From the summer of 2008, I chose to lead a life at sea. Sometimes that choice can be peaceful. Even comfortable. An exhilaratingly quiet sound enveloping your sense of being, sublime and plentiful, just like the caviar and vodka in Russia. But the events that you worry about in this choice are not the ones you should worry about normally. Its the ones that catch you unawares on a quiet Friday evening and knock you down sideways. Those are the ones you should worry about.
Due to a sharp turn of events career wise, I stayed in Europe for ten months in the year of 2010. I stayed on as I watched the hazy hot summer sky and the cool evening breeze on the beach side start to freeze. The wind was whispering in my ears as the sky turned white, frozen and cold, making me feel as I have overstayed my welcome there.
I skidded down on white ground as if walking on milky smooth clouds.The heavens and the earths had changed colours becoming twin brothers. The streams running towards the North sea glistened with icicles. Metal started to burn cold under my bare skin.
I trotted along all through most of the winter as a tourist. One among thousands to roam that country. I travelled far and wide from Brussels to Antwerp. I stayed at small Inns, student hostels and College dorms. A first for me,since I had never wandered too far away from any of the harbours in any country. This time was different. This time it felt like it was meant to be.
Having had the luxury of aimless travel for some days, I had to return back to Brussels for why I had come to Belgium in the first place. I had filled my head with legends, stories and poems heard through the past 100 days. Legends about cut hands of thieves flung far into the sea, suicide architects who built crooked cathedrals, brave doctors, lawyers, Bangladeshi migrants and Indian chefs.
But for Christmas, ironically the time I turn 24, I chose a quaint little town near the beach with some new found friends and some good old ones. I wanted to visit the Cathedral. The largest one of its kind in Belgium. But sailors, as they always are irrespective of skin colour, culture and language, for all their differences have one thing in common. They wanted to have some drinks, make merry and hit on local women. An opportunity which they presented to me too. And our lives are defined by opportunities. Even the ones we miss.
I chose to visit a cathedral instead with 200 other locals, even if only to turn 24 and sing a carol. That was the first time in my life, I had heard a choir. It was majestic to say the least. A sounds of thousand sirens dragging men on to their islands with their seduction. A string played melodiously in unison with hymn of the Gods.
I moved through the helical staircase hypnotised by the sound of the choir. I wanted myself to move to some place quiet. Some place quiet, warm, humid and peaceful, where the only two persons would be me and a Christmas carol.
The music filled the convoluted hallways and lead me up on the spiralling staircase, one step at a time. I had reached the rooftop.
There, on December 25th 2010, when the clock struck 12, I stood there on the cathedral rooftop with the cold wind searing through my jacket, the whole town lit up in the Christmas spirit as if it were a painting brought to life just for me in a corner of Europe. The blistering cold made no difference to me. I stood there long and hard.
At first I thought she was part of the painting, a modern art,a porcelain goddess the artist had forgotten to emphasise on in the painting, with wisps of her dark blonde hair flowing across her lovely heart shaped face, curly, wild and uncontrollable,a stark paradox to the quaint peaceful town that was a subject to her eyes. Eyes, to notice which I did not have the pleasure of, until much later. Eyes, large and placed far apart with golden iris gleamed with a light yellow flame in the celebration lights.It was difficult to comprehend what those full lips could say when her eyes meant a lot more than her words. She drowned the music, the carols, the choir, the cathedral bells and the “Merry Christmas” floating across town.All but my heart beat.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?”, she turned towards me and pointed the view from the rooftop. I resonated with her voice and answered with a nod. It wasn’t a lie. She was indeed.
“You can speak I guess?”, a wry smile captured in those rose bud corners.
With that I watched her walk away, down the spiral staircase, through the church gates and into the dark alleys of the town in view from the rooftop.
I could have spoken, of course. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to ruin the painting. I was taking in all I could.
I had a flight to go back home in another week and a girl waiting for me somewhere else. A girl , who is as kind and beautiful as they come. But sometimes you are just on a collision course with events. Events which are just beyond your control and there isn’t one damn thing you could do about it. Not one.
She came into my life wearing a long blue denim, a black woollen jacket, her hands placed on her hips and the corner of her lips chewed with a childish anticipation. she stood just a few feet ahead of me with a Cannon 400D nudging her womanly waist. She had cast a spell on me. A spell which she declined to break until she kissed me on our flight back home, to say goodbye.
But that’s a story for another day.
Update : The above short story(partly fiction) is one of the three short stories by me, selected for publishing soon as a digital book. Stay tuned for more.