On the Sunday morning of the Orionid meteor shower, the young bloke, our protagonist, was sitting in a sweet sunlit spot at the local café. He was cradling a hot steaming cup of coffee. After a delicious sip of the fresh brew, he lets his ink-pen glide with delight over the crisp roughness of his journal page. A fleeting glimpse of the day’s entry before he turned the page read,
“Off today. Might go for a ride up the hill. Life’s a little mellow. And yes, ex got married, and brother’s having a daughter.”
He took another sip, wondering if he got anything more to write. You could almost see that he wanted the idyll to stretch a moment longer- the morning, coffee, journal entry. But his mind couldn’t thread thoughts any further and a lugubrious silence seemed to falls within. He closed his journal and looked afar, lost in thought while thinking nothing. A voice beckoned him to the present, to which he heard himself reply, ‘of course’. The owner of the voice, a girl, sat across and opened her book titled ‘The unbearable lightness of being’.
Yes, he had read it. He greatly admired the adroitness with which the author manages to capture subtle emotions and convey with deft nuance ineffable moments. Yet the philosophy touted, he thought were a bit airy. The premise wherein the central character of the novel could continue loving his wife only through his infidelity, for one, was stretching credulity a bit too far. While our guy was having this mini book club discussion inside his head, the girl looks up at him, smiles in acknowledgement, and turns to the next page.
Yes, she was beautiful. Though more than beauty, what caught him in enrapture was the unassuming charm of a beautiful girl who doesn’t yet know how beautiful she is. He longed to listen to her thoughts, see how beautiful they were. But that would require holding an actual conversation. And therein lays the complication. It’s easier to not start a conversation than otherwise, despite the possible merits of the latter. What would he say? How should he start? What if she replies in a monosyllable and the conversation comes to an abrupt uncomfortable end? The sheer enormity of untoward possibilities compelled him to quit the ordeal, finish his coffee, and go fetch his mountain bike. As he was unlocking it, unbeknown to him, the curious gaze of the girl lingered on him awhile. Not looking back, he began to pedal at a brisk pace.
He rode out the city toward the hills. The sun was up and the cold of the night had begun to dispel. He rode taking it all in, the green of the hillside, the blue of the sky, and the springy lightness the memory of the girl from the café seemed to evoke. After a couple hours, he reached the lake with a green grassy mound that seemed the perfect site to pitch his tent. He munches through the sandwich with the quiet of forest and the occasional plop of a frog diving into the water forming a backdrop to the silence in his heart, which lay sober and subdued in his sweaty steaming body. He decided to go for a swim and wash up. The cool wetness of the water felt welcome against his skin. He dries himself and lies down in his tent for a nap.
The Sun makes its day’s sojourn across the sky and nears the horizon. His nap is disturbed by a voice. Yes, it’s the same voice. The one from the cafe. But no, it isn’t addressed to him. In fact, it isn’t anywhere near either. He steps out his tent to find a little party on the opposite shore of the lake, with a bonfire and good old bonhomie. Yes, she was in the midst of the group, and he could catch sight of her smiling face from across the pond. Suddenly he longed for her company. He longed for any company. He wanted to go talk to her. Hear her speak. Hear anyone speak. Having conversations with self makes cracking jokes a difficult if not impossible ordeal. And that intolerable monotony of familiar landscape and known tunes inside one’s head is another minor detail he had come to detest. He wanted to experience the mental landscape of someone else. His mind wavers in uncertainty. He wants to go over, sit by the fire, have a beer, and hang out. He wants to participate in life. He makes up his mind. Gathers his stuff. Ties his tent to the back of his bike and begins to pedal, just when a brilliant streak of pure whiteness flashes across the sky in an arch to disappear in a blip near the horizon. It is soon followed by few more. And then many more. He looks up in awe, in admiration, in happy cheer. It’s the Orionid.
He turns his bike and sets out to ride in the direction of the falling rocks from the very heavens. He doesn’t feel as mellow. He feels fine. In fact, he would attest that he feels happy. Hard to argue when we can see a stupid smile pasted across his face. He knows he is riding opposite to where the girl is. He knows it will get him further away from her. But he is fine with it, for he isn’t unhappy anymore. He doesn’t feel in need for a human connection, at least, this moment. He has a distraction to keep him occupied, the Orionid. And he rides away toward the horizon.
As he is gaining speed, though the girl from the café on the other side of the shore gets smaller and smaller, she just manages to catch a glimpse of the sweet guy from the café, the one who was sipping coffee and scribbling into his journal, now ride away, further from her. She should have spoken to him at the café. When she had the chance. She wanted to. And as the noise of the people gathered around tugs her back to the moment, she returns her gaze to the sky streaked in dazzling white with the Orionid shower. And wonders where he is pedaling away to.