Cover image: Photo by Neil Davidson, water and reflections in South East Queensland, Australia.
The call from workwell.com came when I was at Cafe Rhododendron, trying to take a selfie.
‘Are you looking for a change right now?’
‘I will get back to you on Monday’, I replied with a kind of petulance you can afford on a weekend trip.
The thought of walking into a new phalanx of corridors and meeting rooms weighed me down. I was standing in front of mountains, so I could not use it as a metaphor. Neither my fear nor my guilt seemed ‘mountainous’. The metaphor needed to be reserved for something more sublime. Nevertheless, the feeling showed on my face and subsequently in my selfies.
I checked the background in the selfies. The mountains looked like a huge old man snuggled in a green blanket. The sky aced a ravishing shade of electric blue and I … posed like someone making an effort to smile with her eyes. A couple sitting at the table adjacent to me were planning for an event in the café. Cake-cutting in the balcony, lunch inside, vegetarian snacks in the evening and chicken and veg pasta for dinner. Both of them spoke very softly. Another woman was talking to someone on phone. She asked the person on the other side to wait for her before ordering the harmonium and insisted on going to the instrument shop herself. A child tried to peer down the railings to have a clearer view of the ravines below. I imagined all of us in one group photograph. Will my boredom and anxiety show?
J called. He had been very comforting in the last few days. I generally get irritated with his monotonous and monochromatic questions regarding the weather. He asks about it thrice a day, and then complains how hot it is in the town he lives in. It is annoying. But now that I am so unhappy about my work, these unwitty banters are a good distraction. His passivity seems enticing as I am shouting at my inner child or my inner child is shouting at me, or both of us are having an ugly confrontation. Plus, if you are in a beautiful hill station, questions about the weather are not so bad. May be it is time to do what everyone has been asking me to do. To enjoy the moment and not think about future. That is such an uphill task, I said to myself and corrected it again. I am at a hill-top café right now, so ‘uphill’ is not the adjective to describe the situation I am in. It is getting mildly warm, the heat is having an intoxicating effect on me. Another way to reduce stress is to focus on my dreams. Some of my dreams come true. This morning I dreamt that I am walking out of office and going towards a jungle. In my dream, both were geographically close. I punched out my card, took the lift to reach the ground floor and stepped out of the building on my way to a jungle. The jungle had tall trees with dry leaves. Then I meet J on my way. No, we don’t kiss. He plants four datura flowers in my hair. The moment I was trying to ask him what he was trying to do, my eyes opened.
I could discuss it with J. He will marvel at my entertaining qualities with affection, but that will not resolve my doubt. The questions are whether I will have my job when I return to the city and whether J will prove to be good for me. If I ask my brother, he will say that both the concerns are crucial. He will ask me not to worry about my job and to go with the flow as far as J is concerned. J does not even say he will go with the flow. He assures that he will be with me for ever but gets irritated if I ask him about our next stage. ‘This is the most beautiful thing we have, dear.’ He says this repeatedly, his stainless conviction shining on me like a distorted image on a steel lunch box.
My order arrives. I munch on the parathas happily, but it also feels as if I am chewing away my lunch in the office canteen and a colleague is watching my act in disgust. I look at the list of today’s special dishes on the black board and smile half-heartedly at the café owner before leaving the place.
I will walk down the hill. Deep breath! I spot some people trying to do the same and follow them silently. I almost slip twice. Someone asks whether I need help, I refuse and manage to reach the hotel in twenty minutes.
I need to find out what my dream means. ‘What does it mean if I dream of a guy putting flowers in my hair?’, I type on my phone after taking the WiFi id and password from the hotel lobby. The job part of the dream is less interesting. I can look that up later. I also search on the significance of datura, those pretty violet flowers my mother warned me about when I was a child. Dreams on hair have a special meaning, dreams of a man putting flowers in hair is another story. Then comes the dream of poisonous flowers. Could be a prelude to a heady amorous episode, could be a sign of struggles to come. Nothing positive, because heady romance is not what I am looking for. It messes you up. In sum, the search results fail to generate even the saccharine assurance that J gives me.
I go out for another walk.
Clouds are close and inviting, their white rooms built of lace and sugar.
Trees look confidently green.
I feel like wearing the sunlight like a robe.
J calls, asking whether I have showered and had lunch. He also sends a selfie, in which he is looking like a bird. He looks cute, but I don’t like it when he looks like a bird. I tell him about the dream and he finds it romantic. Datura belongs to a poisonous group of flowers; I try to explain the complexity of what I saw. But he sounds delighted as I had dreamt of him.
I pluck a few pink flowers from a roadside tree while talking to him.
Paulami Sengupta is a publishing professional based in Kolkata. Her poems (in English and Bangla) and translations have been published in Kabi Sammelan, Nether, Cold Noon, and The Sunflower Literary Collective. She has co-translated the Bengali edition of Salome: Woman of Valour by Adeena Karasick (Boibhashik Publications, 2020). Her recent collection of Bengali poems ( under her pen name Anjashi) is titled Bayosandhir Haraf (Boibhashik Publications, 2021).