When a lot happens in life, gradually or suddenly, especially when we are young and we kind of wished for it, and now we can’t go back, we live through it sometimes without realizing that the only reason we survived and did not mess things up was that someone pitched in, most inadvertently, and absorbed some of the pressures off our backs. Like the scowling Mr. Shaibel in The Queen’s Gambit, the bemused Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock, or the utterly indifferent Will Freeman in About A Boy, some such unsuspecting people randomly encounter a restless individual who they take in their stride most selflessly.
Like your friend’s parents who called you a second daughter and filled in during all those times when yours couldn’t be around for you moved such a great distance from home to start your new life. They had visited you with stews and soups when you were recovering from that terrible stomach infection; had happily made room for you when you were left like flotsam during an unexpected termination of the rental lease; trusted and lent you the most treasured of their books from personal collection and which you never returned – a delinquency graciously pardoned; mixed you the best brandy and tea concoction during those nasty winter colds; maintained a conspicuous distance during times you made those dramatic scenes after a break-up; and were visibly upset at your impertinent indifference to their kindness in those moments of bad judgment when we all have behaved like an ass at some point while living our selfish young lives. They also happened to give the best marital advice for the future – experimental marriage. You still haven’t married; you understand the stupendous hilarity and eccentricity of such radical advice and perhaps remember them for precisely those reasons.
Like the person who drove you around in that rental car, your employers arranged for you when you first arrived in that remote town for overseeing the setting up of their new production unit. From your first impression, you genuinely panicked that instead of dropping you back at your apartment, he would gag you like a seasoned criminal, steal all your belongings, and fling you into the green quarry lake. It was the same lake beside which you both later sat on the last day of your eight-month-long stay and had a dinner picnic watching the sunset. In those eight months, he not only drove you around, but he also helped you find your way around, get to the eateries, local supermarkets, even bring in your groceries sometimes. He did not leave until you finished work till late in the night and could barely stand from exhaustion. When you hit the wall with local labor politics and organizational apathy, he shared his insights about the local culture, way of life, and general mood of the people with extraordinary sensibility. He spoke about his family only when asked after them. Some weekends he came over and took you to nearby sightseeing spots – he did not have to. At the bottom of the towering loneliness that overshadowed your overall sense of existence, he chose to show up with a bag of freshly caught mussels, drove you to the quarry, lit up a fire, tossed over it a spare skillet lying in the trunk of the car, stir the fresh mussels in it and fix an almost perfect dinner for you along with his favorite local beer. He smiled with a wide grin, and you have reserved his spot in your memory with significant fondness.
There is this eatery you frequent on your way back from work. The owner knows the allergies you have, even the intolerance. From your order, she knows that you fought with your girlfriend. When you bring work home and can’t get off the phone, she places your order with the specials of the day. Sometimes she serves you some nutrition-rich seasonal produce without your permission, even if you hate them, and she does not bill you for them. On days you arrive early, the waiters serve you, and you ask after her if you don’t see her anywhere. You got her wireless earphones and helped her pair them with her phone. You haven’t eaten there for days and then turn up one day like a lost soul. Her indifference is visible, but the floating mint leaves in your lemonade assure you how she would never forget that you love fresh mint leaves in your lemonade, a fine delicacy no other diner gets served or would perhaps ever notice its absence or presence.
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Author: Staff Contributor
Illustration/Photograhy: TDLM Design Team