Walking in the local market on a cool, breezy Saturday morning was not an idea I had in mind for spending my weekend. Yet I pulled myself out of the covers with eyes half close remembering the long To Do list I had put up on the refrigerator last night. Sluggishly, I made myself completely awake by sipping at a hot cup of tea and a croissant. There was no sign of sun outside and the dark clouds incited me to get back under the covers once again. As the clock struck 9, I was caught up in an eerie feeling, half astonished and half depressed at the sudden passage of time. I quickly dressed up and grabbed the list from the refrigerator on my way out, almost about to forget it.
The roads were still wet from the early morning rain which might have poured when I was dreaming in bed. There were a few cars on the road that made me wonder how people were catching up on their sleep. If only I hadn’t had such a long list of chores, I would have done that myself. I drove to the nearby local market place and for once I was really pleased to find the parking. For this trivial task had not remained trivial anymore and in its own right deserved to be put up on a perfect To Do list these days.
I switched off the engine and grabbed my bag quickly, thinking I should not waste even a single second more. As soon as I started walking away from the car, I felt a drop slip past my cheek. I quickly buttoned my jacket and pulled over the hood. Cursing myself for not wearing a raincoat, I walked with hurried steps on the pavement, keeping myself as much as I could under the narrow shades that extended from the shops. It was drizzling!
Though the rain was like a blessing to enjoy in April around here, I didn’t want to get sick. Hearing a roaring thunder, I instantly looked up. The sky was a tinted grey with small patches of white here and there and the golden beams of the sun not missing a chance of filtering through almost any tiny passage they found in between. The whole display by nature was so wonderful and awe inspiring that I found myself magically cast. It was beauty at its peak which mesmerized me into forgetting the feelings I had few moments back. Infact they have been replaced by feelings of peace, bliss and contentment.
Realizing that I had stopped walking, I took fast paced steps and came across a couple of local artist shops and galleries. There were a few passer bys. Across the street, a beautifully painted colorful sign of an amateur art exhibit caught my attention. The door opened and a few people came out, chattering and laughing. Although they were quite audible but I couldn’t really make out their words.
Strangely enough, I was completely engrossed in my own thoughts of the other world beyond the glass. Finding myself suddenly so curious of what lied behind the big glass window, I crossed the street in a jay walking manner. As I drew closer to the entrance of the shop, I noticed the running water droplets that were washed on the glass by the slanting drizzle. Submitting to the gravitational pull, they skidded eagerly downwards, leaving behind trails for others to follow. Now standing infront of the glass, I peeped inside to see a wide range of colorful paintings hanging on the walls and on the wooden frames placed before of the walls.
With a thousand anticipations in mind, I tried to guess the title of the exhibit. Determined and excited, I scrutinized the entire work to find the theme behind it. Now then, what was I suppose to look for? Was it the use of the colors, the hues that were used predominantly, or the images themselves or the commonality of the impressions etched on the artist’s mind and reflected on the canvas. A feeling of ecstasy aroused for an instant; as I felt I was actually peeping into the artist’s mind. I thought what he might have felt while letting the colors run loose on the canvas; running the bristles over it many a times. Was it not just like the rain drops that had touched the glass so intensely, leaving behind the high impact strokes and then dying slowly where the rough cloth sucked them up? Was there life in those strokes? Was there life in those colors like the life that had very much been present in the rain drops when they struck, before they got succumbed to the earth’s gravitational pull?
A feeling of realization dawned upon me that very moment. Standing there, I felt the fixtures on the walls speaking to me. I could hear them loud and clear or was I just imagining it all. I wondered what I mixed in my tea this morning. Was it the sugar I accidentally stirred in the morning today, half drowsy and half dreaming, that kindled up these feelings for I don’t add sugar to tea normally. Or was I having some sort of hallucinations? A stranger I stood, looking at the strange world beyond the looking-glass. A world so different than mine, so distinct and clear, so bold and loud and so sharply in contrast to the one behind the glass where I stood that for a moment I had a feeling of guilt, having become a trespasser on it.
I quickly jerked the feeling, as it was the artist who had led me into his very own world through the work that covered the plain and colorless walls of the gallery. Having opened the doors to his realm, he had allowed me to accompany him. Every painting had a soul, trying to reach out to its audience; the artist’s soul, embedded in them with the feelings he had when he ran the brush over them from top to bottom, from side to side, from black to blue, from red to white.
