The house to the west of Saket Garden was hardly ever lively. Tainted paint and texture of water leakage on the walls of building resembled to the poorly managed college hostels. Its second floor was one of those places which always seem to be deserted. No one lives and no one cares. Windows remained closed, no one ever came to its balcony and there was never a sound. But when you look at it, a tinge of curiosity prevails on your face. No one likes emptiness; no one has to be so lonely. Not even this floor. The curiosity to know was eating Sohit up, day and night, for the past one month. Since he had shifted to the building across the road he could not ignore it.
Once he invited his local friend Shanu and asked her about it but she did not seem to care either. It must be one of those unoccupied apartments in the area, she said. This did not answer Sohit's questions at all. But did he know the questions himself? He had an increasingly growing urge to discover something about it. The feeling was almost burning him from inside. He has to find out about it on his own or his thoughts will eat him alive. For some reason he was suspicious and fearful of what he may find. So he decided to make paper chits of the days from Monday to Sunday and then lift one randomly. Thursday it came and that was it! He left the consequences to fate.
On Thursday morning it rained so he postponed his quest till evening. He had waited weeks for this day and not being able to go there proved to be terribly unsettling. He could not finish his lunch. He almost felt choked inside. The unknown fear was driving him crazy. Was there something that was trying to stop him from going? Is it really empty? Is it a ghost house? Is there someone dead inside? Not able to contain the puzzling outbursts, he left for the building in the afternoon itself. The door to the apartment was closed. He raised his hand and as he was about to knock, he stopped and decided against it. He went up and knocked on the apartment on the third floor. No one answered. He went down and knocked on the apartment on ground floor. To add to his fears, no one answered there either. He returned to his room as soon as he could.
That night, the lights on the second floor were lit. The windows still remained closed. There was no vehicle in the parking of the building. Sohit had asked his retail shop person about the building and he had said that everyone went home on vacations. He avoided asking anything particular to the second floor. He did not really care about the rest of the people living there. Something had got him obsessed with that particular floor only. Having no clue what to do, he did not dare to go there again.
One week later a boy came to his apartment and said that someone has asked for him from across the building. It was evening, Sohit turned towards the building and the lights only on second floor were lit. The day has come he said. He let the boy go and went towards the building as calmly as he could. As he started climbing the stairs, his steps turned heavy, his breath began to burden. He stopped for a while to let his heartbeats get normal but heard someone coming up so continued to climb thinking that he would wait for a few minutes outside the apartment. When he reached the second floor, the door was open. He was surprised but had no choice except to carry on with his fears. Trembling, as he entered from the door, he felt like submitting himself in the hands of doom. He was taken aback with what he saw! The room was filled with photographs of French girls, Switzerland, London, ocean line, forests and portraits. When no one came for a while he thought of stepping outside and waiting there but spent a few more minutes looking over pictures and the expensive decoration in the room. As he turned back to move out, he almost screamed! A girl was standing right behind him.
“Hi!” she said.
“Hi!” he was still trying to catch his breath.
"I was alone and was thinking of inviting someone then this boy told me that you are new in the vicinity. So..."
Sohit stopped listening. "But that happens only in movies!" he said to himself. He was still trying to feel normal
"It’s so kind of you to do that. Thanks!" he said.
“Would you like to give me company for some time? I was waiting for my friends but they are all busy and I don’t like to be lonely. I would appreciate if you could stay for a while. Is that okay with you?” she said in her soft persuasive tone.
“Sure. I was lonely as well.” Sohit was having the best day of his life. A beautiful girl was willing to spend the evening with him. What more could he ask?
"Well that’s just great! I am a photographer…” She quickly interrupted herself and said “Oh! Let’s talk over coffee."
She led him to her drawing room which looked more like a bed room and went to make some coffee.
"Is this happening for real?" “First day and she is showing me her bedroom.” Sohit thought.
Wild imaginations filled his head. He was stupid to have kept himself afraid and away when such a sexy and friendly girl was living right in front of his building. The throwing of chits made him feel even more stupid. He carefully looked at the pictures, music collection, curtains, yellow lights that glowed behind the windows and...
She came and immediately started talking.
"So I had this idea of capturing people's life in fragments, you know? They would be like real puzzles."
Then she showed him the lives of the people she had captured. Not everything seemed to be related. Some photographs were particularly disturbing, others simply hilarious.
"The idea is quite intriguing. I never saw things this way."
"Exactly! Do you like to see it this way?"
"I am not sure." Sohit could not make out most of what she was talking and wasn't sure how she was taking him. Frankly speaking he never had an intellectual sort of conversation with a girl before. And this seemed to be going too tangled to make a meaning out of it. This was her bed room and she certainly has called him for some reason but to talk about her hobbies.
She probably read his mind and said, "Tell me something weird about you."
That is the way it outta go boy! Sohit was in the ninth cloud of wildest imaginations.
"Well, I like thinking about people I have never met, never seen and never heard of." Fitted perfectly to the present case he thought proudly.
"And what about people you have met?"
For the first time in life, he was having a naughty feeling about how this might end. He was behaving quite unlike himself he secretly accepted.
Their conversation slowly progressed and became quite intimate. There was nothing they did not talk about dating, love, one night stands, and occasional pleasures. Amongst all love was their most hated topic and neither talked much about it. Both agreed that it is just a concept and one should only believe in living in the present moment.
They had dinner together at a fine restaurant near the garden and on the way back she moved slowly. Sohit had heard of people meeting in clubs and discs, who end up on beds. He believed them to be mere stories but now he was expecting to be part of one of those stories. As they reached near her building, she turned towards him and said good bye. Well this was not what Sohit expected to happen all of a sudden and he had to resist all his temptation to ask for some more time. It wasn't a good idea to be all demanding and desperate on the very first day you meet someone. So he also waved her good night. “She is gonna be around”, he said to himself and grinned.
Returning to his apartment, he was the happiest man alive on the planet. He could scream, run madly, sing songs, say anything to anyone, jump; he even thought he could fly if he let go from the top of building. His happiness had more signs of desperation than satisfaction.
“What was her name?” he suddenly asked himself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” he refrained and cursed on his stupidity. He stood there for a while thinking about going back to her. It makes perfect sense to go back saying he forgot to ask her name. “That doesn’t sound like a pretext.” he made himself believe. But then he continued moving. May be she didn’t tell the name on purpose. May be she wants him to return to her at night. He enjoyed the thought of it, as he kept moving to his apartment.
On his way up, there were marks of footsteps on the stairs. Probably people had come to meet him. May be Shanu was here to leave some message. When he reached on his floor open lock was hanging on the door. God, he was so stupid to even forget locking the door properly! When he entered from the door he was shocked by the view. His apartment had been robbed and thrashed! There were just papers and broken pieces of furniture all over the place. What should he do now? For a moment he even felt that it would be an opportunity to go to the girl next building and ask her to let him stay there tonight. He felt stupid, poor, robbed but secretly proud as well. Anyways he needed some help to deal with the situation and immediately went to the girl’s apartment.
Having a sorrowful and helpless face, he reached to the second floor of the next building. The door was still open. She was indeed expecting him. He thought about how he would tell her about robbery, ask her for help, she might say it happened because of her which he would deny, probably will go to police station with her for reporting the theft and then stay at her apartment at night. He entered confidently, with mixed feelings, and as he did,
There was not a piece of belonging left in the apartment!
She was alone and she had robbed them both!
“What was her name again?” he said and kicked himself as hardly as he could.