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The Library And The Silent Man

By Rishika Dange

“Coming Papa,” I answered loudly. Papa was waiting downstairs for me. It was a chilling December and Papa was getting late for work. He dropped me to the library every morning while on his way to work.

I rushed downstairs, doing my hair on the way while watching my feet on the stairs; they were running as fast as a lost puppy. I wore a white laced tunic with a maroon sweater and black bellies. And with my brown leather sling bag, hanging on one of my shoulders, I got inside the car.

Papa was already inside. He started the car, and we were on our way for a regular Monday. I reached the library building and was just about to walk right through the main door when I saw a tall man staring at a flower pot that perhaps wasn't watered for a couple of weeks.

His constant stare of thought and conviction amused me. I didn’t know why, but I walked up to him and asked him “Hello, Umm.. may I know what makes you stare at that dry pot like that?”

He slowly turned his head towards me and that’s when I saw how deep and intense his eyes were. He had thick black ear-length hair, parted on one side, and was around 5’11. He wore a black knee-length coat over a grey-colored, tightly buttoned shirt and brown pants.

He was just looking at me. Not one single word came from his mouth.The serious stare, with no trace of smile on his face, left me a strong feeling that I had something heavily wrong.

He didn’t even blink his eyes. Not even for a second. I broke my eye contact with him immediately, looked down, and said “I am sorry if I have disturbed you. Umm.. I would better leave.”

I raised my head and looked above, he was right there. With those same, mysterious, deep eyes, gazing at me as if I was the only person in the world. There was something about him. Something really passionate. I could feel a strong sense of comfort with him. I didn't know why, but I didn’t wanna leave. I felt as if those eyes were talking to me, and I just wanted to listen.

“Maria!!” called a familiar voice from behind, which is exactly what distracted me from my newly found comfort zone. I looked behind, she was Ria, my reading mate. She walked to me hurriedly and held my hand.

“Come along, I got to show you something!” she said with excitement pouring in her voice. I walked away with her.

I, however, stopped at the library door and looked behind. Just to check if he was still looking at me. To my surprise, he still was. With the same passion in his eyes and the same stern expression. I again broke my eye contact, and walked inside the library with Ria.

“My article has been published in the BBC magazine!” Ria started. I was, unfortunately, not present there physically to listen to her greatest achievement. I was still near the dry pot, standing in front of him, gazing at that sharp and handsome face of his.

“Where are you, Maria? Are you listening?”

“Oh umm, Yes, I am. Sorry just got a bit distracted”

After Ria told me her tale of success, which I tried concentrating on, we were off to our reading routine. I grabbed “Rebecca” from the shelf, and resumed reading from where I left.

Ria had an interview for her article that very day and she left in no time. Now I was at the table all by myself.

After an hour of reading, I reached for my bag to get my water bottle. And oh, he was right there! The man with those mysterious eyes was sitting 3 tables apart towards my right. He was reading a novel from the spirituality section.

Was he a holy man? A priest? His appearance didn’t say so. But hey! Why was I obsessed with him in the very first place? Honestly, I didn’t know. I just felt deeply that I want to know more about him.

I walked to the librarian, who also happened to be a friend of mine. “Hi, Karthik! Can you tell who is that man on that corner table? I was just a bit curious about him; never seen him in this library before.”

“He is David D’Souza from Shimla. He is a literature and psychology scholar from the University of London. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Silence and is here at Goa for his research on the same. He presently is staying in a Villa near the Baga Beach”

“PhD in Silence? Woah! People pursue research in such weird fields. I have never heard of someone pursuing research in Silence. What exactly is that like? Do they like.. study the behavioral patterns of all those you like being silent? Or experiment with introverts?”

“Not sure Maria. All I am aware of is that he has vowed silence for 6 months now. Ask him all you want, and you would never get a response. It’s a part of his research I believe.”

I was frozen in amusement. What a passionate man he was! Going to such extremes for research showed how much he was invested in it.

“So how long is he going to continue this vow of silence?” I asked him curiously.

“He is searching for some answers, or so I heard; and they say that he would break his silence only when he has found those answers.” he responded while rolling his eyes.

I returned to my table and got seated. I couldn’t help but randomly glance at David every few seconds. He was deeply focused on his book. He was a charming man for sure. Those thick brows and that golden-dusky complexion added to his charm.

I was deeply examining his ravishing personality when he suddenly lifted his face. In a snap of a second, our eyes met. I was caught!! I looked away and pretended as if I was very much into my book.

I was really embarrassed. I was sure that I am not looking at that side of the library for the whole day now. And as expected, I broke my promise to myself. I hurriedly glanced at him, and saw him looking back at me. This time his expression was relaxed with frequent blinking.

