Rhea and Rohit were dining in the expensive-looking restaurant in the upscale part of the city. The night was still young and a rush of suits & gown smilled in and out of the restaurant. The crescendo of knives and forks on the plates fused elegantly with the Bach Music that hung in the perfume saturated air. There were hushed voices of the patrons betraying the affluence and the prosperity of the kind that can only be seen among the elites blessed with the right grooming all their lives. To anybody looking at this expensive setting, it would appear the life couldn’t get more perfect. Rohit felt suffocated.
Didn’t I always wanted this life, a thought popped into Rohit’s head as he was trying to make sense of a modern painting hung on the wall behind Rhea. This moment — right here, right now — didn’t I always wanted this?The thought felt remote, strange to Rohit — as if somebody had whispered it into his ears. If felt as if it came from a part of him that was unknown to him until this moment. An ugly distorted part that lay hidden in the deepest recess of his sub-consciousness which got exposed just now, in this external perfectness around him.
He looked at Rhea who was fiddling with her iPhone as she touched the glass of spiced wine to her lips with an almost languorous effort. There was a natural calmness about her. A sense of being at home that was akin to a giant snake that had had its share of day and food and was now lying idly, basking in the warm sun. Doing nothing, just relishing the surrounding.
As Rohit observed her he could feel that she belonged here, in this place, among these people. She felt home. This is the place where she wanted to be. She was always a sucker for high-life — expensive restaurants at expensive destinations. And she has worked for it. Worked harder and harder to get here. To be on the top. But what about him? Did he want this? This life? Was this his dream? Or did he just followed some people to get here?
He was overcome with a strong urge to shout and set himself free of the invisible shackles that he suddenly felt on him.
“I’m going out for some air,” he said calmly to Rhea as he got up from the table. She looked blankly at Rohit for a moment before nodding her head. Her senses were too numbed to ask him what & why of his decision. For a moment Rohit thought of asking her to join him. But then he dropped it and left the table alone.
On his way to the exit, he was startled when he had a vision of the whole restaurant filled with copies of Rhea and him — one set at each table. All faces looking at him, a mocking expression on their faces, looks of loathing and distaste as if he was a speck of dirt on the otherwise spotless china.
“I’m sorry,” a half-drunk girl almost spilled wine over him as she bumped into a table. The vision vanished. He was back to the reality. Rohit replied with a grin and walked out of the restaurant into the terrace.
A big gold-colored moon hung low in the east. Its cratered surface crystal clear against the dark sky. There weren’t many visible stars tonight. Or it has been like this for a long time? He couldn’t tell. It was a long time since he’d watched the sky with such longing. With a yearning of a twelve-year-old who used to gaze for hours into the infinite sky hoping for a star to fall or sky to split and reveal its million mysteries. A smile spread across his face.
He remembered, as a child, he wanted to be a space-man. (That’s how his father made him understand what astronauts were.) He wanted to fly into this deep dark ocean of mysteries, to reach one of the billion billion stars that lurked in the sky. Much later, he was almost heartbroken when he came to know that stars are like the sun — only bigger and warmer — and one would die of their heat long before one could reach them.
He felt a touch on his shoulder. It was Rhea. She came forward and stood beside him. He felt her fingers slipping into his as they both looked into the night sky — the vast emptiness that lurked around them — around this earth they call home. In the entire night, this was the first time he felt he wanted to be in this moment — this moment when he was alone with her, like two teenagers staring into the night sky.