It was almost 11 years. Having returned to the city after a long break, and with plans of staying away for another decade atleast, it occured to me that I might be able to meet her today. Like the petunia plants at the onset of Autumn that adorned the library side walk, her images went out only to return every now and then - the Spring! I must have spent the more significant part of these 11 years ruminating about her. "Would she still smile with her head tilted to her left.. would the parfum on her still tantalize me the way it did almost a decade ago." The next few minutes would give me my answer.
Sitting in our favorite spot in the library, I re-played the words her friend had told me the previous eve.. "Oh! She.. Hmm.. she still sits in the same place at the library...every working day from 5 to 5 30 in the evening..". She had come to become an essential component of the library, as much as the art deco that brought subtle beauty to the walls designed to compliment the Kafkas, the Joseph Conrads and other eclectic books.
Every few minutes, a car's sound would be heard from the Greco-style window raised high above the side wall I was sitting close to. I was sure she still drove the same car, she was someone who respected values and held onto things old, like a sentimental fool. The sound of the cars would start off with a hum, indicating they had taken the final right turn into the path that ran parallel to the old wall, and then like a Shakespearan tempest, rise in pitch as they approached the window. The sound would then either disappear into the silent chaos that seemed to occupy all land beyond the wall or come to a decisive halt at the parking lot, only a few yards after the window level.
Sometimes, someone comes into your life, uninvited and give you the best moments of it. Moments that you come to cherish and moments that you enact in your mind, over and over again. Each time you relive one of the moments, some aspect of it would be lost, until at a point, only the bare necessities of the moment survive, the original having completely been over written. My thoughts drifted to the time when as someone just out of college, and during the first days of work at the nearby Metropolitan Hospital, I would hurry out at the stroke of 5. She would take a walk across the road from the shop she helped her father's friend run, and come to the library to make my day.
"Screeeeeeech!!'. That sounded like the noise I had been waiting for all the while. In the few seconds in which I sent myself back in time, the car had taken the turn and come to an abrupt halt at the parking lot. Very much the way she did years ago. At that point, looking at the dilated pupils in my eyes, a medico would have vouched for the need of a quick run-up on my heart. The hold on my keychain tightened as my sweaty palm embraced it with a venomous grip. The door turned open and in walked a lady. All nervousness vanished at that moment. It wasn't her. Instead it was the old librarian, Mrs. Kiran checking in. Mrs. Kiran, the very person we despised during our brief intimate periods of interaction, though all she did in asking us to stay quiet during those days, was her duty. Inspite of the fading years, she seemed to remember me vividly. Maybe it was the seat I had occupied that made it easy. Maybe it was because, my appearance hadn't changed significantly much during the time. Did she remember her too!
Never one to increase the length of a conversation beyond what was needed, she uttered in quick syllables, "Good evening, its been a long time! The notice outside..er...the library is closed the whole week, but if there is something special your looking for.............".