Reminiscence: Chapel Lane, Moscow; 08:42:23 P.M.:

  I strolled down the winding street. It had been a cold autumn night in Moscow. Winter was just setting in. Summers
here were not so long. But they always brought with them a slight relief from the murderous chill out here; and I had
loved it here, always. As it was, the night was cool but the remnants of the day had made the night's chill go a little
bit dim.

A-2/356, Putin Road, Moscow; 11:48:09 P.M.:

I looked around once more.
And it was a nice, long look. I sighed.
It was nearing midnight and yet it all seemed so brightly lit up. I was restless within. So much so that the empty,
silent room seemed to have sensed it and sneer back at me in disgust. And it was such a muted sneer at that. I
sighed again.
Gods, I had told her! Finally. It just felt so right. So involving a feeling.
For all the bone-jarring work I had been up to the entire day and that equally exhausting stroll down the deserted
lanes of a sleeping Moscow and the argument I had had with my mother last week over a set of trousers I had
bought that she didn't approve of; for all that, I felt so - restless! There had been a strange sensation that had
started squirming inside my gut after that one-way conversation on the phone. Since then - if anything - my insides
had only begun to water.
May be I am getting sick, after all. One of my friends had once related to me one such strange incident in college. The
protagonist had been a simple, unmemorable face, I remembered. With freckles on his nose and cheek. And a terribly
fragile gut. Poor Mayne. He had gone and proposed one of the prettiest girls in college who he had been drooling
after since the beginning of the term - and no, I had no idea how he had managed to go in the first place. Then, just
before she could say anything, Mayne had vanished from sight so quickly, one would think that he knew he would be
kicked in the butt. He had run to the washroom and spent most of the day there. It was said that horrifying sounds
were heard in the corridor. It was until the toilet-staff worker had gone in that we came to know he had passed out.
 But I pushed the thought away. I was not that dull of heart. I had never been scared of such things. Only...hesitant.
 My mind wandered off that conversation yet again, and I wanted something to do. Someone to talk to. Even old
Grumble would do. I let out a breath slowly, looked around.

Reminiscence : Chapel Lane, Moscow ; 08:49:37 P.M. :
     
      I kicked the can mindlessly.
      Gods! This will never leave me. Oh, I am such a gods-damned coward!
      Something was squirming in my gut; I could almost taste the bitter unease on my tongue. Feeling constipated, I
looked up.
      My heart froze.
      The street wound carelessly before me, traveling through the most secluded and the most lively parts of the city.
The bright twinkling lamp-posts that lit the dim corners and the dark lanes of the street were lined so orderly that it
seemed as if they would bow low any moment to hail me. Their fuzzy and shabby lights soothed the eyes. The broad
meandering street, at the farthest point I could see it, divided into two arms in front of a chapel – that stood proudly
like a single pillar to the seemingly endless dark of the skies which had no visible stars that night, their dim lights
blanketed by the fuzzy glow of the street-lights. I looked up. My heart performed a summersault. A huge full moon
rose into the dark skies beside the chapel. Simply the sight of it brought immense solitude to my heart. The night had
a strange yet special eerie feel about it, a graceful grayness that lit the dark places of my mind. Damn you, Shanes.
Don’t try yourself with such words! Everything looked just so…so…beautiful!
       And I thought I knew what had brushed past me that night : Desire!

A-2/356, Putin Road, Moscow ; 11:51:01 P.M. :

  The T.V. probably aired all boring stuff. I remembered it was all action and thrill on the lists tonight and put the
remote aside once again. They were also playing the Russian-dubbed version of Baywatch these days but I was not in
the mood. Gods, how her breath had caught when I said that. How slow, how calm, how reassuringly steady that
breathe. Halted for a moment on my words... The shelves were packed with Susan Breen, Tolkien, Agatha Christie,
Dan Brown, Veinkovsky, Jane Austen, and a collection of scores of others - black-spined Lies of Locke Lamora was
tempting, but not tonight. Their regular array annoyed me. Books that I loved so well, always careful about their
tidiness, their health, mindful of the bothering dust. Her voice, damn me! That honeyed Central-Asian accent, the
delicate rustle as the syllables rolled out - 'Hello?' Gods! She had sounded so close I could nearly taste the word, melt
in her breath... The fishes in the aquarium were restful in the dim light, not bothering with the food I had left them.
The clock moved too slow, anyway. Oh, how she'd said but one word...But I had finally let it all out. All I ever wanted
her to know. And I am a happy satisfied man now, am I not? The damned world seemed to have drawn in a deep
breath. And now, it's holding it. Shit! I am NOT a poet, dammit! LOOK at me! Shit... I had decided in that moment. I
had let it out.
  So why this creeping sensation, the feeling making home in my consciousness?

