Sunday, 6 July 2014

The man on the other side...

Sipping slowly from a cup of tea, thinking about nothing in particular and having nothing to do; here I was, sitting in this diner, looking at the rain pouring down. It was the rain in the first place, which pulled me to this town, so far from home and so far from family. I have always felt a connection with these droplets drizzling down and colouring everything a shade or two darker. This was my favourite place. The owner shared my passion for the rains and always played the songs I wanted to hear. In the background, was playing “Rhythm of the rain” by The Cascades. The day could not have started better.
Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain
Telling me just what a fool I've been
I wish that it would go and let me cry in vain
And let me be alone again
Oh, listen to the falling rain
Pitter patter, pitter patter
Oh, oh, oh, listen to the falling rain
Pitter patter, pitter patter

If there was one thing, other than the rain, which pulled to me to this town was that I was absolutely certain nobody knew me there. I was not running from someone or something. Rather I wanted to be in a place I didn’t need to think about running from. It was not easy, disappearing overnight, leaving no trail of where I went. Sometimes I think about the people I left behind, but that is a matter of past now. It seems like another life now. Now this was my home, my work and my life. Sitting in this corner and judging the world from here even though and because nobody cared about my opinions.
I was about to finish my third cup of tea since morning and had started writing a story on my laptop when I noticed the man across the diner on the other corner. There was something peculiar about his face, something very familiar. It was a smirk, a smirk I had only seen on one other face. Mine! I was told that I always had this on my face whenever I was on the verge of stumbling upon an idea to write a story. I was told so many times that I decided to see for myself, and I sat hours before a mirror while trying to write a story and finally I saw it. That’s why I remember it so clearly. There was no mistake. There was more that I had not noticed in first look. He was working on a laptop identical to mine, had a hairstyle same as mine and wore glasses with same frame as that of mine. In front of him on the table besides his laptop were three empty cups of tea.
I was getting curious now. I wanted to look at him closely. So I walked upto the other end of the diner and picked up newspaper from a table near his. He did not notice me at all. Almost everything was identical and still he was not me. He wore the same watch from the same brand, had a birthmark at the same place on his hand as that of mine and he looked outside the window at the rain every thirty seconds just like I do. I walked back to my seat. I could not concentrate on the story I was writing now. I made thumping sound on my table with my hand so that he looks at me, but he did not seem to notice. After a while, I grew impatient and decided to talk to him. I looked into my laptop and shut it down and got up to walk towards him. He wasn’t there anymore. I ran outside trying to figure out where he went. He could not have walked away so quickly. I stood in the rain trying to absorb what just happened with me.
So many days have passed since then, but I am not able to forget that incidence. I come to this diner everyday but he did not come back. I enquired about him in nearby places. This is a small town where everybody knows everybody. Any new visitor cannot go unnoticed, but this one had just vanished in this air. I gave up the search eventually figuring that it would be a coincidence that the man was wearing the same things and had same mannerisms as that of mine, in absence of an alternative logical explanation.
There was no rain one day. So I did not feel like going outside. Sometimes you become so comfortable with a place that staying indoors feel odd. After all this was a place I only used for sleeping. The rain was back next day and so was I, at the diner. After I had my second cup of tea, I noticed that there was a person sitting on a table near mine and was looking at me continuously. When I looked at him and smiled, he gathered courage and approached me. He asked me whether I was a journalist. I said I was a suspense writer. He said that then what he was going to tell me next would excite me a lot. I was all ears expecting some old story I had already heard.
“I have noticed you many times sitting here engrossed in your work. You would not have noticed but even I come here daily at this time. There are only two seats with windows in this Diner and both are always occupied. Yesterday you did not come, so it was a good opportunity for me to sit here. I was enjoying my regular mug of beer enjoying the view outside and then I saw him. He was sitting across the diner on the other seat with the window. At first I only noticed his baldness pattern which was same as mine but then I saw his moustache, his poncho and the bag in which he was carrying the carpentry tools. They were all same as that of mine. I saw him up and close. It was as if somebody had made a bad copy of me. Everything about him reminded me of myself but his face. There was something different about his face. I wanted to talk to him but he just disappeared. I asked my mother whether I had a twin brother, but it turns out I don’t. What do you make of this, Mr Suspense Writer” he said. I did not blink my eyes even for a moment or at least I don’t remember if I did.
Now was the time to talk to the owner of the Diner once again. It was too much of a coincidence and the writer in me was crying for an explanation. The owner was a respectable gentleman. He requested me not to spread such rumours or people will stop coming there. I know he was right. “I will not tell anyone but if this is true, then people will notice anyways one day. Have you thought about it?” I asked him. He said he does not know anything about this man. I tried to calm him down and asked him whether he started this diner. He said his father did. His father was alive and went for a walk everyday and so next morning I was out walking and waiting for him. He was a sweet gentleman and opened up quickly. He told me how his father had a modest beginning and opened a small sweet shop on this street. As a kid he knew everyone in the town and everyone treated like his own. He used to pass time in other shops everyday and especially in the one adjacent to theirs. “Which one?” I asked. “Ohh, it is part of our diner now. We bought the place after the owner died.” He said.
“I used to sit in that one for hours looking at myself” he said. I asked “looking at you in what?” “There was a large mirror on the wall, as large as the wall itself. I used to get lost in it. It amazed me to see how mirrors make a place look so large. But it was broken when we bought the place and diner was opened.” He said.

“How did the owner die?” I asked.
“He had a heart attack. He was sitting in a chair in the corner when we found out he was dead. His eyes were open and it seemed that he was looking at himself in the mirror.” he said.

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