The sunlight mellowed as it rested on the metal head of the lamp post. It was a late winter afternoon. Sitting alongside the glass wall of the cafe that overlooked the busy street across, she sat stirring a cup of coffee lost in her own thoughts.
She was thinking about her mother and wondering how to pay the rent due at the end of this month. Her mother had suddenly called up to inform her that she will be coming to visit her. She had been reluctant in showing her happiness, on the phone. She knew her apartment was a mess. It worried her to have to put things in order again. She had become quite comfortable in her lazy routined life alone. Living in this regular dishabille had started seeming strangely pleasant to her. It reminded her of freedom.
That independence she had always yearned for. Her little actions of keeping a lock on the cupboard, shutting the computer every time her parents or cousins walked into the room and closing her door at night. They were just hints to her greater desire for some solitude, some privacy. She liked to stay out of the limelight, to remain unobserved. And finally, here in this big city, she had found a small room of her own where she could spend hours unnoticed and oblivious to the rest of the world outside.
She will have to put away the clothes for wash as soon as she gets home tonight, she thought to herself. Maybe she would also change the bedsheets. She had forgotten when was the last time she had replaced them. Looking up from her cup of coffee, she glanced outside the glass absently.
People were passing by in groups of two or three and some by themselves. The tired ones walking with a slow and heavy gait, while others walked briskly as if in a hurry. A few elementary-school kids in uniforms ran about from one corner of the street to the other screaming out each other’s names, laughing loudly.
She smiled as she watched a particular child among them. It was a girl who had tripped and fallen down. Instead of dusting herself when she got up, she was busy chasing and shouting at the two other boys who had by then disappeared around the bend. Her one ribbon had come off her plait and it dangled precariously at the edge of her hair, her jacket one size too big for her, flapped about her thighs as she shot through the road at her highest speed.
She hadn’t got this month’s payment yet. It was stressful to handle everything without enough money in the bank. And now even her mother was coming all of a sudden. The thought kept circling back to her. How will she pay the rent? Will she borrow some cash from her mother for now?
She took a sip of coffee from her cup. It was her favorite type, an Americano. The whole place was filled with various aromas but as she savoured the flavour on her tongue, it’s subtle scent stood out from the rest. She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the aftertaste.
This was one of her usual haunts. She would often saunter in and sit for awhile in silent contemplation, figure out problems or just cherish her free time. But today that relative peace and meditative calm was being hard to come by, because her head was bubbling with unresolved thoughts and do what she could, she just couldn’t think of a way out of that loop. She sighed in defeat, as she kept the cup back down on the table. She felt like a rat running in a wheel. An endless race against time.
Instead of answers, today her mind was exploding with a multitude of questions. The sun was quickly going down. Winter days are shorter and the streets darken faster. Outside, the once busy avenue was now looking quite desolate. She looked at her phone, it was getting late. Time was running out.
She could talk to the landlord and convince him to extend the due date. She was sure her salary would be deposited in her account by next week at the latest. But would he be willing to consider her request? Will he agree to her proposal? What else could she do anyway? She didn’t want to borrow from her mother. This was just the fifth month since she left home and had decided to live by her own terms. She couldn’t possibly go back on her words of so-called freedom and independence now.
If push came to shove she would take a loan. Her eyes shone as she mentally recalled the events of the day she had left home. She felt the adrenaline rush through her once more. Her fingers trembled slightly around the handle of the cup as she lifted it and brought it up to her lips. She relived the sense of liberation each time she thought of that day. She had decided on the spur of the moment to leave her city of origins and move here, a strange land with an unfamiliar tongue and unknown people all around. She knew she would find solace amongst the different, the ‘other’.
She believed if she wanted to live like a free soul, she had to let go of all her attachments. If she let go of what tied her down, she could fly. And then she had soared.
In the past few months, she had become another immigrant in this huge city where so many people from so many different places come together and try to find an identity of their own, within this mad bazaar. It’s a gypsy fair of brilliantly coloured individual stories and ever-changing histories. And amidst them all, she is yet another person with a story. In the yellow lit cafe, somewhere on the wall a clock chimed softly, marking the hour. She shook herself out of the reverie and scanned the walls in search of the clock.
The melancholy note was still pouring out of the wooden clock as she stared at it’s pendulum. It was in the shape of a little red robin floating in mid-air. The robin was in suspension, flitting from one end to the other with the movement of the pendulum. As she watched it, she felt like that robin, moving on the waves of time, living in an infinite state of oscillation.