The Raven and the Songbird

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The coffee shop is quiet. You glance at her, inwardly patting yourself on the back for your courage. You are on a date with the girl you’ve watched your friends and foes date, from the by-lanes for some time now. Standing in the bylanes has been frustrating. But introverts like you? The bylanes are the centre of the universe.


She looks pretty in blue, like the summer sky. She is chirpy, they say. But you disagree. She hasn’t really said anything since you met. But she is all attention, nodding enthusiastically each time you say something. And you are talking! For a change.


You show her a meme about the hot weather. She giggles. You are no longer sweating, you got this.


You rant about the lack of traffic discipline. She swears with you. You guys jam over the deteriorating civic sense in general.


You look wistfully at her. A fleeting visual swims before your eyes- your raven-like wife, cawing away from dawn to dusk. Never once listening, only spewing insults. About procrastinating. About twiddling your thumbs and fiddling on your smartphone all day. About bills to pay. About working all day. You shoo her away, focusing on the pair of gleaming blue eyes in front of you. She seems to be nodding fervently. You wonder if you blabbered aloud your thoughts about the crow spouse.


But you are quiet. And she is still nodding, looking past you. You turn back and see a lad on the table behind. He is talking over your head, and your lady listens in rapt attention.


You call her. She does not seem to hear you. She is nodding away at the bloke waxing eloquent about some obnoxious song in some movie, and about the actress wearing the wrong colour- and you watch her clap her hands in agreement.


“But that is ridiculous! How could that mean anything?” You prattle, and she directs her attention to you and gives you a high-five! You exchange a smile, before the bloke at the back begins harping again. And she is looking past you, again!


You whip out a meme about the recent union budget being made by a mother- for all things a mother cares about are going cheap. Toys, books, etc. A raven-like voice caws in your head- a father should care about them too. You shoo it away, and watch her chuckle at your joke.


You persist, “You know, it seems so different speaking with you.” She looks at you with those sea-blue eyes, and you can’t seem to stop talking, “I am generally a reticent guy. In all these years, I’ve always thought I have nothing much to add to a conversation. Who would be interested…” You trail off in confusion because she has stopped listening to you. She is looking right through you.


Why does it hurt so much? A date gone wrong, what’s new? But you are convinced she is the one. You are going to fight for her attention. Even if it means competing with wagging tongues.


You try again, choosing a controversial topic this time. She seems to be attracted to those. “I think there is just too much yapping in the name of feminism these days. Can a man not utter a word without overthinking? Do these women h…” It happens again. She phases out.


You have an epiphany! She has a short attention span. That is all. She is still the one. You make a final effort, “You got me talking. You are an enchantress!” She beams at you. Simple. Short sentences grab attention. You have patted yourself on the back so often, your shoulder hurts from all the stretching.


A middle-aged man with a humungous paunch on the adjacent table goes, “Fat, fat, fat. She could wear a bikini in any colour and she would just be fat!”


She waves to him cheerfully.


A lady with a newspaper in front of her reprimands him, “Don’t you have mothers and sisters?”


The guy on the table behind rejoins, “They are all fat!”


An old man walks in, panting as he sits. He exclaims in a shaky voice, “Boycott. Boycott. Boycott!” Half the occupants on the tables in the cafe bang their fists in approval. The other half scream in retaliation. You are dazed. When did the cafeteria become so crowded?


You stare at her in disbelief. Everyone seems to be talking to her, a few are fighting amongst themselves. And she manages to nod to everyone. Yes. Every. Single. Person. A dozen people within a fraction of a second. She seems to agree with everyone. She seems to be against everyone.


You curl up in your shell, so tightly wound up, there is space in the shell for a couple more introverts like you.


You decide it is time for aggression. Marking your territory. You holler, “Shut up, you scumbags! You f***ers! Don’t you have better jobs?” Brief sentences, you remind yourself. She is staring at you open-mouthed.


There is silence for a fickle moment, and then a tirade of voices trying to drown you. But you now take names…the ones you came across only moments ago. You call out those strangers, adding a label here, an expletive there. They retaliate with more creative and more offensive abuses. Threats and death warrants and foul mouths spraying spittle. You do the same, with a vengeance that surprises you.


You have never spoken so much; now, all you seem to want is to speak. To be heard, by her. You can hear your wife cawing again in the distance, muttering something about the struggle for survival. You gnash your teeth- there are bigger issues out in the world than mere survival, stupid woman.


There is now an uproar, those fiends are barking at you. You snarl some more, the veins in your temples throbbing against your skull. She is not looking at you anymore.


There is only one message, “Your Twitter account has been suspended.” She flits onto another table, a guy types furiously on his keyboard. She nods vehemently. Your blue songbird.


You see the walls of your shell engulf you again. A shell in a by-lane.


Your wife walks through the café, without noticing you. Both your children run, to keep up with her. She rolls her eyes at the crowd, and says to no one in particular, “Jobless morons, these trolls.”



Author’s notes:


The logo of Twitter is a blue songbird.


Tweets had a character limit of 140, which was later revised to 280.



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