“ Aquamarine” she corrected the stationery shop boy who was tired of making photocopies and addressing people’s need for staplers and greed for diaries, pens, crayons, glitter, glue and other non-essential items that are somehow essential to the imagination.
She had pointed at the inkpot, and he’d asked her, “You want the blue ink?” in an attempt to simplify his gruelling job, devoid of humour or politeness, caring or manners – the customers all came in, barely looked at him and began their incessant uncouth demands. He didn’t really care what shade an ink was, preferring black, blue, red to coal dark, aquamarine, royal, ruby that were ambiguous, hard to pronounce and unknown words to the barely literate who were his customers. But he knew those words, and loved them as much as the twelve year old who stood before him.
Past the age of twenty, past the age for school, college or any of those future enhancing courses that were the boon of the monied but the bane of those without. In any case they didn’t help, nobody got a brighter future with those qualifications. At least most people didn’t.
He smiled at the earnest child, “ Yes, aquamarine! Sorry, I was just simplifying things.”
“ That’s the whole trouble,” she scolded, “trying to simplify the complex down to what you think is somebody else’s level. How rude.”
“Sorry, sorry. But if truth be told I wasn’t simplifying it for you, but for myself. No point having deep visions of life and ink.”
“ There’s every point. Always. And aquamarine isn’t a very deep vision in any case. It’s light. It’s sunny. It’s clear blue water and joyous seaside splashing. Nothing deep about it at all.”
“ Pretentious name.”
Can I have the ink please ?”
“ Why this colour?”
“Because this is the only colour I write my diary in.”
On another occasion she confided,
“ Unless I write my diary with ink of this colour the time machine doesn’t work.”
“ You’re a little too old to believe in magic. Watch out, or your mother’s going to take you to a shrink.”
“No no, my mother and I travel on the time machine together.”
Eventually, the stationery shop boy stopped finding her pronouncements strange and even agreed, half playfully, to have a look at her time machine.
“ But you’d better check with your mother, and I think it’s best she’s there too.”
A time and date was set up and the young man found himself before the house.
“I’m Clara,” she introduced herself. And this is my mother, Tammy.”
Clara and Tammy led Arjun towards a blue sofa that looked unlike any sofa he had ever seen before. The feet curved in four different directions and seemed to shimmer and fade, recede and return so you were never quite sure whether they were there at all. The sofa itself had a curved back reminiscent of clouds that went on and on and on and since the entire thing (he thought of it as a thing because it wasn’t exactly a sofa) was placed in a white, bright light room with no other distractions it added to the effervescent effect of the sofa – an island of blue floating on a sea of blue with legs that were occasionally there to anchor you and often not, to allow you to float off.
Arjun sat down on it, experiencing it as flimsy, yet solid enough to trust oneself travel.”
“ This is the time machine?” He asked, aghast, thinking, ‘there may be something to this girl’s story.’
“ What was the last wish you wrote in your diary?
“ Err, umm – well.”
“Okay you don’t need to tell me. Whatever it was, the time machine will take you to a time that will fulfill your wish.”
“Not possible.” Said Arjun as he leaned back into the little yellow cushion behind him.
A strange frisson of sensation pulsed through him. He looked around.
Neither Clara nor Tammy could be seen anywhere. He stood up. Searched. No sign of life. Nervous, he headed out of the door. Things looked slightly different and a little out of placefrom what he remembered. He shook his head and walked thoughtfully over to the stationery shop.
As he entered the photocopying booth assertively, the shopkeeper (who looked better than he usually did – as if he’d washed his face more than usual, or just had a shampoo) charged at him with a questioning look and a distinctly aggressive stance.
“What do you want, boy?”
Boy? Had he become a boy again?
The mirror affirmed this fear.
What had Clara said? About his diary, and what was the last thing he had written about?
“Go back to school,” scolded his boss, the stationery shop owner.
He was actually wearing a uniform, a fact he confirmed by looking down at his foreshortened legs, small thin arms and inability to see the top of the counter.
“Err, sir, where is my school.”
An exasperated glance, a sigh, a shake of the head, and a finger pointed down the road. As Arjun scampered off, he was hauled up by a yell,
“Hey, take your books with you.”
Had everything been taken care of by the blue sofa time machine?
Image thanks to www.decortoadore.net