The Unseeing Songbird

For him, it was love at the first ‘sound’. A sweet ‘across-the-balcony’ love story between two very special people.

It was always, always my habit to have a hot brewing cup of tea in my balcony with a crisp newspaper on my lap. There was something magical of waking up early with the sun. To be surrounded amidst the beautiful birds chirping, children wailing about not going to the school and their mothers pulling them by their arms. I chuckled, thinking about my future five years down the line. Though marriage never topped my to-do list, I still fantasized about seeing myself settled with the love of my life- my wife and two adorable kids.

I sipped my tea, sitting on my seat, flipping the newspaper to the crossword section. I clicked my pen and started filling the alphabet into the square box. Still, in my thoughts, I wondered, now my restaurant was functioning in full swing, I could devote some time to my personal life. Which was pretty much zilch.

A euphonious voice brought me back to the Earth. If I could touch that voice, I would say, it was soft and sweet- like a cotton candy. It plucked at the strings of my heart I didn’t even know existed before. I jutted my chin up, forcing my gaze to wander in the direction of the voice. My eyes searched for a bird, but it discovered a songbird instead.

Disguised as a beautiful woman. 

I threw the newspaper on the floor and leaned over the rail. She wore a yellow sundress that complimented her caramel skin. She paced in her balcony with a cup in one hand and a phone in other- the wires from which ended in her ears. Her eyes were closed as she danced in her rhythm. Her heart sang a melody of lost love. 

When she twirled, her raven hair flew over her face and she pushed it back with the back of her hand. Oh, I wished how that hand was mine. And my mind wished how she was mine.

I wanted to jump from the railing to climb over her balcony. But eighteen floors of my apartment and a vast garden separated us. And I was no superman.

When she walked back towards the door, my heart whispered, aren’t you going to talk to her? My index finger counted her floor before I hustled from my room. She might be going to the office, and it might be my only chance. To see her, to tell her how melodious her voice sounded. How charming she looked. How perfect she was.

I made my way to the elevator but seeing the women ogle me; I looked down, only to realize I was revealing my hairy legs and only a grey t-shirt and boxers covered my modesty. I ignored their hushed murmurs and giggles as I took the fire stairs, skipping three stairs at a time. By the time I was in her building, I reeked of sweat. But I didn’t care. All I wanted was to see her and talk to her.

Confusion clouded my mind as I was shocked to see the layout. It wasn’t same as mine. Not even close. But since I came here, I wouldn’t leave. I pressed the 14 button that glowed in red. As the steel doors pulled closed, pulling me against the gravity, the reflection revealed my messy curls and a two-day-old stubble. 

Arush, I muttered to myself, at least you could have worn your sweatpants. I looked up at the number and counted passing floors. My heart pounded faster as the time went by. Would I find her? What if I find her and she rolls her eyes at me? And why not, I looked like Jon Snow waking up after a hangover? Or worse, what if I wouldn’t find her?

I’ll find her, I whispered to myself. My palms rubbing my chest.

The steel door didn’t even open completely when I ran to knock at the door that faced my balcony. I imagined the angel opening the door, but my smile turned into a frown when I saw an old man raising his eyebrows that increased the grooves on his forehead. “Who are you?” His voice was now irritated and impatient as he couldn’t understand my gesturing. 

I took the pen that rested over my ear, a habit that I developed over the years, scribbled over my left palm and flashed over his face. When he shook his head and slammed the door shut over me, I rushed towards the next door. 

Only to find a padlock dangling from the handle. 

I should be on the right floor. What was I missing out? 

I knocked a few more doors, but I was turned away from all of them. Disappointment filled my heart as I dawdled towards the elevator. Maybe that girl stayed in that locked home. The steel doors were converging, and I didn’t care. My eyes rested at the potted plant beside the elevator. 

“Excuse me? Do you want to get in?” 

My heart calmed as my ears heard the same nightingale voice. Without wasting any more time, I leapt into the already crowded elevator before the door closed behind my back. I couldn’t turn over because of lack of space, so I stared at the men wearing their formal suits, on their way to the office, shaking their head looking at me. 

I peeked down and sighed as it was futile to give them an explanation. Looking at my hand, I regretted of bringing my notebook with me. 

When the elevator dinged on the ground floor, I immediately jumped to the side and waited until I see the face of the girl that plagued my mind since the past half an hour. 

And then I saw her, holding the arm of another girl as she stepped out of the elevator. She looked at me only for a second. I was about to smile at her when turned her gaze to the exit.

Shit.

I jumped to cut in their path. Both of them stared at me as I settled my hand over my hips.

Hi. I waved at them. I kept my hand over my chest and gestured with my other hand, but their clueless expression told me they didn’t understand sign language. I bit my tongue as I pointed my index finger in the air and opened my palm, now smudged with ink. 

Dammit.

I hurriedly scribbled over my wrist, and when I showed it to the balcony girl. She didn’t even look down. I shook my wrist again, to grab her attention, but she didn’t flutter her eyelash.

“She can’t see.” The other girl said as she pushed back her specs.

My eyes darted between the two of them as I digested the recent information. She? Blind? 

“Yes, you heard it.” She stepped forward and glanced at my wrist before meeting my gaze. “Since birth. I’m her sister. So you want to tell her this?”

I nodded my head, but my silence couldn’t emote how my heart shattered into a million pieces. This angel couldn’t see how beautiful she looked. And she couldn’t see me tell her how beautiful she looked.

Oh, the fates.

She gave a reassuring smile before turning over to her sister, who was now looking at her feet. “Ria, this man here is saying that your voice is as beautiful as you look.” 

Her head shot up. The same wide smile covered her face I dreaded to see. Her cheeks turned a deep shade of tomato when she said thank you. 

“What’s your name?” her glassy gaze never stayed at one point. I quickly scribbled on my forearm and her sister informed her. Ria brought her hand forward and when I shook her hand, my heart stopped beating for a moment. “You are the first who complimented me. How did you hear me?”

I looked at my forearm and managed to write in the available space and showed it to her sis, who was now enjoying our conversation. Ria again giggled. And like a ray of sunshine, it warmed my heart.

“Next time, remind me to lower my volume. I didn’t know I was that loud.” She tapped her sister’s forearm. I shook my head to disagree, but it didn’t matter. 

After a few seconds of silence, I scribbled in the back of my forearm and when her sis told her, a sadness clouded her angelic face. “I would love to. But I don’t live here. I just came to visit my sister.” She paused as she took out her stick and goggles from the bag. “But when I’ll be back, then I’ll go out with you.”

I vigorously nodded as her mouth turned upwards. I took her palm and gave a quick peck on her knuckles before I wrote my number on them. She showed it to her sis with a blush on her face. And her sis gave me a slow nod before she left with Ria. I waved until they disappeared in a car. 

As I went back to my apartment, I thanked my stars for meeting her. I still couldn’t unsee why I gave her my number. I can’t talk and she won’t be able to view my number… But if she calls, who needs to speak if one can spend days listening to her melodious voice?

Aakanksha Dharmik

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