Should I cut off my eye contact again? It was getting really awkward. I didn’t know what lies ahead of this. Should I talk to him? What’s the point, he wouldn’t respond any which way. One after the other random thoughts and questions were racing through my mind and I came to a point where I couldn’t sustain this awkwardness anymore.

I got up and started walking towards him. Considering how fast my heart was beating, and seeing him refuse to break our eye contact, I started breathing heavily. I reached to his table and began.

“Hi, David.. Umm I am Maria. I am pursuing my Masters in literature. This Library is quite far from my place. My house is near the St. Thomas Catholic Church. Nearly 16 Kms. But I come here everyday. I am so attached to this Library I tell you. I got to know about you and your research project on Silence from Karthik. I must say it sounds incredible and umm unique. Ahh.. I just wanted to lighten this air of awkwardness between us. I mean.. we have been staring at each other for quite a long time now. And I am sure you would agree with me on how confusing it gets after a point. Lets.. umm..try becoming friends? I know you don’t talk, but we can still become friends. I mean, we can read books together or.. ahh.. you get my point right? ”

All the while as I was talking hesitantly, he was looking at me with the same emotionless expression. I had never seen a man with such poise and patience. He looked at me with those relaxed yet intense eyes, as if I was a beautiful painting.

He stood from his chair, walked up to me, and handed me a long sheet of paper that he was carrying along with him. His fingers touched mine, during the exchange of the sheet, and my heart skipped a beat. He seemed to be quite ignorant of this though, and simply walked away to the library door. I, however, was just trying to gather my senses and interpret all that was happening.

I thought the sheet was blank until I turned it over to see the words written on it..

“Silence is the Key”

Okay.. so what am I supposed to understand from this? Was he trying to tell me that the only way we could be friends was by being silent? Or did he not like me talking to him? Well for a man who has been silent for 6 long months, hearing other people talk can get irritating. I was just thinking of all the possibilities.

It was almost evening, and Papa was waiting outside the library. I went home that evening with heavy thoughts and realized mid-way, that I had forgotten my ribbon in the library.

The next morning, I was very much on time and seated inside the car even before Papa. I still remember that wow expression on his face.

We reached the Library and I entered through the main door. My eyes were searching for him in every direction. Finally! there he was. Standing tall and sturdy. He was browsing through the section of ‘Humanities’.

I can’t deny how much I wanted to go and greet him, but after that note that he gave me yesterday, I didn't know what he was expecting out of me.

I silently went and sat at my regular chair at the same table. I was not even 15 minutes into settling myself when I felt someone standing right behind me. I turned quickly.

“Phew! You scared me. Uh-uhh.. Hii! How is it going?” I began with a startled voice.

He looked at me with ease. His face was calm.

“Ohh I am sorry, you don’t talk. You can be ahh seated at least?” I asked, catching my breath.

He took a ribbon from his pocket and placed it on my table. I instantly recognized it “Ohh my goodness, I was searching for this all morning today. I don’t even remember where did I lose it yesterday. I am so glad you found it.”

He had the same expression on. No change at all. He turned around and walked back to the bookshelf.

I held myself together and took a deep breath.

Why did he never smile? What’s wrong with expressing emotions? All I was blushing about, was the fact that he kept my ribbon safe. He didn’t have to do that. But he did. I kept wondering while biting my lower lip, how cute he was.

Wait, I didn’t thank him!! Ohh what an idiot I am. I should have at least thanked him.

I walked up to his table hurriedly and stopped right beside him. He turned his head and looked at me very passionately. To my surprise, he pulled a chair right next to him.

I had butterflies in my stomach that moment. I slowly sat next to him and watched him read. He was concentrating on his book. And I was on him.. all while pretending to be occupied with reading. He was decent and modest all the while. We would exchange glances every now and then, I would smile at him, while he would just look into my eyes with those concealed expressions. I always felt he was hiding his emotions from everyone. Those eyes surely had a story to tell.

Time was literally flying and soon it was evening. I couldn’t believe that I had been silent for hours. But I could feel myself hearing him all the while. Hearing through his silence. The comfort I felt in that silence was truly therapeutic. I just wanted to be there all the time. It was so calming, so peaceful, and yes.. so romantic.

The clock hit 5:00 and it was time to leave. I was elated to see that he was done long before me. Yet, he was waiting for me. And the moment I was done reading, he started packing his stuff. Was he waiting for me? Ohh, I was flattered.

We left the library together. Though none of us had uttered a single word in the last 5 hours, a lot was already said and done in the comforting silence.

Papa was waiting in the car. I was just about to say a Goodbye when I saw he was gone.

He was already on his way to the other side of the road. Is that how you say a Goodbye in silent mode? Nevermind. I got into the car, and we left.

The next day as I made it to the library, I saw he was already there, sitting at the same table, keeping the chair next to him reserved. I reached at the table and saw him reading his regulars. He would always sit straight as if a soldier on a drill.

