Every morning, Subhayan travelled to work by the same bus, via the same route and at the same time; the quintessential daily passenger. While there always would be a sea of people, there was one among them who had caught his fancy by a storm. A girl, who boarded the bus at the same place, but alighted a couple of stops before him.
Subhayan could never fathom the flair to go up to her and speak; only once had the girl asked him to make way so she could get down from the vehicle. For all his fancy, he didn’t know the girl’s name. He seemed content with only a glimpse – the regular glimpses, of course. This private and cloak-and-dagger approach of his made him smile smugly.
It was on a Friday that Subhayan boarded the bus, only to be pleasantly surprised by the girl already sitting in one corner. For all the butterflies in his stomach, Subhayan tried to put on a calm demeanor. He took out his headphones. Its cable was tangled. Call it serendipity, Subhayan’s music player started playing ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ by Bob Dylan.
The bus suddenly jerked and swerved to the left, unsettling Subhayan off his feet. What an embarrassment, he thought to himself. The more he tried to untangle the headphones, the more twisty they got.
As the bus hurried on, in an attempt to outrace other buses plying on that route, Subhayan found it a struggle to keep his feet planted firmly. Naturally, untangling the headphones, with his one hand holding firmly to the overhead bar to support himself, proved to be rather challenging. This is ridiculous, Subhayan muttered under his breath.
But by force of habit (and fancy), Subhayan stared straight at the girl, headphone cable wrapped clumsily around his neck and fingers. Only this time, his embarrassment knew no end as he wanted to run and bury his head in sand. The girl was smiling coyly at his desperate attempts to multitask – hold onto the railings, untangle the headphones, and steal a glance or two at her.
Panicky and sheepish, Subhayan rolled up the knotty headphones and stuffed it inside his bag. He looked up, and much to his pleasant surprise, saw the girl approaching him. Much to his disbelief, the girl asked him what was wrong with the headphones. Subhayan didn’t know a precise reply; all he could do was fumble and let out a murmur.
The girl took the conversation forward, something that he had never imagined. She said that she would often face similar issues and that the headphones would soon wear out completely if he didn’t take care of it. Subhayan was left wanting for words. He smiled nervously, saying that he was already struggling with it.
She pointed out that the bag wasn’t water-resistant, therefore any liquid seeping in could cause irreversible damage. She further added that stuffing the headphone inside a bag would entangle it more, something that might lead to permanent damage.
Subhayan wanted to know what that one trick was to make his phone gear last longer. He also wanted to know her name, but couldn’t gather enough courage to pop the question. So for the moment, he had to settle with the topic of headphones.
The girl said that one should always use a dedicated case to preserve the delicate wiring, and hang the headphones around a hook so that the natural flow of the wire remained intact. This, she said, reduced chances of wear and tear. Subhayan also got to know that he should ideally wipe the insides of his headphone occasionally with a soft piece of cloth to keep dust and dirt from accumulating.
By the time she finished, Subhayan was a little better than a nervous wreck. He thanked her and made it a point to apply these tricks from that moment on.
The bus screeched to a halt. Subhayan realized that the girl would have to disembark. While he now knew how to preserve his headphones, he still didn’t know her name. He tried to appear calm and readied himself to ask her when the girl vanished from his sight. Subhayan understood that he had squandered the opportunity yet again.
But when he looked out of the window, he saw her looking at him, a grin on her face. He bid her a bashful goodbye. Subhayan knew that he would have to wait till the next morning to find her sitting in one corner of the bus. He only wished he would then be able to ask her name. After all, his headphones were now safe, and that wouldn’t be an excuse anymore!4