TIMES

It had been cloudy since noon today. The clock tower showed 1 o’clock but it only worked twice a day. Looking at it, he sighed. It didn’t work, just like everything he did. He was walking towards the place he walked to everyday, the same time as yesterday and the day before. He looked at his watch, 6 o’clock. The watch was old and weary. The metal of the watch dial suddenly grew too cold for his hand, he shuddered.

He was walking to a cafe which was on the corner of the street. The cafe was small, cozy one and the window table gave him enough closure and also a full view of the road and the pavement where he could observe people for as long as he wanted without being stared back at. He sighed again, when he looked at his watch. He remembered buying it with his first paycheck. It was a spring watch, it would be an antic in a few years, but he didn’t want to buy a new one until it stopped working which he knew it would soon.

He reminisced and wished that he could tell his younger self to not chase after windmills like Don Quixote, but again; he used to be happy then. He stopped abruptly at the surprise of a few raindrops which fell on his face, indicating the commence of a thunderstorm. Pushing his thoughts away, he started running towards the cafe. As he ran, he pushed past people running in the other direction and stepped into a puddle, wet himself, but didn’t care. His bag barely clinging onto his shoulder got drenched in rain. In this agony, he yelled out loud taking his stance against the weather report which reported clear skies,

“ Oh! COME ON! Those idiots, how do they get it wrong every single day?”

But again, he liked the rain. Or at least he used to. Anyways he reached the cafe, pushed the door, scurried inside and sat at the window table.

He was a editor of a daily newspaper. You could say it was a good job, well… it was but the pay was not good enough to let the both ends meet and even if he pulled his hardest, the most he could do was bring them close enough so that the could at least see each other before they sprung back to their original state like elastic bands. He laughed out loud thinking about this and how it resembled him and people around him. He looked around composing himself and looked around; no one cared.

He was a regular here as were nearly all the others, they gave each other enough space so that one could do one’s thinking in solitude. The waitress came,

“The usual?”

“Yes.”

The waitress walked away leaving him to continue the string of his thoughts…he was walking in an alley towards a Sunday book market. There was a water treatment plant right behind the alley making the place stink of sewage, but, he liked it there. They placed thousands of books on the pavement. There were an array of rare books, you would take years to find elsewhere and the price for any book was fifty rupees as the book vendors repetitively called out. He found pleasure in looking through the varied array of books, from Somerset Maugham to Vikram Seth….

He came out of his reverie as the waitress placed his bitter tea with a rap on the table. He took the cup in his hands, he didn’t like the tea but it was one thing which saved him from other bitter thoughts. But his reverie continued. He didn’t go to the alley anymore, he always thought he would go the coming Sunday for sure but the Sundays kept coming but the alley didn’t see his face again. As he sipped the tea his face distorted into a frown, gulping as he lowered the cup from his lips only waiting a few seconds to repeat the same action.

He used to take a bus to and from the alley, that day he picked up a book on early Bollywood and JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA by Eva Ibbotson, a book about an orphan girl who finds herself home in the Amazon.

At last, he freed himself of his thoughts, took a last sip from the cup, placed money under the cup and got up to leave seeing the rain stop. As soon as he stepped forward to go to the door, his bag caught onto a nail on the side of the table and got ripped, his books almost fell out, he tilted his bag, caught the edges of the bag and walked out. He had to buy a new bag, this one lasted two years, where did he buy this one?

His reverie continued again

He was holding the bag in it’s plastic cover standing in the midst of many people covered in sweat, but he remembered chatting with an old man and the bus conductor. He bought it on his way back from the book market. The same day he was reading a book, a play by Harold Pinter OLD TIMES. He grinned at the irony of his situation. He suddenly turned grave and bolted, he didn’t want to keep thinking about the old times, why did he stop going to the alley?

The next day, a Sunday

It had been cloudy since noon and it started raining two hours ago. The clock tower showed 1 o’clock but it only worked twice a day. He had an extremely exhausting day at work, the head editor was not happy with his work and a meeting with one of the distributors did not reap anything, he was at the height of frustration and he had to walk all the way to the cafe in this precipitation. He looked up from the entrance of his office and glared at the sky as if it would stop raining if he did that.

Accepting the truth, he just started walking in the rain, he loosened his tie and opened his collar button in agony, held his bag tighter on the corner where he had pinned it up and started walking.

On his way to the cafe he saw a group of children running in the rain following their paper boats and jumping in joy, when they started moving. He saw something very similar before; it was last year….the same place.

He was in the SAME place.

He gaped, though his memory was vague, the feeling was very, very familiar. The one thing that kept him up everyday, thinking that things will be better if he worked harder for others and ignored his needs, he could go further. This is what kept him awake at night and made him work overtime, the fear of being in the same place all of his life and he ended up being in the same place doing the same thing. But, he didn’t even enjoy it anymore. He didn’t understand where he went wrong. What was he working this hard for? Himself? NO!

For his future he thought……..He was always living for his future thinking about the past. This was his worst nightmare come true, his watch’s spring was unwinding and it screeched, he looked at it, it stopped ticking. He couldn’t understand, he walked towards the cafe in a trance. He opened the door and sat at the usual seat and thought,

“I should do something, something right now, I want to live.”.

The waitress came, she said,

“The usual?”

Before she swung back he shouted,

“No, NO!”

The waitress raised her eyebrows and then he slowly said,

“No, I want coffee and ice cream:

The waitress grinned,

“I will be right back with your order.”

She then turned and walked away.

He looked at the clock tower, there were people repairing it, he called out to the waitress, “Can you get it a bit faster? I have a bus to catch.” He looked at his own watch.

It was time to mend it.

The same group of kids from earlier were walking on the pavement singing in unison,

“Hickory Dickory Dock!…….”

and the man could faintly hear it. When he did, he knew it.

They were going to change, the times.

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