Everything seemed to happen late with him in life. He got his first job late. First girlfriend. First kiss. First sex. Everything came much later to him than he would like. But by now he was getting used to it. It was an inevitable part of his life. Timely, easy, was something he was just not used to.
Albeit late, he was finally happy in his relationship with Sara. Two people couldn’t have been more different from each other than they were. But somehow they clicked. And it worked. Their love was easy. He didn’t have to labour on it like some of his earlier relationships. The two of them hit it off naturally.
His career as an advertising executive was finally yielding success. After years and years of struggle as a copywriter he had finally managed to get elevated to Creative Director in a fairly large agency. He was the number two in creative in the entire agency and was tipped to reach the top once his boss retired in a few months from now.
It was his dream to write a novel. He had been working on it for the last three years surreptitiously but hadn’t gone much ahead. Like most of his dreams this one too was deemed impractical and unrealistic.
“You live in a fantasy world you know”, she’d often remind him. “You yearn for a world you think is better than the one you’re living in. And all the while you don’t appreciate the wonderful life you already have”.
His friends also mirrored his girlfriend’s thoughts. “You have it all man”, they’d say shaking their heads. “A comfortable life and yet you yearn to go back to a life of struggle. Why”?
Why, he didn’t know himself. But the fact was, it was his dream to give up his “lucrative but creatively unfulfilling” job, to leave the concrete jungle and settle in a remote town in the hills and only focus on his writing. That’s what he wanted to do. What’s so impractical about wanting to earn less and live a little more, he wondered, knowing well that no one would get what he was saying.
“You live in a bubble of romantic nostalgia”, she told him angrily once, when he informed her how he had spurned a higher paying job because he felt unmotivated. “That’s another kind of denial. A denial of the present”, she fumed.
He kept quiet because he knew he couldn’t convince her to feel the way he did about life.
It was a sultry June morning in the city. The perspiring crowds seemed to be all out on the streets. They were out to meet an old friend of hers from the college days. You should meet Sid, she said enthusiastically. He can really guide you on your journey to be a successful man. He lectures big companies all over the world on corporate targets and individual success. You can learn so much from him. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke, reminding of the time she had confessed at having a huge crush on Sid in their college days. Clearly she was still besotted, he smiled to himself.
The mobile phone vibrated in his trouser pocket making him stir from his slumber he felt getting over him as they sat in the posh cafe waiting for her friends to arrive. He answered the phone and his face lit up.
You can’t be serious! Please tell me you’re not joking he said as he excitedly stood up from the chair in the cafe. She looked at him bemused. All the while they were there he had hardly spoken and had looked liked dozing off as she rattled on and on. And now suddenly he was all full of life.
I will just be back he said excitedly as he pushed the chair away to make a move.
Where the hell do you think tire going she asked bewildered at his sudden burst of energy and excitement.
Oh there’s this small exhibition cum sale of rare first hand editions at The Gallery in Wellesley Street. It’s just on for today. There are some rare Joyce and other first editions and I don’t want to miss out on them. He was already halfway to the door of the cafe by the time she could react.
I will be back real quick. You have the first round of drinks with Sid and Devika and I’ll be back by the time you order the entrees, he exclaimed as he rushed out of the door.
She noticed he had left his carry bag on the table and sighed. As always he was so impractical and dreamy. She smiled to herself as she awaited Sid and his fiancée.
Naren looked around the small gallery with the proverbial eyes of a kid in a candy store. There was more than even he could imagine. The Beat poets, Larkin, Ted Hughes, Plath, Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce. The first editions were spectacular to say the least. It was almost as if someone like him was selling off a personal collection. It was priceless.
That’s a personal favourite, he heard her soft voice over his shoulder as he was leading through a tattered edition of Whitsun Weddings. He turned around and saw the most gorgeous set of blue eyes he had ever seen in his life. Her chestnut hair tied up in a cute bun and her bigger than usual thick rimmed black spectacles covered more than half her pretty oval face. But it was the glow on it that mesmerised him. She seemed like an angel to him at that instant.
Mine too he meekly responded, after what seemed an eternity.
Hi, I’m Annie, she said, extending her arm towards him. The first thing he noticed was how slender and delicate they were. He felt he’d be crushing them with his firm grip. He made a conscious effort to touch them softly, as he extended his arms forward too. He felt a strange kind of thrill as they touched.
The two of them sat on a small settee in the corner of the gallery, he was mesmerized by her looks, her perfume and the sweet sound of her voice. He felt as if in a trance and could barely comprehend what she was saying. He had a smile fixed on his face as he kept staring into those blue eyes.
I asked, what do you do, she slightly raised her voice, aware by now that he wasn’t really listening. She also felt a tad embarrassed by his gaze. She smiled softly as she realized the effect she was having on him at that instant.
“I…I am a writer….in an advertising agency”…..he said, and immediately added….as if to compensate for that…”am writing a novel…that’s my dream”. He felt like fool after he eventually finished his sentence. He somehow didn’t want to disappoint her with his true profession. He wanted to somehow tell her about his “true dream”
Oh wow…a writer…in my gallery..she seemed genuinely excited and taken in. I would love to read your novel some day, she blurted out spontaneously and immediately regretted it silently. Did I come across “too keen” she wondered to herself. But all the same she felt her heart beat faster than usual. Unaware that it was in sync with his rapidly rising heartbeats at the same time.
Both of them lost track of time as they sat there engrossed in a strange connection which both felt and could not deny. It was almost there was an unknown unseen force that was conducting all that was happening with the two of them. They willingly went along with the flow of the vibes that appeared way stronger than their conscious wills.
Sara’s number kept flashing on his phone, but he was way too lost in his conversation with her.
For once he felt the timing was just perfect, as he over turned his mobile and turned it off as he stared into Annie’s deep, blue eyes and got lost in them forever.
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