A Certain Romance

A break from serious short story writing. I actually thought about it in a train while traveling. 

I marched ahead to my coach. For a second I thought the hag of a policeman was scrutinising me from the entrance. Praying that he didn’t for I was fed up being eyed as a suspicious individual, I turned around to catch the policeman already busy with his other target. Observing him, I noticed that he was dealing with his new catch – a group of four young men, probably in their late twenties, differently. I understood why exactly the policeman had caught them. The four men had an unkempt look, two were in cargo shorts, one wore a hooded jacket and the other was in a black muscle t-shirt. What made the policeman more prying were their black instrument cases. I thought they were a band. The policeman first went through all their luggage bags pocket by pocket and at the same time the group caught unaware and so suddenly were nervously looking at their belongings and embarrassingly looking around. I waited a few seconds longer for the policeman to open their instrument cases. I could see the policeman barking at them asking the same old questions which he asked everyone. After a minute of thorough frisking, the policeman told them they could go. I scoffed and made my way to the coach.

I was still in a rift. This was the third consecutive time I was held by a policeman at the station. Thinking I was jinxed, I went inside the train coach. After struggling with the moving door inside, I was inside the cool air conditioned coach. I made my way towards my seat and cursed again. Placing my luggage bag in the compartment above was a tedious task and I had nearly lost my cool the last time I tried to place it in. But to my surprise, the bag slid in easily on the first try. I sighed in relief. I’d have definitely wrecked my seat if it hadn’t. I sat down trying to relax but my mind was still not over the annoying encounter. Ranting over the security issues of the station I thought it would be best if I sip my cup of latte. The hot coffee did have an effect and it made my mind cool down a bit. I saw the policeman going about with his grumpy look through the window. The security procedure didn’t make any sense. Catching random people on their way was not at all the proper way of a security check. I started creating my own methods of security checks until I heard someone coming above the set of stairs to the top part of my coach. A middle aged man took his seat at the corner. Besides us, the coach was empty for it was not after fourty minutes would the train depart. I even assumed the train would remain half empty throughout my journey home as it was an odd day. This train was only busy in weekends.

More passengers made their way above at the first stop. Now there were a total of twelve people on the top coach. A family of four whose kids to my relief were mature enough to know how to act in public, an old couple in their sixties, another old woman, two middle women probably on a business trip sitting three rows ahead of me and  a college student. To my disappointment there was no pretty girl aboard.

Luckily there was no one sitting beside me. I was all by myself in my aisle. After showing my ticket to the conductor who didn’t ask for my identity, I continued reading my book. At least some conductors knew when to catch a suspicious person.

The coffee had taken its effect and I had already forgotten about the barking policeman. The half empty coach felt much comfortable than the jam packed one last time. I felt it was going to be a good ride.

The train had already finished half its journey when I woke up. I must have dozed off while reading a chapter. Now the train was almost empty. The family and the two women must have left at the last station. Stretching and yawning, I poked my head a bit above to see the newcomers and that is when I saw her.

Sitting just a row ahead of me on the left aisle, she was busy with her laptop. She must have entered at the last stop where some of the passengers had departed. She was in a blue striped t-shirt and her straight long hair reached till her shoulders. Her white framed glasses were hidden under her hair and she was parting it away trying to work on her laptop. I couldn’t get a glimpse of her face from where I was even after adjusting myself in all angles in all the three seats beside me. That was when I realised I was acting a bit crazy. I switched back to my old seat and cursed myself. She was pretty enough to have a partner but even if she didn’t there was no point. I was not a person who would make a move just seconds after seeing someone. I felt I shouldn’t embarrass myself much more but I kept on waiting for someone to take a seat beside her but after ten minutes I was pretty sure she was travelling alone. As happy as I was, I scolded myself again. Knowing that I didn’t even have the courage to make more efforts to see her face, I grabbed my book again. There was nothing I could do, and nothing to be done. There was no point.

After struggling to read a page for what felt like the tenth time, I put the book down and saw her again. She was still typing away on her laptop. I thought I could see her face if I pretended to go to the washroom at the corner of the coach. That way while returning to my seat, I could finally get to see her face and maybe give a little smile if she saw me. No, that would be creepy. After much arguments and hesitation, I finally stood up to make my way towards the washroom but I only embarrassed myself further by just pretending to stretch my arms and legs and sitting down again. No, I couldn’t do this. The butterflies were fluttering wildly in my belly. Just when I thought of making a second move, I saw her laptop wallpaper and was utterly surprised – Arctic Monkeys. There were hardly any Monkeys fans around here. I thought I was the only one who even knew about the band in my city. This made me even more eager to talk to her. A pretty girl who even liked Arctic Monkeys, now that’s a girl you wouldn’t want to miss.  And at that moment, I had a crazy plan to get that chance. It was risky move, but it was worth a shot. I could end up embarrassing myself yet again which would make me jump out of the moving train but if it worked…

After quite confusion, I picked a song from my Arctic Monkeys playlist which every fan would have listened – Fluorescent Adolescent, an old Monkeys tune. It took me quite some time in figuring out whether to play the song. What if she doesn’t notice? What if she ignores it? Out of sheer awkwardness, I decided I would pretend the song was my ringtone and speak on the phone if she chose to ignore it, and thereby giving up the plan. I was still hesitant, but I finally pressed the Play button. In came the drum beats and the famous riff. I adjusted the volume so it was not quite loud to make people call me an ass and not quite low for her to not notice it.  My eyes were fixed on her and I didn’t move. Tick tock…tick tock. The song continued and I finally saw her moving her head a bit. I thought she wanted to get a glimpse of the person playing the song without directly looking. Maybe she already knew who was playing it. Maybe she had seen me dozing off when she had entered the coach. She stopped typing but didn’t turn around.  My heart sank and I paused the song. I thought of forfeiting the plan but something didn’t let me. To my own surprise, I selected another song and hoped for the best – My Propeller. This time the heavy wait paid off and I saw her trying to see me again without moving her head. C’mon, turn around, I pleaded but she did something which made me flip over. I guess she wanted to have some fun of her own as she replied to my move by playing another Arctic Monkeys song – Crying Lightning.

