Basement

It was workday as usual. He was standing by the aisle. The door opened and she walked through the door. He simply couldn’t take eyes off her till she disappeared in one of the cubicles. Was it LAFS (love at first sight)? Oh… come on… love is too big a word.  It was attraction at first sight.

She wasn’t that mesmerizing beauty but she had caught his attention. He wouldn’t miss a single chance to get an eyeful. It was impossible for her not to notice it. She replied with cold and hard stares whenever their eyes met.

Then both got drafted into single project and his heart leaped with joy. Now he didn’t have to find situations or excuses to look at her. His irregular attendances decreased; leaves decreased. He didn’t have to rush to office to make it to 10 am. Roommates were surprised with sudden surge in the discipline. He would despise the days when he or she was on the leave.

Then came a specific time in that project when everybody had to work out of their skins. Tensions soared and reflected on faces of all team members. On that day, she was stuck at one particular problem. Her restlessness was evident. He noticed her desperate rounds to team lead’s cabin without any relief. He wouldn’t miss this chance to help. “May, I help you” were the only words he managed. She was more than ready. That day he left the office at 11 pm. But, his heart was bouncing with joy.

After that “may I help you”, cold stares turned to straighter face or warm smiles at times in acknowledgement of his admiration. However, he couldn’t bring up any more courage to talk to her. Then suddenly she got shifted to another project and his heart was barren again. He tried to get glimpse of her in cafeteria during lunch and tea timings. But she was very irregular. He started wondering how… “how in the name of god will I  get a chance to talk to her!!”

Everybody had left office early on that day due to long weekend. But he had to stay late; workload was heavy. By the time he decided to leave, it was pretty dark and it had started raining heavily. He reached security desk and single guard was busy documenting. He waited for few seconds and then decided to visit ATM in the basement to withdraw some money.

There she was standing in front of ATM machine, waiting for her money to come out. She looked back and noticed him standing behind. He managed to flash a smile in time.  She warmly returned the smile. He was all pink n roses. This was his chance. Butterflies danced in his stomach.

Money took rather long time to come out of the machine. Should I say, “May, I help you”… No… not again… it has to be meaningful and amusing… but… how can I just say anything like that abruptly… I have to start with some general remark on weather or time or situation… how about “I guess money doesn’t want to land in your hands”… LOL…

Suddenly fire alarm went off… that unbearable whistle and American accent… “Attention… please evacuate the building using nearest exit”… He couldn’t believe his ears. She turned back and looked at him with big question mark… what the heck… suddenly lights went off… he thought she screamed…  but it was hardly audible as alarm continued unabated.

Both of them turned on torches on their mobile phones and started pressing the lift buttons. Button panels were dark. Emergency lights turned on but lifts still didn’t show any life. He was standing their haplessly looking at her efforts to revive the dead lifts.

“Come on… do something… don’t just look at me…”, she said.

This was his chance to be knight in shining armour saving his damsel from distress. He looked around and started thinking hard. Damn!! He bypassed that ERT opportunity few months back. Else he would have known. What else! What else! Suddenly that small red bracket by the side of middle lift with key inside flashed on his eyes. Key to the door that opens in parking. He reached it. How do I get the key? Ok… there is this small hammer. He started hitting bracket glass with that small hammer. She came and stood beside him. There wasn’t single crack in the glass even after 20-30 strokes. It was embarrassing. He didn’t dare look at her. It was time for herogiri now. He pulled handkerchief. Wrapped it around his fingers and punched the bracket. Bracket fell down to the ground. But glass was still intact. He sat down and punched few more times. What the heck!! Suddenly, she stepped forward and stamped her sandal on the bracket.  Glass cracked. He took the key and rushed to the door.

Now, one two three four, fit key in the hole; five six seven eight, turn it and we are out of the gate. Wish it was that simple!! It took him few seconds to fit in the key. Turn… it didn’t move! lock seems old.. try it harder… must be the other way… clockwise… anti-clockwise… remove it… try it again… lock didn’t give up… he started sweating, not by physical exhaustion, but by the thought of looking stupid in front of her. He made one last effort and turned key very hard in the keyhole. The key snapped and he had the broken stub in his hand.

“What a useless bummer?”, her expressions spoke, at least that’s what he thought. She looked anxious and terrified. “How do we get out… Help… Help…”. Last two words were loud screams of increasing intensity. But they might have disappeared in fire alarm announcement before reaching any distance upwards.

There is no easy way to open the door now. This thick and heavy door behind which we are trapped. I have to break it. There is no other way to win back her trust. There is no other way to enter her heart.

He started kicking the door. He ran some distance backwards and threw himself full-bodied on the door. Dark panelled thick door didn’t show any movement. He kicked with all his might and power. She had stopped screaming realizing futility of it and with hope of seeing some result of his efforts. Minutes passed like ages. He was drenched in sweat. She had started sobbing. He felt very sorry for her and himself. God help me! He took a deep breath and kicked with all the power that he could generate.

“Excuse me… Hello…. Excuse me… ”

He was suddenly woken up by her voice. He looked up. Basement was all quiet around, door intact, key intact.

“Looks like you were lost in deep thought!!… My ATM card is lost in the machine. I need your help.”