Reminiscence : Chapel Lane, Moscow ; 08:51:00 P.M. :

      Decided, I cut across the street immediately. I did not know anything else right then, only that I had had a
sudden surge of passion within me and it was still squirming in there.
I crept hurriedly to the phone-booth on the street's right, opened the door and huddled in. I put a coin in, and dialed
the number. I was going to tell her tonight. No matter what, it had been a long time and I had never said a word
about it and now, it was hard to resist. I had to! And I was quite sure about it!
      Her phone rang for the first time…tring-tring!...I have to say it tonight, I thought…tring-tring!…Tonight! That’s it!...
The third time…Oh, come-on!...tring-tr-…and the phone was picked.
"Hello!" Her calm voice rang pleasantly in my ears like the chapel bell in the morning. Oh, I pine for her so badly! The
realization once again dawned upon me.
"Hello?" She said when there was no answer made from my side.
I prepared myself for the task at hand. I wanted to speak.
“Hello –"
"Isabel, it's me – Shanes!" I said in a heavy, saturated voice.
  
A-2/356, Putin Road, Moscow ; 11:51:58 P.M. :
 
   I had looked up at the melting snow, at the silver moon, at the darkening sky, at the city laid out so orderly before
me, at the impossible beauty of it; and then I had looked across at the phone-booth. And I had called her in the tenth
hour of the night – when most of Moscow usually slept. She would have been calm again a moment later, trying to
figure out, relate the name 'Shanes' to the image of a man she should know. The night was chilly still, but I felt my
heart drawing a strange warmth from it. Curse you, Shanes, she probably doesn't even know you. We never even
talked, you fool. She hardly ever GAZED at you, dammit! And for Christ's sake, hearts DONT "draw warmth" anyway!
   I had been such a pitiful coward back then.
   Not anymore. Now she knows my heart. With that enlivening thought, still wearing my snow-and-mud soiled shoes,
the heavy rain cape all soaked from snowfall, the hood now thrown back, my dark hair glistening with moisture - and
in my mind, a maelstrom of burgeoning madness - I made an effort to rise and make for my bedroom upstairs -
   - when the doorbell rang.
   I started despite myself, almost jumping off the sofa. My heart eased after a moment. There was another bell then.
Now, now, somebody is really impatient here. I scowled, trying to figure out the reason for this midnight visit. But my
mind was too full. I shook my head and headed for the door with a dismissive grunt. The expression she must have
had on that pretty face, the astonishment in those perfect almond eyes, the curvy eyelashes tautening. Oh how I long
to see surprise in that serene, imperious visage. I grunted again, turning the knob.
   My heart performed another summersault.

Reminiscence : Chapel Lane, Moscow ; 08:52:17 P.M. :

   I continued, "Isabel, you're drivin' me mad these days!" My heart rocked between my ribs. "I cannot sleep, I cannot
talk, I cannot think. I see things… and I see only you…I dream… and I only dream of you…I talk and there is nothing on
my mind… but you! I love things, Isabel, a lot many of them. But in all my loves, I hold you the highest. I love you from
all my heart, with everything I have and I really mean it when I say this. I try to find flaws but they don't catch up with
me. Oh, I love this feeling! It’s just so beautiful. And truly Isabel – I don't want an answer…I don't expect, you know!"
I gave it all a pause. She did not speak. "Never mind. It was so loveable and kind of you to listen to my stuff so
patiently. Thanks. Bye!"
     With shaking hands, I put off the phone.

