Naked. That is how he felt right then. Somehow, he could always feel it. This wasn’t right.
It flowed in just like a gush of water would hit my small intestines. The oesophagus would face it’s challenges. Just like my face did that second.
My face was yellow, the eyebrows straight, the nose snorting and inflamed. I couldn’t concentrate. But I had his image in my head. I could just about think about the black flowing satin shirt. His skin was soft. Just like that of a 3 year old. The touch gave me goosebumps. No, it was the feeling of his touch that did. It came pretty easy. The stage lights, however, burned away those feelings.
At this point of time, I could sense that the only audience I had was grinning. Or maybe it was a smile. Whatever it was, it was the cutest stretch of of skin I had seen, for a long time. I hadn’t found someone as adorable and yet as smart as the one sitting in front of me. I hadn’t felt the urge to look up and stare into someone’s eyes so bad. I resisted. I let them, instead, burn holes in the wooden floor. But he stared at me. Stared at me and glared. He didn’t feel the tension in the air. The tension was in the air around me. He obviously didn’t feel a thing. But I had expected it to be different.
The music in me, then lashed out. I sang. The glass didn’t break. The sun outside did not vanish. Neither did Sinatra turn in his grave. He however continued grinning. He grinned straight through the 3 minutes of the song.
The empty hall didn’t help me. The empty chairs didn’t. His grin did. His grin didn’t. It evoked the song. It evoked the song in me. The lonely staircase leading to the stage didn’t help me. Nothing did. Only beer could. But that was far away. It was right next to him. It was a few meters away. It was with him. The tension in me reached it’s zenith. I wanted to grab it. The need was urgent. Urgent enough to make me forget where I was standing.
I was in front of him, on a stage, staring at the wooden floor with a flaming stomach, with the want of beer, maybe of something more; but a want none-the-less. I was imagining. He was up here, right next to the air near my nose. I could have reached out by a centi-meter and felt any muscle I wanted to. Rather I wanted to. I had an immediate reaction to that. The stimulus was way too appreciable. The want way too deep. Just as my hand moved half a centi-meter upwards, I awoke from the dream. I was there. I was in front of him, on a stage, staring at the wooden floor with a flaming stomach, with the want of beer, maybe of something more. Yes, it was a want anyway.
A “Thank You” was all that I could muster, instead. I didn’t dare to look up. I couldn’t bear the idea of looking up to see him stare back at me and smile, his cute little smile. But I still wanted to. I wanted to know if was grinning. I wanted to know if he would offer me a beer. I wanted to occupy the seat next to him and make the auditorium look fuller, maybe even scarier for every new prospective entry. I wanted to know if it was a smile.
But I left as he whispered “Next”.
I shook the hand of the next contestant. A little too enthusiastically at that.
And I looked up. Finally.
He was still smiling. Or maybe it was him, smiling. The face remained in front of me and my eyes. The expression hadn’t changed. I tried changing my focus to the vastness of the auditorium. I did. I couldn’t. My eyes swept back.
I looked at Sid introducing herself, on stage. I could feel the tension again.
This wasn’t right.
“Ma’am , coffee?”
I turned. The co-ordinator was there with a cup of steaming milk and Nestle coffee powder. After mixing and then stirring, I dared to look up again. The same expression on the same face; it haunted me. It haunted me even though he was right there, in front of me.
Anyhow, I turned to try and talk to the same co-ordinator. He stood there, looking at me. He too was grinning.
I decided to walk away. I did. I couldn’t take the looks. I couldn’t take his eyes. Their eyes at me, together, I couldn’t take that.
It seemed like the music was leaving me. The overwhelming feeling never came this time. The instinct ti add another rift to the song didn’t come. I was disappointed. And appalled. I hadn’t expected any such reaction.
I sat in the rusty Opel waiting outside.
I was half way through smiling.
I stopped myself.
I talked to my thoughts. I wandered through them. Blades of green grass under the blue sky; I was dreaming again. Shouldn’t happen.
Why isn’t the head working its path? As usual?
Why do I have 5 threads to catch and one to tread on?
I went back to the first though of the day.
I wasn’t wrong. It hadn’t been right the entire day. The tension was now missing. It wasn’t. It was in me.
He felt it again. He couldn’t take it. He knew it wasn’t right. He had felt it the entire day. It had been a nightmare. A plethora of meetings, an odd number of seat beads dangling and flashes of fake smiles; that had been his day. His feeling of uneasiness, of discomfort hadn’t vanished for a nano—second throughout. It seemed highly unlikely that the same would change for the night. Living through it, he wanted to smile genuinely. He awaited the arrival of his wife.
A car creaked outside. The tires screeched. It was obviously his son. Here ws another thing that wasn’t right. At least for that day.
Both, then tried to smile at each other and for each other. As their smiles spiraled down, he walked out, leaving his son alone. This wasn’t right. Again.
Time passed. The clock seemed to be ticking slower than usual. The hour hand had been frozen on 11 for many a hours or so he had himself believe.
This so wasn’t right.
Slowly it defrosted. Then 12 froze in and over.
The silence however was not broken. Not be a bird, not by a gramophone, not by screams of children; there was silence. Pure golden silence. It lasted till another car screeched. This however, was much more of a softer screech. It made him feel better. It made him smile.
Afterall, this might just be right. Maybe finally the new day had begun.
As she walked in, he smiled.
I walked into my house.
Was it a home?
Thoughts in the form of tokens of the past two years floated in my brain, here and there, from one neuron to another. I was still engulfed in that auditorium. Engulfed I was, in the emptiness of the auditorium, of his eyes, of him.
I opened the door. My face was blank.
I hadn’t felt ‘that’ way for a very long time. I hadn’t felt it for a longer time.
But as I walked in, he smiled.
I knew he was smiling. I didn’t mix it with a grin. There was no way I could.
It was a smile. Not a grin.
I forgot the past 2 hours. The last 2 years flashed past.
It was all right.