The worse was over. I was out of danger. But I didn’t want to end it here. Even if I goofed up, there was a very good chance that she would turn around and see me. I just had to play the game and know when to finish it. Tensed with excitement I played another song – Dancing Shoes, just before the second verse began in Crying Lightning. She paused her song and listened. It took her a while to make her next move but she finally played another song – Do Me a Favour. It took me a while before I realised what she had intended. Or was it unintended? I went stiff wondering if I should play the next turn because the song in particular ended on an explicit note. But she wasn’t really gnashing her teeth and I really had a feeling she wanted to play along. It was as if I was walking on a tightrope. I had to make my move one step at a time as carefully as possible, and I had to keep going as there was no turning back. She waited for my turn as I was left in a daze.

But I found a perfect song to reply her with – Mardy Bum, a song for an apology to an angry girlfriend.  This had to work. Crossing my fingers, I pressed play. The second the intro started, she tilted her head sideways. Did it work? Yes, it did. She understood what I was trying to say and for the first time I saw her laughing. Her laugh made me tingly. I prayed again for her to turn around but she didn’t. After a minute before the solo began she played Don’t Sit Down ‘cause I’ve Moved Your Chair. Oh, you will. I was close. Just a few more songs, then I would finally see her.

Now, I was thinking of entering the next level by playing a song which would further strike a chord. While I was at it, she looked slightly behind to see what was taking me so long. This had added to my tension, and my fingers started dancing as it became harder for me to think. Don’t goof up. Don’t goof up. You’re almost there. Just as I was about to play the song, she took an extra move and played another one – R U Mine?  I gasped and I flipped. She had read my mind. R U Mine?  I managed to smile in the middle of the frenzy I was in and it cooled me down. She had played a song from their latest album which had released just a few days ago. Indeed, she was a girl not to be missed. I had the perfect song in mind for my next move, but the bad thing was it was not in my mobile – Baby, I’m Yours. I had to make do with another song and it didn’t take me long to pick one. I played I Wanna be Yours just before she was interrupted by a food vendor. His loud chant overshadowed our songs. Now? He had to come now? Just when I thought I had made it? I was irritated but didn’t show it as I didn’t want to give her the wrong impression. ‘One cup of coffee.’ Her voice gave me another tingle under my skin. She was a coffee person, I gave a grin and as the vendor was filling her cup and I asked for my own. She glanced slightly behind and I saw her giggling lightly. This made me grin even more and the vendor eyed me while filling mine. Embarrassed, I paid him quickly and he was off.

What now? I thought that was it but she had refused to face me. Was she expecting me to make the move, to take the seat besides her? I waited as she sipped her hot coffee. I did the same, my eyes still transfixed on her. Then she played a song, a song which I hadn’t expected at all. She had played a song from a total different band – The Shins. I was fumbling on the tightrope which I was walking on – about to fall.  A new game? A new test? I thought I could get an answer through her peek but she kept her face locked on her laptop this time. This was not good, I freaked out. Although I was not an avid fan of The Shins, I still had two albums in my mobile. But to my disbelief, I saw only one song in my playlist. I couldn’t believe the horror I was into. The tables had turned and I was a goner.  My jumpy hands pressed Play and I replied to her song So Says I by playing Red Rabbits.

As a last ray of hope, I thought I would win her by pity when he caught me slumping on my chair. But she just refused to look behind. I had taken the toll and I was falling from the tightrope. As she waited for my move, I searched frantically in my mobile for a Shins song but I didn’t find any. Just then I had an idea which could bring me to the end of the tightrope, right towards her. An idea which could end our little game as well. I had nothing to lose and had no other song which could make the game move further on. This had to be the last move and I had to give it a shot to win her. Praying hysterically, I pressed Play.

In came the viral tune of Gangnam Style. I slumped further down my seat, this time out of sheer nervousness and embarrassment. I tilted my head so I could still see her and there she was looking at me for the very first time. My heart flew like a rocket ricocheting everywhere in my body, and settled in my throat when I was about to greet her. So I managed an awkward wave. She giggled even more when I tried to settle myself on my seat but ended up knocking the cup of coffee over to the seat beside me. I gained all the guts that I had left but managed just another wave. She had enjoyed my little awkward show and grinned, ‘You win.’ Giving an uncontrollable wide smile I started to speak but I still couldn’t utter anything. I gestured toward her seat and finally went towards her when she nodded a Yes.

*

– The Moonshaker

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2 thoughts on “A Certain Romance

  1. Sounds a lot like an elaborate but classy television advertisement, in a good way!
    Reminded me of Before Sunrise. Somehow that movie has made romance on trains a phenomenon that still refuses to become a fad. 🙂

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