By Tabish Nawaz
Winter came in the morning. Actually, it came sometime around the midnight. He was sleeping then. Or, as he puts it – weaving his dreams. He often uses such poetical tricks, to force upon his thoughtful side, on few acquaintances he has. In reality he was busy sleeping then, recuperating from his day’s work, preparing himself for an yet another day of patterned chores and timely activities.
Winter, may be because it was untimely, came furtively inside his room, through a narrow opening in the window. He intentionally keeps it open, to allow morning light to seep and invade his eyes, in case the alarm clock fails to maul his senses.
Winter began to gently caress his warm exposed flesh. A feeble shivering ran through his body. He forsook his half-woven dreams and hurled himself to awareness. It was dark then. Therefore, he failed to identify winter lurking, diffusing inside his room. He attributed his shivering to his poor diet and daily fatigue. He turned to the other side of the bed and slept shivering.
Winter was cold. It needed warmth. It clung to his body and began devouring its heat. It had sucked out heat even from thick mattresses and heavy wooden chairs. Beings such as these largely remain unimpressed and indifferent to usual winter’s overtures.
Before the morning could come or the alarm clock would croak, his own sound of heavy breathing woke him up.
By that time winter, who came with a diffidence of a leper forcibly sent to a social gathering, had assumed the ownership of his house. It was whiplashing his exposed flesh, making him shiver every time.
Stooped and quivering, he went over to his window. He sensed the wintry air. Sudden arrival of winter confounded him, almost without meaning. He, however, did not insist for one. It was acceptable in his times. Pressing for meaning was taboo and, more importantly, childish. It was only sought to explain the simplest, safest phenomena.
He looked up in the sky, and quite strangely, looked into it, for nothing was up there. No moon, no stars. The sky seemed vaporous. He found it fleeing away.
He had known nothingness associated with the sky, of nights when he had stared above, nothingness had stared back at him, but now, wherever he looked, nothing returned him his gaze, the sky simply moved away, revealing yet another shifting layer of nothingness, which avoided his stare as if ashamed of some untold conspiracy.
The sun too was late in its coming. And, when it did come, it lacked its youthful exuberance, probably the first time ever, showed signs of fatigue of the journey it daily makes to come at his window.
The subdued sun was disconcerting. He, vaguely, understood, by then, that winter has come. He now only needed a factual confirmation, may be a news report. Feeling of cold, though important, in his times, is inadequate, and can be dismissed, unless a piece of news approves it. Such feelings are even insufficient to prepare him for the coming winter, for it requires certain dresses, and unless everyone wears them, he would find them hard to put on. Still he can put them on during nights but in daylight he conforms to the prevailing behavior and manners. He often expresses this contradiction in his poetry. Once he wrote:
What darkness of night reveals
The deceptive daylight hides
Is a twenty-first century man
A time hidden from his times.
Some who understood had laughed, and some who did not, also laughed. For, in his times, laughter conveys understanding.
The shifting sky arrested his gaze and kept it motionless for a while, his eyes, reflecting nothingness, reflected sky. Two emptiness united by a conduit of vision. His reveries were broken by a series of burr sound. It emanated from his mobile phone. It was a weather alert. Winter was now confirmed. A foreboding took him over. However, it suddenly vanished, when the same mobile phone, owing to its design, wished him a wonderful Sunday morning. He stood motionless, recollecting his days, when he had no mobile phone, and how he used to reach his work place even on holidays, and used to return, somewhat relieved, on being revealed that the office is closed.
A thankful smile adorned his face. However, he was more thankful to winter, for its unforeseen kindness by choosing to come on a Sunday morning. Last year it caught him unaware, in the evening, while he was returning from the office. The next day his efficiency at work had gone down.
By coming on Sunday, winter gave him an opportunity to prepare for days ahead. He quickly opened his closet and took out all his woolen garments. They were musty and needed washing before being worn. He collected them in one bag. He collected all his other clothes for laundry. He forgot his shivering. He felt a surge of energy within him. Sunday was coming alive, as an idea, where man distances himself from his daily chores, prepares to groom his inner and outer worlds, pushing boredom away, making life interesting and bearable for the rest of week.
Winter also saved his few bucks on hair cut. He avoids hair cut during winters. He puts on a woolen cap to hide his growing hair. And, even if he removes his cap, prolonged wearing makes the hair flat and settled. Though he looks funny, but that’s okay with him.
The saved money, although paltry, kept him indecisive for a while. He vacillated between purchasing old books from Mr. Cohen, who sells books in the downtown on Sundays, or getting himself a few pieces of fried chicken from Caesar’s. The dilemma, as an assured indecisiveness, one associated with pleasure, remained on his face when he left for the launderette.