She was the mysterious one. But, when I say that I should also understand that it is my duty to say that everything related to her was mysterious. But, then it will raise the question about my role in the story. Let’s just consider me as a mystery-seeker for the moment.
So, she was a mystery and I was seeking it. The setting was an old city. Yes, an old city. Probably one of the oldest in the country with centuries of history sleeping under the polluting dust and dirt which did not seem to bother those who lived in it? I found myself always in some old library, inhaling the dust of the forgotten and smelling past. I don’t remember much but I can very well remember that I didn’t have a consciousness and very often I walked, read and behaved like a character from a Marquez novel. The good thing about this city was that people never looked each other in the eye. They always had secrets to hide and they believed that they will lose their secrets if they ever looked anyone in the eye. After spending days there, I also started believing it and started avoiding the eyes of those coming opposite to me even if they were strangers.
Coming back to her, she was there when I reached the city. Like a prophecy coming true, we met… underground. Underground! That’s another thing about this city. They had dug up holes everywhere on the earth so that they could go under the dirt and get merged with the forgotten past. Sometimes, it was easier to spot a large group of people going in and coming out of these holes. It was also possible to travel from one hole to the other, one past to the other. We met in one of those holes, in somebody’s past; definitely not mine because I was still trying to figure it out.
Coffee was different there. You could find yourself silent when you drink it. Even the waiters never talked much. Sometimes I used to wonder where all this noise was coming from if no one ever talked. Everybody looked like they were carrying out some orders given by invisible masters hiding behind a cloud of mist, unseen to the naked eyes of mortals. She had grey eyes and short hair. See, I still cannot remember everything because of the coffee. You should take my advice and avoid going there…
We walked among the crowd, a mad crowd which waved and gestured at each other. We escaped them by taking a narrow street which smelled like it was from a different century. She talked in a hushed voice as if she was afraid that if she used too many words she would lose the ability to speak. I was silent.
We were walking hand in hand, now. She smiled occasionally and pointed out something and described it in her language. I winced stupidly. She understood her mistake and bit her tongue and laughed. I smiled in return. She was nice and happy for some time but very soon she became silent. Sometimes, she held up my arm and clutched it like I was something that rooted her to this world. The lighting of the day was bizarre because it was mostly like an old sepia photograph and I felt like I lost the ability to see colour images. I was scared a bit.
I didn’t look around much but I could feel the tall minarets looking down at me. Policemen with rifles and pistols stood everywhere. They were protecting someone who couldn’t be seen. I realized that it was the city everybody was talking about; the city where no one saw the people who mattered. They always hid behind black smoke but they were the ones the city was made for. Everybody else was just coming and going from somewhere, always. The population consisted of only whores and pimps, then some animals which were indistinguishable most of the time because they all ate the same food and never visited their past. There were no holes for the future. You could only travel in the past. What destiny, I thought.
We made love in a house, which stood over a black river. I could smell something burning not so far. I tried not to get distracted. She spoke in hushed voices and I could feel her fingers clutching me hard. I could smell blood but I didn’t know whose. The smoke slowly became suffocating and I slipped into a deep slumber. When I woke up she was nowhere to be seen. I stood in the balcony, breathing bad, smoking air. I was sick. But, I could hear her hushed voice and smell her skin. She told me that she too had become invisible. Like all those people underground. She told me that we could meet again if I could go underground again because that’s where the past was.
I dressed up and walked downstairs to catch a ride to the underground.
It was dark everywhere… Black and White.
And, I felt like a Memory.
Actress Lillian Gish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)