He looked at me, allowed his eyeballs to do the talking, and got back to his reading. He tried to portray as if he was always an angry-young rather serious guy, but deep down, I knew he was a passionately romantic man.

I sat beside him in my modesty, and the day went just like that, all while reading, glancing, and breathing the silent romance in the air. Words would never be able to do what that silence did to me. It was as if bit by bit, I was uncovering all the layers of David and his emotions.

Without saying anything, I knew everything. Everything that he meant, everything that he wanted, but denied to accept.

Days and weeks went by, and he became the most integral part of my life.

I wouldn’t deny how long I started taking to dress up every morning. I would reject all my outfits one after the other, assuming a silent man might not like dark colors. I would choose frocks and tunics that were the most soothing to the eye. And yes, I would overuse my mogra perfume.

All because I wanted to look beautiful for him. I wanted him to know how special he was. I was so used to that silence between us, that talking felt like a waste of time. The distance between our chairs was reducing every passing day. Sitting next to him, hearing him breathe in the stoic silence and knowing that he secretly looked at me with those romantic eyes, while I read, was priceless to me.

He was not just a part of my life, but my life entirely. I had never felt this passionate before. My desire for being with him was growing every single day. I could clearly see the gem of a character he was. And I knew that I was falling in love with him.

Strange right? I never heard his voice, never got the response of anything I ever asked, but yet, I could hear him. I could hear his harmless intentions, I could hear his rich character, I could hear his introverted nature. I heard it all. Despite the silence, we were always in touch. Or maybe, because of the silence, we always heard each other.

On one such fine day, we were done reading, and were packing to go home. I got a message from my father right then. It said "I will be working late today. Can you go home with Karthik? Be safe"

My phone was on the table, right between the two of us, and David had already read the message from the notification bar.

I started replying "Karthik is currently not here papa. I would book a cab and.."

I was interrupted. For the first time in so many weeks, David held my hand.

I looked at him and saw his face staring at mine with that intense expression of worry and tension. I knew what he wanted to say.

I erased my reply and wrote "Sure papa. Karthik will drop me."

He knew my parents didn't know him, and might find it difficult to trust him. But I knew what he wanted. Sometimes a lie aids a situation of crisis.

We left the library together and started walking on the side of the road. He was leading the way which ended at the parking lot. We stopped near a black bike, shining under the moonlight.

He got seated, wore his helmet and invited me to be seated behind him with a subtle rather shy glance. I held his right shoulder, and pulled myself on his bike.

I was feeling nervous and shy. He had such a charming physique, I was totally captivated. He passed on a helmet, and waited while I wore it and got seated comfortably.

The moment my eyes hit the mirror on the front of the bike, I saw his eyes were stuck on me. He had been watching me all the while.

I placed both my hands on his shoulders and nodded. He started the bike and we were on our way. He knew I lived opposite the church, and drove carefully. I could see how cautious he was, not applying any unnecessary breaks.

But the cold breeze was hitting my body like a thousand knives. Without a second thought, I arched forward and hugged him. His body was warm like a blanket of velvet. I held him from behind and tightened my grip around his chest. I could feel his racing heartbeat. Mine was worse.

We reached the church and stopped there. I slowly got down from the bike, and removed my helmet. He got down too, got his helmet off and stood there, keenly observing the houses on the street across the road.

I had the best ride of my life and never wanted it to end. I was avoiding facing him, as now I was feeling shy on how affectionately I held him. What he must be thinking? It didn't matter. I wanted him to know how much I desired him. We had hardly spoken to one another, and we didn't need words anymore to convey what he felt.

I looked deeply into his eyes, stretched my feet, and got on my toes. I reached for his face, and held it, with my other hand holding on to his broad shoulders. My cold fingers were running through his mild beard and I slowly.. placed a peck on his cheeks.

He didn't embrace me. Never held me as well. But he didn't push me away either. He just held his seriousness on his face, and his tall and muscular posture all the while. He was reluctant to make eye contact and was stoned while I kissed him. He was really good with concealing his emotions.

"I know you won't talk, neither express." I whispered slowly.

"But I wanted to say.. ahh... thank you."

I couldn't tell him I loved him. The fear of losing him came in between my confession. I loosened my grip on him, stepped down, and turned around. My heart was racing like never before.

I took a deep breath and started walking towards my house. Before knocking the door, I turned around and looked for him. He wasn't there nor was his bike. He had left.

Trying to comprehend everything that had happened, I couldn't sleep that night. My anxious thoughts wouldn't let me. I was just waiting to see him tomorrow and hopefully tell him this time, how much I loved him.

I reached the Library next morning, and found our table occupied by someone else. I looked for David at every corner of the Library, just to find out that he wasn't there.

