Sunday, December 13, 2009

960 : Ants on the prowl

Six old buddies were having dinner at this Michelin starred diner. We were meeting after a long hiatus. Beer, wine, aperitifs, antipasti and food in general lined up our meal. We ended up talking up dirty office politics, and the debate got hot and heavy. Its easy to get my passions up and running, and with wine, I am super combustible. He and me both had strong views of  “what is”, “what was” and “what should be”.

Six of us polarized around the two of us. By the midst of this meal, we had moved from a light hearted “conversation starter” to a “passionate bloodfight”. The mood was getting angrier and alcohol was not helping our cause.

By the time, we decided to “finish” the meal, it was getting close to midnight, and the daggers were still drawn, though they had been long withdrawn – a state of perpetual imbalance, waiting for a tipping point. We had run up a bill of 1280 USD, which a few of us picked up in an pre-agreed fashion.

With uncomfortable dry “good night” wishes, we all moved out of the restaurant. As soon as we walked out, the cold December chill lashed at us….and inspite of our blood infused with heat inducing quantities of alcohol, we were still withering under the wind’s chill. We had to walk a few blocks to the nearest subway. We all walked in huddle, still grumpy, still murmuring last “weak arguments” and ranting against “this nasty weather”.

The streets were empty, save for a few lights, it was completely barren to an extent that no sign of human civilization was visible. It felt eerie and weird…our own hostility made us want to split….this strange isolation made us want to stick together….and the cold weather was confusing the hell out of both of those equations.

Finally we saw the bright lights of the subway…say 100m away, all of us kind of internally murmured a “thank you prayer”. As we approached the subway, we saw a heap of newspapers lying next to our right on the walkway. As we passed the heap,  the newspapers fluttered in the face of the wind, to reveal three bodies, a mid-aged man (say around 40), and 2 young kids (one girl and one boy). All 3 of them wore jeans, wore their sneakers, and wore old tattered wollen clothes. The newspapers seemed their ploy to protect themselves from the angry winter.

We all “looked”, we all “saw”, we all shared a “vision”, we all “walked past”, we all (possibly) had a “tiny lug” at our hearts, and yet, we kept pace and soon reached the warmth of the subway.

Strangely, everyone had become more silent, and the debates seemed to have been forgotten. We all hugged each other warmly, whispered more “heartfelt” goodbyes….and walked our separate ways….and weirdly enough, the separation seemed to be an emotional drain (which it should have been in the first place), especially for a set of old buddies meeting after a long time.

Like Rashomon, every camera in this tale will tell a completely different story.

(This could be a qualifying entry for next year’s NPR 3 minute short story section).

My original go at it for this year (no I did not send it, but made an attempt)….here

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SSV said...

Somehow missed this post ... read it now.. i still think if u submit the nurse's tale for the coming year, ud be better off.. as in a stronger competition ... cos it was just so brilliant.. the flow ws excellent ..
" speech and silence, between touch and inert, between warm and cold….always near, yet always appearing afar." ...
cmonn .. cud dichotomies get ny btr than this !! .. awsommm...KUDOS man ! .. I donno abt ur dream novel or smthng ..but u surely will go ahd n publish one short stories compilation ... which will have a flavor as gud as a jhumpa lahiri compilation if not any better !! ..
P.S. Dint notice that u loved debating on the nurse's story ;) ..else wudve commented earlier ..

Amitabh said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement. It definitely does solve some of my ED issues guffaw :-)