It’s the roaring 20s, the era of black and white. Our man, a dashing gentleman, dressed perfectly in a tuxedo, with a cane, top hat, white gloves, black bow and with black patent leather Oxford shoes, on his feet, comes out of the bank with a half empty cup of water in his hand.
As our man enters the street, he looks at the street clock above; he notices that the clock has no hands. With a confused look on his face, he then looks at his pocket watch on a chain and is taken aback when he realizes that its hands are missing there too.
Our man starts to panic. He then goes around helter skelter asking people for the time and if he could see their watch.
They all look at him totally dumbfound as though he is some mad man and does not even know what he is talking about.
He then sees an uptight old gentleman, wearing a suit, a hat, and a monocle, with white hair and white mustache, reading a news paper. He runs fanatically to the old gentleman, and shouts, “Sir, Sir?” and gets no response from him. So he grabs the news paper and places his hands on the old gentleman’s shoulder and says, “Sir, please tell me what on earth is the time, can I see your watch?”
Not knowing how to react, the old gentleman just looks at him in shock and takes a step back being caught off guard.
A plump woman, standing next to the old gentleman, dressed from head to toe in black, with a huge bonnet on her head and a parasol in her hand, clicks her tongue and says, “Oh the poor dear, the heat must have gotten to him.”
Our man then tries to compose himself and he spots a mysterious young woman in a flapper dress, smoking a cigarette, across the street.
It is electric when their eyes first meet from across the street. For a minute, he forgets himself and just stares intensely at her almost hypnotic gaze and blindly crosses the road in a daze and walks towards her.
As he crosses the street, he almost comes into the path of a cyclist, and the cyclist, swerves, falls down and yells at him. But our man is totally intrigued and just keeps walking towards the woman.
She is standing there with one hand on her slightly tilted hips with her chest out and shoulders straight, projecting a confident, intimidating and seductive body language. While holding a long cigarette holder in her other hand.
He goes and stands next to her and they never break the eye contact. She takes a long puff of her cigarette and blows the smoke onto his face.
Our man coughs and starts to sweat. He then takes his hat off and asks her, “Ma’am what is the time?”
She looks at him in a condescending way, let’s out a churlish laugh and says, “What is time?”
Our man looks perplexed, but the woman starts to walk away. This had to be a dream, an unpleasant one at that. He squints his eyes in an effort to wake up from this nightmare.
His effort goes in vain. He is still standing at the same end of the street where the woman left him. The faint lingering smell of the smoke and her perfume starts to fade.
“The bank”, he mutters to himself. Something must have happened at the bank. He crosses the street, passing the cyclist, the plump woman, and the old gentleman. They continue to look at him as though he does not belong there.
He stands at the threshold of the bank, waiting for something to happen. As expected, no miraculous intervention happens. Our man then steps inside the bank and bumps into a bright young chap who looked like it was his first day at work.
Before our man could say anything, the well-dressed chap, with a name tag, greets him. “Hello Sir, My name is Wilson. How may I be of assistance?”
“Yes”, said our man, gasping to take in a breath of air from that frantic walk up the stairs. “Thank you. My name is…” he then stops midway, with a bewildered expression on his face.
“Is something wrong, sir?” The young chap enquired.
Struggling to phrase his shocking realization, our man replies, “I don’t remember what my name is!”
Our man then looks at the young chap and is unable to find his name tag on his uniform. He then asks the young chap, “What did you say your name was? Could you kindly tell it to me once again?”
The young chap replies, “name? What do you mean by name? What does the word name even mean?” “Are you disoriented Sir?” Our man then lets out a frustrated scream and turns around, looking at the people around him. There are quite a few familiar women out there at the bank. Strange, he wonders. Where had he seen them all before? He tries to recall.
He runs about asking each and every one of them, “I seem to know you from somewhere ma’am, we seem to have met before, please help me out here. What is going on here? I do not understand. I simply do not understand at all.”
The women just stare at him in disgust.
He then breaks down. Falls on his knees and with folded palms and pleads, “I think I really know all of you. I just can’t remember. For the love of god, have some pity on me, show me some mercy, and kindly help me out here please? I am confused. Please, please, I beg you to help me figure out what is going on? Who am I? What is happening here? Is this all real?” Nobody moves an inch. One woman looks at him and spits on the floor. He then cringes and turns slightly around and sees that seductive woman with her cigarette standing right behind him.
He turns to her and pleads, “Ma’am who are you? What is happening here? Why are you always watching me?”
The mysterious woman then arrogantly replies in a booming voice, “Have you lost your mind?” Then the young chap helps our man get up on his feet again and helps dust his clothes and adjusts his pocket watch. He then offers our man a glass of water. Our man drinks the water thirstily and says, “This water tastes so much better than the one I had here some time ago today.”
And before our man could even think any further, the young chap immediately says, “Sir, you must leave now. You are causing distress to the women out here”. He then shows our man his way out the door, ushers him out quickly and quietly.
Our man exists the bank and looks up at the same clock tower on the street and sees that the time is ten past noon.
He then looks at his pocket watch and notices that the hands are back and the time is ten past noon.
He suddenly remembers his name. He then gets a whiff of a familiar scent of perfume and smoke. With a tug in his heart, and dread in the pit of his stomach, he turns around to see the mysterious woman standing right next to the clock tower with an amused smile on her face. He looks at her in confusion and she merely says, “It’s all in your head.” She then laughs and walks away, with her hips swaying, never turning back, to see him again.
Our man remains on the sidewalk, bewildered, questioning reality, and his sanity and silently watches her as she disappears into the crowd, never to be seen again.
-By Arvind Sivamani & Rudrani Omkar