[Story] Span | Emon Kalyan Dutta
Nijaan cherished the gift he got on his twenty second birthday. A Titan Orion worth five thousand rupees. A collective strike by his graduation batch-mates. Nijaan looked into the watch, a silver pointer lapping the golden dial, a smaller day dial within it. Time trapped him in an enigma. It mysteriously merged his twenty second birthday with the last day of college. This convergence made it uncertain whether this timepiece was a token of the end or a birthday boon. He was standing on the recreation hall’s balcony. Suddenly his vision unfolded far. It crossed the football ground where he and his friends had played until a day ago. Now all of them were gone. He was the last one. The matches were over—those hourly spans for which he waited so avidly almost every day, months after month, year after year. The counts stopped forever.
The stillness of the noon was swayed by a breeze. Nijaan grew laden with the silence of desertion. He plucked out an MP3 player, propped the headphones into his ears and tuned on a song. He strapped his backpack firmer across the shoulder and descended down for one last walk. He started circuiting the cross roads spanning the university campus. He was treading a boulevard behind the academy building. They had spent bounteous hours of scheduled classes here. The hours with the grumpy old professor they yearned to just to get to the end of while the ones with the pretty instructor were ever willed to continue. Yet the watch against his wrist ticked away the time steadily, unaware of human whims, not faster, not slower. The boulevard came to an end as he reached the mouth of canteen. He did not pause but sliced his way through it. The tables were empty in this odd hour, yet he could see shadows of the nearest past. The fuzzy figures partying the last evening. They awaited that party almost for months, letting the exams get over first. Waiting composed a long span. Once the party embarked they vowed not to end it through the night. “Party harder all night.” They chorused knocking their glasses on the table. But the night itself had ended, the bottles went empty. He could not wait and walked ahead. He reached a stone bridge arching over a watercourse. This spot overlooked the girls’ hostels up the knolls. A charmingly curled damsel once used to cross this way over. His time seemed to halt here. He absorbed every stir of her willowy gait from the threshold of this bridge till the camellia bushes where it ended. Yet its span ended. He turned and moved towards the west edge. Behind a clump of pine trees was the volley ball court. Just beside it sprawled a pond. One evening was passed here; he and his roommate talked of married man’s life-the fervor of love-life and fear of burden.
He realized his walk had ended, its route through the campus had finished and even the song pumping from his head-phones was closing its coda now. He stopped here. The sun stooped from its noon height. It acquired a scarlet tint. He noticed something. There was a duplex outside the campus fence. An old man sat rocking in a chair on the balcony. His eyes skimmed over the volley ball court, the spritely boys, the green foliage. The vision was apparent but the thoughts were fathomless. Nijaan grew restless. He wished to acquire this man’s vision, to think what he thought, to see what he saw. He saw his reflection in the lake. From the other edge fell the image of the old man’s home. The sun conjured a mirror of water, its refulgence sparking in between, as if a force was blending him in that house. Suddenly life leaped forth, the span diminishing in a spur; somewhere mind collided and crashed with a thought. Perhaps the thought of death, the end of the ultimate span. A shift of wind shuddered. Nijaan looked up at the old man. His eyes were still steady like the hands on his watch. Only he himself hurtled. He smiled to retrace the road. He remembered the beginning of the song when this walk began, he remembered what happened within it-the soft cadence of music, the notes lengthening in harmony, the first word of the lyric pulling in. He remembered the charming girl’s smile. The smile of seconds, but those seconds with the smallest measure of her beauty made moments bigger than hours. He remembered the parties, each drop of the drinks, each tinkle of laughter. Time unfurled, each a smaller span within a small one. Scale of intimacy recited life differently. He realized the entire life span can be written into a hardly fat novel while just an hour could be reamed into a fatter one because moments are ephemeral but memories are eternal.