(Note:- You know the rules, right? Italics = real stuff. Normal font = author’s rambles . Cool! So let’s get started.)
I’m back! After almost two long months, I finally have something to prove that I still exist in this world. (I really don’t think an award nomination counts as an actual post, so I’m negating it.)
As it turns out, New year resolutions don’t actually last that long….. (so much to that promise of regular updates). Anyways, I do honestly believe that sometimes things do last longer and my post today is a testimony to just that.
It’s my personal opinion that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. (You might say I’m quoting Newton after all, but I’m actually refering to something slightly different. Refer to my post Energy to understand that concept.) What I’m trying to say is that behind every major change lies a story which only a few actually know. Or that everything happens for a reason.
The post below is a short story that I’ve concocted delicately over a course of time. My blog, rightly named as The Pensieve always draws inspiration from the memory pool. So… Dive in!
“He’s here again” the waiter said to his manager as he passed the counter on his way to the kitchens.
“What did he order?” The manager asked, although he had a feeling that he knew the answer already.
“Same as the last time. A spring roll and a glass of tonic.” he replied.
The manager gave him a curt nod and the waiter resumed his pacing towards the kitchen. Once he was out of sight, the manager shot another glance at that man.
Honestly speaking, there was nothing about him that struck as odd. Well dressed. Polite mannered. And an overall aura of a sophisticated person.
The only reason he had become a mystery was because of his waiter, who he must admit, was a rather superstitious person, which was exactly why he hadn’t taken him seriously in the first place. But when he started taking notice, he realised to his surprise that the waiter had been correct after all. He came in at a particular time, sat at the exact same table, gave the exact same order and after spending a fixed amount of time, he left. That was the ritual.
If only that had been the case, then he would’ve classified as any other regular customer. So it was obvious that there was one more twist to this. He ONLY came to the restaurant on the 21st of every month.
Being the manager of the restaurant, he considered it as a part of his service to familiarise or establish a formal bond with his regular customers. Not only did that promote business, it also made it more than just that. So today, he decided to familiarise with one of the most ‘regular’ people in the restaurant.
Walking up to the table, he introduced himself.
“Hello. My name is Mr.Murthy and I’m the manager of this restaurant. I hope you are finding the restaurant up to your expectations.”
The man, who had been casting an unfocused glance through the window, turned to him with a polite smile.
“Nice to meet you. And yes, it does meet my expectations very well, thank you for asking.”
Murthy smiled courteously before he continued, “Well, if it’s not too much, can I ask for five minutes of your time? I had a few questions to ask.”
The guy raised an eyebrow, intrigued by the manager’s request. Nevertheless, he agreed.
“Sure.” he said.
Murthy pulled the chair in front of the man and made himself comfortable. He then asked a nearby waiter for a glass of water. Once that was served, he took a sip, while the man simply gazed at him, with a look that said… ‘Well?’
“Actually, it was my waiter who pointed you out to me, otherwise I never really would’ve noticed you.” he started.
“Oh. What did I do to stand out like that?” he asked, with a bit of a surprise.
“Oh, nothing like that! It’s just that he’s a bit….. superstitious.” Murthy replied, smirking a bit.
“Superstitious, you say, huh?” said the stranger, smiling as he had a sip of water from his glass.
“Yeah. He told me that you always came in between 6:15 & 6:45 PM and always ordered the exact same thing on the menu.” Murthy stated, while gauging his reaction.
“Well….. I have a pretty rigid timetable and a limited tolerance for variety, what can I say?” he replied, finding the interrogation more amusing than absurd.
“He also told me one more thing. That you only came in on the 21st of every month. And that you have been doing this religiously for the last five years. What with the possible exception of the last month, you actually have a consistent record.” Murthy said.
“Wow! He’s been pretty observant!” The stranger replied, sounding impressed. Though his response had been almost immediate, the manager could swear he had seen a hint of a vulnerability in his brown eyes, the first time he had ever let out the remotest of his emotions.
Just then, the waiter arrived at the table and after serving his order quietly walked away so as to give them some privacy.
“I’m sorry if I came out as creepy or a bully, but trust me when I say that it’s only my genuine interest in knowing your story.” Murthy said, with genuine sincerity in his voice.
“My story?” he asked.
