words by Shristi Jaiswal
photography by Vincent Beck Mathieu
In the realms of the unknown, I felt a distant feeling of the familiar.
You were sitting alone in the park. Reading what once would have been a bright red book now faded with time yet, its name embellished in gold shone as if new, a testimony perhaps to the timeless tale captured within its pages. A classic I presume?
The empty silence lingering in the October air- occasionally split by the sound of cicadas or the crunch of dry yellow leaves- seemed to envelop the park as a whole that fine Monday evening. A peculiar time to sit alone in a park somewhere right? But really, who am I to say. I was there too, sitting on the swings, listening to music of a band not known by many. I think it was just us.
The swing beside me remained still, there were no screams of children circling in the merry-go-round nor did the sand witness any castles being made. The slide remained empty and the seesaw never creaked once.
It felt unreal. Like a bakery without cakes or story book with blank pages. Not a sound made. I think we were the only ones living.
A minute, three or ten passed. I stood up from the swing and sat by a tree on the ground. Witnessing the drifting shades of the purple sky, leaning against the bark, occasionally letting my eyes travel to you from afar. You were sitting there still, thoroughly immersed in whatever the book had to say.
You intrigued me. I don’t have a reason why, but you just did. Maybe the way you didn’t care that your phone had slid past your lap and now lay on the ground or that you were almost at the edge of your seat and could slip any moment now. It’s like you were present but your head was in the clouds.
Like a traveller in a train, spellbound by the blurry hills and fleeting towns not aware of the passenger dozing beside yourself, leaning in, drooling on your shoulder while you continue to remain oblivious somehow.
What was going on inside your head? Did the mainstay finally escape the country unnoticed? Or did the aspiring artist finally survive the concrete jungle? Maybe the tragedy is that we are the enemy we hide from all along or perhaps, we are slaves to the emotions obscuring our heads from the start.
There are a million more anecdotes I could come up with but none can guarantee what your mind actually perceives.
I smile a sly smile knowing well I’ll never know everything.
Maybe you were reading something riveting or perhaps using the book as a cover while thinking about something else altogether. Maybe the reason for this emptiness that seemed foreign was that it was the start of the week or the mere fact that the children had all grown up and left behind the parks for strangers like us. Maybe you are just another outsider who stumbled across the one park this town had ever built, I do not know.
In this world full of infinite possibilities you could well be someone familiar from the past or a possible someone important perhaps. If only had you just looked up once, I wouldn’t have to call you stranger anymore and we would then be both stuck in this loop of blissful ignorance until the cosmos tears us apart.