9:00 AM on the clock.
I groaned and tried to get up. Then dropped down on my back again. It was tempting. What’s the use ? I was late anyway. Better make the most of this crappy start of yet another day of my life and go to sleep again. The temptation was too strong, but then people always say that I’m a sucker for pain. Somehow, managed to drag myself up to my feet and shuffled unsteadily towards bathroom. Yet another half hour spent in that too wet, too bright room trying to rub off the remnants of previous day. I couldn’t even remember how that went. Somehow, the fact that I should’ve been on the road by now was conveniently forgotten. I looked absently for the mirror, only to be see my dull grey outline on shiny white tiles where a mirror used to be till last month. Some habits just don’t go away that easily.I was hungry but fridge was empty except for a limp half eaten watermelon. Took a bite then spit it out. I was surprised that the fungus wasn’t visible yet. Bye bye breakfast.
Thankfully keys were exactly where I had expected them to be and I was out of the apartment, locking the door half a minute later. Sun was up already and it was hot as hell outside. Hello sweat
For a 10 minute long walk, I was nearly sprinting towards door of the store where I worked. Oh god, anything to escape this damned heat. It’s not like that I really love the place, but at least it’s air conditioned and much cooler. Same can’t be said for my boss, that middle aged control-freak of indeterminate sex.
To be honest, she is a woman, at least that’s what everybody says. Then who am I to dispute that. My medical history too often comes in between of what I see and what I want to say. Right now, “she” was standing with her back to me in a shapeless dress that could very well be her night-gown or a sheet clinging to her body hair for all that I know.God ! Why couldn’t Anny see those rough black hair that covered every inch of her body ? For that matter, why couldn’t anybody else but me ?
Of course, how could I be so stupid, so forgetful ! Anny had no eyes.At least not any that I could see. But nobody ever said or behaved like she was blind. Customers quite often asked for her help with making final choices. She even recommended them alternate colours or designs when she felt like it. Even then, she was sorting out a pile of t-shirts by their colour. Surely a blind person wouldn’t know how to do anything like that. I stood at the door looking at her as she put her hand in pile of t-shirt and put them on racks one by one.
“I woke up late”, I managed to squeak out.
“Woke up late my ass. I’d kick you right here for that except for the fact that I’m too busy right now. Now run upstairs and unpack those boxes.”
again, “Hey wait dumb ass. Aren’t these your pills ?” I turned to see
her waving a dark brown bottle with my name written on it’s lid. “Yes”
I nodded to which she asked another question, ” Why did you leave them
here last night then ?” Without waiting for an answer she asked another, “Why do you need them again ?”
“Uh,my vision doesn’t work well without these.” I stammered out.
“Ah, yes. The vision pills. Don’t forget them here and there if you don’t want to turn blind or something.” She chuckled at her statement and placed the bottle on counter, motioning me to pick it up while she busied herself with her notepad .
I climbed down the stairs and grabbed the bottle before bolting upstairs to my comparatively peaceful upstairs section again. Peaceful was not an accurate way to describe the place . It’s not like she wouldn’t come upstairs to see for herself what was I up to whenever her legs permitted, but any place away from her direct gaze is better. Much better than poor blind Anny’s who has to work
continuously under her disapproving eyes. I almost chuckled at the irony of that. Eyeless Anny under the watchful eyes.I’d have really laughed out loud when I realised why Anny was without eyes and my boss was a hairy freak of indeterminate gender.
I was not completely correct when I answered boss’s question about what the pills were for. Or may be she hadn’t really understood what I said. My eye sight was completely alright. I’d have passed any eye test without any difficulty. It was only what my brain made out of what my eyes saw which caused me some problems. That problems had forced me to spend 6 years of my life, to be more specific almost all of my teenage years under constant medication. A major part of those years were spent in numerous psychiatric wards of various hospitals undergoing one test after another. Most of the times, being a guinea pig for various experiments that the doctors tried to pass off for treatment. How I wish I had something to blame anyone, my family, doctors, anything for my condition but nobody could put a finger on what was wrong with me.
All they knew that I saw something that was not there. The rat like teeth that I saw growing out of my mother’s mouth or the red scales that started to cover my father’s face as he tried to convince me to climb down from the mango tree that grew in our backyard. I spent 8 hours clinging to the topmost branch of that tree and would have stayed there much longer if it had not snapped all of a sudden , dropping me unceremoniously to the ground 14-15 feet below. It was at that time
when my parents realized that there was something seriously wrong with me. Next 6-7 years were spent in a painful daze of hospital stays, injections, pills and hundreds of tests. Of all this, I feared my extended stays in psychiatrist wards the most. Living there for months, surrounded by crazy people some even more crazy than me scared the hell out of me. Many times I tried to lie my way out. I told my
doctors that everything was fine. That I could see people for what they truly were not what my brain wanted to see. But every time, I found myself back in those wards within a few months. Once I found myself standing alone in some kind of party in a relatives home and tried to jump from their balcony on 5th floor. That was the last time my family ever took me out.
