Everything I said in my last letter was true. Everything but one.
I’m a failed writer.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning.
It all started exactly two weeks ago. Just before I boarded this same flight for the first time.
I was waiting in the lounge when I first heard your name. Sonia. Riya and Asha were discussing about you and your game. How you had a near perfect record and how it was so much fun when you put passengers in a spot. I couldn’t get the entire conversation (I tried) but I got enough to be intrigued. An air-hostess playing games with her passengers at 36000ft. I was hooked!
See, here’s the thing about us writers. We can’t resist a good character.
And you sounded like a piece of art. So I spent that flight following your every move. Trying to understand how you played this game. But it was pointless. You never revealed who you were looking at, what you were thinking, what your diagnosis was, what your plan was. Nothing. I felt like a toddler watching Kasparov. A blank face for ten minutes and then a move that ended the game. Not a clue to what just happened.
But here’s the thing about failed writers. We’re desperate for a story. And in you, I saw both my most unique character and my bestselling story. Just that to know what this story was, I’d have to get on the table with Kasparov, and then make her play my game. A game where I set the rules. After that, the longer I could stretch the game, the more ‘story’ I’d have.
But then I remembered this other thing about great writers. Great writers never get involved with their characters. They keep themselves out of the story. So they can see it as their audience would. In third person. Detached. Like a fly on the proverbial wall. Not to mention, it makes killing your characters, crippling them, torturing them, declaring them bastards etc much easier.
And you see, that’s the thing about all us writers. We all want to be great writers. Being a good writer is just not worth the pain. So I figured I must keep myself out of the equation. I had to be free to observe. Observe both the players and their setting. Observe how the players interacted, how the bystanders reacted, how the game progressed, and be there if it digressed. And frankly, as long as I was the one devising the moves, how did it matter what hand picked up the pieces.
Well, apparently, it mattered a lot.
Setting up the game wasn’t tough. I figured that you went by looks while deciding who your subject for the day would be. My guy had to confuse you to get on the table. So I dreamt up a strange concoction of clothes and threw in those sandals as insurance (the end result looked quite like me from ten years ago, I must admit). And it worked.
You were onto him from the word go. And I was onto you.
I saw you as you contemplated about him in the galley. I saw you as you tried to put him in a spot. I saw you as you got put into a spot yourself. I saw you get into the game tentatively. I saw you get into the game fully. I saw you fighting to win your game back. I saw you fearing losing your game to gameboy. I saw you look at him with anger. I saw you look at him with bewilderment. And then I saw you look at him with love.
But you never saw me.
I was right there all the while. Right behind you. At 20D. And you never saw me.
I was there when you peeked over his shoulder to read the doc. I was there when you turned over 18D’s boarding pass to check the baggage tag. I was there when you threw him 25D as a challenge. I was the one who got up to go to the loo and on the way analyzed 25D. I stood there in the aisle for 5 minutes and looked at him. I stood there in the aisle for 5 minutes and looked at you. But you looked right through me. You had eyes only for him. And it hurt.
See, here’s the final thing about us writers. Most of us die lonely. We get so busy searching for ‘the’ story, that we let ‘our’ story pass us by.
I didn’t want you to be my best story. I wanted you to be MY story. Suddenly, looking at you just as some character seemed so stupid. Like finding a golden shovel and then using it as a shovel.
Also, I feared that I might have gone too far with the game. I feared that you might just turn your back on everything and your last image of me, Roy Chakroborty, would be that of a nameless asshole who sat smug at 20C and played tricks with you. I panicked. I had a good mind to just reveal myself and see where that took us. Maybe I would’ve too. But you never came back. So I left you that letter.
That letter was me taking the safer path. That letter was me revealing myself just enough to keep you in the game. That letter was me hoping that what you’d fallen in love with was not the face but the person behind it. That letter was me praying that next time, if I changed just the face and kept everything else the same, what you felt wouldn’t change either.
This letter is me hoping that that letter wasn’t in vain.
I’m a failed writer Sonia. I left my job assuming that given enough time, beautiful prose would just flow out of me. But it never did. I don’t take flights because I write well in them. I take flights because they remind me of a time when I used to.
Somewhere in my search for my big story, I broke my relationship with words. They bundled up and hid within some deep recess inside me. In a place where I couldn’t reach them anymore. Not until I met you. I’m not sure how this works, but you’ve somehow mended that relationship. We’re talking to each other again. But I know this resumption is conditional. You are the condition.
But these are all my selfish reasons to love you. I can only hope that you have some of yours too. I know I took it too far. I’m sorry. If you can find it in yourself to give me another chance, I’ll be waiting by the baggage belt.
Give me a sign. Please.