“Yes. I believe you must be having some reason for choosing to come to this particular restaurant, when in fact it’s neither close to your workplace nor your home, doctor.” Murthy replied, finally playing his trump card.
The stranger’s eyes widened in surprise on hearing him say that.
“How do you know who I am?”
“I have seen you at work. And I’m pretty sure you live nearby as I definitely remember the nurse say that it would take you fifteen minutes to reach there from your home.” Murthy replied.
For a while, the stranger didn’t respond, focusing instead on his plate. Then finally, he lifted his gaze up and looked Murthy in the eye.
“What do you want?”
“Your story. It’s kind of my hobby. To know people. To befriend them. And to collect stories.” he simply replied.
“Will you then leave me in peace?” he retorted, now sounding irritated at the direction to which the conversation was heading.
“Definitely.” Murthy replied, nodding as he did so.
The man finally let out a noncommittal shrug before having a bite of his roll, while Murthy chose to wait patiently.
“Honestly, and I mean no offense, but neither the restaurant’s food, nor it’s location is a reason for me to be here.” he finally said.
“I figured as much.” Murthy replied, nodding as he did so.
“Although I did live nearby until a few years ago when I was younger and was living with my parents.” he continued, having another bite alongside.
Murthy waited for him to continue, but the man had fallen silent yet again. So he decided to prod him.
“So what is it? Is it someone whom you met over here? A memory?”
The man let a rueful smile before he replied,
“Yes, it’s a memory. But we didn’t meet over here. In fact we really didn’t meet anywhere else except for that one place where we simply had to.”
His tone made it obvious that there were emotions that ran deep within. Which did narrow down Murthy’s list substantially.
“So how do you associate this restaurant with that person?” he asked, his curiosity on the rise.
“It’s a bit funny, actually. Or weird, if you would say so. It’s the name of this restaurant.” he replied, blushing a bit as he did so.
“Queen?” Murthy asked, a bit surprised. That had not been the answer he had expected. So it was a girl after all. His looks perhaps gave away his thoughts, for the guy seemed mildly annoyed as he said,
“Hey, don’t be so judgemental!”
“Well… I’m sorry. It’s just that….” Murthy replied as he struggled to come up with an explanation.
“What?! That a guy like me can’t be expected to moon over a girl like some romantic loser?!” he challenged, to which Murthy had no response except an apologetic expression.
“Who the hell are you to judge me, anyways?”
“I’m sorry. I really am.” Murthy replied, upset that he had offended his customer, which had really not been his intention.
“It’s okay. Doesn’t really matter to be honest. By the way, when I said it was because of the name of this restaurant, I didn’t mean to say that she was the queen of my heart or this world or something on the lines of being poetic and absurd. People often get confused and misled because of it.” he continued.
“Oh.” was all Murthy could come up with, for he had presumed it would be one of those cliché reasons.
“Queen is actually her name. A part of her name, atleast.” he said.
“Hmm.” Murthy replied, intrigued.
“Every time I come here, I simply reminisce the moments I spent all those years ago. Anything and everything that ever happened or could’ve happened. In short, all that’s related to her.” he said, as he finished the last of his roll and hinted the waiter for the bill.
Murthy had been right to think that this would turn out to be an interesting conversation. Although he did feel a pang of guilt for querying him further, curiosity got the better of him.
“But why the 21st?” he asked, eager to know the response.
“For it was the day when I confessed. The day, the secret no longer remained my own. And also the day I regret to this day, for it marked the beginning of everything that went wrong.” he said, his tone only mildly suggestive of the profound sadness he felt.
Murthy wanted to offer words of consolation, but he knew that they won’t be enough. Plus, as the man drew his wallet to pay, he knew he had very less time on his hand.
“So why didn’t you come on the 21st of the last month?” he asked.
“Because I was out of town.” he said, pausing only momentarily, before he continued counting the cash.
Murthy looked strangely at him. For he had a feeling that there was more to it than just that.
“May I ask why?”
The question finally made him stop in his tracks and look at Murthy directly in the eye, for the first time ever since they had begun talking.
“Odd that you asked. But to answer your question, I was attending a wedding. And I think you are vaguely familiar with the name of the bride.” he simply stated, to which Murthy had no response except to stare at him, dumbstruck, as he paid his bill and took leave, the glass doors shutting close behind him.