Darkness engulfed the place. Low moans filled the dingy tunnel. He took rapid breaths while trying to raise himself. He moved his hands through the rough and uneven stones in the wall. His knee jerked and he collapsed onto the floor hitting hard. An agonised cry erupted inside him. Every inch of his body was throbbing with pain. Hot blood trickled down his face. He tried to gather himself again but his body resisted. By and by he relinquished his last drop of energy. He laid there awaiting his fate helpless as a child.
People were walking in and out of the restaurant. It was one of those busy hours which chokes the air out of you. She didn’t have much time to spare at the moment. They would start looking for her now. But he seemed to be lost in his thoughts. Nothing distracted him as he helped himself into the meals.
“Who are you?”. The question escaped her lips before she could stop it. He paused for a moment and looked up at her. His face was vivid with emotion.
“I don’t know”. His voice barely audible.
The answer took her off guard. It was hard to say whether it was his prank of some kind.
“I’m sorry! I guess you didn’t hear me right. I mean what’s your name?”. He stared blankly at the pretty face seated across him. He dropped the spoon and buried his head in hands. After a long moment, he replied, his face still hidden behind his hands.
“I understand it’s hard to take this. I don’t know my name. I don’t know any bit about me”. He choked out the words. She opened her mouth to say something but later decided against it.
“The last thing I remember is waking up in that tunnel where you had found me”. His eyes shut tight with pain and frustration.
“How long have you been inside it?”
“Like a day or two”. He sounded uncertain.
“Have your meal. I will be back”. She left him alone in the small cozy room. He closed his eyes and delved again into the pool of darkness searching for even the littlest bit of memory. But all that came to him was a blinding light and he couldn’t make out of it no matter how hard he tried.
He smiled down at all of them. Many shook hands with him and patted him on the back.
“Make yourself home here. We are so glad to have you”. Gratitude overwhelmed him. He hugged them and lightened the air with his jokes. Kitchen rung with the loud laughter. Soon they became busy with their works.
“Are you liking it?”. He turned around at her voice.
“Like anything and that’s a pretty good name you have given me”.
She let out a short laugh.
“Anyway good luck on your first day”. She said holding out her hand.
They shook hands and he knew it was his revival. His life was starting a new phase.
“Good God! It’s delicious”. She exclaimed munching the casserole.
“Thank you, chef!” He took out his invisible hat and bowed before her.
“You are definitely improving young man”. She said rather impressed.
“Your tips help”.
“You are way too modest”.
He chuckled and sat on the rug.
“We could start a cafeteria here”. He said.
“Here? But where?” She sounded skeptic.
“Yes. I will tell you”.
The sky was streaked with rosy red. Inside they sat weaving new dreams, laughing hard, fighting over the pranks, awaiting a new dawn.
“Have you thought about this?” He asked him. Each word distinct and serious.
“Yes!” He replied curtly.
“It’s the only place I remember from my long forgotten past. I need to know about it. If it’s coming back to me then it ought to be for a reason”.
The air was heavy and every face looked sombre.
“I will be back all of you. No worries”. He winked at them. His eyes fell on her. She stood by the window looking bleak and miserable.
“I will be back”. He said as if to no one. His tone no more jovial.
He pulled them all into a tight hug. He walked out holding his bag and head hung low. He knew he was leaving a whole life behind. Tears streaked down her face. She clung close to the wall exhausted and tired. Slowly the crowd melted and she stood looking out until he became inundated by the obscurity.