He walked down the aisle.
She was sitting at the corner.
He eyed her. She was glued to her phone.
He kept climbing down, returning to look at the steps lest he fell down.
He came down to her level and stood there. She noticed him and pulled her feet under the seat. He gave a perfunctory smile and walked in.
He sat down three seats away from her. He kept the samosa and tea in the two pouches on either side of his seat. Settled, he took out his phone. He stretched back in his seat, opened up the camera app and clicked a picture. A minute and a half was spent on editing it and then, boom, the image was shared with the world.
Content at what he’d done, he put the phone in the pocket of his jeans trousers and picked up the samosa.
The cinema hall was packed to the hilt. Every seat was taken. As the lights came on at the interval, there was a collective gasp and scattered applause. He too felt the joy, but he didn’t go to the levels of the people around himself in showing his appreciation.
People had rushed to the loo as the interval sign had come up. They were now back in their seats. No one wanted to miss a frame of the film, he felt.
She’d noticed the pin-drop silence during the first half. The charms of the film didn’t work on her the same way because she’d watched it thrice already. But with every subsequent viewing, she was discovering newer reactions to it. Tonight, she saw a couple getting oblivious to the crowd around themselves and kissing each other. For a full minute, was it, she wondered?
She refreshed her Instagram feed. A new post popped up. She recognised the location and the objects in the image. She pressed the “like” button without a thought. The picture had a couple sitting side-by-side. They were leaning in towards each other, with their faces illuminated from lights placed at a distance. He had edited the image to make it look like they were in space, with their faces lit up by the earth rising between them. After that kiss, this image was stirring other desires in her.
She opened her WhatsApp and typed a text:
The reply arrived within 10 seconds.
– What else?
– Raspberry syrup?
– Any other ingredients?
– A pinch of your passion.
– Strings of my heart.
– The flame might burn them.
– I know you’ll cook on a low flame.
– Too sure, are you?
– No. 🙂
– It’d take too much time though.
– We have no shortage of time.
– Would you like something to go with it?
– A cream shirt, a dark pair of trousers, and brown lace-up shoes.
– Ummmm, I think I can manage that.
– What do you want?
– A black dress, black stockings, and lipstick.
– Choosy, are we?
– You want cake and all this?
– I can manage the cake.
– Ohoho. Grand.
– I’d serve it with a cherry as the icing on top.
– Guess I’d have to eat it, then. Not doing so would be a shame.
– I hope you enjoy it.
– We will see.
The lights dimmed. The murmurs died down.
The second half started.
He had finished the samosas and was sipping on the tea.
The audience was as rapt as in the first half. Shocks were followed by gasps. There were collective tears and laughs.
His dream, their dream, was being shared by all of these people. The thought gladdened him as he took the final sip from the paper cup. Every frame, as he’d envisioned it, had come alive. The audience was immersed in it. The joy in his heart was unbounded.
First day, first show. Packed house. A handful of cast and crew among the audience. Some in disguise, others undeterred.
The last song of the film was playing on the big screen. The actress was dancing on a stage. The audience in the film was egging her on, mirroring what the audience in the cinema hall was doing.
How could she not be overjoyed by this? She’d practised this for days.
She stole a glance at him. His eyes were darting around in all directions, as if trying to capture the enchantment of the crowd.
When he looked at her, she was lost in bliss. Rossetto e Cioccolato (Lipstick and Chocolate), that famous Ornella Vanoni song, was playing through the stereo speakers of the hall. Her character was dancing on-screen to that, and she herself had closed her eyes. Repeating the steps, he knew.
The screen cut to black, and at least four-fifths of the audience gave the film a standing ovation.
They got up from their seats. He walked to her seat and embraced her.
“You know darling, I think you should make that cake soon,” she gushed.
“Let’s go home, baby,” he urged.
The director and the lead actress, partners on- and off-the-screen, left the hall for their home. When they got there, they removed the prosthetics they’d used. The mind was in a state of blissfulness at the reception to the film. It was time to satisfy the heart and the palate.
P. S. – This story derives from the song mentioned above. I heard it in the Italian film The Consequences Of Love. Here’s a YouTube lyrics video of the same.
Featured image courtesy.
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Thank you for reading.