This is the season of giving and forgiving, fast breaking and feast making, familial reunions and friendships remembered. So I wait in my room for these moments to pass unobtrusively. While people are huddled in bunches in their houses warming themselves and their hearts, the town quietens out, the streets are spared and light is an all-day affair. This time is for you, commerce.
On the eve of the day blessed by many saints, I decide to walk down the road where I am sure to hear giggles and pealing laughter. A long forgotten road ridden with architecturally brilliant houses and boutiques that are not part of any retail chain. I know this solitary day will cost heavily on my pocket. I feel an itching need to quench a thirst for consumerism. So, dressed breezily to provide enough movement for all limbs, my feet make light contact with the tar road. Had I worked off some of the pre-holiday weight, I could have even been hovering.
As I turn round the last block to face the world’s best road, my heart skips beats with manic fervour. No one to stop me from owning the smooth, linen bed sheet that I had set my eyes on sometime back. This might be stupid; I hear my left foot talking. The right foot stamps it to shun such corrosive thoughts.
The street has changed and I can’t say I am entirely pleased. I remembered the many bungalows, outnumbered shops and the canopied trees. What I see are abundant franchises, houses turned to franchises and restaurants that serve more service than food. I can feel heartbeats returning to normalcy.
All hasn’t changed, I comfort myself. Oh, there’s the shop that still sells cream cakes and there’s the house, where the little blue-eyed boy lives. I wave at the blue-eyed boy, who has grown up to take on college and the girls in it. Maybe that isn’t the little blue-eyed boy. Maybe I need to have a sandwich from the music school café that has three tables for their patrons. Maybe I have taken a wrong turn and walked into another lane. Yet I know no one else who knows this road like the back of their hand, other than I. The music school café sandwich will fix my chagrin.
When I reach the building I had known to be the music school, heigh-ho! it is a gymnasium with beefy men standing around drinking watermelon juice through straws. Afraid that my gaping glares might get interpreted as appreciative stares, I quickly shut my mouth and continue walking. The lightness shifts to my head and before I could stop them, my feet walks into a coffee bar that I hate for their inexcusably, feeble coffee. The rest follows in a daze till two cups of coffee enter my blood stream and I breathe again. Hastily, I pay them off, collecting all change so that they don’t mistake it for a tip for their services.
Scrambling out, I decide the purchase of the bed sheet has become the utmost necessity. I briskly walk past the other stores promising discounts and offers of the most unbelievable nature. Ignoring the mongers, eyes determined, lips laid out in a straight line, I reached the linen store in a sprint. I stood on the opposite side of the road facing the store stripped off its sign board and interiors.
Hazy view, moist eyes, buckling knees, I reached out and grabbed a passer woman’s arm.
“There used to be a store here… they sold the best of linen… have they shifted… or have they shut…?”
She squeezed my hand. “When was the last time you were here?”
“Maybe a year back.”
“Yes, what you fear has happened. Maybe you need some water.” She reached into her bag and held out a bottle of water.
The world revolving, my legs gave away, I fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I felt kindly hands help me up and drag my limp body back to the coffee bar I just came out of. A glass of cold coffee was brought and four out of my five senses regained function. However, the taste buds had been ruined forever.
This has been the worst of my Christmases, I smile. A smile to a grin to a laugh and a bellow. The waitress hurriedly came with the bill and a form to rate their coffee. I paid double the bill and drew a face with dots for eyes and an up-turned arc for a mouth. My unbounded happiness seemed normal. This must be how insanity feels.
Having lost sense of time and reasoning, I figured that the yearning for owning has not yet been curbed. I shook off the draining feeling of the unconquered bed sheet. When I stepped out of the coffee shop, I notice that next door is a store selling make-up products. I gleefully walked in and asked the disinterested lady behind the counter to make me over. She complied whole-heartedly and I saw the mad gleam transferred to her eyes. On other days it would have appalled me, but today was different. She sat me on a high stool, took out multiple brushes, put black muck on my lips that I usually put in my eyes and used a lot of red goo on my face. After half an hour, she showed me the child of Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson in the mirror and called me ‘Gothic’. I thanked her and shook her hands for a good minute while her colleague swiped one of my cards and all that she put on my face was mine in pretty tubes, making me considerably poorer than when I began the day.
As I walked back home, the effect of the deplorable coffee was draining off while my heart gradually fell into my stomach. The piteous day was closing and I pacified myself with the bag from the Frankenstein lady and told myself of the good cheer this day was to spread. When I reached home, I slowly walked to the mirror to look and admire myself once again.
When I fell, I fell with a dull thud, the way they all fall.