The Library - II
Episode 2 | Read time: 5 mins
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Sorry for the delay this week, but before you dive into the second episode of The Library, check out the previous episode -
The Fateful Winter Morning
Mumbai winters are very mild. Early mornings are usually between 16-20 degrees Celsius but since it’s close to the sea, the winds make the weather a bit too chilly and the clouds make it overcast. If it rains in the morning, you wouldn’t know if you were in Mumbai or in London or at least what I thought London would feel like. Those were the kind of days I loved. I walked to the library that winter morning, Mrs. Fernandez had already settled in. I filled up my bottle with some hot water, got out of my light jacket, felt my nose going numb with my warm hands, and then settled at my desk.
I met Shreya at the library. Well not exactly, before meeting Shreya, I heard Shreya. Obviously, I didn’t know her name till then. I heard footsteps near Mrs. Fernandez’s desk. I couldn’t see who it was. There were some whispers and then the voices stopped. I tried getting back to my Crime & Punishment in Russian. The book was brutal but I finally got my rhythm.
“Dostoevsky in Russian? Do you have a death wish?”
I looked up and saw a beautiful woman staring into my book and trying to read the pages. Her hair tied up in a bun. Her glasses precariously balanced at the edge of her nose. Her eyes going right to left as she unabashedly kept reading from my book.
“Izvinite menya?”, I said "excuse me" in Russian.
“Dostoyevskiy udruchayet”, she replied, "Dostoevsky is depressing."
“I know, but wasn’t that life in the late 1800s? No television, no entertainment, just survival.”
“Agreed, but people who read Dostoevsky are probably chasing the coldness and sadness through his works.”
“Oh you’re wrong, I’m reading Dostoevsky for my thesis.”
“Doesn’t that prove my point?”, she smiled at me. That smile. One I’d never forget.
“Hahaha, touché! I’m also reading Murakami in Japanese.”, I replied sheepishly.
“Oh damn! What is wrong with you?”, she rolled her eyes.
“What? What is wrong with Murakami now?”
“Nothing. Murakami goes well with a heartbreak and a glass of saké. Not in a library!”
“Hahaha! I don’t have saké with me right now but I do have my cigarettes. Care to join me for one?”
I stood up while she dumped her bag and folders on the table next to me. I asked her to follow me through the side doors of the library which opened up into the by lane next to the Library. My usual smoking point. I gave her one and lit it up for her and then lit up mine.
“I’m Shreya, by the way.”, she exhaled a cloud of smoke as she said that.
“Hi, Shreya. What brings you to the library?”
“Others have theses to write as well.”, she said mockingly.
“Oh, so you’re a final year student as well?”
“What is your thesis on?”
“Samuel Clemence’s works as a conscience against slavery in America.”
“Wow! Not many people know the real name of Mark Twain. I’m impressed. You know your writers.”
“I sure do, they’re the only thing in my life right now. Good writers and cheap cigarettes.”, she said pointing at the cigarette in her hand with her eyes.
“Good writers and cheap cigarettes.”, I thought, that was my life exactly. I smiled at myself. Looking at my smile, she smiled too.
“What?”, she said.
“Nothing! What brings you here though?”
“The college library has all the Mark Twain books, but I need more journals and references explaining his works rather than the actual books. Someone told me this library would help.”
“And they were not wrong. Here, let me show you to the Mark Twain section.”, I said as I threw down my cigarette and stamped over it.
We entered the library again. She picked up her bag and folders and followed me. Every time I looked back at her, I’d see her checking out all the shelves, the books, the section names, the paintings on the walls. I stopped at one of the sections and turned towards her.
“You’ll find everything about Mr. Twain in this row. If you need anything else, you know where I sit.”
“Thank you so much!”
She turned back around and started checking out the books one by one. I stood there looking at her awkwardly for a few seconds before I remembered that Dostoevsky was waiting for me at my desk. I said a feeble "bye" and returned to my desk hoping she’d come back to ask me something or she would need help with a book on the top shelf.
But she didn’t.
I realized that she had left when she didn’t return in an hour. I went to the Mark Twain section and saw that there was no one. I went up to Mrs. Fernandez’s desk but she wasn’t there either. I felt so stupid. I didn’t tell her anything about myself, not even my name. Dejected, I was about to turn back to go work at my desk when I saw her library card on Mrs. Fernandez’s desk. I usually never touched anything on her table, she didn’t like it, so I just went close to it and peeked at the card. She had picked up two books, a journal of American Literature Society and 1Q84 by Murakami.
The due date to return them was in two weeks.
The longest two weeks of my life!
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- Darshan Pania