Only silver lining of this dark cloud was that I was absolutely harmless to others. Nobody could ever blame me for hurting someone. All I did was to curl up in a corner, close my eyes and cry in sheer terror. Then slowly I willed myself to control it. I still saw bleeding eyes, smoky nostrils, forked tongues, boiling skin and things much worse around me, but I learned to control my fear. Slowly, I
taught myself to be desensitized from such horrors that only my eyes could see. It was difficult, I failed many number of times, contemplated suicide but something kept me from completely going under.
Spent a long time like that, then things changed a little when I was put on a new experimental drug. I still don’t know what do they call my mental disorder or what’s the exact name of that magic pill or how it works. Only thing I care about is that it helped me like nothing ever did. It changed my life. Finally, I could go out in a crowded market and see normal faces instead of mutilated abominations. Somehow I passed school and enrolled in a college, but apparently it was too much for a crazy unbalanced mind like mine. I dropped out within a year and enrolled in a distant learning course. Then boredom of life hit me and I grew increasingly restless. I fought with my parents and one day left my home town to be here in bigger city where nobody knew me. Even after spending 2 years here, people who know me by name can be counted on 2-3 fingers.
Please don’t get a wrong impression. It’s not like my life has been a theater of tragedy. I’ve had my share of happiness. But there is a funny thing about being sad. Sometimes when you to cheer yourself up by remembering a good memory, you can’t recall one single detail. Even if you can recall it, it makes no effect. It’s like that stuff never happened and even if it did, it made absolutely no difference. People say that one ray of light is sufficient to dispel the deepest dark. Well, sometimes nothing is enough. Sometimes even the brightest sun is snuffed out by the darkness trapped inside you.For a long time, all of this crap going on in my life had made me a depressed freak. Thanks to science, there were pills for that too. But pills only work your hormones or brain. Whatever they do, they can’t mend your life for you. The dirty work is for you to finish.
This job as a sales attendant at this small showroom doesn’t pay enough or leaves much time to go out and socialize. Not that I could even if I had the means. Sometimes I dream of leaving this city and going somewhere far from all these people. Build a small cottage or a hut and spend my life watching trees, animals, fluffy clouds in a blue sky and bright sparkling stars in a black one. But I’m so damned afraid of that.
“Do you have these shorts in blue ?”
I was startled and my face must have shown it, for she smiled in a way that felt reassuring and waited while I tried to gather my wits. For how long I had been blanked out in deep thought, I had no idea. I didn’t knew when that girl in white tshirt and black jeans had came upstairs, took out those shorts from display rack and walked up to me ask for a different colour.
“Mmm, I’m not sure. Let me check.” That was all that I could manage to mumble out as I scrambled to find what she had asked for. After some struggle I found the blue one and triumphantly handed it over to her. She flashed another smile and disappeared in to trial room. I watched dumbly as she closed the door and stayed there for 2-3 minutes. Then she opened the door just a little and peeked out, “It’s only two of us here, right ?”
I noticed her sparkling eyes and perfect little mouth for first time.
She smiled again “Great, I want your opinion.” Saying this, she stepped out dressed in her t-shirt and those blue shorts that I searched out for her.She looked beautiful and I stared without blinking. Then I heard her saying, “Don’t you think that these are a bit small for me ? Do you have a larger size ?”
I stared while she moved to offer me a better view. My god, she was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. She had long beautiful legs which were bent at knees in a model like pose. Those blue shorts looked just tailor made for her as they clung to her tightly till her thin waist and shapely butt. Her blue t-shirt was a perfect fit on her body and highlighted every curve perfectly. She swung lightly in a circle and I noticed her pretty little feet as she shifter her weight from one to another.
” Although I love them, but I think they feel too tight. What do you think ? ”
I kept looking at her as if I was trying to make up my mind while in reality I wanted to keep looking at her for as long as possible. She raised her eyebrows in a quizzical expression, ” You look beautiful” that was allthat I could stammer out.
She giggled and pushed back her hair from her face. “Thanks. you are too kind. But I’d really like to try a larger size.”
I looked around. There were boxes of unopened stuff lying in the cupboard. I was supposed to have them unpacked and arranged on shelves half an hour ago. .
