(Copyright Sue Vincent)
The bus made its way along the smooth but narrow road leading into the mountains. The sight of the majestic and undulating range was one for the Gods. The rising sun cast its spectacular hue upon the rolling foothills. Since it was the break of dawn, the morning mist had left a fog of condensation on the outside of the windows. The air conditioning within the bus in turn had done a similar mischief from the inside. Using his stubby index finger, Venky ‘glass-wrote’ the word, “Ash.”
Sleep had eluded him throughout the night. Thinking about the future had made him break into a cold sweat and an involuntary but fleeting bout of shivers had elicited looks of both concern and consternation from a curious fellow passenger. The sight of the regal slopes temporarily calmed his nerves and shook away his tiredness. Mother Nature had laid out this spectacle for her children to respect, revere and be regaled.
As Venky began taking in the beauty of the greenery nestled between the peaks, his eyes were drawn to the highest point of elevation. “Higher the hopes, harder the fall”, the words of Ash reverberated in his ears. “Coming from an experienced hiker, this sounds uncomfortably pessimistic”, Venky had countered. Smiling softly, Ash had looked right into his eyes and in a voice that was soft yet steely put an end to their conversation with the words, “It is not the mountaineer who chooses his peak. It is the mountain that draws him towards her. Unless she calls, he cannot listen.”
It was a day to the year since she had moved away like the quiet of the night. The stillness of such an act left within him a burning void. The only sounds were the ones in his thought. The deafening silence of his existence was broken only by a variety of sounds that were on loop in his mind: the clinking of glasses before the whiskeys were downed; the complaining sound of the Peugeot as she shifted gears; her full throated laughter followed by a spontaneous clap of the hands as he put on yet another impromptu comedy act; the click-clacking of a keyboard as she furiously typed out a complicated tax advise; the jingling of a door bell heard indistinctly through a cell phone as she answered the door while speaking to him.
Venky did not know whether people who were hard of hearing could ‘perceive’ sounds, especially if they had never experienced the aural medium before. But sounds were all that he had now. For memory, for measure; for melancholy and for melody. He never had to strain an inch to hear them. These unspoken words were deafening in their decibel and crystal in their clarity.
As the bus accelerated away, the letters on the window slowly started to fade. He took one last, loving and lingering look at his short lived masterpiece on glass: