Thursday 15 August 2013

Flash Fiction 2013, Featured Writer Priyanka Roy Banerjee

Lost in Translation

I was standing in the main courtyard of Paddington station amidst electronic display boards, men and women wrapped in scarves and aroma of freshly brewed coffee. It may feel surreal, but in reality I was late and the scenario didn't seem pretty. The antique clock above reminded of my boss Alex, whose face looked like a beetroot when he was angry. For a moment I went blank, not knowing where to go next. I had my tickets, I already knew where to board my train, still, my feet were glued before my favourite coffee kiosk. Like every Tuesday, I saw her again today. She was whom everyone referred to as the woman on platform number ten. She wore a mustard yellow parka with skirt and stood there on the same platform every Tuesday, whole day. She was the only passenger who never boarded a train from Paddington. I guess today she’s late too, she passed by me hurriedly towards her platform.

I have been witnessing her act for past few months. She never seemed to miss any Tuesday for her day-out at the Paddington. I had like all others, wondered why she would do it week after week. She was not a homeless asking for help, or a beggar. She looked quite well-off in her clothes and accessories. Yet, she looked as hapless as anyone could be. At times she looked as if she has lost everything. Her attire kept changing with climates and seasons, but the mustard parka was always there. The pale mustard seemed to reflect its paleness on her face too. Some days I noticed her, other days I was in hurry or pre-occupied with books or my tiny music player. I too inquired about her, like everyone else. No one had the courage to ask directly about her plight, and yet everyone seemed to know. My co-passengers had always whispered among themselves about her, on Tuesdays. From the scrapes of their conversations, I gathered that a man had left her, boarding a train from platform number ten in Paddington, and never came back. She waited, every Tuesday for him to return. She is not insane, she works somewhere nearby, leads a normal life and yet there is this bit of insanity in her to wait for her lover every Tuesday.

I lead a normal life too – I have a grumpy boss, demanding girlfriend, irritating friends and distant parents. Yet, every time I see her, I seem to gradually realize her insanity and loneliness. Her pale mustard parka and black scarf in contrast have become a symbol of something to me, something unexplainable, not insanity. People around me whisper how she’s wasting time waiting for an imbecile. I feel a pang when I see her though, I feel as if she’s giving back her debt of memories to life in the form of a few days. I feel I too will become insane some day, and wait for eternity, perhaps in Paddington itself.

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