A-2/356, Putin Road, Moscow ; 11:54:21 P.M. :

   Faint lamplight illuminated the threshold of the doorway before it descended in three steps to a narrow yard and a
beautifully crowded garden on either side of the walkway. The night was too dark, too ominous behind her and the
snow still fell in soft sheets. The gold-hued light silhouetted her slight form against that background in an otherworldly
aura, the damp light dancing lively and warm in her amber eyes. The soft wind sighed and whispered between her
flowing black curls and with it, wafted her pleasant scent. And it was of orchids and wild roses, and smells of a
savannah on a sunny dawn when the air melted sweetly to one's senses. Her skin was so pale and smooth that it
seemed too fragile to touch, the cheekbones high and bringing out the pink in her cheeks, the lips so full and kissable
that it was all I could do to simply prevent myself from pouring my soul into her. And those eyes, Gods...those eyes!
Kill me for that... The amber in them was so bright, its sensation so overpowering that despite my efforts to assert
control, I all the more was drawn into them.
   She was looking me straight in the eye, holding me stuck in the doorway. How did she know my place? How had
she come at this time of the night? Gods, how did she even know me? And for all my restlessness, I could neither
move nor avert my eyes. It was a long time before her long face animated with emotion.
    In an expression of disdain, Isabel spoke – ‘What the hell, Shanes, in all the gods' names, do you think of
yourself?’ The voice seemed so distant, the eyes so vast that I barely heard her. ‘You call up anytime in the night, out
of the blue, someone you hardly LOOK at, and tell her you love her with "all-that-you-have" – ’ The expression
changed to one of utter disgust.
Gods be damned, she looks so pretty like that. Oh Isabel! How I love those eyes, those midnight curls, that sugared
voice... I stared, closed to everything but her depthless gaze. I had never been so close to look. And now I was.
    ‘ – and hang up the phone, and believe the prank would work with 'stupid-Isabel'. But I grant you, it's not that
simple Shanes. You think you - a man who's never even so much as said a "Hi" to me - would say that at ten in the
night and I would believe, huh? I would BELIEVE? And to top it all, damn you Shanes, you're now staring at me like an
ASS! ‘ She stamped her foot, breaking my moment of trance.
    Her face twisted into a painful sneer and I could but gasp in admiration of the beauty she personified even in that
emotion. She snapped at me, ‘You think you'll play with a simple woman's emotions like that and poor Isabel would let
go? I know how low you think of me, the way you always avoid looking at me, the way you always have. As if...as if I
was...’ Tears welled up in those intense eyes and I simply controlled the need to hold her, knowing how she would
hate my touch. ‘...as if I was INFECTIOUS! Oh how I want to hit you for this Shanes!’ This was all going wrong. ‘How I
want to slap you!’
     Then she broke into sobs. I feared my own tears would show. My courage was faltering, whatever little I had in
me. I was trembling. She covered her face with her long-fingered hands. I felt myself crumble. Even as I thought about
what to do, the words came out all by themselves as time itself seemed to halt in its stride. ‘But I meant every word of
it Isabel. I really LOVE you!’
      Her face lifted at that, her supple frame quivering with the sobs, the tears having marked her now blushing face
in streaks of dampness, curling around the corners of those hazy beautiful amber eyes. Then, all of a sudden – with
the two of us standing a hand's-length apart, the soft sobs reaching me on the chilling breeze mingled with her
pleasant scents, and Moscow dark and sleeping - and all the world stopped in between us, lightning played on the
periphery of my vision, a thunderous roar reverberating in the night air; and the world rocked to the beat. And
somehow, I did not start.
      Isabel started, and even as my arms lifted of their own accord, she was wrapped tight and close around me in
the next moment. I drank deep and slow in her soft smells, her head buried in my shoulder, I felt her heartbeat clam
slowly against my chest, taking relief from each rise and fall of her breath; I closed my eyes and whispered her name
in the suddenly wet night air. I held her closer and felt myself melt to her warmth.
      She looked up and I met her eyes then after a long, stretched moment. Those beautifully sculptured amber eyes,
so vast, so absorbing, so mesmerizing, now so...so filled with love. I felt the hair rise on the nape of my neck. She
blinked slowly - Gods! - and whispered to me over her shallow breath : ‘KISS ME!’
Feelings Are No Smooth Roads     
 
by: Anant Tripathi