One drop. Two drops. Three drops. Four… and I lost track.
Now it’s too many drops at once, on my arms and face. I like this. Maybe a little too much. Who wouldn’t like a moment of respite when the pressures of life seem stifling? Who wouldn’t like a splash of water when you can’t feel the air in your lungs?
My house is brimming with people today; family, relatives, people I recognize but don’t know, people I know but don’t recognize — so many of them. I run out of breath, just recollecting all their faces. They are a delightful bunch, my family. After having squandered away all his money and trying to drink away his problems, one of them would comment on a high schooler who wants to be a singer, “Oh how brainless it is to let go of the golden opportunity of entering the industry of medicine! Science, technology, or law are good options too! You are going to ruin your life.” To which, a slightly wiser—or you may say richer—person would reply, “No the arts are pleasant indeed. But they are for the rich. My son wants to be a photographer so bad. I have told him his pictures are a nice hobby; one he can continue to pursue after being employed as a professor of mathematics somewhere in England. He has gained so many scholarships for his genius. We don’t have to pay for anything. But you see, being a professional photographer is not a dream I can afford. I have other children too. I have to think of them.” And then the rest of the family would orgasm over how bright a future this fellow has. But their own children are no less either—one of them stays awake all night to study, while another doesn’t have any friends because bad company can ruin a girl. The delights don’t end.
These days delight is a foreign emotion to me. So I have come here, to this park, sitting on this bench beside this lake. The sun has just set. This lake has a water fountain at its center, with lights. I can’t see the lights properly since daylight is still persistent. But I can see it better as darkness falls slowly. The light keeps changing colors. It makes the water seem red. Then it turns to pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue, and back to red again. It’s nothing special, but I can’t move my eyes.
It’s so serene here in this park. I have so many thoughts like the static on a cable T. V. I don’t know what I am thinking about. All the channels are playing together. Before I realize it, it’s already seven in the evening. Everything is dark, except the lampposts on the busy street just outside; and this light fountain here. I can hear a lot of noise coming from the street; cars honking, rickshaws and cycles pedaling, people chattering, and shopkeepers arguing. But none of that seems to matter. The sounds seem distant and I can easily shut them out. Much like the static in my brain; there is so much of it that there might as well be nothing at all.
There are a lot of people here but they don’t know me at all. So they don’t care. They are sitting silently, gazing at the water fountain, just like I am. They don’t glance at me sideways while speaking with others, wondering why I’m not speaking to them. They’re not curious about me. Here, I don’t matter. And that is delightful. More people here in this park, sitting on benches surrounding the lake than there were back at home. Strangely, I feel more at ease here, among strangers. All of them are looking at the water and the changing colors of the light, but I know none of them are really looking at that. All of them are thinking about something. I wonder what.
The breeze blowing from the opposite direction is sprinkling little drops of water from the fountain, onto my face. I close my eyes and extend my body forwards. It’s not enough to wet me, but it is enough to feel the presence of the air and the water around me. It’s like they’re telling me that they’re here with me; to caress me, to comfort me. The air and the water are strangers to me. I generally don’t get out much. I’m always indoors, cooped up in my room, on my bed. So, the air and the water of an open park seem new to me.
From where I’m sitting, I can see a young girl about my age, or maybe younger, standing at the edge of the lake, leaning on the railing. She is on the phone with someone. My eyes are drawn to her since she is pacing the pavement so rapidly. I wonder what she is escaping from. Is every person in this park escaping from something? Or do I think that because that’s what I am doing?
I have brought my phone and earphones so I can listen to loud music to drown out all other sounds as I do back at home. I thought there’d be more noise out here than there was at home, and there is, but I don’t feel like putting on earphones and listening to music. Maybe it’s not the noise I dislike; it never was the noise. Noise is impersonal. It is surprising how much noise there is all around, and yet this place feels calm and soothing.
I unlock my phone and check the time (it’s 07:45 pm), lock it, and put it back in my sling bag. I put back the earphones as well. I feel like this atmosphere and setting are clearing my mind. I’m not really thinking about anything, but I’m not bored either. An old man and a little boy are sitting beside me on the bench. They’re probably grandpa and grandson. The little boy doesn’t want to sit idly; he runs about here and there. The old man is sitting, but he is keeping an eye on the little boy. The old man calls him and he comes running, and then goes again. They’re not escaping from anything. So maybe it is just me. // I get up. I fancy a stroll. So, that’s what I do. As I walk around the lake, I keep close to the railing. I realize that the lake is oval-shaped. I’m closer to the fountain at two places and farther from it at other places. As I finish one complete round and get back to the bench I was sitting on, I see some other people sitting there. There’s no space for me. So I keep walking. I proceed a little further and stand near the railing to feel the breeze and just watch the fountain thrust water up in the air from the lake, and admire how beautifully the water falls back down into the lake, only to be sucked back in again. I wonder about the history of each drop of this water. Some of it is probably centuries old. Maybe some of this water was once part of some emperor’s lake, in a palace. On a scorching day, it evaporated and formed a fluffy white cloud. That cloud traversed a long distance and reached a damp forest area, where it came down as rain. It fell on top of lush, green leaves and trickled down to the ground, where it seeped into the soil. It made its way to the ground water and traveled some more until it reached an opening that led to a river. It flowed for years, over a course of thousands of kilometers, and finally reached a place where they were building a dam. Maybe that's where its flow was interrupted and it was stored in a reservoir. Maybe it was taken for the town’s water supply and used in making this lake. And maybe centuries later, someone like me would be standing by a river in the hills, thinking the same things I’m thinking of, and maybe somehow some of the water from this very lake would be flowing in that river as well. Yes, a lot of things have to go right for that to happen. But such coincidences happen, don't they? It’s wondrous how little things connect us; it is equally wondrous how we can be so connected with someone and not even know of their existence.
My phone starts ringing. I know it is my mom. But I still take my phone out of my sling bag and stare at the familiar phone number with the familiar name. I decline the call. Familiarity and unfamiliarity are all the same to me right now. I look at the time: it’s 09:30 p.m. I know I have to get back home now. But that knowledge doesn’t make a difference. I stand there for a little while longer with my phone in my hands, which is buzzing constantly (my mom is not a quitter).
I stare blankly at the fountain, at the deep blue color of the light, piercing through the water. The blue seems to have an endless depth; the light doesn’t change for quite a while. All my thoughts and concerns are emptying out of my mind, and that blue is filling in. I stand there until my mind is completely blue. And then the color changes to red again. That’s when I glance away, receive my mother’s call, and start walking homewards while speaking to her.
One step. Two steps. Three steps. Four… and I reached home.
This Night Owl Original has been authored by Sreejani, She is a writer and a student of Comparative Literature based in Kolkata, trying her best to make the most out of life while writing about what moves her. She hopes that whatever she writes, can help one feel something, no matter where they are situated on the map of the world.