# The Forgotten Name of Love- 1
The rules of the game assumed that it is nothing less than chess. Right moves at right times is all that is needed. And to do that you need a sound judgment and tact and a killing sensitivity to anticipate the cluster of thoughts flowing in the opponent’s mind.
As soon as he had seen her staring at him, his mind had started making calculations instantaneously like a jolt of electricity. The important thing in this case was of course, how long she had been staring at him. And the other equally important thing now would be how long he would stare at her. A few seconds later, he made his first move. He forced his eyes away from her and towards the paper that he held in his hand. The game was now on.
It was the first exhibition of his art works. And he had worked hard for it; not just at painting the hanging canvasses but also at arranging this public exhibition. He was standing on the podium surveying the numerous paintings and the various faces observing them. It was in the midst of these that he had seen her staring at him. And now that he had made his first move, he waited eagerly for her to make the next move. “It would be interesting”, he thought and kept looking at the paintings and sometimes at the folded paper in his hand.
She had at first thought him to be a visitor, but when she saw him glancing at the painting with a vivid eagerness, she guessed that he must be the artist. He was wearing a loose checked shirt and light-blue jeans. He had a broad forehead, short hair, thin lips, and his tight cheeks. He wasn’t perfect or even anywhere near it. Only that he was suitable in some ways. And it appeared that he may happen to be an interesting case.
She wasn’t surprised when he turned away from her. She knew it was her turn and hence without much thought she advanced towards him. He saw her approaching and turned his face towards her.
“Do you know who the artist of these paintings is?” She asked in a calm voice, looking directly into his eyes.
He chuckled in his heart. Then assuming a composed and casual tone he replied “I am.”
“Some of these paintings are good.” She said with a certain non-chalance which she presumed would tease him.
“Thanks” he replied.
“You are welcome.”
Both of them understood that the conversation was now at a dead end. An awkward silence readily floated into the space between them. Someone had to make a move now. She knew that now it had to be his move. Else she would have to walk away from there a second later. He knew that fueling the conversation further would mean giving away a hint about what he felt. And if he didn’t, a second later all would be ended with a seal of indifference. The stakes were high this time. And time was ticking away furiously; each tick deafening like a bomb explosion now. But none of them moved. And the second passed as quickly as any other second. She turned around to move away towards the gallery of the hall. The game was over now.
But before she could even lift her feet off the ground she heard his voice- “Which one did you like the most?”
A sense of victory flushed her heart. She faced him again and replied “The one in the corner. It’s titled ‘Dying With A Stranger’ I guess.”
“I made that a year ago.” He said and moved towards the corner where a lone canvas stood bearing an oil-painting. She followed him and saw the painting once again.
The painting wasn’t very aesthetic and was painted in dark shades of blue and brown. It showed two faces- a man and a woman- behind the windshield of a car. They were crying at the top of their voice. Their eyes were wide open and filled with a deep dreadful fear. It was called ‘Dying With A Stranger’.
“It is very tragic. I mean, why are they crying and horrified sitting in the car? I wonder what made you paint that!” She said.
“Frankly speaking, even I don’t know. It was one of those epiphanies which you cannot trace to something tangible or known. It just strikes you someday suddenly. The only thing that you can do with it is to throw it out of your system. And I did just that.” He explained. The conversation was now growing healthier.
“That sounds weird. But I guess that’s how artists work.” She said sensing that she was now having the upper hand in the situation.
“Sometimes, not always.” He said selecting his words very carefully and keeping his contribution optimum. And as he had guessed, this did change the game. The onus to keep the ball rolling, now lay with her. This was going to be crucial.
She looked into his eyes and felt a taunt lurking somewhere behind his eyeballs. She spared a few seconds and then said, “I have always wondered what inspires creativity in an artist.”
“It can be anything. It can be something as coarse as a tattered jute-bag or something as majestic as the Long Beach Bridge”, he said calmly with an air of assurance.
“Long Beach Bridge sounds interesting.” She said. “I wonder how an artist can be turned on by hanging rods and beams.” This had to be her finest move. It had humor, tact and a hidden clue.
He smiled at her faintly. He sensed that she wanted him to read between the lines. But he wouldn’t make it easy for her. And so he played a safe bet now “It isn’t just about the rods and beams. It is about the ambience there- the overflowing traffic above, the overflowing river below.”
Either he was clever or very dumb. In either case she was at the receiving end now. And so she decided to dole out her biggest gamble “I have never seen it that way.” She said, risking her entire game with this.
He didn’t say anything instantaneously. For a second, he observed her eyes which were staring at him without blinking. This was a tight situation. It was all now resting on what he would say. The tension by now had escalated to his brain which then stopped responding. Finally, he clenched his fists and then spoke out calmly “Would you like to?”
The game was over. Apparently, she had won. Of course, he had played well, better than she had expected. But it was a checkmate. And she took pleasure in slicing up his king as she said “I wouldn’t mind.”
The next minute they were seated in the front-seat of his car and were cruising towards the Long Beach Bridge. It wasn’t a very long drive and he expected to be back in half an hour. The streets were a bit busy and the roads were filled with honking buses, smoking cars and motor-bikes. He looked at her now and then as he drove. She kept looking straight ahead at the road, glancing at him whenever he applied a sudden brake.
A few yards ahead, the Long Beach Bridge swam into their ken. It was illuminated beautifully and cars whizzed past furiously over the bridge. He started accelerating as he approached the bridge.
Suddenly, out of nowhere an old man appeared in front of his windshield, scampering to the other side. He turned his steering wheels frantically. The car screeched loudly and brushed past the old man. He pressed the brakes hard. But the car had started sliding and then it rammed against the railing of the bridge. With a loud thud the car tore apart the railing. The brakes were useless now as the car toppled down from the bridge like a toy.
As the car lunged towards the water, two faces could be seen behind the windshield of the car. They were crying at the top of their voices. And their eyes were wide open and filled with a deep dreadful fear. It was called ‘Dying With A Stranger’.