a day in the life of W

"Let's throw out everything and start again", he said munching on his chocolate-mint biscotti in between sips of the double espresso. My gaze was fixed on this little child on the street across our Parisian cafe. He was dressed in shorts, an old shirt and he was picking up coins from the side walk. His face had chiseled features, reminded me of the Madonna-child figure in the National Museum at Prague. "Are you listening to me", he continued in a nonchalant fashion. "Hmm", I crooned turning my gaze now to the insides of my palm. These lines, jagged and hazy, ran criss-cross across my palms. Maybe they had a story to tell, or maybe they were just there. By now he had rumbled along, repeating ad nauseously about our lives fallen apart. I skimmed the insides of the cafe. In a corner sat a girl, typing away furiously on her Mac. A wannabe writer, mostly trying to meet a book draft deadline. A couple of lonely people sat reading books, newspapers, magazines. At the counter now was the same boy who was picking up coins from the sidewalk. He was buying a croissant. I got up and walked towards him. "Wait, where are you....", his voice trailed behind. "Croissants are delicious, aren't they?", I asked the boy. He pretended not to hear me. I bought a chocolate croissant and we both walked out. The past is a distant memory, sometimes you just have to gather nothing and walk out of it.

He munched on his croissant and walked silently beside me. "Do you live around here?" He kept munching. "W, what are you doing?". He had followed me out to the streets, this was about to get nasty. "I don't want to talk about it. I just need to be left alone.", I cried. "It's so easy to say that, you always want to walk out on all the difficult things." , he persisted. By now the boy had finished his croissant and was gaping wide eyed at the two of us squabbling in the middle of the street. "Don't create a scene", I implored. He didn't care. He wanted me to get back into the cafe and finish our discussion, make life changing decisions. I wasn't ready for all that. The boy began to run, away. "Wait..", he didn't pay attention to my frantic call. It happened in a split second, the car taking a wrong turn, the boy running carelessly, me falling down tripping over a piece of stone. The rest of the day remains a daze. When I woke up, in a green room overlooking the Champs-Elysses, I asked, "What's my name?".

The Yellow Poplars of Shenandoah

I sat at the coffee shop staring at her. The contours of her face were unmistakably sad. She was pondering something grave, over a cup of Espresso and held a pencil delicately in between her fingers, almost afraid to hurt it. Her hair was tied up in a bun, and a single strand caressed her left cheek. A single drop of tear could be seen at the tip of her doe shaped eye, as if it was being blocked by an unseen façade. I wanted to walk upto her and hold her tight, console her and tell her that things will be fine. I had seen her all of eight minutes and forty five seconds and I felt her painful soul in the depths of my reality. I followed her noble fingers scribbling across a sheet of plain white recycled paper. She glanced about feverishly for someone, like she had a deadline fast approaching. My friend, who sat opposite me, nudged me at the elbow. I turned my gaze back into ‘The Moor’s last sigh’. A couple of seconds passed before I looked up, and turned to look at her again. She was gone, I could see the wee ends of her white dress turn the corners of Maple Ave. I got up and pranced behind her. She had started running, I ran behind. She was aiming to catch the 750 to Cloverdale. I pushed my hand inside my back pocket to realize I had left my wallet on the Coffee bean table. Thankfully, I had some loose change in my side pocket. I boarded the bus, and sat a seat behind her. She had opened her Sudoku book and was cracking a hard. I looked out of the window, to my left, at the Pacific beaming bright blue on this sunny afternoon. She had finished the hard puzzle and moved onto the next one. I listened to Cohen’s Suzanne on my Ipod. I particularly love to contemplate on the term ‘oranges from China’, maybe because of the connection with Mandarin, or maybe that’s how the vision of China and its imperialism is. It lingers in your greyness long after it’s gone. I outlined the back of her hair with my eyes. What tempted me to follow her? Was it her East Asian features? Was it the sorrowful longing in her movements, or was it because of a memory I was trying to recollect. I felt a connection, something familiar and fading, like I’ve seen her before. And then it all rushed back. She was my piano teacher’s daughter, Mia. I remembered vividly my first piano lesson. Hajime had played Beethoven, one of the symphonies and I was mesmerized. All my life I had wanted to be a cellist but now I wanted to be Hajime’s student. He was old, and bony with salt and pepper hair and a hunch. He had actively retired from mainstream, yet he agreed to teach me and that’s how I became part of a legacy. Mia was four then, no five. But, she did not play the piano or any other instrument. She did not, because she couldn’t hear. She was born deaf and there was no corrective remedy. When I turned seventeen and Mia seven, her mother died in a car accident. I hadn’t seen her hence. She was taken away to her maternal homeland, a village close to Nagoya, to live with her grandmother. She still had those doleful eyes, oozing melancholy. She did not remember me, not that I expected her to, it has been fifteen years since I saw her.

She began to pack up her things in anticipation of leaving the bus. I got up and walked slowly following her out. We were outside Shenandoah. She walked to her left and I kept up with her brisk pace. She turned another left, waited at the signal, crossed the street diagonally across and kept moving straight on. We were in a quiet neighbourhood. The yellow poplars were in full bloom and adorned the roadside like shimmering jewelry. She had reached her destination. As she walked across to the necropolis, the yellow poplars receded into colorless birches. From the distance, I knew she was crying. The catacomb etched, “Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end." I knelt at Hajime’s tomb, beside her and shared the indolent silence. She looked at me, and having shown a spark of recognition, signed ‘thank you’. There are some things beyond language, and this moment was one of them.Image