Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A classic Love story: When Hills seem young

She went out without showing any emotions to the surprised nun. She walked painfully towards the pine woods that lead to a lonely road with a dignity on her face that is reminiscent for old women in early twilight of her life and she stood still with a red sweater clasped in her trembling hands. She sat there and wanted to cry slowly but steadily…she felt someone said “You are beautiful”. The tears could not come from her eyes as they came in her youth.

She saw a cat passed by and then she quickly rose up…she called the cab.

Tracy Frank is 52 years old or so the youngsters in Royal Rhythm Music store say. She feels she is already in her sixties. She felt old when she turned 50 and gave all the hopes for a companion in life. 

She was a loner to re-read the same old Victorian romantic novels. To keep life going she works in Royal Rhythm at a mall at Kunoor, a hill station in Ooty.

After her office hours she would read a little, watch cartoons on television or listen to old gramophone and knit sweaters for kids. She found pleasure to knit sweaters and gift to children.

Last two years, she never glanced in mirror for more then a minute. Anyway she thought that people neither took interest in her nor found her pleasant. The owner of Royal Rhythm had known Tracy’s husband Mr. Frank and he kept her as employee - a goodwill gesture. She was put in section of classics DVD’s. 

It was the last month that Tracy would look into the mirror often and smile to herself as she got ready to her store. She would wear her old dresses again and smile unknowingly. Even her walk had a musical quality. She would listen to romantic numbers in her Murphy gramophone, or even sit through a Tom Cruise movie on HBO. She laughed all by herself when in one of her novels she read that to become old is to be girl like.

There was an pleasant looking old man in his 60’s who use to frequent Royal Rhythm store often and would try to engage Tracy in conversation though monosyllabic. He was rather tall, slim and almost saint like. To her he looked like Martin Scorsese. She found it rather unusual because whatever films she would suggest, he would buy them instantly. It was on her birthday that the first changes in her personality came. The old man came to the store in a rather upset mood to return “Gone with the winds” DVD and the store owner told him to talk to Tracy. 

Tracy had an argument with Jack Alter, who came to return the DVD and desperately wanted to see this film. He wanted another copy of the same film but that was the last copy. However, the old man took “Life is beautiful” DVD. While going, he put his hat off to her just like old English days. 

She lowered her eyes to Jack and smiled while he went out, he bowed again. The owner of the shop smiled too with other youngsters and Tracy went back to her section of classics.

As with her routine, Tracy woke up 6:30 in the morning, clean the fire dust and open her window. She felt the mist was rather attractive as sunlight made its way from tree leaves. She went to the garden sipping hot cup of zafraan tea and admired the scenery. 

A thought ran her mind. She had “Gone with the Wind” VHS tape with her. She went to her store room and searched old records and found the tape. If the old man ever came she would gift this to him. At 10:30 she was at the store. The owner of the store rather smiled to her and told…

”Guess who is waiting for you?” Tracy knew it was Jack but yet she asked him who is it. When she went to the store, she found Jack in his suspenders, and brown trousers bowing to her while taking his hat off. She smiled and went towards him. 

“May I help you?”

“Ah Yes, actually the shop owner says you are in charge of classics section and I had no other choice but to wait for you miss…? 

“You can call me Tracy and you are Mr. Alter right?” 

While talking to him she felt the same uneasiness and yet the attraction that she felt on her first date way back in late 60’s. Jack had that saintly face and pure innocent eyes and she could not resist making a flicker of eye contact while showing him old classics. Jack with his evergreen smile and a twinkle in his eye would just follow her and take the DVD’s of old movies recommended by Tracy.

It was almost half an hour and she gave him 14 DVD’s. He paid the bill at the counter. But his eyes were smiling and stealing the glances of Tracey. Tracey felt rather uncomfortable when someone checked Shakira’s Hips don’t lie number on a top volume. She wanted to go to him and give the VHS tape but somehow she was not confident to go towards him. Jack put his hat on and went out of store. 

