So accustomed was she to stories with twists in the end, that when she put down The Buccaneer’s Arm, she could scarcely believe it had no twist. Therefore, she picked it up again, revised the 547th and 548th pages and looked for a twist.
She yearned for this twist, this recapitulation, this surrendering of her imagination to the vital, bruising command of another’s.
All in all, she confirmed, it wasn’t a good story. Sure, the language was fine, and some of the images had her reeling, but what was the plot? What was it about? She couldn’t say.
Miriam Miss had told her in her Creative Writing lesson that a good story was one that left you with a message you could learn from. A moral. Maybe even a theme, children, that arches above you like the sky and sings to you like the birds in it.
This story had no message, and if it was singing, it certainly wasn’t singing to her. It had given her the unexpected, but in a quiet, deflating sort of way. No Thrill, no Gasp.
Leaning back against the chair in her slowly darkening room, she decided that the air was stale. She needed out. This was a decision taken with the finality of one who has been coached in the culture of fullstop-making, in the culture of ineluctable truths, blue skies, white doves, bright classrooms.
There was a mild sting in the air outside that is sometimes the result of soft rains and moist deciduous leaves. It was raining a little, and she felt joy, thinking of the similarity of her condition to the poets of far-away; Shelley and Wordsworth and Coleridge had indeed taken long mournful walks in the rain.
She walked and she walked and she walked. And her mind filled with the words of some illustrious poem, words that she remembered perfectly. She even recalled the placement of the words, with their divides and semi-colons. Then she looked up, seeing the pigeons all aligned and drowsy in the trees, dropping their nuggets of shit.
She sighed, and the wriggling uneasiness of that book was set aside in some biding, quiet corner.
Presently, a light fog descended, obscuring the pavement lights. She didn’t mind very much. It was that time of day and year when people are indoors, watching the news, sipping coffee, rubbing their necks, cutting their toenails, talking. And she felt pleasantly, intelligently, alone.
Five minutes later, she came across a blur of black against the shifting light in front of her. It was curious, this black awkward form, so alone in that wilderness of light. So Endearing. She quickened her pace, wanting secretly to catch up with this person and see him as she saw herself, lonely and intelligent.
She did catch up with him, for she was a girl of steel will.
Then there was that moment of blunder, of trepidation. She was suddenly afraid. What if he were nasty? What if he misinterpreted her move?
But she was a girl of steel will. As her strides began to match his, and her short quick breaths aligned themselves complementarily with his stretched long ones, she was suddenly confident. And fairly soon, they were walking side by side. She felt that joy again; the joy that comes from knowing that one is doing something of promise.
“Hello,” she said, “are you from the University?”
He looked up and to the right, at her. He smiled and said in failing English, “No Madam, I am working in Sri Krishna Sweets. My parents is here.”
She, more on edge now but still cheerful, said, “Oh that’s nice. I like Sri Krishna Sweets. It must be quite a walk for you, though, everyday, mustn’t it?”
But she suddenly realized that her pitch was wrong and her words were wrong and she couldn’t see the logic of what she was doing.
There was silence and they both walked in companionable fashion, and some of the earlier comfort was restored. Then he asked, “Why you are walking alone, Madam? It is raining and you are not having jerkin.”
She, not fully comprehending, said, "Oh I like walking. It’s a pretty walk. I like to hear the birds in the sky sing.” She had adjusted the length of her sentences to this odd little situation.
But he, despairing now, his words erupting in clutches, said, “But you -- are not having jerkin. You are white.”
She frowned, grappling unsteadily with this new agitation. What was a jerkin? Why was she white? “Oh!” she said,
“Oh oh. No. I don’t have a jacket. And this isn’t really white, what I’m wearing.” She was smiling again.
But he was still in the throes of something stupefying. He stopped, jabbing his arms in the air, and removed his black windcheater. He said, “Take” in a tone of finality. She understood finality. But she didn’t want the jacket.
She said, “No no! I’m wet already. What difference will it make to me? Please. Keep it.” And as they stood there, two abject, flailing creatures, the air was reconciled, and that moist deciduous smell entered their simultaneous consciousness.
They walked on. In silence. And they looked at each other occasionally, never at the same time. At the circle, where their paths were to part, he asked for her number. She said, with no regrets, but with a smile, “No.” And they left each other.
She returned to her room in a state of inspiration. In a state of respiration. And perspiration. And she wanted to write this thing down and convert it into a lovely story that would floor Miriam Miss and punch her classmates flat in the face with its horrific brilliance. But as she sat, and pondered, there was
From this experience, she could extract no structure, no monolith. It only arranged itself to her in a series of vacant disparities that looked at each other occasionally, never at the same time.