Libraries

As the sunlight streamed through the open window, he remembered the sheen in her hair. The echo of a falling hammer from the building coming up a street away brought back memories of his heartbeat every time she was near him. Close enough for secrets, things he knew she never told anyone. It made him feel special. Voices filtered into his sparse room, bringing back feelings he thought he had buried under other faces. There was no escaping the fact that she had left a lasting impression on him. Was it her beauty, he thought. She was good looking in all the ways most men found pleasing. Their eyes pausing a few moments more than necessary when they passed her in the street. He had gotten used to those glances, because she barely noticed. She had that gullibility about her. She didn’t feel she was pretty enough. And when he questioned her about it, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t give it that much thought. It’s just something you have or don’t.” She was right. Confidence in one’s looks is more about one’s own estimation of self, rather than what we typically believe comes from other people’s praises. But it wasn’t her looks, there was something more. Could it have been her intelligence? She read a lot more than him, could quote poetry from the classics, like she had written them, and had managed to snag a Ph.D in psychology in her late twenties. It was probably their polar opposite personalities that sparked an interest in each other. That first meeting in the second-hand bookstore would have sounded unbelievable to his own ears if he hadn’t mustered up the courage to ask her for help in finding a particular book he was looking for. John Fowles’ Magus was a title most people hadn’t even heard of, but she had. She told him she had read it and found it interesting. She mentioned that the plot appealed to her since it dealt with psychology and offered to lend him the book if he wanted. That was how they met a few days later on their first date. From the start, it was her conversation that kept him interested in being with her. She was witty and funny and serious and ancient all at the same time. He wondered what went on in her head when she wasn’t spouting some theory she believed in or an experience that had taught her something about people. The mind has an uncanny way of latching onto things it finds confusing and incomprehensible. That was how he felt around her, his brain always in a constant state of flux to keep up with the information she was feeding it. One day, a few weeks after their “Magus meeting,” they were walking in a park in the cool evening. He remembered the light breeze blowing her soft hair onto her face and her efforts to try and keep it tucked behind her ears. She had grown awfully quiet and he wasn’t sure if he was meant to start a conversation or interrupt her thoughts. She blurted out that she had feelings for him, which caught him off guard, because they hadn’t spoken about anything to do with romance or a relationship. It was like a casual camaraderie between friends that he assumed she preferred. He responded that he felt something for her, too, but he wasn’t sure what it was. She tried to change the topic and commented on how green and beautiful the park was. He wanted to tell her that he thought she was beautiful, but decided it was not the right time. They continued walking till the sun went down and before they parted to go their separate ways, she told him that she had got this invitation to lecture at a college, a continent away. It was a prestigious college that would add to her credentials and give her a chance to do research in her branch of study. As she said this and waited for him to respond, there was a storm brewing inside him. He looked at her and the street and he felt this queasy feeling rising in his throat like he was going to be sick. He knew he wanted her to stay, but he also knew a part of him wanted her to be free. To be the way he liked her to be, a ball of energy and lightheartedness that had kept him entranced all these weeks. He held out his hand and she took it. They had never so much as hugged each other since they had met, so this was something new. He felt her warm hand, and as he looked up, he saw the warmth in her eyes. He did not want to spoil it, or make it complicated for her to decide, so he said, “It sounds like a good job.” Their hands parted and she said that it would be a good move, all though she would miss a lot of things. He joked that maybe she wouldn’t like the job and would have to come back. She laughed and said “maybe.” He bid her farewell as she got a taxi and they promised to keep in touch. That was a month ago, and he had tried putting her at the back of his mind, so he wouldn’t think of her. His cellphone rings and he doesn’t hear it lost in his thoughts. It continues ringing and brings him back from his reverie. “Unknown caller,” he takes it anyway. As soon as he hears the “hello,” he knows it’s her. He almost bursts into laughter, but manages to reply with a “hi.” She says “I didn’t like it, so I’m back. Would you help me find a book?”

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