At seven, she did not feel like cooking, and just put instant noodles for supper. She went to her cabinet and took the wine bottle to fill. Jack is in love with me! She knew its for sure because of the fact that she gave 12 DVD’s of old classics but the remaining two were Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon” and “The Godfather part 3” why would Jack buy such films? And why would he smile again and again?

The next day Jack did not turn up. Tracy felt sad she was always looking at the entrance door and she thought that she would present the VHS to him. In the evening, she thought it’s stupid to dream of a man even if it’s a man of her own age. She also thought that Jack is from London and it would be natural for an old gentleman to be put up in his best manners. 

Tracey was in her section when she felt the need to look on her left side. To her pleasant surprise she saw Jack smiling. She stood up and was silent. Jack too would not speak for some moments and then he asked…

”Would you not show me some Classics?” 

“Did you watch some?” she asked…

“Uh huh…Yes but I was passing this way and thought if….” 

Tracy went to her bag and gave him “Gone with the wind” VHS. 

“I am not sure if you have a Video Cassette player but you can keep this VHS”. Jack gleamed with happiness. His eyes were childlike and he could not stop touching her hand to say thank you but realized it would be inappropriate gesture. 

“Would you show me some other DVDs err I mean to say other then classics?” 

“Why not, you can go to that just released section and someone will show you as I am in charge of only classics sections and I am afraid I do not know current DVDs” she would wanted to show him but her knowledge of movies confined to oldies.

“Oh, actually I would appreciate if you show me as those young ones rather force me to buy things…” Tracy would find this rather silly but she went to just released section and would silently stand. The other guys there knew what’s happening and they went to classics stand. 

Both Tracy and Jack were smiling and it was a pleasant sight to watch. In the end the old man had “Mission Impossible 3” “Final Destination 4” “Exorcist – the beginning” “Die Hard 4” and even “Chinese Kamasutra”. Tracy was silent and she looked at the mirror to see herself and adjust her silky white hairs.

“You look beautiful…just like Kat”

Tracy looked at Jack’s face “I beg your pardon, you mentioned Cat?” “Apologies, I meant Katherine Hepburn”

Tracy went to the billing counter and stood at the door. Jack took the DVDs and bowed to her.

In the evening, she wanted to knit a sweater for Jack. She wanted it red in colour and for some time she started to knit and then she prepared the meal which her late husband cherished. She light the candle while soft instrumental music was filling the air. She knew Jack liked her. It was years that any man called her beautiful so what if Jack compared her to Katherine Hepburn. While cleaning her dish, she looked at her reflection...”Meeooowww” she smiled and said to herself “Sweet dreams Jack…Good night Kat”

Too fast too furious” “Harry Potter” “American Psycho” “Close encounters of the third kind” “Crash” “Snakes on the plane” “Hannibal rising” were the DVD’s Jack bought today. 

No wonder, neither Jack/Tracy nor people at the store minded. This time Jack was sneezing and apologizing to her again and again. Tracy would smile and say never mind again and again and the youngsters in store would smile and look elsewhere. It was quite a moment when Jack did not have his handkerchief and has to borrow hers. She showed him the door while he bowed to her. 

In the evening she was smiling to herself and knitting the sweater. She wanted the evening to end and morning to begin as early as possible. 

The next morning she went to store before it opened. She stood at the doorway when her heart skipped a bit. Exactly opposite to her Jack stood with the same smile that made her feel beautiful. A sudden urge went inside her and she walk towards him. 

“Good morning Mr. Alter how’s the day?” 

Jack put his hat up and bowed to her. “Well, it’s as bright as you are” both of them smiled rather informally as this was the first time they met outside the store.

Before they knew both of them started to walk. Jack asked her if she is getting late to her work place and she said its ok. This was probably the first time she did not go to store in last 2 years. She was allowed for a day off. 

They were walking besides church and Tracy felt the last time she visited the church was with her husband. She kept quiet. Jack was sensitive towards her as he knew what she might be thinking. Maybe it’s the wisdom, maybe its intuition to understand women when a man is in the age of 60’s. 