“I think we do have a bigger size in new arrivals, but I haven’t unpacked them yet.”
She looked at the shelves and back at me again, “Really ? Let me try out that then.”
“The thing is, it’ll take me sometime to unpack and look for exactly what you need. Can you please wait for a while ? 15 minutes maximum” I waited desperately for her to say yes. That she would stay while I open the boxes and search out those blue shorts for her. No matter how long it took.
She looked slightly disappointed, ” I can’t wait that long here. I have to go somewhere. .”
My heart sank, then she spoke again, ” But I really want those shorts. Umm listen, give me your phone number. I’ll be busy for 3-4 hours and will call when I’m finished to check if you found them.”
I nodded vigorously and almost sprinted to the counter to get a card for her. I scribbled down my own phone number and handed it out for her to take. She took it from my hand and her fingers brushed against mine for fraction of a second. It was first real human touch that I had ever wanted and liked, at least that was what I could remember.
She read the card and pointed at what I had written, “Is that your number ? The store’s phone number is slightly hidden behind what your wrote.”
I smiled sheepishly, “Yes, it’s my number. Sorry about that, but you can call me any time you like. I can give you another card if you’d prefer it that way.”
I was relieved when she shook her head and put the card in her purse, “No, it’s alright. I’ll give you a call when I’m free. Please find them for me. ”
“I’ll do anything and everything.” I realized how foolish it sounded even before I had finished saying that and made a silly face. She laughed lightly and waved a bye as she climbed down the stairs away from my view.
Anny came up the stairs a few minutes later as I was busy searching boxes for those shorts. Instead of arranging them in neat little piles on shelves I was just dumping them on floor looking desperately for anything blue. Anny saw the mess I was making and spoke “Wow ! What are you doing there ? Arrange these clothes on shelves first.”
I jumped a little on hearing her voice and gave her a sheepish smile. “Yea..well…you are right. I kind of messed it up. Could you please help me a bit ?”
Anny shook her head in exasperation and pointed a finger at me, ” I don’t think that I have the authority to reprimand you, so it’s just a friendly advice. Please be careful when the boss is around. She is not in good mood these days and I don’t want her to vent her anger on any of us. Alright ?”
I stood up silently nodding my head. She looked at me standing like a guilty school kid and smiled, ” Hey, don’t get so sad. It’s just between you and me as friends. Now lets get this stuff lined up before she comes up.”
I nodded brightly and got to work at once Sometimes I glanced at her through corner of my eyes as she arranged clothes on shelves hoping to find those blue shorts I so desperately needed. She seemed different but I couldn’t place my finger on it. It was only much later that I realized that she was not blind after all. But that was a really long time after. At that time, I was totally obsessed with finding those blue shorts in that right size for the pretty girl. Thankfully I didn’t had to wait long before finding the box that contained them. I gave a little whoop of joy and picked up a few pairs in my hand looking for the size she had requested. Fortunately, there were three.
I must have seemed really happy because Anny asked about it but I changed the subject. It was almost lunchtime and I was really hungry. I wolfed down 2 sandwiches and a mug of coffee and was back on my place much before lunch break was over. If Anny or boss found it strange, neither of them said anything. Grabbing hold of my chair, I placed my phone on the table and stared at it waiting for it to ring. I also kept an ear open in case the shop’s land-line phone rang downstairs. It rang 3 times and I sneaked down every time wondering if it was her. The time was middle of the week and business was slow. Only one customer came up to my section and she too left without buying anything . I kept waiting for the call getting impatient with each passing moment. I mentally kicked myself for not asking for her number. I could have asked for it without sounding creepy. After all so many people leave their numbers with us for exactly the samepurpose that she had. Now I despaired if she’d ever call. Seconds ticked by and soon it was 07:00 pm, only an hour to go before the shop closed for the day.
I paced the floor slowly repeatedly glancing at the blue shorts that I had sorted out and placed separately. Just when I was convinced that she was not coming I heard someone climbing the stairs and before I could turn around to see she was there standing there with a quizzical smile on her face. She seemed tired. Before she could say anything, I exclaimed, “I thought that you were not coming at all. ”
I thought she was slightly surprised, ” Sorry, I got stuck somewhere and couldn’t come earlier. ”
I probably grinned like an idiot and said grandly, “Oh, please don’t worry about that now. I’ve got your shorts in just the right size for you” and placed them with I thought was a dignified flourish in front of her.
Her face brightened a little as she picked up the 2 newly unpacked pairs and read the labels. Without saying anything she turned and locked herself in the trial room as I mentally followed her every movement.
