Friday, September 17, 2010

Refuge

The first smoke of the day is usually a ritual –a gathering at the pantry at ten, the vroom of the machine and the spurt of brown caffeine in white paper cups, the jostling, the how-was-the-weekend moving through the week to any-plans-for-the-weekend, the procession to the stairwell to gossip over fags. I usually arrive earlier than most of the gang and have a joint downstairs – the narrow alley between the back of the building and the high wall where nobody ever comes. Right now, I just feel like a fag and head for the stairwell. A couple of unknowns hang there, their eyes dull and listless, telling themselves perhaps that they should have chosen more dangerously when they could have. I move towards a long dusty window beside the service elevator where a needle of light cuts a pattern of broken sticks on the flight climbing to the upper floor. I take a deep breath as I shake out a cigarette from the pack and look out of the window as I light; the dusty clumps of unclaimed wastelands rolling to a blue skyscraping horizon. The smell of the cigarettes, phenyl and the garbage which shuttles in black plastic bags in the service lift is sharp in this bare cement-and-steel space, bleached of the musty human smells trapped in the gray-blue carpet and the foam of the panels. I let out a puff and feel the heat break sweats underneath my shirt. Soon the sun would climb higher and the needle would shift and swell to a box here, hot as a bubbling cauldron.
I have a half-hour of work to spread over the next eight hours. One by sixteen – six point two five. I take a deep drag and try to think beyond – but all I see within is a concrete wall an inch away from my nose.
For a moment, the silence is absolute and I hold and savour it like a sip of single malt.  No one on a cell phone pacing the corridor, no huddle of laughs two floors below, no guard shouting at another, no squeak of shoes, no thuds and wheezes of someone climbing up the stairs, the lift inert: no rumble of its ascent and descent, no rolling of its doors. Not the silence which passes for a quietness in the camp inside, still contaminated with the whispers, murmurs and shuffles of colliding intimacies. A barren and lifeless desert-like silence.
She loved me for my silence – that’s what she said. We joked that she did all the talking and worrying for the two of us. Every night, her head on my arm, she would tell me everything that happened in her office, the strayest of conversations, the blandest of jokes – suddenly, she would break away and ask me what I was thinking. “Nothing.  Just listening to you and feeling your weight on me”, I would kiss the top of her head. One night, after a long silence, she whispered, ‘I sometimes feel like I’m talking to a wall.’
Someone clears his throat behind me.

7 comments:

Tangled up in blue... said...

:) you have a way with them you know..

Nothing Spectacular said...

heartbreaking!
probably more cos its true?

Faiz said...

woah Gullu bhai .. solid stuff .. very very good .. great flow .. total control of mood and tone .. an extract or just a stray piece?

ramya sriram said...

spilling too much, too little.

Pankaj said...

lovely :). its hard to make up such stuff. a second time today, reading you makes me want to write.

Monsieur K said...

good stuff dude!
very well written!

Bland Spice said...

thanks :)

@faiz: oh very much a part of the book. i was wondering how little, if nothing, has been written on these sterile silent corners of the workplace.