Both had coffee and were formal to each other. Jack told her that he lives besides the church and asked her where her home is. Both never mentioned their past life. Both kept the dignity of this first date and a new growing relationship to formal level. 

Tracy wanted the time to stop but then Jack wanted to leave downtown as he had an appointment with his doctor. Before going Jack presented Tracy with white flowers. For Tracy this was a different experience. She lived in Kunoor for the last 28 years and suddenly the ancient hills seem new to her. 

The fresh air of Kunoor in this clouds clad hill station felt a new breath in her. She felt lively. She looked everywhere and smiled like a tourist and started to walk towards the store.

Tracy returned to music store a good two hours late but nobody even questioned her and everybody behaved rather normally. 

In the evening she skipped her zafraan tea wanted to finish the sweater as it was half done. Late in night, she opened her old dresses and ironed them. She felt that she really loved Jack. He was sensitive, uncomplicated, introverted, wise, warm and he was funny which he never know. Maybe she would tell him all that someday or maybe she won’t as she wants the romance to live longer before it dies.

It was Saturday. On Sunday she would not be going to store as it’s closed. She thought to finish the sweater. 

Monday arrived but Jack did not. She waited the whole day for him to turn up. She actually kept some romantic DVD for him on pretext to speak to him more.
She went to her home and had nothing to do. 

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - no sight of Jack. She even finished the sweater. A few months back Tracy was an old lady and now she would ask herself why is she behaving like a teenager? Why she is restless. She came daily with sweater to present it to jack. She would come to the store before time and leave late expecting Jack to turn up but nothing of that sort happened. 

It was Friday. Tracy could not sleep in peace and woke up at 5 in the morning. She thought that she would go early to Jack’s place. At 8 A.M she went to the place Jack mentioned and asked some locals about an old man name Mr. Jack Alter. 

Someone told them that he lives near 5th lane across in a white building to the right of church. She went to the bungalow and a nun opened the door rather curious. 

Tracy introduced herself and told her that she intend to meet Mr. Alter. The nun told her to come in and with a sad face told her that Jack passed away on Wednesday.

Tracy was numb she could not believe her ears. She again asked is that an old man in his 60’s? The nun took him to his room.

His photograph was hanging with his belongings along with wrapped DVD’s that were never opened. There were some flowers to be presented to someone. 

“Bro. Patrick says he was challenged with blood cancer, amazingly last three weeks he kept good health and was rather upbeat, somebody said he was in love…but all of a sudden on Tuesday he got ill and lord …” tears came to nun’s face

“Where is he buried?”

“Back side…near the pine trees…” cried the nun 

“Thank you” She went out without showing any emotions to the surprised nun. 

She walked painfully towards the pine woods that lead to a lonely path with a dignity on her face that is reminiscent for old women in twilight of her life and she stood still with a red sweater clasped in her trembling hands. She sat there and wanted to cry slowly but steadily…she felt someone said

“You are beautiful”. The tears could not come from her eyes as they came in her youth. 

She saw a cat passed by and then she quickly rose up…she called the cab and went straight to her home. She closed the door and took the white flowers to the bed and cried silently. Tracy wanted to remember everything about Jack maybe she wanted to relive those moments. 

She never knew when she got sleep.

6:30 the next morning she woke up. As usual she did her household work. She looked at her husband picture. Something made her strong. Life for women who has seen 52 winters makes her vulnerable and yet in such tender moments strong as she has seen both sides of life the happiness and the pain that comes with it.

“I will miss you Jack” she told to herself looking into mirror. 

At 10:30 she was at Royal Rhythm store.

She requested the owner that she would for some days not stand in classics section. She was in just released section.

A teenager walked in. “Xcuse me do you have the Martin Scorsese latest movie for which he got an Oscar?”

“Don’t you remember the name son?” 

“Err yes… its some…Departed or something like it”