A/N :- I wrote this four years ago and found it today. It is funny how you look back at something you wrote yourself and look at a different person. The writing is kind of rusty and I apologise for that. This is a story about "what ifs"...
I watched him everyday—either from my bedroom window or the balcony. I liked watching him. I liked watching him as he sat on the boundary wall of his house, talking to his friends, joking around. I liked to watch him laugh. It felt like watching wind laugh—because he was just like the wind—free, indomitable, and uncontrollable.
What did I like watching about him? It was his unruly mane of dark hair, his intense brown eyes, the sharp, angular nose and his hard, lean and capable hands that had mastered every stunt on his motorbike with ease. There was an aura that always enveloped him—the aura of a lion strolling majestically through his territory
I liked the way his head would bend forward in concentration, his eyes focused on the finish line even before the race had really started. My heart always thudded at his speed. But he always did win. He was their king and he knew it. He needed no titles to assert his supremacy. I watched him every evening, but I don't think he ever saw me. His friends had known that I always stood watching. They would nudge each other and sometimes, point at me. But he had never looked up to see me.
I never knew his name. And yet, each evening, I waited for him to show up near his garden wall and watched him laugh like the wind. I watched him, safe in my knowledge, that unlike the rest of us, he was free. He could never be held back by the world.
And then, one day, his family shifted away. Yet, sometimes, I sit near my bedroom window and watch the garden. Now, the sounds of two little children playing fill the air. But I still watch on, waiting in the forlorn hope, that someday, he might just happen to pass this way again.
I am a self confessed bike addict. I pride myself for knowing all the latest biking gear and for being a racing champion. But I am also only a high school student. And so, like every other student, I had a part time job, too. I worked at the Starbuck's nearest to my house, everyday after school. I liked my job. But I liked Sundays the best. That's because some of the most interesting people came there on Sundays, mainly because she came on Sundays.
She would come in with a huge sketch pad and a pencil case and she'd them up, beside the table. Then, she would choose a pencil from the vast array before her and set down, to sketch with serious, undeterred concentration. She would always order a tall latté. Nothing different, nothing in addition. She would look up once or twice to observe her subject. But her fingers moved continuously, quickly, flawlessly…She had long, white, bony fingers but they had a strength in them, which I had always found very difficult to describe.
Her sundress would flutter around her knees, her green eyes intent on the pictures she drew. Her chestnut colored hair only just managed to stay out of her eyes. She paused for nothing. Not even the coffee. She drew anything and everything that she saw. Her drawings, to me, had always seemed like a pathway to another world.
Once, she had drawn me. I know this, because that day, everytime I had looked up from my work, she had been watching me. She had the same intent look in her eyes that was reserved for her subjects. That day, as she watched me, she didn't really see me. For her, I was just another object to be painted. She might have captured a movement of mine or an expression on my face, but she did not aim to capture me or to see my soul.
She wasn't exactly beautiful; she was quite plain really. But there was something about her that elevated her above all of us. She looked heavenly—as if a single touch would taint her. I loved watching her, even though I knew she didn't know a thing about me, and probably wasn't even interested in knowing anything at all.
And then, one day, my parents decided to shift to another town. I didn't think about that girl for a long time. But she did eventually, come back to me as I lay staring at the ceiling one night. She comes to my thoughts often now—when I wonder that if I ever walked back into that Starbuck's on a Sunday morning someday, if she'd still be there; sketching undisturbed in that huge sketchbook of hers.
I looked up at the evening sky and stood transfixed at the play of colors in the sky: red, yellow, purple and blue- all spread across the sky like streaks drawn by an invisible paintbrush. Sometimes, I wonder if God is a painter and in his free time, he likes to splash colors on the canvas of the sky. I wish I could reproduce just a part of it. I gazed at the colors in the sky and the golden hue they cast on the leaves of the tree that stood by the riverside. I let out a long breath.
Suddenly, I realized that I could hear the gentle strumming of a guitar. Stiffening, I wondered if I should go back or stay and listen. Eventually, curiosity won and I really wanted to see this person who had found my usual spot for inspiration. I didn't have to walk much. He was sitting under the tall tree I had been watching earlier.
He had dark black hair but had streaked it silver. He wore loose black t-shirt and faded blue jeans. Beside him, casually lying on the grass, as if it had been tossed there, was an expensive looking jacket. In his hand was a black acoustic guitar, but like his hair, it had also been streaked with silver. It looked as if every single drop had been allowed to flow in its own mindless pattern on the black surface. He wore black converses. He looked like a college student.
His eyes were closed and he was leaning back, against the trunk of the old tree. But his fingers were moving against the strings of the guitar with an expert fluidity. I was mesmerized by those fingers. They seemed to be weaving magic. The voice that hummed with the music was deep and hypnotic. Quite suddenly, pictures were flashing in my head…so many stories that needed to be drawn…
For all I know, I could have been standing there for hours, when suddenly, with a jerk, a realization hit me. I needed to paint him, paint him before the pictures he had painted in my head faded away. I needed to get home right away and start with the painting. My fingers had already started to itch with need.
Without any delay, I turned and began to hurry away. But then, suddenly, I realized that this would probably be the last time I would ever see him. So, I turned, hoping to see him one last time; but he was already gone.
I stood there for a moment, quite surprised by my own sense of loss. But then, I shook my head; the need to paint had spread to the rest of my body, making the delay nearly unbearable. I quickened my pace. All I knew was that I needed to paint him and that I would never see him again.
I walked back home from the riverside, the guitar in my hand and the jacket slung over my shoulder. I went there whenever I missed her. I had been going there for the past two years now—nearly every day.
Lea and I had been about to celebrate that night. She had been accepted into Oxford with full scholarship. She had been so happy. But then, her roommate had called and she had been so worried. I wish I had stopped her. She'd have said that I was acting like a kid but she would have atleast stayed. But I hadn't. She had gone. Gone forever, never to come back to me.
The past two years of my life have been a big void. A void that has threatened to swallow my very existence. I am trapped. Nothing ever does seem right, nothing can bring back who I was. I don't remember what it felt like to laugh. Everything was gone the day she left.
Music is the only thing that anchors me to life now. Music lets me behave normally around people. But in truth, life has cut me from the rest of the world and no matter how hard I try to find my way back into life, the ghosts of my past manage to pull me back. I had shut out my friends; my parents' worried calls have lessened over the months. They have stopped calling and all they do is hope that my life turns out right.
As for me, I live like a nomad. Wandering from one place to another. Hoping for my salvation, my miracle… Hoping that one day I could find happiness again.
These four strangers could have had different stories.
Aaron could have opened his eyes and seen Kayla—his salvation. Dave could have gone back home and seen Ingrid, still waiting for him by the window, and found love.
Things could have turned out differently. But they didn't. Each of them had been too content from watching from afar to try for more.
Of course, later in life, they all did find love and their life did change for the better, but just not with each other. They had been too afraid to venture out of their shells, so that all that they could find here, with each other, were just broken glimpses of the love that could have been…
18th April, 2010.