Friday, September 5, 2014

Corner Man

His chair was in the corner, almost hidden, as it lay in one of those places the dull tubelight simply wouldn't reach. He wore a cream shirt, or perhaps it was white - only rendered cream by the lazy flourescent bulb. His khaki pants were clearly khaki; any idiot would tell you that much. He wore open-ended slippers, with a ring which went around his big toe. A lazy smile completed his outfit, as he sat comfortably on the chair in the corner, almost hidden from view.

I must confess that I am perhaps fooled by youthful perspectives and tricks of the mind. Maybe the light was bright, maybe I was too busy marching up and down the corridor to notice people who sat in the corner. Nevertheless, my reality allows me to tell you this - be it truth or be it lie.

As the years passed, my chest grew wider, getting itself a shape I'd often admire at length in front of a mirror, but the man still sat in the corner. My shirts then began to tighten around the belly rather than at the top, and the man still sat there. I wore ties now, and he was in his khaki trousers. He wore a whitish shirt though, but that was only because I had the bulb replaced. His heels were cracked and his slippers were old. It is strange I noticed all this without registering his face.

The meetings then began and my room shifted. I seldom walked the paths I used used to. The doors were made of glass and the air was 12% dryer and 3.5 degrees cooler. I had some weighty fabric over my shoulders, adding value to the opinions of peppered head. I spoke softly now, for there was no need to shout. People now listened to me. I made a lot of money. I polished my fine leather shoes.

A few years later, I went back to the junior office building on a routine inspection. I met the old folks, everyone was greyer, wiser and slightly more lost. The boys now had families, some were even grandparents. They had houses, phones, planned holidays and debts. They had dreams, great dreams, almost as brilliant as the ones they used to have.

As I began to leave, I spotted a smile. I turned around to identify the culprit. In the corner, on a chair almost hidden, in a place where light didn't truly reach, sat a man - crosslegged. He wore khaki trousers and a cream coloured shirt. The tubelight required to be changed. I noticed that his slippers which were on the floor were the same as the ones I remembered from my youth. The one on the right had a withering toe-ring. It bothered me that this man was smiling, and I wished he would stop. I walked away quietly after shaking hands with the senior folks.

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Today is retirement day. I gave a fabulous speech, after which everyone clapped. The applause went on for two minutes. The memory will go on forever. I received souvenirs and gratitude. I passed on the baton, and they told me that I would be missed along with my vision. There is much left to do even after this: so many dreams still worth conquering. I feel sad about leaving, so I will take another trip around the office.

I am walking down the old corridor again. I will be out soon. I see the man in the corner. He is smiling. This distrubs me. Who is he and why is he sitting there? Why does he wear the same clothes? I walk up to him, breathing heavily. His face still doesn't seem important. But his smile, why does he smile?

I put my face close to his, almost until our noses touch, and I scream - "Why do you smile?"

He doesn't answer. He simply slides his feet into his slippers.

"Why are you here?" I shout. My cheeks feel wet. I don't want anyone to see me this way.

No reply.

"Why? Please. Tell me," I sob.

"Okay, I'll go now," he says. And he leaves.

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