“What wouldn’t I give to be there with her I thought to myself and strangely was not surprised. I spent next few minutes day dreaming about the thought till she came out and placed one pair on the table. “I’ll take this one.”
I was slightly disappointed that she didn’t ask for my opinion like before. But I nodded brightly and congratulated her on her excellent choice, then again watched her as she took her time looking at the new arrivals that me and Anny had arranged just a few hours back. Apparently nothing else caught her fancy and she turned to me, ‘Umm, I think that’s all I’d like to buy today. Can you please make a bill for it ?”
No bargaining , It was a bit surprising.
I nodded brightly and took the shorts myself to the counter to get it billed. There were less than 10 minutes to our closing time and I noticed that Anny had already left. Only the boss was there behind the billing counter, stretching lazily like a cat. Thank god her face was not visible from where I was coming. I made more noises than usual while coming towards her, hoping that she’ll stop doing that.
Thankfully she composed herself and started generating the bill without asking any questions. She just raised her head to glance at her customer when she came down and stood by the counter. The girl paid full amount, nodded a thanks at me and walked slowly towards exit as she looked at the clothes at display. My attention was broken by boss getting out of her chair and rattling out orders at me. “Closing time. Gather your stuff and don’t forget your pills this time.”
I looked somewhat longingly at the girl as she ambled towards exit and sprinted up the stairs to gather my stuff. I was back in a jiffy. Boss seemed a bit astonished to see her orders being obeyed so enthusiastically. “That was fast.” She mumbled while locking the counter and gathering her own keys.
“Only following your orders ma’m” I shrugged to myself.
She gestured towards the girl as she stood near the door admiring a blouse and asked in a lowered voice, “She isn’t going to buy anything more, is she? I have to get home at time today for a change and its raining outside. I hate getting stuck in traffic jams due to rains.”
I had no idea about the rain but I didn’t care. I never resented a little walk in the rain. The girl was now pushing the door open and I could see a steady drizzle soaking up the sidewalk and road beyond it. She glanced back at us once and realised that it was our closing time. She stepped out of the shop and took shelter beneath the sun shade looking a bit impatient . Boss nodded at me, “Hurry, hurry. Let’s go too.”
She shuffled hurriedly to the door and locked it as I stepped out staring again at the girl. If my boss noticed, she gave no indication. She just locked the door and asked if I need a lift. It was just a formality. My place was barely 10 minutes walk from the shop and she had to drive to the opposite side. I had never been inside her car the whole time I had worked there. I shook my head and she immediately
turned to sprint towards her car parked just in front. I watched the fat woman run awkwardly in order to spare herself getting splashed by a few drops of water
on a walk of 3 meters. I wondered what’d happen to her fat body if she slipped and fell. I was sure that I’ll never be able to even help her up stand on her feet, let alone carry her to her car or somewhere.
The girl must have guessed what I was thinking, I don’t know how. Maybe by the worried smirk like expression on my face. She just remarked in a casual manner, “I’d be careful if I were in her place.” I looked towards her and grinned, Don’t worry about her. She is pretty experienced.”
She smiled back and said, “I sure hope so.” Then stretching her hands out of the shelter of sun roof she remarked, ” Looks like this rain is not going to stop anytime soon.”
I shrugged, “Who knows ! Do you have to go somewhere far ?”
” It isn’t that far. Just 12-15 minutes from here if you walk. But it’s raining a bit too hard for the walk and I can’t seem to find a taxi. These idiots just disappear when you need them the most.”
I nodded sympathetically, “Happens. By the way, if you don’t mind, would you like to join me for a cup of coffee ? The shop is very near and they probably have the best coffee and donuts in the city.”
She chuckled and shrugged, ” Sure , why not ! Beats standing here and getting splashed by second hand rain water.”
I nodded enthusiastically and pointed out the coffee shop as best as I could. “There is that shop. I guess we’ll have to make a dash for it just like my boss if we don’t want to get wet.”
She laughed, “My god. Of all the people..not like her ! ”
We both rushed out of shelter of the sun-roof together and scrambled in to the coffee shop without getting too wet. The place wasn’t crowded at the time and we found my favourite table near the glass window. We spent next 20-30 minutes talking over over coffee and doughnuts. I don’t really remember how they tasted. I was simply too occupied by our conversation to remember any other detail. I told her a little bit about where I lived and my home town along with a few other details. Turned out, she lived just 3 streets away from me in a rented house. There was a lot more that we told about ourselves to each other then and later, but I don’t remember too much of it. Another portion of my good memories seemingly lost.