They met at a restaurant. He arrived, as usual, perched up on his high horse. He was always like that, galloping from one conquest to another, extremely proud of having finally arrived in life, in his estimation. Proud of sitting down to eat with people; people who he had looked-up-to in the past and now looked-down on – once he had figured them out, especially the poverty of their spirit and character, as he loved to put it. Well, to be fair, he would look down on everyone; you can’t help it when you sit on a horse as high as his. He ordered water “Sparkling,” he said. As I said, in his head, he had arrived.
While he waited for the water and for her to come, and god, she was running late, he started reading. To knock-off his list – another thing that he wanted to know; his curiosity and appetite for knowing was insatiable and utterly exhausting for people around him. You need to know this about him: behind the veneer of confidence and suavity, he was deeply insecure. Insecure of losing his new-found place in the ranks of the cognoscenti, to which he had gained access – he thought – solely at the dint of his knowing stuff. Ignominy and living on the periphery in the past had scarred him and made him want to clutch-on to relevance as a dying man clutches on-to the hope of life beyond life.
His motivation for the day’s meeting was simple : getting to know someone intelligent and beautiful. He was sick of growing sick of the very many people who wanted to be close to his circle. He hadn’t known anything authentic for a long time now. He was desperate to find a good conversation. A final piece in the jigsaw of his life, so he thought.
She finally arrived, and in a way that she always did : Giving the world the benefit of the doubt. Listen, she was no nobody either. She had achieved a good deal in her life too, but, unlike him, she wore her achievements very lightly on her sleeves, on the rare ocassions when she did.
But she was no babe in the woods wanting to be rescued. She had the strength that comes from having roots that spread deep and far. But none of this made her talk too wisely, or sound too smart. She didn’t need that. So unassuming was she that she perhaps thought – that even a passing mention of her achievements would make them vanish. For all her intelligence, she was superstitious too. She had read somewhere that, at the sub-atomic level, particles tended to disappear in the blinding light and stare of a microscope. She didn’t want to jinx it away.
On that day, she was uncertain and excited in equal measures. Not the one to do reckless things in life normally, she had carefully weighed the prospect of this meeting in her head a few times. She’d heard this guy speak before and was somewhat impressed by what he stood for and the stuff that he did. Though there were naysayers too, who had written-off the guy as “too complex,” for her and advised her against it. But she still decided to see him, thinking in her head “good or bad, there’s no way in hell that this would be uninteresting,” and she fixed up to see him that afternoon.
He chose the place. A fancy place. The choice of place irked her a bit; it was not in keeping with the image of him that she had in mind; she thought him to be someone who prided on the good things of the mind, and found materialism crass, notwithstanding his newfound access to it. “Was he pretending?” She found this disconcerting; she expected him to be someone whose moorings ran much deeper than that. “Did he really contain multitudes or was he just plain contradictory?” she whispered out aloud, to no-one in particular. She had the habit of saying things to herself. She was a good conversationalist – especially when it came to conversing with herself. “Never mind; this choice may totally be random, let’s see who is he” She said to herself as she walked to see him at a table by the pool.
He glanced up from his Kindle as she arrived and stood up to shake her hand and introduce himself. “Dude, I know your name,” she said to herself, in her head. But he was fond of saying it. He loved the way it rolled of his tongue; loved wallowing in his bloated sense of self.
They had spoken a few times before they met and it was clear that while she was into : small and the significant, he stood for everything : big and unimportant. What he believed most important was amassing knowledge – and he did that in the manner – insider traders amass stock after a secret tip-off; with a insane urgency and a singular sense of purpose.
She, on the other hand, nurtured and valued human contact and small ‘human being things’ such as baking cakes, telling harmless lies to get two people hitched together (more on that later!), or generally, breathing the same air as her family and radiating in the warmth of filial love. This sort of a thing fuelled her and brought out the best in her. He, on the other hand, found this to be a language he didn’t understand and a currency he didn’t recognise, but, despite all this, he did not see it as something that disqualified her, at least not at the very outset. “She’s pretty, at least,” he thought; for all his claims to intelligence, he could be very superficial, and petty.
As they sat down to talk, his hand brushed against a glass that fell and broke into a hundred pieces. This was symoblic and presaged the long-held beliefs and certainties that would also break, the next few months, on either side of the table…..
PS : Work of short fiction; any resemblance to real life/characters/situations is purely co-incidental and, frankly, not really my problem…
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