It was a cloudy night. The stationary shops round the town are getting closed as usual. The salon near the big Banyan tree was still open. Ramen, my friend and the favourite barber of many called upon me suddenly as I was trespassing the Salon. I nodded and made my move towards him. He was quite free as there were no customers at that time of night.
“What happened to you, Vinod? These days, you are almost nowhere?” Ramen enquired of me.

“This is a very long story, Ramen. Want to listen?” I replied looking down the ground while I was half-seated in the first chair.

“Yes, I have hell lot of time, Vinod. You can start the story”, Ramen asked me to narrate the story behind my un-availability.

“It was just few days back; I went to Sivasagar, the heart of Assam for collecting some old documents from DC office. I reached the town by bus at morning 5. It was a cold morning and the frost can be seen everywhere. I booked an auto-rickshaw and went to a hotel near by the bus stand. I went to my room. It was a spacious one. The room had a nice, big window through which the busy streets and the many house hold tops could be seen. After taking bath, I rested for an hour or two and woke suddenly at 10 AM. I went to the canteen bar of the hotel and had hour usual breakfast.” I was interrupted in between as Ramen asked me something.

“Sorry to interrupt! For how many days did you plan to stay there at Sivasagar?” Ramen asked me staring directly at me.

“It was just for a matter of a day or two. But the things went so crazy that I left doing my essential works and spent almost four days there.” I replied.

“I see… It is getting interesting, Vinod. Continue.” He asked me to go on.

“As I was heading towards DC office, I saw a girl standing next to me in the Rickshaw Stand. She was beautiful, young and was so fresh to look at. She looked at me and smiled with those cherry-shaded lips wish I could add some better adjectives to that. I responded with a fake smile. I asked her where she was heading to. She replied that she was just travelling round the town. I re-enquired her whether she is still studying or something. She burst out into big laughter and told me that, she is just a fun-loving girl, neither she had any job to do nor she was studying something. She asked me in return the same thing. I replied her that I am government servant at which she again laughed with her lips compressing the laughter. I said to her that, I was there for some official purpose. She finally shook her head and smiled. She asked me if I have some time to have a coffee. I was stunned for we were both strangers to each other. But eventually, I nodded and started walking with her to the popular Saikai Fast food. We ordered two dishes of noodles and two cups of coffee. The small boy who took our order gave me a very astonishing look and went away taking our orders. He came back within a moment and asked me if I was alright. I mocked him back as I found him crazy to ask me that stupid question. The entire day we passed on as she went on asking me regarding my daily schedules and about my family. I was not given a single chance to ask her back. In the evening, we went to popular Sivasagar Pond to see the sun-set and to enjoy the cold wind. The couples sitting nearby us gave me the same weird look. But I didn’t mind those. We talked many things regarding Sivasagar and its stale matters. The three days passed as I completely absorbed with her look and words. On the fourth day, the owner came to me and asked me if I needed a doctor. I laughed at him and said to him that I was completely fine and he went back to his office. One more interesting thing, Ramen, every night when I returned to hotel at night, I used to saw an old man laughing at me but he was not showing any such sort of weird look. He was just laughing. I didn’t understand anything happening to me. The very next day, I was standing in the same rickshaw stand and she joined me as usual. We roamed the town visiting some historical palaces there. At night, while coming back from those historical palaces, we were stuck inside a room due to heavy rain outside. We entered the room. It was dark but had a very strong smell of jasmine. She held my hand and put me closer to her. She hugged me and moved her lips towards mine. With almost no reflex action to stop that, I kissed her. We remained like that for almost two to three minutes. In the meanwhile, she told me a bitter truth of her life. She said to me that, she was a prostitute and it was her brothel room that we were in. I suddenly jumped up the bed we were kissing. She smiled and asked me if I was fine and told me that it was alright until she told me the truth and after she revealed I started hating her. I replied her that it was bit shocking for me to accept those. But I retorted saying her that, aren’t there other jobs to earn your living. She smiled and said to me that for a woman it was so difficult to get a job moreover if you belong to a family where there is ailing father whose medication cannot be afforded, mother who had lost her both limbs and a hand in an accident along with small, younger brother who is Schizophrenic. I was moved to her words. She continued saying me that, since the society is not so generous to provide help to such family. So, she had to come out and had to start this. I replied with a broken voice, consoling her everything will be alright. I gave her a bundle of notes so that she could help her family. As I was about to leave, she asked me how could she accept that money as she didn’t offer any service to me. I replied it was not money for the service, indeed a token of love. At this she ran towards me and hugged me tight. I told her I cannot do that such thing to her with that attitude; after all she was a woman. I could see a tear rolling down her cheeks and I rubbed those with my fingers and left saying, ‘those few days are very worth-full to me’. She smiled as usual and bade me good-bye. I returned with a heavy heartedly leaving the beautiful and lovely lady of my life. On the way to the hotel I met the same old man laughing at me. I didn’t say a word and went to my room.

The very morning, I asked the hotel manager regarding the call girl I met. He gave me the same weird look and handed over me a month old newspaper and asked me to read a particular article. I was wonder-stricken as the newspaper said, in a recent forest fire; a brothel house was burnt into ashes and everyone died in the accident. Ramen, it was the same brothel house that I visited last night with her. I ran to the same spot and got to see the reality of the fact published in the newspaper. I started understanding the weird looks of all the people and laughter of that old man. I was so sad and confused. Because I didn’t know whether she was an illusion to me or she was in real. Even if she was real past then why did she appear to me not to others? The incident left me nowhere and so I was lost to some unknown horizon, Ramen.” I stopped as Ramen started packing of his Salon for the night.