The casual encounter with this world had turned into a mesmerizing acquaintance. I felt as if I had been standing there for eternity. Drenched in the distinctive feelings so not my own possessions, they still seemed so familiar. It was a paradox. Yet I felt ironical for one moment I was behind the glass and the other moment I passed right through it, looking at myself as an outsider. I felt as if I was the insider, as if it were my own world inside.
Still finding myself trapped between both these frames of reference simultaneously, I wanted to pull away and retreat my steps to my current destination but before I could do that something just caught my eye. The glimpse was enough to get me glued to the very place I had been standing for infinity. It was as if the life beyond the glass had come to a standstill and everything was moving so slow that I could hear my own heart beat; heartbeat that lasted for an eon and occupied a vast expanse of space. Yet however, the life on the other side, the side my world was at, time was moving at a pace so challenging that it was hard to keep track of it. I still fidgeted myself to consider one last spell to be cast upon me.
There stood a painting at the corner, all colorless and blurred. With hues of black and white mixed up, the distorted images were blanketed underneath. What I could make out was an image of a man and a woman, naked, standing face to face. Their bodies were not sharply defined and lingered into their own shadows. What such an ordinary display meant, I had no clue. But the fact that sharp contrast to all the vivid and colorful paintings, this indeed was another dimension – an entire dimension in itself.
Engrossed in my own thoughts, I stared at it long enough to feel my eyes piercing through the glass and through the very imagery itself, into the minds of the man and the woman standing there that it almost looked real. At that moment, another image started appearing. An image of a girl standing just at the side, so un noticeable and quiet that even the two other figures couldn’t notice her presence. How could I have not seen her before; for she was just another image like the two other figures? How could I have missed her as she had been there right from the start? Deep in thought, a realization struck me so forcefully, that I could look at it no more. I turned around and started walking hurriedly trying to retrace my own steps. Was it my wild imagination playing tricks on me? Was it my mind that had drawn the image of that quiet, meditative girl or was it something invisible and unnoticeable at first glance? These were questions I couldn’t answer.
A strong urge came upon me to go back and see if the third image actually existed in paint or not but I was so over whelmed that in the midst of the brain battle and the tons of bombarding thoughts, I could not stop , even if it was for a second. I rushed even more quickly towards the car. For the first time in the nothingness that I had felt lately, it struck me that the sun had gone completely out of sight. Enveloping the once so peacefully blue sky was the darkness of the cloudy blankets. The drizzle had stopped but weather had turned even chillier. I could feel my hands no more but the rushing blood had made my cheeks burn .With my heart still pounding from the shiver of that momentary revelation; I had the strangest emotional sensation ever as if my own subconscious has come into sight of my very conscious.
I jumped into the car and drove myself back losing all track of time and space. As if I had undergone a memory loss which wasn’t acknowledged until I parked my car infront of my apartment. What had come on to me, I couldn’t figure out. Lost in the blankness of my own mind, I heard the sputter of a roaring engine outside. Impulsively I pulled the curtains aside to look Through the Glass once again.
The exterior was the same as I had left it to be but the image somehow had lingered with me like a shadow. Only I didn’t allow it to come inside my house. Was it following me or was I leading it? I was faced with the quest once again. This time only, I was the one observed by the outsiders that stood to my face. This time only I had switched places. I stood there, being felt observed and a chill ran down my spine. Unable to absorb anymore of the intense emotional sensation, I let go off the curtains. Shocked and surprised, I froze there. Mindless and mindful as I was…yet I wanted to confront. But who was it that I had to confront? There wasn’t any existence and yet there was. Was it my own self that I was confronting? Clueless and determined, I pulled the curtains back with one hand, only to become a part of what I was running from. I stood there letting the figures examine me and realized that they didn’t even know if I existed like the third figure. Was this what the artist wanted to accomplish? Was this the very sensation he wanted to make the observer feel? Was this perception what he had tried to convey or was it just a reflection of my own thought process? Confronted by another enigma, I finally gave in, settling on the thought that the artist had realized the act of turning his conception into a living reality, granting it a perpetual existence embodied with a body and soul.
I let the curtains fall over the other world with an acceptance of its own disparate identity and walked towards the couch with a feeling of peacefulness in my heart. I was back in my own world and felt satisfied and blessed to be part of it. Never had I felt so blessed to have what I had.
Taking out my cell phone from the purse, I met the reality of my world when I saw the To-do list in my hand. I picked up the car keys and went out to see the sun clearing the sky. I decided I had to finish all my errands today.
by Zuellah Huma Ahmed