Fiction Park

The Stranger

Sometimes I would see the stranger, a silhouette of a man by the window who was, perhaps, also looking at me. I did not wave and neither did he

- Kabita Sen

I drew the curtains and opened the windows to take in the world. There was nothing to see through the perfect darkness outside. There was no sound save the rustling of the leaves and the whispers of the wind. I enjoyed the silence and never felt lonely in that solitude. In fact, in the dead of night when everything was still, was the only time I felt at peace. So every 3 am rather than sleeping, I pored over my books or stared out into the darkness from my window.


One night, I was shocked to find that about few blocks away from me in a room with a large window, there was light and someone was awake. I resented this because I savored the illusion of being the only one awake in a sleeping world. From then on, every night I leaned over my window to see if that room had its lights on again and it always did. Sometimes I would see the stranger, a silhouette of a man by the window who was, perhaps, also looking at me. I did not wave, neither did he.

..........


The clouds gathered in the sky and blocked out the moon. From the window, I could see the lights of the school where I have been working for the last six months. Thanks to this job, lately I had become an ardent admirer of children’s literature, for the first time probably since I was a child myself.


The children’s quizzical eyes reflected their abundant curiosity and love for learning. With that said, they didn’t care much for homework and tests. Sometimes I painted their assignments with red ink and sometimes I just got fed up and left them bare. They would make faces if I marked them too harshly but all in all, they were good kids. A typical day in class had Prakash and Kritisha arguing, Akash distracted and filling in the spaces of the alphabets while the ever-attentive Sarita focused on the assignment. She was also the class’ time keeper. I was their English teacher and money from this job helped me survive in the city. I loved the children and was grateful for my job, yet I feared survival was not enough and having to forfeit my hopes and dreams for the sake of survival had made my life quite miserable.

...........


I once had two dreams and they were entwined. I knew Kathmandu was the stage where these dreams would play out so I came to this city two years ago with the hopes of realising them. I accepted Kathmandu for what it was but I learned Kathmandu would not accept me until I made some changes. I had desperately longed for acceptance, so back then I welcomed every opportunity to prove myself.

...........


The ceaseless rain annoyed me. At least I could tell Anjana of my contempt for the weather. Anjana did not like the rain either because it made it difficult to commute. Sometimes she soaked her slippers in the potholes and sometimes she was furious with the vehicles that would splash water as they passed by. When she walked in, her yellow Salwar was spattered with mud. Anjana was my colleague, my friend, the children’s favorite math teacher and at times my math teacher too. She was appalled by my aversion to math while I was amused by her affection for it.


On my table lay papers I needed to correct and books I needed to read. The kids always pestered me to hand them their papers. They would run to each other and after comparing their answers, they would run to me and beg me to increase their marks. They would be very sweet to me at such times and seeing their innocent opportunism was funny.
My Saturday ended with papers, books, and the rain.

............


It was Sunday and just like on Saturday, I leaned out the window to see if the stranger’s room was illuminated. For the first time in three months, I saw that the room was dark. More accurately, I saw nothing. I drew the curtains, placed myself in my chair and happily pored over my books. It had felt like a victory.

............


It’s Saturday and a month since I last saw the light from the window extinguish. By now the absence of that light had started to make me feel lonely. For the first time since I was a child, I feel alone in the dark. The scenery feels incomplete without that light in the darkness, shining brightly from far away. Three am still captivates me and I still read my books but I no longer feel like leaning over the window anymore. I just let it go, just like the stranger let it go. I don’t expect to see him again though I guess I never really saw his face to begin with.

Published: 2018-07-22 08:26:31