I frantically asked Karthik if David had come today, and was left disappointed after knowing he didn't. I sat at a different table and my eyes were stuck on the entrance.

I waited the whole day. He didn't come.

I was devastated when I left the library. However, I never stopped looking for him. I would come every day and wait for him. Library was no longer my temple of peace. I used to come there just with the hope of seeing him and ended up leaving disappointed.

I sat everyday, all alone. Ria had long understood that my priorities had changed. She would let me be with myself and my sorrow.

It was just another day of wait and despair, when Karthik gave me the most heartbreaking news.

"Maria, David is going back to London", he said with sigh. "He will be leaving in a couple of days. His younger brother came yesterday to return all the books he has issued."

"W-What do you mean? How can he go back to London? Why is he going back?"

"I am afraid I don't have the answers to your questions my dear."

I stood up abruptly, ran towards the door, and arrived outside the Library. Tears were rolling down my eyes as I was running and panting heavily. I didn't know where to go, whom to talk to, and was completely directionless.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that Karthik had once said that David lived near the Baga beach. I took the first bus and made it to the beach, hustling, and crying all along.

I didn't know which Villa he lived in. I was frantically looking for him in every possible direction. My anxiety grew to a level that I started asking people on the roads about a man who has vowed silence and doesn't talk.

No one knew him. Of course, how would they, he was always so reserved.

After all attempts of searching for him, I came back to the beach, tired, and wasted. I stood there on the sand, facing the wild waves. The sun was going down and so were my hopes. My tears had dried up and my face grew pale.

I had lost him. Forever. I never knew that night across the church, that moment when I held him close.. was my last day with him. If I would have known that I would never see him again, I would have never left. And the fact that I would never get to feel his presence, his care, his compassion, and love behind that stoned face, was aching my heart. A part of me was gone. I was completely torn.

It started drizzling. And the drizzle turned into a heavy rainfall in a matter of a few seconds.

I gazed above. The sky had turned orange. "Thank you!!" I whispered looking at the skies. "Thank you for coming into my life." Tears started rolling down my eyes once again, and I started weeping like a child.

"Your welcome" said a bold, heavy voice from behind.

My eyes were widened, and my body was frozen.

I turned around and found him standing right in front of me. He was all wet, drenched in the rain. I couldn't believe what I just heard. Did he just talk?

"I should be the one to thank you," he said. I could see a subtle smile on his face for the very first time.

"You have been the only one in the last 6 months who connected with me on a deeper level. You helped me uncover the truth about feelings. You proved that the transaction of feelings, emotions, and expressions doesn't demand words. You helped me decode the existence of a language that is way beyond words. The language that is heard only in silence. The language that transcends all limitations of the body and mind. The language that surpasses every dimension. The language of love."

I stood there. Awestruck and speechless. Both of us were dripping wet in the rain.

He pulled a ring from his pocket, and got down on his knees.

"Will you marry me Maria?" he asked in his bold tone" His voice was breaking. He was getting emotional.

I was crying, smiling, laughing, all at the same time. This was the best moment of my life.

"Do I have to answer that Mr. David? I believe my silence has all your answers." I answered in a naughty, playful and a funny tone. Tears were still pouring down my eyes and the smile on my face grew wider.

He got up, held my hand and pulled me close. He grabbed my waist, looked me in the eye, chuckled and said "I believe you are not the only one to play around like that Miss".

I blushed and looked down. "I thought you were going to London. I was scared I had lost you" I said softly. I was shying away.

He held my chin, lifted my face close to his, and began "I am going to London. But not alone. I would need my wife alongside. I have grown habituated to the odor of an overly used mogra essence now. I can't live without it."

We both laughed, while he wiped my tears.

"Yes.. Yes, I will marry you." I said, running my fingers through his hair. We held each other like two branches, intertwined closely. Like two waves merging into one.

The next day, David met my parents and I had never seen them happier. We got married in the same church that witnessed our love.

"What are we going to London for? I asked my husband right after our marriage.

"Well, that's our honeymoon destination love. But before that, we must make it to the library. Your last memory of our sacred temple shouldn't be a painful one."

I reached the Library. This time as Mrs. David D'Souza with my man walking right beside me. The man who never said anything, and became my everything.

Karthik was at the entrance. He spotted us and reached quickly to greet us.

"Welcome back Mr. And Mrs. David! Firstly, Congratulations on your marriage! It's great to hear you talking after so long David. I am so eagerly waiting to learn about your love story. You guys used to read here very silently. I hardly heard you both talking. When did the confession happen? Who said I love you?"

David and I chuckled and glanced at each other. I responded with a blushing face..


By Rishika Dange

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Anushka Dange
Anushka Dange
01 juin 2023
Noté 5 étoiles sur 5.

I got completely lost in this beautiful story, a deep experience of life itself. Simply amazing!

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