinished novel I had been reading for few days and so I sought to seek any other more private seat. But unfortunately to my dismay, all the other seats were either occupied or even though few seats were empty, they didn’t have any plug-point facility nearby where I could connect my laptop charger. Hence, with no other option left, I sat down on the available seat.
The spiraled copy was on the very surface I had to rest my laptop. The other person must have kept it there unintentionally. I, suppressing the urge to see the contents inside, placed the copy beside the red laptop. Finally, being able to settle down successfully, I turned on my computer and while it was taking time to bring on lock-screen, I gazed out of the window beside. Before having lunch a few hours back, sun was burning and boiling everyone, making it impossible to walk outside even with an umbrella, but at that time, the weather became all cloudy and cold. Cold? Maybe the air-conditioned room had clouded my perception of world outside. It must be sulking hot outside, only to torment people more with sweat and restlessness. The welcome tone from my laptop brought me back to reality, a dull noisy din. When I had bought the laptop, the same sound was welcoming and melodious. I typed the password and quickly took a mental note about what I was to do that day. I made a list:
- Read A Fine Balance- chapter 3
- Watch the online lecture on digital electronics
- Start writing the technical paper(abstract and introduction)
As the laptop was ready for work, I instinctively opened the browser and habitually clicked on the facebook tab. I reminded myself: Didn’t have any plan to open facebook. So, I closed the browser taking a look at notifications and opened A Fine Balance; Chapter 3.
Stepping back, she forced a laugh too. “I don’t have anything. That’s why I came here in the night, for the sake of my child.”
“You have got something.” He put out his hand and squeezed her left breast. She struck his hand away. “I only have to shout once,” he warned, and slipped his hand inside her blouse. She shuddered at the touch, doing nothing this time.
Just then the owner of the red laptop arrived, holding a coffee cup in one hand and purse in other. She slowly blew the hot coffee from her curled lips and took a sip. Feeling uneasy, I closed the book and opened my copy. Why feeling uneasy? I scolded myself and then again opened the book.
He led her cringing to the cot and ripped open her top three buttons. She crossed her arms in front. He pulled them down and buried his mouth in her breasts, laughing softly as she tried to squirm away. “I gave you so many oranges. You won’t even let me taste your sweet mangoes?”
With that, I decided to close the book and as I faced up, I blushed. The girl was at me and she was late by one millisecond to remove her eyes back to her laptop. I felt uneasy to read the book in front of her and forcefully coughed to feel more comfortable. Perhaps it was the book that made me look odd? Who would read a fiction in a technological institute library where everyone was busy swallowing knowledge? Or perhaps my uneasiness was clear from my face? Or maybe…just maybe… nah, couldn’t be.
Then I continued reading the book, feeling delight in every sentence. In between certain intervals, the girl was sneezing, each time covering her face with kerchief and blurting out ‘Sorry’. Why sorry? It’s perfectly natural to sneeze if someone catches cold. Vermillion-nail-polished fingers sparkled with mica was tapping on the keyboard as she was looking on her laptop screen intently. I knew it. So it was a different kind of staring then! The kind of staring when people find something or someone weird.
Though my face was sticking on my laptop I could feel occasional gazes at me. I desperately wanted to go the washroom and take a peek at my face. Is there something wrong with my face?
Getting courage from her repeated gazes, I also looked at her several times, to take revenge or to explore further why she was staring.
A faint smile was always lingering on her face as she typed. Must be her boyfriend. She should not stare at me then. Gazes are dangerous, it have the power to make heroes, even the strongest ones, fall. And I was mere a mortal geek who would jump in fright to confront a harmless lizard. Her overall round face with aptly placed eyes showed how focused she was on her chatting.
Tempted by so many emotions, I thought to write something. So, I instantly opened word-editor in my laptop and started typing whatever was coming into my mind. I had to steal glances of her several times to get a better idea of her face, because I was writing about her.
I was so engrossed in writing that I couldn’t recognize when my bladder was full and it couldn’t hold anymore. I ran to the washroom, and peed. My eyes closed themselves automatically in pleasure as my urachus was relieved of the pressure it was bearing. A faint numbness weakened my legs as I was at the end of my lengthy urination.
I returned to my table and found her gone again leaving the laptop. I could not help but peek at the screen. I was desperate to know why she was staring at me. As I looked closer, I saw a word document with nearly thousand words typed. I was dumbfounded to read the first few lines.
Today, as I’ve come back from my lunch, I see a boy reading ‘A Fine Balance’ just opposite to my chair. I have been reading that book too since few days. Such co-incidence is attention-pulling. He seems a bookish boy, a literary bookish type, not a technology freak.
My heart skipped a beat as I read those lines. It was impossible. I sat down on my chair wondering about the bizarreness of the things that was happening. She returned pasting her phone on her ear and talking agitatedly. I had prepared myself to introduce and talk to her but she hastily piled her belongings and left, still shouting at the phone.
(Partly based on true events)
Lines in the first two blockqoutes are taken from Chapter 3 of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
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