eff 'em, err.., allAt the end of it, everyone was mostly fed up. Einstein was wrong when he memorably said that he didn't know how WW3 would be fought, but WW4 would be fought with sticks and stones. Memorable quoting was all that he did, if you ask me. We've still got enough of the deadly stuff to mess around for atleast four generations. We've all just moved on to other pastimes, thank you. Ah, that Einstein. What luck he'd had passing off such elaborate dung as that relativity theory for 2 centuries!
"Hmmm... I think it's time you popped out and had your hair cut", she said, lazily running her hands through his curls.
"My locks of hair, talismans so rare, my maiden so fair..."
"Oh no... not in the morning, I beg of you - I admit bad poetry is much easier to digest in the night. Seriously, go."
Of course he didn't. You cooked your own skin on a slow roast in those, so it made sense to wear them only if you were a masochistic anthrophage.
He had to get up. Too hungry not too.
An apple later, he hopped over across the road to the saloon. In his fervid imagination (the part they wanted to repress), he could never think of that word without half-expecting a gunslinger in sepia to rush out. He realised it was also the news report. Perhaps it was the relative lack of concern among his fellow men. No disaster movie scenarios, no mass panic, no actor rushing against the crowds looking for his sweetheart or his pet iguana. Guess everyone felt the same way - if the rest of the populace didn't think anything was wrong, why should I? It was an infectious line of thinking.
Both chairs were occupied so he settled down. The lack of chirping there was very evident. So not everyone was unconcerned - even the not so news-savvy head hairdresser. Who looked at him sans his usual froth:
"To aapne news sunaa? Kyaa kyaa hotaa hai naa saab. Par sach kahuu.n kyaa, apne jaisaa logo.n pe kuch khaas difference nahi padnewaala."
"apane jaisaa"? Was he included in it or was it the ilk of the lower middle classes?
"kaun kambha.kt kehtaa hai" that he wouldn't have any "far.k" happen to him? Perhaps all you needed to do was to do it to yourself.
"15 minute aur lagegaa saab - abhi start kiyaa hai."
He threw a hand over his long curls - it had taken him the best part of 25 days and a little-known concoction to get them in this state. No, it had taken him 25 years to muster up the courage to grow them up in stiff violation of a life-long family code of never deviating from the boringly straight, the incessantly cautious, the strictly sober. A cantonment life in place of Brylcreem and zero cuts scything through any hairs that his father could grasp in one clutch of a fist. She wouldn't have liked it - she preferred his close crops though she always liked to tease him about his smooth looks.
She never goes away, does she? It had been 3 years 2 months since he stopped trying. But she lingered on, appearing in cameos in his mindspace each day, for varying times, with the most unusual associations. Oh, the ribbing he'd given her when she got her flowing tresses cropped - she took it rather well. It gave him a sense of importance, when she vowed never to repeat that again. Important at being able to influence such decisions in her life. Not all decisions though.
He felt a little warm. He needed to stretch out and think. With a "me.n baahar huu.n", he stepped out.
People don't realise it, but conformity is a disease - a social one. It spreads through contact, imposes its fangs pandemically and kills silently. Think for instance: what else explains such incredibly foolish trends such as bell-bottoms in the First Cold War Age, or those elaborate Victorian puffs and wigs, or if you go right back, the first rags covering the early Homo Sapiens (if they were conscious of being so haute couture). Similarly for weapons: Heads of State just had to have what everyone else had - sticks, then arrowheads, then cannonballs and so on. It never occured to them how easier it would be to not conform - all that wasted time. For we are a dying species and have always been.
He pulled out his IdCore to check all his messages. Part of the withdrawal symptoms was learning to live without the hope that she would pass by, physically or electronically. It must have been the result of the day before, for there it was. News.
"Do you know she's back in town? Had been [d|w]ining at Kings and who should I see checking in?". So read a message from a school friend. One of their school friends.
It was 9:30 am. In an hour was the bus that took him and fellow drones into the comb. To buzz with bees from a different comb. A bigger, sweeter comb to his queen.
It was easy to see why he was back home in within the next quarter of an hour, furiously clicking through to look for the Kings number. It took him the better part of the next hour to muster up the courage to dial. (Why? Who wouldn't have the guts to call? Especially when half the waking world was calling up each other to discuss yesterday's news? What will we do? Can it be true? What rot, I say! And here he couldn't whisper "Free? I'm coming over".)
Perhaps it was all that cowardly delay, for in response to his "... do you know which room she's in? Then may I please be connected to 6-1-1?", all he got was "I'm sorry sir, she's out at the moment." Crappy diem was all that he could muster today. 6 plus one plus one was eight. Never was his lucky number. He spent another hour rooting out the psychic nuances in the number system applicable to the situation.
Six hours later, he was rolled up in a lounge chair at Kings. He had figured it would be the best place to lay in wait - even if it smacked of desperation. He no longer needed to work at the protective sang froid. It had been quite a while since he realised that he'd not given a moment's thought to work. It never occured to him again in the rest of the day.
Lord Krishna lived for some hundred years. So informs us the Mahabharata. Methuselah put in more years of work than most people put in 5 reincarnations. Just because we live much lesser than them doesn't mean that those were merely myths of someone's fervid imagination. Perhaps we did live that long once. Maybe our genes had just lost the ability along the way. Not that implausible today. Perhaps Nature in her infinite common-sense had finally figured out that the best way to rein in our parasitic tendencies was to turn the screws on the longevity dials. id est, stop trusting Ebolas and Falciparums to do the job. Only she got beaten to the post.
He hadn't seen her return, finding that out at 8:30 pm when he asked the reception. Not bothering to call up or to smoothen any strand of his dishevelled head, he found himself tapping her door and walking in, in response to her call.
She didn't seem to be too surprised, just a touch of amusement. She opened her mouth in preparation to speak, when he interjected:
"I don't care who you're seeing, if you're married, if you don't plan on staying, if you don't fancy me, if you'd like us to be friends, if you have other ideas. I don't, we don't, have a lot of time. All I'd like to do is to be with you. As long as I can."
A beat. She spoke. "I don't like what you've done to your hair. It will have to wait till tomorrow though".
Nature was beaten, finally, by our inbuilt promise of self-destruction that kicked in eventually. Pity that the Einsteins and Vernes and Clarkes in all their clever scenarios of the future never thought of a future-less present. When your present isn't big enough, what good is your future? So when we launched gene-mutating chemicals insidiously into each other's water and air (the two entities that don't respect any geographical boundaries) and ended up reducing the average human lifespan to a petite 35 years, what do you expect people to do? Beat chests and complain? Do you think we have the time? It took us 20 years since the end of the Third big war to explain the symptoms and since then we've been scrambling to live, not merely saving it up for a post-retirement time table.
Today all geniuses remain merely precocious. Teenage sports sensations don't have to look to a future of anonymity. The vast majority of us continue to remain in the shadows. Like the poet said, "Obscurity has its tale to tell. Like the figure on the studio-bed in the corner, out of range, smoking, watching and waiting". Only we aren't waiting any more.
I just don't have the strength to "research" the effects of all this on human civilisation for your benefit. I only have about a thousand sunsets left in the account, and I'd rather be counting them than talking to you.
This was written a couple of years ago as part of a constrained writing exercise. I *did not* enjoy writing this, or even righting all that went awry! I I don't know how it has turned out, I was too exhausted to have an opinion. Soon after beginning this exercise, the only goal, like the Marathon Man's, was to finish (hopefully with all my teeth intact ;-), which I have. Thanks to George and Sud for the chance -
pity we stopped.