Story : The White Pebble

~Bikrant Koirala~Bikrant Koirala

She looked herself on the rear-view mirror before she pushed herself out of her car. The air was chill but she decided to leave the jacket in the car and walked down to the beach with her shades on. The cool air blew past her disturbing her loose white shirt and touching her skin beneath. She took in a deep breath feeling calm and relaxed. It wasn’t a regular day for her. She would have been in her work by then, probably eating her lunch and at the same time talking to her friends on the phone. She was on a sick leave, not physical but mental. What was the thing that was troubling her, making her feel so restless and occupying her mind most of the time. Was it her mundane work or the life she chose to live or the feelings that she never showed to others? It could have been anything. She was not in a position to figure it out.

It had been ages since she visited the beach and experienced the openness. She was enjoying everything; the moist air on her face, yellow sand down her feet and the over stretched blue sea. She sat on a bench facing the sea and stared the wave as it swayed on its own rhythm. Hurriedly, it would move forward, full of passion, searching for something special but all it could find was sand and nothing more. Full of despair it would sluggishly retreat back to the sea.

Years of loneliness had transformed her or better to understand solitude no longer remained a bane for her, most of the times she would enjoy its company rather than her friends’. But time and again, she was filled by an inexplicable emotion as if she was living with some sort of void inside her and she could feel it grow but could do nothing about it. Resting her feet on the bench she coiled her arms around her legs and slowly leaned forward until her thighs clad in jeans touched her breasts. She remained in that position for a while and listened to the low hissing of the sea with her eyes closed.

The sun was tracing its way from the sky down to the sea thickening the chillness each instant. She was about to leave the place when she saw someone approaching her. He stood a foot away from the bench where she was sitting and looked at the sea with a calm face.

“Quite a view from here, isn’t it?” He said.

She didn’t speak for a while, probably she was thinking whether to walk out and embrace her solitude or to stay there and give a company to a stranger. She opted for the latter pushing herself to one end of the bench giving a clear hint of her invitation. The man sat beside her but his gaze still fixed on the sea.

“Tell me, what you think of when you look at it, I mean the sea.” He asked.

What a way of starting a conversation, she thought but anyhow she had to answer him. She took some time and finally spoke, “I think of its greatness, the way it dominates its surrounding but yet calm and poised.”

“So true” He said as he leaned back and placed his right leg over the other. “But I take it in a different way” He added, “From its depth life emerged and evolved to a point where it began to question its own existence trying to find the purpose and meaning.”

For her, his words sounded both absurd and vague. “You seem to be some sort of philosopher.” She said.

“No, just a thinker.” He smiled and said.

She then unfolded both sleeves of her shirt and buttoned them. “So, what’s the story behind all these thinking?” She asked.

“I know you want to know about me but first let me ask you something.” Before he could ask, she interrupted him, “You are fond of asking questions, and that’s for sure the one thing I know about you.”

He simply nodded his head and with a jovial looking face said, “Once you know me there are chances that you begin to take me in a different way and probably alter yourself according to it. Don’t you think it would change the whole course of conversation we are going to have? It’s up to you to decide, I am ready for either of them.”

She had a choice to make. She looked up and saw a flock of seagulls hovering above the sea. Sometimes she would wonder why life is so full of choices and yet there was another waiting for her pick. It was going well with the stranger, she thought, and after all she was just looking for a good company. Though she was curious but she didn’t want to spend rest of the moment getting into the man sitting beside her.

“I have decided not to know you and go with the flow.” She said smiling back at him.

The man got up and moved a little further towards the sea. He then bent down and picked a white pebble out of the sand. She remained on the bench looking at him.

“Is something troubling you?” He asked turning towards her.

She took her time getting out of the bench. “I don’t know, may be.” She replied as she walked towards him.

“We all are, aren’t we?” He said, “Troubled by one thing or another.”

He then silently slipped the pebble in the pocket of his brown pant and gestured her for a walk.

“I too was troubled a long time back.” He said.

“And now, are you free from it?” She asked while trying to synchronize her steps with his.

“I think so and it’s a long story to tell, maybe we don’t have enough time for that.” He then added, “The thing is we often are deluded and think the source of our misery and pain lies out but instead it’s in us and we unknowingly are nurturing it making it fatter each passing moment.”

She mused for a while and began to seek for a resemblance between the void she was feeling and the source the man was talking about. She came to her senses when she heard him say, “And it’s amazing that we even start to look for the solution outside being completely unaware that to find it we should go after the cause not the effect.”

She had her doubts whether she got the words he spoke or not but more concerned she was in finding a cure for herself. “Don’t you think it is difficult to figure out the cause? I’ve tried a lot, but nothing at last.” She said.

“Yes, I agree.” He said. “It’s because the way we live our lives and perceive things around us. We all are like a ball inside a closed chamber, bouncing from one wall to the other and again returning back to the same, living our routine and conditioned lives. The only way to realize the cause is to break out of the chamber and see beyond the mediocrity that we live in.”

As they walked along the sea, she didn’t fail to acknowledge that the man had indeed gone through a lot and not only that he had developed incredible insights that always had kept him above the ordeals of the normal life.

“Seems like we have walked quite a distance.” She said looking back to the bench where they sat before.

“Oh, I didn’t notice that.” He reacted as they both turned their way back to the point where they had started.

On reaching the very spot, he looked around and said, “All these things, they are the scattered parts of a giant jig-saw puzzle. Looking at each part individually won’t make any sense and very often it is misleading too. But once the whole picture is seen everything comes to light, into being, they all begin to speak.”

Folding her arms she stood and each word reached her in a succession one after another but some other thing was too in her mind, her jacket that she left back in the car. Though she was feeling cold it would be a rude act to leave in middle of a conversation, she thought.

“Go, get it.” The man spoke all of a sudden.

“What?” She asked in surprise.

“Your jacket.”

For a moment she thought hard, but couldn’t remember mentioning anything about her jacket to the man. Confused and puzzled she managed to say, “Just a minute” and walked towards the parking lot.

In no time she returned back to the place with the zipper of her jacket pulled high up to her chin. But she didn’t see the man around, no trace of him. Was the man for real or she was dreaming the whole thing or she had begun to hallucinate? She couldn’t decide. Feeling low she made her mind to leave the place, but there it was the white pebble on the middle of the bench. She took it in her hand and examined it rolling between her fingers. She felt strange. The void that she had been carrying suddenly disappeared for a moment. She held the pebble in her hand and watched the sea as the desireless wave rocked back and forth.

(Source : Author sent it via ‘नयाँ रचना पठाउनुहोस्’ functionality of this website. )

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