The bus stop where I’m at is a tiny little place – a bench wide enough for three people, with a roof overhead barely keeping the elements out. It has managed to fend the rain away so far though, if only just. The occasional gust of wind still has it lashing out in all directions, leaving trails of spray on the guitar perched beside me. It is always raining here.
Oh, I haven’t told you about the guitar, have I? I wonder whether I had brought it with me, or whether someone else had left it behind. It’s been on this bench for as long as I’ve been here myself, I think. The details are a bit fuzzy, but it couldn’t just have appeared, you know? Someone must have brought it along at some point. Ah well, who cares? It doesn’t matter, really. I do feel like picking it up and playing it sometimes, but I refrain – I’m not very sure whether I can play it to begin with, and finding out can surely wait for another time.
It’s already August, so shouldn’t the rain be letting up about now? It feels like it has been August forever, though. Have I been here long? Days? Months? My recollections are vague at best, but I like the rain so it is okay either way. The rains usually make up most of my surroundings, but sometimes I can see the hills on the other side of it. The lights go on and off; smoke signals as indecipherable as the patterns of the rain. Sometimes it feels like the city is trying to send me a message.
I am mostly on my own, although I do get company from time to time. It’s a nice change of pace. While I don’t really mind being alone, someone to talk to is okay too. Company usually comes in the form of a dog taking shelter from the rain, which is all for the better since dogs tend to be really attentive listeners. Like that lab who comes by now and then and curls up under the bench, his head grazing my leg. He sleeps most of the time, and then when he wakes up he sits beside me to stare out into the rain, pausing occasionally to yawn or scratch the back of his ears. The corner of my mind which makes up the stories opines that he’s a messenger, coming and going as he pleases. Maybe he has better luck figuring out what the elaborate cipher of lights really means; maybe the smoke signals are for him to read.
Buses pass by from time to time. Some of them stop. The doors open though no one ever steps out. After a while, they shut with an almost imperceptible sigh and the bus leaves. I suppose I could get on one of them. I mean, I am sitting at the bus stop – the logical thing to do, sooner or later, would be to hop on. It’s almost like every bus is imploring me to do so. I cannot shake off this notion that none of them go to where I need to get to, but I think I might get on to the next one anyway.
When the bus comes to a halt, I walk out of the door and into the tiny bus stop. He looks up and notices me; uncertainty is followed by recognition, which in turn is followed by a look of incomprehension. I sit down beside him, six strings separating us. It’s a pretty guitar; I wish I knew how to play one.
He sits very still, lips pursed and eyes hesitant with all the turmoil that must be going through his mind right now. I am ready with the answers while he is still figuring out the questions, so I decide to help things along.
It’s okay to be confused. Go on, I know you have a lot of questions , I nod encouragingly towards him.
Who are you? Are you…
I’m you, of course. Is that so surprising?
But, how can you…
Why not? Did you think there was only one of you? Of me? Like everything else that exists, we are infinite. I am just another possibility, like you are. And just like you are unique in your universe, so am I in mine. Here, however, we’re all the same.
Where is ‘here’, then?
This place? Here is where everything is connected; here is the only place when we can meet. It’s a knot of sorts, I suppose? Here is whatever, whenever you want it to be. Any question we can ever possibly ask can be answered at this one time and this one place. That is also why this place is so important; why one of us must always stand guard. So that it is never lost. You have kept watch for a long time now; it’s my turn now.
What happens to me, then? Where do I go from here? Do I die?
Not if you don’t want to. You could go into some other possibility, some other answer than the one you came from. Death of course is one of them; where you go from here is for you to decide.
I can hear the next bus coming. Are you ready?, I ask him.
He smiles and nods. Do I leave the guitar for you?
Nah, you take it. I don’t know how to play it anyway. You don’t happen to have a harmonica on you, do you?
He reaches into his pocket and hands me the harmonica which has always been there. His face shows only the barest hint of surprise – he has started to realise that here, every answer is equable.
The bus’s door closes. The universe stops, and the bus disappears, leaving a door through the raindrops frozen in place. He picks up the guitar and walks through. A few moments later, a gold lab trots up from behind the bus stop and follows him through…
The sea, even at high tide, manages only to graze my feet. It is dusk now, and I wonder how long I have been sitting here with just a dog for company. I contemplate playing the harmonica on the bench beside me, but I cannot remember whether I know how to play it. For now, I am content with the melody of the crashing waves and the patches of sunshine sparkling off it.
It is always dusk here.
Thanks to Mrinal Roy for working and re-working the images for me through his busy schedule. 🙂