It was a Friday night, as far back as my memory goes..a night as cloudy as this one. Shackles of routine and the mundanity of life in ‘contract’ were about to peel away for the second time in the month..and the calendar would flip over to the fabled disguise of promise: The Weekend.
It was past six and all the local bars had begun to fill up. Pitchers were being pulled out one after the other, frothy glass pints were being filled to the brim with the golden, hoppy drink and its trademark bitter after-taste. Some grabbed fancy glasses for a golden blend of single malt and occasionally you could see a few White Russians being served, leaving its admirers demanding a bite of citrus. I guess it’s not as popular as the other two.
There were five bars within a kilometer of my office, it is remarkable how each one stands different from the other and still remains the same.
Suits and polished attires occupying some table around the middle..that’s where one would mostly find scotch and an inadvertently jovial head of staff and his ‘peers’, who never let the Friday Night jukebox distract them from the thoughts of an appraisal. There would always be two tables, at least, of college guys in tees and denim. A table of women, who seemed the most joyous and noisy, and the most genuine. Down in some corner, you could see a group of frowned faces, with loosened ties, rolled up sleeves, and slouched shoulders. The burden of “Monday” was already upon them.
A bar is where I came to appreciate an idea: ‘Normal’ was a relative state of being.
See, here’s the thing..some were always meant to stand out, so why not do it at a classic social, Medieval Ages’ gathering place, which served a damn good whiskey? Sounds great to me.
But occasionally you would see another sort of table amongst these…one where someone waits alone and gets impatient with every passing second. She looks at her watch constantly and curses silently. Her partner for the evening would do better to prepare himself for a few angry text messages and then some more. And he had. Tonight, that lucky man was me.
I had told Devona that I would be there by four. But I could not rush in just now.I had to bring her something..it was her birthday you see. Tonight, one did not have the option to join the “Monday Moaning” table..tonight was for fake smiles, keeping the flames of love alive and waiting for another year to pass us by and if lucky, watch the midnight football game.
As these thoughts flood, I catch a glimpse of Devona seated at a corner table in the Drunken Pony bar, the reminder goes off in my smartphone in big bold letters:
“BUY BOOK FOR DEVONA”
Yep. Let that one slip as well…Friday Night, you beauty.
Hands in pockets, I walked past the bars and entered the bookstore which was located just down the road. Huh..we corporate dwellers had forgotten that Mr.Matlack sold books too. To that point, I could only recollect the fact that it was a stationery shop with three photocopiers and a hell of lot of markers. Tonight I entered the “BOOKS” section for the first time. Matlack even had a name for his little bookstore that only had two shelves- “The Midnight Train”.
And then I saw it, the one book that bore no name and chose to give it a read. A plain blue cover and the author’s name inside it. I remember Diana Wayne. The woman, who I thought had trapped me forever, till you came..yes YOU.
They say the Italics takeover whenever the author gets personal..quite right.
Let me begin by saying ‘Sorry. I do not know who you are and that you do not know what is going to happen after my words have run their course.’
“The Midnight Train”. That’s where I needed to bring you…and I have observed, bars and bookstores always draw in all kinds of people. Even in print, it seems. People just want the story to go on, they cannot stand the fact that every story must reach a finality … for I know now, what happens if they don’t.
Diana Wayne created a cinema hall with this cursed name. Yes, you think right..she was the one who was trapped before me. I thought I was going to read about something related to celestial fantasies. I would have definitely closed the book before I reached those cursed three words, had it been so. Instead, she wrote erotica where the characters were supposed to get intimate at the movies. We all pay for our sins it seems.
If you are reading this, then you have given me freedom, although unknowingly. You exchanged my soul for your own. I have not aged since the time I have been here, nor do I know how many years have passed since I went into the bookstore that night. I do not know whether you have heard about the Drunken Pony bar. I do not know if Devona is alive.
I want to know if she still loves me. I want to know how long she waited for me that night. That night, when I was going to hide a ring in between the pages of the book I was going to present to her..I want her to know that she remained my eternity, although she will never know it.
There were times when people never got to the bookstore, and all those times, I would walk past the bars, look at the image of Devona that I still possess in my mind..and then return to the shelf. I was close..so close..and yet I was never there. I had never known how words could trap souls, how they could manipulate hearts into believing that the world was as it wanted it to be..but now…huh.
I do not think you noticed the countdown.
But I want to give you one last piece of advice.
Write your own tale. Bring the reader into the Midnight Train and only then can you be free. Do not try to be clever..for I don’t know what happens otherwise. Diana told me this and I am passing it on to you.
Fare thee well..and thank you, for setting me free.