I am posting this guest post on behalf of Phoebe Adhora.
Do you know what happens when water falls on a sketch book? Well, let me tell you. Besides hours of effort being wasted and turned into a catastrophe of ink and tree pulp or me failing my final exams and even the tiny hairs on my scalp being pulled out by the sheer force of my bare hands, there is one other thing that happens. Amidst the chaos created by my brain, the blend of different colored ink remains unnoticed.
The month of April means heavy rain and gloomy sky. With the sunshine being a rare privilege on some days and thunder a frequently heard noise, there’s always a high chance of my books and copies getting wet from either a drizzle or a tornado. Needless to say, this was one of those days. By the time I rushed to the table with my coffee in one hand, my sketchbook was as wet as a wet tissue. Being the idiot I am, I sat on the table near the open terrace. As I looked at my wasted dream lying wet on the table, someone bumped into me quite forcefully and ran away without an apology. I am not one for apologies but in that moment with spilled coffee staining my white shirt, my sketch book for the final term all wet in my hands and my body radiating heat hotter than the sun in this cold rainy afternoon, I felt myself topple over with anger and self-loathing. It was as if all my pent up anger and frustration was pouring onto me faster than a shooting star. And that is when I saw her.
She was standing in the rain with her eyes closed, more like basking in the coolness all around her. Her leaf green kameez was plastered to her body. Long jet black hair cascaded down her back and wrapped her form until her waist. Raindrops kissed and slid down every inch of her bare skin. For a moment, I stared at her transfixed. There was a beautiful smile on her face and somewhere between me keeping my book on the table and averting my gaze, she turned towards me and beckoned me with outstretched hands. Between us were raindrops and unspoken words. But I was still angry with myself for being so careless with my sketchbook and about 51% of my brain kept me rooted to my spot. The other 49%, however, urged me to join her and let the rain and her carefreeness soak away my tension.
As if on cue, the sky split into two with a huge thunder and by an unknown reflex I rushed towards her and pulled her underneath the shade. For two years I have studied with Adhora and not once have I actually looked at her features. We were perfect strangers so to say. She was an introvert, or so I thought, and I was a recluse. I was too consumed by my thoughts and pain to notice anyone who wasn’t
ME; who wasn’t in pain. And yet here I was holding her arm and standing just a little too close.
“You’re hurting me, Sporsho,” she told me quite gently as her eyes stared at mine. “Let me go. The rain is going to end and I need to drown in it before it dies out.”
“I won’t let you go, Adhora. Not with so much thunder outside. And besides, you will get sick if you get any wetter. Did you forget about the exams we have in two days?” I told her a bit forcefully with my hand still clutching her left arm.
“I don’t care. Not anymore. I want to get wet.”
“I won’t let you. It’s too dangerous.” Peals of laughter echoed onto the walls seconds after these words left my mouth.
“It’s not dangerous. It’s just thunder. And it’s just me. Please let me go, Sporsho. You barely know me. Two years of studying together in the same room and you chose today of all days to talk to me or rather yank me away from my happiness. Let go of me, Sporsho.”
Her words must have hit me hard somewhere because instantly I let go of her. The rain outside was barely a drizzle by now and the disappointment on her face was more than just visible. She walked away from and returned soon after with her backpack. It was colorful and until today I thought it was a contrast to her personality. Watching her today in such a raw light, so unlike herself in the classroom, made me think otherwise.
I went and brought two cups of coffee for us. For a while we sat opposite of each other and sipped the brew in silence. Adhora broke the silence after a few minutes.
“It’s all a facade, you know?”
“What is?” I inquired still looking away from her and pretending not to notice all the tiny details about her; about how her skin had erupted into goosebumps or how her lips quivered or how she was blinking a little too fast.
“All this about you; you’re pretending to be a recluse. Not being anyone’s friend and not being attached with feelings. I see you and I know.” I greeted her observation with silence but this time looked at her eyes directly. “Your sketches are all dark, the ones you hand in to the teachers. You are the first to leave after the classes end and you walk away always alone with your music as the only companion. There are scars all over your hands and that’s why you wear long sleeved shirts. You get angry at the slightest disturbance and you shut yourself inside at any hint of anyone trying to get close to you. You have this darkness radiating from you, secrets and anger. You don’t let others see the real you. And that, Sporsho, is all a facade.”
She took my hand and made me stand alongside her. ‘Walk with me” she said and I did. We walked between the wet trees and among other students. The road was muddy but the atmosphere felt fresh. There was a sense of serenity around us. As our legs fell in sync with the other’s steps, I asked her how she was so sure of her words. Without looking at me, she started speaking again.
“Because I have seen you, Sporsho. I have seen how you look up and watch the sky a turn a different shade at dusk. I have seen you take pictures of the rain drops falling off of the leaves. I have seen you pet that dog in the canteen and feed it off of your plate. I have seen you ask that chai wala about his health and his family. I have seen a smile curve up on your cheeks when the timing of your favorite song and the spotting of a couple matches. I know that it is about your favorite song because you see couples all the time and don’t even bat an eye. I know you favorite song happens to be Tomar Jonno by Arnob because I have heard you hum it when you think no one is around. I know it’s all a facade because I have seen the beautiful sketches in your notebook, the ones you don’t let anyone see. I watched you sit behind the fountain and pour color onto the paper. I have watched you paint the dusk sky when you thought no one would notice you. You aren’t all black as you make them believe and I have noticed YOU, Sporsho.”
By now we were at the main gate of the university campus. She waved at a rickshaw to bring it to a stop. Taking a few steps away from me, Adhora turned around and said with a smile “Oh and I have seen your soggy sketch book too. Try looking at it through a different eye, Sporsho. Wonders happen when we look at things and feel it instead of rationalizing each detail.”
“Yours is also a facade, Adhora. All this time I thought you were an introvert. All this time I thought that you were lost in your own world but you looked at me and touched me through all the smoke and rubble. And yet you remain to me untouched just like your name. Who are you, Adhora?”
“How about we have coffee tomorrow after class then? I’ll be extra careful to not spill any on your shirt this time. And Sporsho…”
“I have also seen the octave clef tattoo you hide under those long sleeves.” Saying that she got up on the rickshaw and left. I opened the sketch book on my hand and understood what Adhora’s words meant. The ruined sketches made a blend of color much like the sky on top of me. My ruined sketches gave form to an utterly new entity. It was a chaotic beauty which could only be appreciated by a certain few. Until a few moments ago, I was not one of those lucky ones. Coffee, tomorrow, seemed to be a something to look forward to. Adhora was something to look forward to. Suddenly the persistent drizzle falling on me didn’t bother me even the slightest.
Contribution by: phoebeadhora