By – Indrajit Chattopadhyay (LTHE)
Pushing the heavy swing doors of the restaurant, he looked up towards the clock; exactly 2:30 in the afternoon. Taking off the rain coat, he slowly moved towards the table in the corner, right in front of the glass wall facing the road outside. The drizzle outside has settled down to a steady rhythm. It has become a weekly ritual since that fateful day two months back. That too was a Friday; he had planned for a lovely weekend with his fiancee; at least that’s what he believed her to be. And he found her getting that huge bunch of Valentine roses, not from him. That’s when she broke it to him; all he did was raise his voice a notch up to ask who the roses are from – when he believed himself to be her lover. And she mercilessly broke his dream. As per her, it was all just his day-dream; she felt her to be a thirty plus guy, who is too ordinary and simple to expect her to be his lover. She never saw him as a lover but just as a friend, whom she helped. Just a friend? After all the emotions and attention he showered on her.
He kept going back and forth in his mind for more than a month. And then one day he came in to his favourite lunch joint, from his office during the late lunch time, with a bottle of rat poison. Sitting on the corner table, right beside the glass wall facing the road outside, he kept looking at the tiny bottle, while his meal was getting cold. He was about to open the bottle; that’s when he noticed the piece of paper lying on the seat next to his. A regular ordinary tissue paper; with a pen drawn heart. At first thought it to be some childish doodle. But then he noticed a few lines scribbled below.
It said –
“Sitting across, I see the glint in your eyes that told me you are special! Hope someday you will feel the same for me. – Yours ‘She’ !”
Something made him feel, it IS for him. Sitting across? He lifted his head to scan the hall. It’s already past the usual lunch time, and hall was nearly empty. Only three tables were occupied. A woman in the far corner, head covered in scarf; couple of young ladies chatting away over the food; and someone behind with back toward him. Couldn’t guess if it was a ‘he’ or a ‘she’! Which one of these could be the one who wrote this? She saw him? And noticed the glint – in his eyes? Is it one of these occupants? Or can it be someone who has left silently before he came in? After all he always sits on this same table – everyday! Wondering about the new-found piece of paper he never realized when the bottle went in his overcoat pocket from his hand.
From that day onward, every Friday he would get a paper napkin, with the familiar feminine perfume, and words that made his world filled with hope. He felt rise of hope and belief that he too after all can really be loved. Sometime he thought of coming early to find out who she could be; to catch a glimpse of her leaving the note. But every-time, Friday’s used to be nightmare with his boss. Still he made sure to sneak out for his lunch – and the piece of love he collected from the seat next to his. He already has a file full of it. He even left back some hints. Sometime it was another letter asking for her identity. And even a kiddish attempt, scratching the wooden table to write “I love you too!”
He was not sure if he can discuss it with someone. Not many friends and none so close to discuss something so childish like love. He just hoped that soon she would have enough courage to reveal her identity, and he will again walk with someone, shoulder to shoulder. Day by day he was becoming confident of the outcome, and it showed in the bounce of his steps.
Just before the thirty something man pushed the door open, the young waiter noticed that once again today the group of college students sat on a different table; one next to their usual table on the corner, right by the glass wall facing the road outside. It’s the same group that has, a silent couple he sees every time. He saw them talking love through their eyes, and exchanging notes on paper napkins. He also saw that day his regular customer who prefers the corner seat, with the bottle, very suspiciously looking like a bottle of poison.
The waiter then cleaned the table of the college students, picked up the paper napkin from the table and placed it on the seat next to the corner table, the one right in front of the glass wall facing the road outside.