He was relieved. Glad, even. They were finally going to leave. His mom was finally ready to attend the party, and dad had already been honking for the past five minutes. He’d now have the house to himself, for at least five hours. He had always loved being alone, away from the crowd, and sometimes far, far away from his parents too. He was never too much of a sportsperson; he preferred activities that stimulated the intellect. While other sixteen year olds would’ve spent such home-alone nights partying with their friends, probably even drinking, Rustom would read, or play his viola (if only he had a penny each time people called it the violin!). He was mature beyond his years (or so, everyone said, but that was possibly because they had never considered the possibility of other sixteen year olds not being as mature as they should be!), and a loner. Not surprisingly, he had plenty of friends online. Lonely people make the best chat room friends. He was especially excited tonight. He couldn’t wait to check out the newest site he had read about in a journal. It asked you for your hobbies, your likes and dislikes; and connected you to someone with the same interests, and let you both chat. The only condition was that you weren’t allowed to upload your images. And you’d never be connected to the same person again. The site ensured that.
The element of mystery appealed to him, and he felt particularly excited as he put his headphones on. It was a gamble, he thought to himself, and he loved taking chances. He typed in the url, and was very soon filling in his name, and his hobbies- surfing the net, reading, art. That was about it. Oh, and yes, watching movies. He waited with bated breath as the site found him a suitable ‘friend’. He secretly hoped it would be a boy, so that he could have an interesting conversation about fighter planes and Star Wars. What did girls know about such stuff anyways?
Too bad when within two minutes (thank God it didn’t take longer- he was getting rather impatient!), he heard a slight rustle on his headsets, it was a rather mature sounding female voice (the internet sometimes did that to your voice).
“Hi!” the girl said softly, almost whispering.
“Hello, Rustom here”, he replied quickly.
“Hi Rustom, I’m Alisha.”
“Alisha? That’s a rather pretty name! So tell me Alisha, what do you like doing?”
“Oh, plenty of things! But I’m not allowed to do most of them! You know, I recently fractured my hip! So I’m confined to the bed, doing nothing much, except surf the net, watch television, and paint a little. Even that has gotten so difficult these days. So I’ve started reading- a lot. I’ve always been a big reader, but now that love has strengthened! And I have my blog. I write in it, a lot”
“Oh, that could get kind of sad, I understand! But if you look at the brighter side, you’d realize that you have plenty of time to spend with your family! How cool is that?” Ha-ha, look who’s talking about family time, thought Rustom! He barely knew his parents. As in, the kind of people they were. He did not know.
Alisha chuckled. But he sensed a tinge of sadness in her laughter and her voice, as she said, “Barely anyone at home has time for me. Nobody like spending quality time with an invalid, you know! The conversations are mainly limited to them ordering me around, telling me what to do and what not to do. Sometimes, to be honest with you, Rustom, I feel like running away from home... to just break free!”
“Wow!” remarked Rustom to himself. He did feel bad for Alisha, but he was relieved, glad even, that there was at least one more lonely person in the world. He tried to recollect the number of times he himself had contemplated running away from home. “Forget them’, he continued chatting with Alisha, “and tell me what kind of movies do you like to watch? Romcoms?”
“Haha no! I’m sorry, Rustom, I’m more into the “Star Wars” series!”
“Really? It is rather unusual to find a girl who likes “Star Wars”. And what kind of books do you like to read?”
The conversation went on for more than an hour. The spoke about many things- Billy Joel, their painting styles (both of them pursued painting as a hobby, but they both admitted they kind of sucked at it! In fact, his mother had called his latest masterpiece ‘Squiggles’), their mutual dislike of Harry Potter, and their fascination for Frank Sinatra. They had a little quiz in which they asked each other the toughest questions about Sinatra. Alisha won (‘but very narrowly’, Rustom consoled himself). “The most brilliant hour of my life”, Rustom thought to himself later on.
They then recited dialogues from Star Wars, and they laughed themselves silly as the discussed the antics of Tom and Jerry (you can never be too old for cartoons). He expressed his disappointment in finding out that her favourite cartoon was the Powerpuff Girls simply because it was a display of flower power! They had a very philosophical interaction about the hidden meanings in Lewis Carol’s humorous writings. And they finished off with a debate about whether Macbeth was Shakespeare’s best work, or was it Julius Caesar.
When they had both gone offline, Rustom was a happy young man. He wished the world had more sensible people like Alisha. He also wished that he could talk to her again. But he did not have her phone number. He did not know why he did not ask for it. Neither of them had brought it up, and so neither of them had asked for the other’s contact details. Perhaps this is how it was meant to be. Perhaps if their friendship had gone beyond that day, they’d realize they did not really like each other as much as they thought they did on the first day. Alisha was an extremely wonderful girl, and it was probably best to remember this evening in the sweetest possible way, without further conversation to spoil it. Rustom switched off the lights and went to sleep, hoping to have a memorable dream about his encounter with Alisha.
Miles away, in another continent altogether, Alisha nursed her broken hip. A fracture at the age of fifty three was very difficult to handle. Especially since she had lost her husband, her pillar of strength of thirty years, in the same accident six months back. The mishap had completely broken her, and she thought she’d never be happy again. So she had decided to completely drown her grief in caring for her infant granddaughter- the only beacon of light in her otherwise dark world. She had forgotten how to smile; her tears did not stop flowing.
Until tonight, that is. It seemed like aeons ago that she had seen on her face the creases that accompanied a smile. This ‘www.electronicencounters.com’ was an amazing site, and this man Rustom was an absolute sweetheart. How old was he? Forty, forty five? Younger than her for sure, but he had managed to bring back that spark back into her life that had been consumed in the flames that had engulfed her husband’s pyre. Silly, it may sound, but in this one hour she had connected with him in a way she had not connected to in a very long time.
She felt rejuvenated. She thought she’d write about this man in her blog. And title it, ‘www.electronicencounters.com’!