E. V. Lucas' short story 'A Face on the Wall' was special for reasons more than one. First, the manner in which the lead character narrates the tale of the uncanny relationship between a patch on the wall, which resembles the features of an American gentleman, and the man's life was awe-inspiring. Also, in the end, when the narrator revealed that the story is fabricated, I was left flabbergasted. But these are not the two prime reasons why I loved it. Rather, I enjoyed it because I believe that in one form or another, we all have encountered the spooky experience detailed in the story.
This is the kind of experience that leaves us expressionless. These are the experiences that freeze our brain. Yet, it is these experiences that we never forget. One such episode in my life is what I will relate in the following paragraphs and even though I have nothing to corroborate it with, I am certain you won't have a hard time swallowing it.
One fateful evening, as I lay in my bed trying to forcibly feed my brain with doses of Epidemic Theory, I got a call from a friend. The call was long due and his flashing number on my mobile screen put a smile on my face. I moved towards the window and picked up the call. The usual greetings and jokes ensued. After about ten minutes of fooling with each other, his tone got serious and he took a step towards the motive of the call.
Relationship is a concept whose longevity is getting abridged at a continuous rate. More than alcohol or calculus, the biggest priority of an adolescent is to experience a relationship. Anyway, the point to be noted is that this friend of mine was in a relationship. Yes, was! The association had ended a few months back and now, things had started to ease. But does life ever let you stay in that position of ease?
I lowered my neck and stared blankly at the concrete pavement below as my friend began to narrate his story. "Yesterday, just after sunset, I stepped out of my home for a leisurely walk." As soon as he completed this sentence, two small parallel streams of water erupted on the pavement I was staring at. Someone was washing a car in the parking space adjacent to the pavement. "And suddenly, we came face to face." Immediately, the streams fused. "I instinctively said 'Hi' and she reciprocated. Following the formal greetings, we started inquiring about each others' life." The united stream flowed ahead. "Our chat was turning into a nice, pleasant talk. So we decided to go to the nearby park." The rivulet thickened.
"We sat down in the park and continued talking. We discussed all the things that had occurred in each others' lives post the break-up. The congenial evening atmosphere was acting as the perfect catalyst and the fact that we were a separated couple got completely dissolved." The stream continued to grow thicker and its pace slackened. "Then we started discussing our friend who had brought us together." Immediately, a third stream broke out a few feet left of the main stream. "All of a sudden, I came to my senses and asked 'What's going on here?'." Hampered by the unevenness of the concrete, the stream came to a halt. "'Have we broken-up?', 'How are earth are we having such an amicable chat?', 'Do we still have feelings for each other?'" The standstill stream turned into a blob.
"Neither of us could understand why this was happening. We revisited the reasons and scenarios behind the break-up." The blob finally made way for two parallel brooks. "As you know, with the news of this coupling falling on the ears of both sets of parents, we had to distance ourselves from each other." Suddenly, the third stream made a dash towards the two streams. "But it was evident that neither of us had forgotten the other. Even though it happened infrequently, my heart still skipped a beat for her and vice-versa. If that is the case, we began to contemplate whether our decision to separate was a wise one." The two parallel streams united.
"And then suddenly, out of the blue, our great friend made his entrance." Again, due to the uneven terrain, the third stream altered its course and began tracing a path parallel to the main stream. "Even though not in the mood, we made him sit beside us and put forward our dilemma before him. But as he was not up to the discussion, he started suggesting some bonehead solutions that were ridiculous. So, we (she and I) vented our frustration by giving a nice kick on his posterior and bade him good-bye." The third stream got run over by a cycle.
"That kick cleared our minds and we saw the flip side of both of us coming together. Even though there had been resentment in our decision to part ways, neither of us could promise the other that history wouldn't repeat itself in case of increased pressure from our caregivers." The stream started tapering. "Neither of us was ready to go through the turbulent patch once again. ‘But what about the connection that we share?’, ‘Would we be wise to ignore it?’, ‘How do we wipe out the magical, magnetic feeling in our heart for each other?’" The rivulet started thickening.
"It got quite late and both of us had to report home. But instead of answers, all that was begotten from this discussion were some really befuddling questions." The rivulet's flow got impeded once again and a splotch was formed with two tiny branches bulging out in opposite directions.
"So that's the detailed version of the incident. I understand that you are the last person to whom I should turn for advice. But I am taking views from a number of friends on how I should proceed and would like yours as well." He uttered a line or two more but I just couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. I did not understand whether to shriek or snicker. Now, it was my turn to be the story-teller. I delineated him the story of how the flow, the size, and the number of streams had captured each and every emotion and impasse he had mentioned, and in real time, without any sort of apparent connection between the two. A few seconds later, we burst into a thunderous guffaw.
"So what is the current status of your stream? Is it united or has it been partitioned? Can your stream tell me what I should do next?" These questions put me in a spot of bother. Seeing the authenticity with which the stream had traced down my friend's conversation, I had an intuition that the conclusion it portrayed would definitely come true. Unable to think of anything else, I said, "It got run over by a car." But I think he understood the truth. I also think that he could envisage the truth himself. That is why, a few weeks later, when the prognosis did prove to be true, he was able to shake off the blow quite easily.
But, for me, those 15 minutes were truly memorable. They taught me that, in one way or another, Mother Nature always provides us with the answers to the questions she asks. She never puts pressure on our tiny brains to come up with answers. All she expects from us is to use our six senses to find them.