Sunday, January 9, 2011
Clarence Street Part- 1,2,3& 4.
Let me tell you a love story.’
I’m sitting in the American bar-diner on Clarence Street, on one of the high stools at the bar, working my way through my fourth Budweiser. Tonight I drink with a determined resolve, hoping to put some distance between consciousness and troubled thoughts. In front of me, above the inverted, suspended bottles, a neon Coca-cola sign stammers hypnotically, and I pretend it is all there is to notice. But through the blanket smoke and dim lighting, an old man emerges to sit next to me. He buries a yellow, bony hand in the dish of peanuts that sits between us and plucks a couple to be carried to a wrinkled, gummy mouth. He orders a double Jack Daniels and a slim panatela. He sips one and puffs on the other a few times and then turns to me.
‘You looked troubled, son.’
I don’t want to talk to anyone right now, let alone share my thoughts with a stranger. But to be polite, I offer a token explanation.
‘Bit of a hard day at work, that’s all.’
The old man nods wisely. His eyes become narrow slits as he draws from his cigar. Through the exhaled smoke he says:
‘Nothing to do with a woman then?’
I swallow my beer a bit too heavily, wanting to cough but not wishing to show reaction to the old man’s insightful probe.
‘Maybe,’ I tell him non-committally, and turn back to my beer, hoping the conversation to be over.
But it’s not.
‘Let me tell you a love story’, he says angling himself in his seat so as to face me, and I know he is to tell it whether I wish to hear or not.
And despite my reluctance, I listen.
‘It was a long time ago now, back when I still had more years before me than behind; when growing old was something that other people did. Back then I had this shitty factory job. Eight hours a day standing in front of a conveyor belt putting together clockwork toys. Not a whole load of fun, I’m sure you’d agree.’
I match his wry smile.
‘Well, I thought that if I could become educated, I could escape to better things. So I started going to the library. Every night, straight after work, there I was, a big pile of books around me, reading anything and everything. I didn’t really have a plan, no sort of goal or idea of what I wanted to achieve. I just thought that if I saturated myself in all that knowledge, a bit of it would rub off. If I became clever, I wouldn’t have to work in that factory anymore. You understand that?’
He pauses to drink whiskey. I watch his thin, cracked lips parting to allow the golden liquid to enter. I notice he shudders slightly as it goes down, smiling contentedly against its warm hit.
‘Well, that’s where I met her. She was the evening librarian. I remember the first time I saw her over the top of a book I was struggling to read. I'll never forget that initial sight of her.’
His eyes leave me for a moment, looking over my shoulder, seeing something not in the room with us. When his eyes meet mine once more, they sparkle with a childish joy.
‘Magnificent. There’s no other word to describe her. Tall and elegant; stunningly beautiful. She seemed to carry with her an innate charisma, as though her looks alone could hold your interest forever. I was immediately captivated.
By- Rahul Banerjee,Olga,Alex. to be continued..................