The Orange Moon
The Orange Moon
It was the day of the week he loved the most. Friday. The day he’d save enough money to go and buy a cassette from the music shop down the lane. He didn’t listen to music at all but yet every week he’d go down to the shop and buy a cassette. The reason was obvious.
She worked there.
Ever since he’d seen her for the first time he’d been hopelessly besotted. Love at first sight had always sounded like such a cliched line but when it did happen to him he realised how real it indeed was. He was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. He just had to see her every week.
Her gorgeous brown wavy hair, her almond eyes, her sunshine smile or that dusky flawless complexion. He didn’t know what it was that drove him mad every time he saw her. Or maybe it was the sweet perfume that lingered whenever he was near her. There was something about her which made him crazy about her.
He was incredibly shy and withdrawn by nature. It had always been him and his books. Nothing or no one else. So he really didn’t have anyone to talk to about this love of his. He kept it within himself as a secret only he knew.
Every Friday when he walked to the store he promised himself he would talk to her. He would practise a couple of sentences as he walked towards the store. But once he entered the shop all his words and thoughts escaped him. He would be mesmerised just looking at her. She always smiled at him, her big brown eyes twinkling as she smiled. But somehow he couldn’t open his mouth. He would, in a machine-like motion, hand over a cassette to her. She’d always ask him if he wanted it packed, he’d nod a yes and she’d go inside to pack the cassette. She would come back with a smile, hand it to him and he would rush out of the shop without even a thank you. His heartbeat at that moment every Friday would be double of normal. But he couldn’t help it. It was the moment he’d be waiting for, the whole week. Next time I’ll surely talk to her, he’d promise himself, knowing very well that wouldn’t happen. He just couldn’t get himself to open his mouth in front of her. He’d go home and put the cassette inside a wooden chest.
That day was not a Friday. It was in fact a Tuesday but he found himself walking to the music store. Over the weekend they’d had guests at home and his uncle had magnanimously given him some cash. Although he wasn’t very fond of this particular uncle he loved him that day for the money he’d given him. That extra money meant....
There was something different about the store as he entered it that day. He looked around and realised she wasn’t there. Maybe she’d gone inside to check something or maybe she was gift wrapping tapes for someone else he reasoned to himself. A slightly balding middle-aged man came and asked him if he was looking for anything particular. He said no and walked out. It was the first time he was walking out of the store without anything. Except a broken heart.
He would wait for Friday, he told himself. Maybe she was ill or had taken the day off.
The next three days were difficult days. He couldn’t concentrate in class. Didn’t talk much to the few friends he had, didn’t eat properly, couldn’t sleep well. He was in fact quite the proverbial mess. Somehow he wanted to make Friday come a bit sooner if possible.
He walked in again, with an unknown anxiety instead of the usual excitement he felt every Friday. He looked around the store before looking at her counter. But yet again he couldn’t see her. The balding man from Tuesday was standing at the counter selling a bunch of cassettes to a lady. He grabbed a cassette from a nearby rack and waited behind the lady for his turn. His heart was beating fast, his mind flooded with so many questions and thoughts as he waited.
"Where is she?" he asked, as he handed the cassette to the balding man.
"You want this one right?" He looked the boy surprisingly.
"Yes yes this one please. I want to buy this one."
"Do you want it gift wrapped, the man asked."
The man took out a silver paper and began to wrap up the cassette. He was surprised he didn’t go inside to the other room like how she’d go, when she would gift wrap the cassettes for him.
Where is the girl who used to be at this counter, he finally asked a coherent question, in a surprisingly composed and cool voice.
"Aah you mean Maryam?" The balding man smiled as he spoke. "She left. Sweet child. Her father got transferred to another city so she had to go. Lovely girl she was, he wistfully smiled as he spoke."
It felt as if his world had come crashing down. He had hoped she was on leave or maybe had fallen sick or something like that. Something that would ensure she’s be back again in a short while. But no. She had left the city forever. He finally knew her name. But to what avail. She herself was not there anymore.
"Maryam...Maryam..." he kept repeating her name as he went home. He cursed himself for not talking to her at least once. He couldn’t describe in words how horrible he felt.
He went home and opened the wooden chest to put the cassette he’d just bought. Something struck him about how the man had nonchalantly gift wrapped the cassette in front of him there. Then why did Maryam go inside and wrap?
He looked at the bunch of tapes that lay inside, unopened. All meticulously gift wrapped. He picked out a random one and began to unwrap it. It was a Billy Joel tape. There was a small piece of paper on top of the tape with something written on it. “You’re looking great in the check shirt today. Wear checks more often. They suit you”.
He couldn’t believe what he was reading. He stood there holding the tape in his hands. Not knowing what to do. Frozen like a statue.
"Love your smile. Why don’t you talk to me?"
"I wish you would just say hello. Would love to hear your voice."
"Hey. I like Rod Stewart too. Which is your favourite song?"
"Are you really this shy?"
"I look forward to your coming and hope that one day you will talk to me."
"Do you even read my messages?"
"Hey I hope you read this message. I might be leaving town. How I wish we could go out just once and spend some time together."
He sat down in a daze. A bunch of opened cassettes strewn all over the place. His mind was blank he didn’t know if he was sad or happy. He felt numb. He picked up the Rod Stewart tape and put it on. As the whiskey-voiced Scotsman crooned Downtown Train, he could see the moon coming up. He got up from his chair and went to the window, aimlessly gazing at the orange moon as Rod Stewart sang on.