Video coach (final part)

Here’s Part 1 and 2 of the story

What followed unfortunately, was a spree of increasing disappointment every day, for four weeks; this was, not because she religiously missed the train, but he did. She tried changing compartments, even trains, but he had vanished, much like a phantom, invisibly haunting her. Even worse, she kept having those dreams that had nothing to do with him, but always ended with the painting of his book in some form or the other. Had her subconscious lost perspective?

The month long wait and her ludicrous dreams assured her of one thing: she wasn’t cut out for anything new. She made peace with her life and sincerely tried to enjoy answering calls. She was on such a call one day, aimlessly scribbling in the in-house newsletter, when something in the budding artists section left her flabbergasted. She could have recognized that sketch in her grave. It even had her signature infinity sign. Only, the name below the sketch begged to differ. Forgetting altogether that she was still on the call, she frantically tried placing his name, certain of having come across it somewhere else: company memos, contact lists maybe and—yes, he had an office on the same floor as her boss. She almost bumped into his nameplate every time she got   off the elevator. But, how did her sketch get there?

It didn’t take too long to figure that out. It was her habit of getting rid of the sketches that didn’t turn out the way she expected, by stuffing them into anything she found in front of her: memos, magazines, dustbins, office booklets, telephone directories—some of which were circulated throughout the place, and thus, picked up by the thieving rascal.   But, there was no time to think about that now. She had to act, and soon. Never was she so overwhelmed that she couldn’t move an inch. She was furious and anxious; emboldened yet hesitant. A sudden burst of resolve jolted her off the inertia and she felt it amplify with her every step. Perfect or not—it was her baby to claim.

She stomped out of the elevator, towards his office, fully prepared to tear the guy a new one, but couldn’t get past his door. Instead, she just stood there, choked with emotion, hands quivering with nervous energy. Every inch of the door was covered with compliments, encouraging words, and bizarre interpretations of the sketch. Her sketch—the one she threw away, the one she thought didn’t deserve a second look—was up there speaking for itself, hungry for recognition. That was when the insight that she had been having in bits and pieces, finally crystallized. The dream about the book was not meaningless; on a subconscious level, she knew what needed to be done, something she didn’t have the strength to admit, until then. Now that it was finally upon her, she didn’t know how to react. First, she wept like a baby, free of shame and restraint, till her tear reserves dried up. Then, she laughed it off taking solace in the fact that all it took was an extremely attractive guy reading an appropriately titled book and some garden variety larceny to get there. More importantly, that moment was the closest to fearlessness she had ever experienced in her life.

Before she steadied herself to make a formal announcement to her boss, she scribbled a little note to the delinquent: “Thank you for waking me up.”

On the way back home that day, she bought The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and actually read it.


Video coach (Part 2)

 Chopping onions had always been a tearful experience for her. As she was nursing her red, swollen eyes that night, all she could think of was the infinitesimal moment when their eyes had met, as he repositioned his book. She had hurriedly broken the glance to  stare shamelessly at a poster that claimed to have found the cure for AIDS. That was about as eventful as it had gotten that day, although she had wanted to hold on to the glance a bit longer, probably segueing into a smile. She had wanted to squeeze out a moment of impulse out of her utterly mundane life. But it was too late for any change. It was ironic that she answered phones in a publishing house bustling with creativity, when she should have been filling up galleries with her art. Capability was never the issue; it was the crippling fear of failure. At 27, she lived the life of a 35 year old in a city where it was usually the other way around. Her sole source of comfort—life in Mumbai—seemed less consequential by the day.

The smell of onions burnt beyond repair shook her off what was going to be a long bout of self-pity. She was in no mood to start over and ate some leftover pizza. Mildly pleased by the mollifying effect of food, she hit the pillow, looking forward to dream that night. It was the only place the colors and shapes flitted around, free to morph into imagery impossible for her awake mind encumbered with despair to think of. It wasn’t surprising that she dreamt about ‘video-coach’ guy that night; what was surprising was that there was no physicality involved. It was not his eyes, his face or even a human figure she saw. She was alone in the ladies’ compartment of a train, dangerously gasping for breath, apparently suffocated by the invisible crowd around. Dripping in sweat, she was trying to fill her lungs with the last whiff of oxygen she could scrounge, when she saw a painting of a book—the book that he was reading. It looked bizarre with just the image of a book on canvas floating in mid air, and even more absurd as it felt like the only thing that could salvage her from her deeply agonized state. How could a book save her, let alone a painting of one? Upset that her own mortal peril killed her creativity that night, she shrugged it off trying to think of how to make ‘video-coach‘ guy notice her.

She wore a scorching red salwar kameez and more than a hint of makeup that day. This extra attention to detail being off her daily schedule, she ended up late for the bus to the station. Luckily, the rickshaws weren’t on one of their strikes. She used the ride to rehearse some conversation starters, just in case they happened to be within the talking radius. Discussing literary interests with him would be suicide as her trove began and ended with the likes of Sidney Sheldon. Politics didn’t interest her at all, or sports. She wasn’t much of a weather talker either. In fact, all she ever cared about was her textures on canvas and the crisp sound of pencil sketching on paper. It would seem a tad weird if she began talking to a stranger about whether he liked flowing strokes or semi-circular ones.

She knew she was going to miss the train as soon as she heard the familiar announcement at the station—something that always coincided with her train leaving. Nevertheless, she made a painful run for it, her legs clearly not used to the discomfort of high heels. In the end, she was left with two sore legs and the swiftly receding tail of the 933 local. Terribly disappointed and bruised, she barely managed to get to her office. The work had always felt like a nail being hammered at an excruciatingly slow pace; she looked forward to it that day.