Flicking the cigarette and taking a swig from the half drunk cup of coffee, he sighed. Out came the smoke in misty curls. He half tried to make rings, failed miserably and gave up. He was never very good at that. Looking out the window to his scenic view, the first thing that you saw was the criss-crossed wires. Telephone wires, electricity wires, bloody everything else wires. Covered in dirt and bird shit and god knows what else. The soft yellow glow of the morning was not enough to improve his already dark mood.
When he was a kid, he used to imagine the wires as vines hanging off a jungle, beyond which there was a whole jungle full of adventure and excitement. All the people going about their lives, were animals. The always open windows and doors were the mouths of caves, with hibernating bears inside. There was much allowance for the idealization of nostalgia in those memories.
The imagination had faded over the years. All he saw now was the wires as they were, and behind them the dusty old apartment building, very much like his own. Broken down, faded pathetic paint that was peeling off.
He glanced at his own apartment. Sparsely filled with possessions and little to no furniture. Next to his window was a desk with a non-functional lamp and a chair that creaked every time he sat in it to do some work. There was a sofa, that was probably the most comfortable piece of furniture in his whole apartment, even more so than his bed, and the place where he usually passed out after a long day. The apartment had been his parents. They were long gone now, old age and all the complications it brought along with it. Come to think of it, his father had not been that old when he passed away. A busy life full of stress and bills and legal issues had definately contributed to his declining health leading up to the end.
The bookshelves that used to be filled with old leather hardcover books were mostly empty.
’Where the fuck are all those books?’ he thought. ’Probably sold them.’
Shrugging, he lit another cigarette. Checking his pack, noticed only three left.
’Sigh,’ he thought. ’These have to last me till tomorrow.’
He finished his coffee and cigarette.
’Better get going,’ he thought.
Grabbing his coat and bag, hastily straightening his tie he rushed past the mirror. Stopped, did a quick reverse to stare at the mirror again. ’Crap,’ looking at the stain on her shirt. His bloody white shirt. Running, of to his bedroom, he threw his coat and bag on the bed, ruffled in the drawers for another shirt. Not finding one that was both ironed and clean, he gave up and just put on a jersey instead.
Running down the steps from his apartment, he heard the neighbours having another argument next door. Smiled to himself, ’At least one benefit of being a bachelor’
Closing the gate to his staircase he saw his neighbour storm out. He saw many others pop out of their houses, rush over to their cars and dash of to another mad day at the office. Others ran out the street, possibly hoping to catch the bus before it became so full that you had to stand for half an hour or more ride to work.
The noise of the neighbourhood in the morning was quite something. A fruit seller of sorts was yelling at the top of his lungs as he made his way on his bicycle between the tight street in between wild children and small cars. His fruit crate tied precariously on the back. He passed a few children playing on the street, and one of the more mischeveous children reached up and pluck an apple out of the basket. Grinning from ear to ear at the others at how he had managed to get away with it.
The whole street was littered. Discarded boxes and wrappers and all such odds and ends. A man sat outside his houses in chairs that was defying the laws of physics by the virtue of holding the man’s weight. The man was wearing a puffed up while shalwaar kameez. So white it had to have just been laundered. ‘How does he keep it so clean?’
The man just sat on his physics-defying chair and grinned his toothy grin. His teeth were yellow and charred, probably from chewing tobacco or pa’an.
The gate across from his house opened and a lady came out the door clutching her purse close to her chest. She was wearing a beige something or the other of no real shape or form. The cloth over her head (dupatta) was drapping all over her shoulders and chest and fluttering in the breeze created by her haste. She had on dark glasses and no make up. Her dupatta behind her caught in the gate as it closed behind her and almost tore. Her forehead creased with annoyance as she tried to free herself from the clutches of the gate.
He tried to look away, to lower his gaze. Be a gentleman as his mother had taught him all his life. ‘Do not stare,’ she used to say. ‘Respect a woman’
Despite all the teachings he could not help himself but stare. She was afterall quite attractive.
A splash of water just a couple of feet from him made him look up. Extremely annoyed he had half a mind to start cursing and shouting, then thought better of it as he saw who had thrown the water. It was the old lady in the apartment above his own. And old friend of his mother. As he looked up at her, he saw that the old lady’s gaze was not on him but across the street. He followed her gaze and his eyes rested on the girl across the street again. He did not at first understand why the old lady was scowling, then his mind went back to all the rumours he had heard about the girl.
All the talk in the neighbourhood had been of the girl when she had moved in less than six months ago. ‘A girl who lives alone!’ people had commented, more like a dirty word than anything else. ‘Proabably is divored as well,’ others had said in hushed tones at evening tea parties and the like. Old ladies and married middle aged women with their smug expressions of condescension. Or probably one of the worst rumours, ‘Ran away from her husband!’
He never understood this rumours and how they began. Granted he didn’t know much about her personally. But neither did all the people who started all these rumours. Shrugging, he started making his way out of the street and into the smaller side street where his car was parked.
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