‘It is when you become close to someone that all your illusions fade and finally light seeps into half-truths.’
I turn around to look at the man who had just read my words, aloud; words that were written on a board outside the bookshop that I worked in.
“Did you write this? I saw you putting the board up.”
I don’t know what to say. Shall I tell him the truth? Or will a lie suffice?
“I wrote it.”
My mouth decides to blurt out the truth.
“Wow. I can relate to it so much right now. I didn’t realise that a few words could speak volumes. Seriously, you touched my heart.”
I turn to go back inside the shop.
I can feel him following me so I come to a halt.
“Do you work here?”
I reply without turning back and continue walking until I reach the door. The bell chimes as I open the door and the smell of books hits all my senses, as it does every time I walk in here. My eyes find my co-worker and I can tell that she has seen the man that is still following me as her mouth is open and she looks lost for words which is a new look for her.
This is screeched by my co-worker and best friend as she starts walking towards me and the man. She finally reaches us and walks past me, standing in front of the man.
“What’s your name?”
“Safi, what about yours?”
“Anya and this is my best friend, Maya.”
She points towards me and starts walking in the direction of the counter.
“I need to use the restroom. Maya, you can serve him.”
She gives me a mischievous look and carries on. I am so embarrassed. What must this man be thinking of me? I’m afraid if I look at him, he will see my bright red cheeks and realise how mortified I am so I do not meet his eyes although I can feel his penetrating gaze on me. I turn around and walk towards the books so that I can try to compose myself. I can feel him following me. Once I take a few breaths, I decide to speak to him without turning around.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Yes, you can. Can you tell me why you’re hiding from me?”
I am horrified. I don’t even know what to say so I stop walking. He carries on walking and turns so that he is standing directly in front of me, with some distance between us.
“I… I’m not.”
“I’m sorry if I am making you nervous but I want to talk to you about the words you wrote outside. I want to know what compelled you to write them.”
I look into his receptive eyes and the words pour out of me.
“When you spend so long in an illusion, you get used to it and until it shatters, you don’t realise that the world you were living in wasn’t real. It was based on your reality but it wasn’t reality. You don’t realise that it was full of half-truths. Until one day you understand all of it and although all of your visions are shattered, you still carry some hope for a while until even that hope fades away eventually.”
“Don’t you think that this whole world is an illusion? An illusion that we have to break through, yes but also an illusion that we have to understand so that we do not fall into the same deceptions again.”
“It is so hard not to fall into deception since we live in such an idealistic world and everybody is pretending and playing a role. The world has become an act and people are not what they seem.”
“I know but sometimes we have to look beyond the outward and find the inner. We have to search the hearts of others and find their souls because it is the souls of people that are always pure.”
“How can you do that? In a world that is entirely based on the outward, a world where nobody tries to seek the inner being. A world where the soul remains hidden because nobody is seeking it.”
“When we do not even seek our own souls, how can we expect others to? We do not even know ourselves, how can we expect others to understand us? It’s so easy to think that nobody understands us but actually, we are not letting them know us. We walk around with a wall around us, keeping our distance so that we do not fall into another illusion, completely forgetting to live life.”
He was right, of course but I could not believe that I was having this conversation with this man who I had met just a few minutes ago. A conversation that I wouldn’t even have with my closest friends but it was like I had known him for a long time.
“It is strange that a stranger can look deeply inside you and see everything yet people who have known you for so long look at you every day yet they see nothing.”
I just blurted my thoughts out to this stranger. To think that I was so uncomfortable in his presence at first and I had grown so relaxed in mere minutes! What was wrong with me? He continued speaking to me, completely oblivious to my thoughts.
“You’re right. I find that talking to a stranger is so much easier than talking to somebody who is close to me. Which brings me back to the writing on the board, do you write something new on that board every day?”
“No, just once a week. The owner of this place started it so every week, each of the workers here writes something on the board.”
“That is really good. I am glad I met you but I have to get going now. I have somewhere I need to be.”
“Oh… okay. It was nice to meet you, Safi.”
I watch as he turns and walks out of the door. The bell chimes above him until the door closes and he is gone.