Beyond just the greetingsThe thought of presentation came back, becoming more pressing and elemental this time
Whatever lingering thoughts he had about his presentation disappeared as soon as he reached his office’s parking lot. As he parked his scooter, the thought about seeing her filled him up with excitement. Ever since he first saw her a few weeks ago, he couldn’t help but think about her. She had occupied him in the scatters of his sleep, in between the morsels of his dinner, amidst the pages of the book on linguistics he had been disinterestedly reading for the last few weeks. Even though his daily interactions with her were only limited to greetings, he felt her presence all the time and it had become stronger with each passing day.
As entered his office’s passageway, his eyes wandered, looking for her. She was nowhere to be seen. He convinced himself of having forgotten something- something very important and headed to the parking lot. He opened his scooter seat and took out his damp raincoat and spread it on his scooter to dry. She should be back in the passageway, he thought as he started walking back to his office.
The thought of presentation came back, becoming more pressing and elemental this time. His presentation was due in fifteen minutes. But the thoughts vanished the moment he heard those very familiar ‘good morning, sir!’ ‘Today it’s not going to be a mere exchange of greetings. Why have I not asked her name, yet?’ he thought on his way while trying to suppress the flashes of her very red lipstick and her hazel eyes. For some reason, he had thought it was wrong to think of her in such a way. He could not help it though. He could not help but notice her eyes and her lipstick. “Good morning!” he replied, not knowing what to say next. He figured she had been cleaning the insides of the building having only just started to scrub one end of the passage floor.
“Are you new here, aunty?” he asked. She must have been at least five years younger than him, but he still addressed her as aunty because his office policy requires female support staff to be addressed as ‘aunties’ regardless of their ages. “Yes, I joined a month ago,” she replied.
He nodded, smiled and went his way again. His usual habit of checking himself out in the mirror and wiping up his shoes with toilet paper took him to the restroom. He couldn’t have been any happier upon not finding any toilet paper rolls. This meant an opportunity for him to speak to her again and ask for toilet papers.
He found her scrubbing around the same area of the passageway and was hoping for a response along the lines of ‘I will find one for you, sir’, or ‘I will see what I can do.” Anything affirmative would give him a chance to speak to her more and listen to her more, he imagined. She had to know where the all-important toilet papers were.
“Aunty, the restroom has run out of toilet paper. Could you get me one? My shoes have gotten all muddy,” he said. His newly acquired pair of Benetton shoes had indeed gotten bespattered with mud. She rose, looked a little unsure for a while before replying, “umm… oh! Ran out of it, sir? I will see if they are any in the toiletry cupboards.” He stood there watching her, the way she cleared aside some of her tresses aside from her forehead, a petite slender figure decked in her everyday blue kurta salwar work uniform and her red lipstick. He watched her as she made her way towards his side of the hallway which was about a length of a cricket pitch. He followed his eyes to where she descended a step towards her right midway to empty the water bucket. Back on the passage floor, she went past him only mildly smiling while saying, “I’ll go check the cupboards.”
As she began looking for toilet papers in the locker compartments, he asked, “Your name, aunty?” “Oh! There is one here, sir,” she said, finding the roll in the second compartment. He very well knew that he had to get going if he was to start his presentation on time. He had to get to the other building, a noncontiguous wing connected by a dirt stretch treading which would make his shoes muddy again. He would nevertheless have patiently waited even if the whole locker compartments had to be searched for. Taking the roll from her, he asked her name again and she replied. He would call her by her name from next time, albeit with the aunty word attached. This exchange had allowed him to look at her closely. He looked at her lipstick again and thought how the colour suited her so well. He didn’t expect her to ask him his name, and besides, she would have wanted to get back to work after what would have looked like a nondescript event to her. To him, it was anything but nondescript. “Thank you, aunty,” he said out aloud. He looked at her again, and noticed her beautiful hazel eyes underneath her dark eye-brows. She smiled demurely or so he thought, as she said “Welcome, sir!” He left. He was late by a quarter of an hour for his presentation, but he gave it in high spirits.