Act 3, Scene 3: Reading Unread

Prompt from here.

A few times the thought had occurred to me, yet no reason had ever risen for it to happen. It had always been a thought, a wishful thinking: a scene in which a simple thing happened and no consequences followed – as if it was just another sunrise and another sunset hovering above the polluted skyline.

I blinked, the last copy of National Geographic lying still on the shelf right under my nose. To buy or not to buy – that is the question. There wasn’t any obvious motive to get it other than the conversation I had with him two weeks ago, again revealing how he never ceased to amaze me with his ignorance towards the New World.

How does one not know about National Geographic?
Or is it just me being too geeky to grew up reading it instead of Disneyfied Grimm’s fairytales?
…anyway.

Precious minutes wasted, I gave up and grab the copy, then brought it to the cashier. Within seconds I’ve walked out the bookstore with the infamous yellow-framed magazine in my hand with unclear intention of what to do with it. Was it my old self trying to be nostalgic or my newer self seeking a justification for spending unnecessary money on something I’d give away in the end, I had no idea.

That was last week.

Until this day, the outdated copy is still lying on the table in my room, its perfectly smooth pages mocking my coward act the day I bought it. The circumstances had risen along with the will. Problem was, the courage ran away with its tail between its legs. I let the sun set once more without the magazine changing hands. Then another sunset. And about five more sunsets.

I blinked, the same copy of National Geographic in my hands while I sat on the edge of the bed – once again hearing the imaginary mockery coming from the same unread pages.

Act 3, Scene 2: Sincerely

Prompt from here.

For the umpteenth time in the last two hours, I froze in front of the old Macbook with the tiny cursor blinking in the almost-empty e-mail draft.

Dear A

How do people write e-mails nowadays? How do they start? Do they still use the old “Dear X” thing? I took a deep breath and squinted my eyes at the screen, hesitantly pressing the delete button a few times and typed in something else.

Good morning,

The forgotten telly blinked on the other side of the room – could tell from the dialogues that it was still the House MD rerun. I’ve forgotten what it’s about since I tried writing this bloody thing. Good morning, though? It’ll be less funny if he opened the mail at midnight. Nah.

Hi,

The hell. This is not high school. And it sounds unprofessional. Let’s not jeopardize my own career here. Remember the big fat line between work and personal life.

Dear A,

Do I really have to use this format?

Dear A,
Thank you for

Thank you for… what?

I groaned, throwing my head back and stared at the ceiling, somehow knowing how long the night was going to be.

Act 3, Scene 1: Scent

Prompt from here.
A companion to this post.

The smell of cigarette smoke filled the usually sandalwood-scented room for a reason I still couldn’t justify.

I don’t smoke.
Nobody I grew up with had kept any kind of cigarette in the house.
I grew up looking down on every smoker I know.
They reek; their stench nauseate – but bearing it was a part of being social – meaning if everyone in your office smoked and you didn’t, you just have to hold your breath and pray you’d make it out alive.

I locked the door behind me and dropped the leather bag unceremoniously on the floor, the censor turning the lights on as I walked into the apartment.

There is always a first time for everything, people told me.
That night, shedding the clothes that brought in the corrupting smell in the first place felt like some kind of loss instead of relieve.

Took me three days and a coworker to realise how much of a dense idiot I am for not realising the reason why.

“Don’t you know? He’s a smoker.”

Act 4, Scene 1: Paranoia

(mobile phone rang)
(A digs into her purse and picks up phone)

A: Hullo?
B: Hi.

(A rolls eyes)

A: Oh, it’s you.
B: It’s me.

A: How can I help you?
B: Why did you call earlier?

A: Huh?
B: You called, right?

A: No.
B: Just now, you called, right?

A: No, my phone was in my bag until I picked it up.
B: …you didn’t call me?

(A sighs)

A: Do you even remember that I’m not working today?
B: Eh.

(A glares at the phone)

A: It’s my off day, remember?
B: Ah. If you didn’t call then okay. Please call me if you need anything.

A: I will. Please enjoy your holiday.
B: You too.

A: I was, until you called.
B: Oh my God, I’m sorry. See you…?

A: In two days.
B: In two days.

A: …
B: Okay then.

A: Bye.
B: Bye.

(A hangs up)
(A stares at the phone)
(A stares at the phone for a long time)

(tumbleweed)

Narrator: Either he’s a paranoid workaholic or…?

(curtain closes)

Act 2, Scene 2: Low-tech

He hasn’t managed to pronounce my name correctly ever since that first time he did.
So what he did was wave; his other hand hovering over the laptop.

I raised my eyebrows at the gesture – yet I walked up to him anyway.
It’s not like I have a reason not to.

I bowed down a bit and peeked at the screen.
The Original Language; meaning a ton of symbols and characters I have never seen before.
He didn’t seem to be bothered by my what-are-those-exactly expression, instead pointing at the screen and asked me how to search something in that file.

A little ‘oh’ and my fingers automatically found the two keys needed.
I glanced aside to check if that was what he meant.
Needless to say, the amazed look on his face answered my unvoiced question.
I rolled my eyes.

And they say we’re the people from a developing country.

Act 2, Scene 1: Learning

The sound of the biscuit wrapping being ripped open travelled in the room where I was sitting.

I shifted.
The floor was cold, but it wasn’t like my friends and I had a choice. There were no seats. Who the hell designed a backstage room without seats and with so little light? Lucky there wasn’t any curtains blocking the natural lighting. The view to the heart of the city wasn’t so bad either.

More plastic wrapper sounds danced their way throughout the small space as the sweet scent of sugar started to spread, making me sigh in relief. After what seemed like ages, lunch break and glucose were exactly what we needed.

I fished out a biscuit and bit it, savouring the lemony taste on my tongue. For a while there were only crackling sounds of crackers being bitten off and the sound of spoons battling against food containers. Everything was serene and everyone was thinking about their own issues in today’s tasks. It was, and they were – until I noticed the others glancing at the top of my head. A hand reached over my shoulder and took another biscuit before I knew it. I looked up and saw a glimpse of mischievous grin on that familiar face.

A cheerful gratitude replied my surprised look before he bit it.
I waited, speechless until he told me it’s “pretty”.
I told him that in my language he was supposed to say “delicious”.
He repeated the local word with an undeniable accent.
A small laugh escaped my lips as I gave him the usual approving nod.

He looked proud.

Act 1, Scene 2: Mutual

I tidied my documents, sighing as I stood up against the afternoon light. The others let the sunscreen up to allow the warmth to alleviate the air-con chill, but it didn’t seem to work.

Interviewing people is no fun job.
It’s like playing God upon others’ lives.
And I’ve been playing God for the last three days.
Sickening, isn’t it?

Hugging the pile of forms and papers, I turned on my heels and was about to head to the door before it suddenly opened. Revealed behind it the same awkward smile I saw earlier.

Once again I nodded – this time to acknowledge his presence. In broken English, he asked me how is the session going. In simple words, I tried to explain why I decided not to hire the last youngster. He shot me with what looked like an approving look and said, ‘I agree.’

That was the first thing we agreed on.

Act 1, Scene 1: Introduction

We were strangers.

I was the newbie.
He was that transferred guy from Country Origin.

He smiled and told me his name.
He wouldn’t be able to understand me even if I spoke of anything else, so I did the same.

He repeated my name.
I nodded to assure him it’s the right way to pronounce it.

We continued to walk.
No words.
Only occasional, curious glances at each other.

We were strangers.
Then we were not so strangers.

And that was how it began.