Photo courtesy : Sohini Basak
He couldn’t sleep again that night. He’d taken his last sleeping pill yesterday and made a mental note to remember to stop by at the chemist’s the next day. “Insomnia’s the pits”, he thought to himself. He was dead tired and had a killer headache but couldn’t sleep. He put on the TV and flicked through channels but it only made his head hurt even more. He sighed, then picked up the guitar next to his bed and strummed a few chords before laying it aside. He stepped out into his balcony and stood there for some time, drinking in the cold night air. He looked up at the constellations, spotting them easily. They were old friends; astronomy was a wonderful hobby for someone who had trouble sleeping. It was pitch black outside, a new moon night.
He made a quick mental decision and turned back into the room. He switched off the light and picking up his shoes, walked out of the room. He slipped out of the back door and closed it behind him softly so his parents wouldn’t hear it and come to investigate. He was going for a walk.
He walked down the empty road of his colony, thankful that he’d had the sense to pull on a sweatshirt before leaving; Delhi winter nights were chilly. He turned into the park at the corner and walked around it on the joggers’ path a couple of times. He left the path and walked through to grass lawns to the monument. He couldn’t remember whose tomb it was, little monuments like these were scattered throughout Delhi but no one seemed to make a big deal out of them. He felt vaguely ashamed about that for a minute, and then his thoughts came to an abrupt halt at seeing someone in the doorway of the building. And it wasn’t just some homeless or drunk guy, it was a girl. A young girl, at that. A young, well-dressed girl, wearing a white dress and looking very much in command of herself. He gaped at her, until she asked in a faintly amused voice, “Something wrong?”
“Uh, no. No, of course not. I just didn’t expect to see anyone else here at this time of night.”
“I don’t get much sleep at night”, she said, still sounding amused.
“Oh, are you an insomniac too?” he asked.
“Something like that.”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Selene” she said.
“Oh. That’s an um...nice name” he said, striving to sound normal but feeling all the ridiculousness of making small talk in the middle of the night, in a park, to a strange girl. “My name’s Aadit. Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need me to walk you home or something? Won’t your parents worry?”
“No, my parents won’t worry” she said. He still got the feeling she was laughing at him, so slightly nettled, he said, “I won’t bother you anymore then. I was just leaving anyway.”
She said, “I’ll come with you. It’s time I was going too.”
They walked together though the park. He looked sideways at Selene. She seemed to almost glow as she walked with a faint, shimmering kind of glow.
He shook his said bemusedly and said, “This is surreal.”
She smiled and said, “New moon nights are my favourite nights. Everything’s so peaceful, quiet and undemanding.”
“And dark!” he said, laughing. Then curiously, “Do you come here a lot?”
“Every new moon.”
She shook her head and said nothing.
They had reached the exit of the park. He walked through it, then looked back at her. “Aren’t you coming?”
“I changed my mind. I’ll stay here for a little longer.” There was a sort of sad longing in her voice that he found hard to understand.
“Okay. I’ll see you sometime then. Bye.” he said, feeling rather awkward.
“Bye.” she said then turned and walked away, still casting that strange glow on the grass.
He watched her walk away, his brow furrowed in confusion, then shrugged and walked back to his house. “Surreal was the right word” he thought.
Once he was back up in his room, he switched on his laptop and entered ‘Selene’ into his search engine.
He opened up the first link and read, ‘In ancient Greek mythology, Selene was an archaic lunar deity.’
“The Goddess of the Moon”, he said to himself. It was stupid, but when you thought about it, she had had that strange glow around her. And she only visited the park on new moon nights, when the moon couldn’t be seen.
He laughed out loud suddenly, at the absurdity of it all. A goddess, eho had come down to earth, visiting a park. A park! And in Delhi, of all places!
He really needed sleep.
Well, he clearly wasn’t getting any of that tonight, at any rate. He turned off his laptop and sank down on his bed.
He picked up the guitar again.