I was taking my early morning walk through the park behind the university. The sun was announcing that it was up, by sending oblique rays, which the tree leaves swaying in the morning breeze, were trying to block, throwing a wavering mosaic of shadows and spotlights on the forest floor. One such spotlight, momentarily reflected from the edge of the coin that stood upright, had invaded my distracted attention hopelessly looking for some wild roses.
I stooped and picked it up. It was a strange dull grey coin, with an engraved dunce cap adorned head on one side, and on the other, the words ‘Huitième Mars’ over the profile of an angel in bas-relief. As I tried to dust it, it fell off my hand, bounced on the ground, rolled away, and finally came to a stop, standing on its edge.
Puzzled, I picked it up and dropped it. Again, after prancing around a bit, it stood still on its edge.
‘Hmm! Let me see.’ I thought, and looked around. I saw a clearing, with some barbecue tables and benches. I went up to a table, and holding the coin flat, dropped it on the table. I expected it to fall on its underside and stay lying flat. Curiously, it fell near a gap between the planks, and tumbling over the edge of one, fell through the gap to the ground. I looked under, and there it stood, again on its edge.
I tossed it and grabbed it between my flattened palms. It lay still. I cautiously lifted my right palm to uncover it. At that moment, my left palm felt a tingle, and twitched. The coin, lying flat, trembled and stood up to stand on its edge. I tilted my left palm a little, and that tilted the coin; but it did not flip it to its side. I tilted my palm to a precarious angle, and the coin fell off to the ground, coming to rest on its edge finally!
I tried a second time, and the same thing happened.
Was it my lucky morning? I looked carefully at the coin’s two sides, trying to read what was in too small a print. It looked like French, which of course, I did not know. However, my friends had never disagreed with me whenever I had pronounced strange words in romantic novels that we shared, to be French. Did this profound confidence stem from my unfounded notion that French was the language of romance? In that case, why did I think the words on this unromantic coin were in French?
I pocketed the coin, and resumed my walk, suddenly realizing that I had got excited, started to sweat, and somehow felt very foolish. I felt a strip of tightness around my head, like from the sweatband of a hat. Running my hand around my head, I assured myself that I was not wearing any hat or cap, not even a dunce’s cap.
When I reached home, Bunu, my wife, did not answer the doorbell. I pushed the door open, and called her name. She did not respond. Then I heard the sound of a shower, and understood that she was showering. I was hot. I picked up a glass of water from the sideboard and gulped it down. Remembering the coin, I took it out, and dropped it in the empty glass. Knocking around a bit against the wall of the glass, it stood on its edge, oscillated sideways, and finally stood still. I hastily emptied the glass on the dining table. The coin fell and rolled, finally coming to stand on its edge.
“Oh! You are back. Took your time today, didn’t you?” I heard Bunu say from behind. Turning around, I saw her, wrapped in a bathrobe with a towel in her hands, pressing her long black tresses, now limp with water. Looking at me, her angelic face was totally devoid of any love for me.
Shifting her gaze from me, she looked at the coin and asked, “What is that?”
“A coin I found in the forest.” I said.
“Really? Let me see!” With a faint sign of emotion finding its way into her expression, she came near me, smelling heavenly of her bath salts and body wash and every conceivable toiletry that made up half of my sensation of her. As she leaned over the coin, brushing my side, I was tempted to hold her and … just smell her divineness … Um …
But, no, I could not. Just after waking up, we had fought. I had wanted her to come with me. She had refused. We had argued. We had hotly debated. We had fought. We had decided that debate was no way to settle the issue. We needed to make that call by other means.
The issue was whether love had died between us, in which case we needed not bear its bier, walking together in the morning in the park.
Bunu asked me, “Have you cleaned it?”
I shook my head. She was too particular about hygiene.
“But, why have you kept it standing on its edge? Suppose it rolls off the table!” she said, fascinated by the coin. I did not respond, afraid of killing the animation that was returning to her voice.
Bunu turned and looked at me, “Shall we toss it?”
“Toss for what?” I asked.
“To see if love has really died between us”, she said.
I nodded. I knew what the outcome would be. But, I could not tell her.
Bunu picked up the coin, and regarded its two sides. “Strange kind of head and tail, wouldn’t you say? She said.
“Yes … let’s toss.” I said eagerly.
Bunu flipped up the coin, and shouted, “Tail, I win”. Tumbling in the air, it fell on the table, bounced off, fell on the wooden floor, and started rolling. It rolled to a corner of the room, right into it. As it rebounded, it fell tamely on its side, and lay there.
We ran to it. It lay with the tail side up that read ‘Huitième Mars’. I quickly overturned it, but saw the dunce’s face had disappeared from the other side! Now it showed the crowned head of a joker!
Incredulous, I took off my glasses, and rubbed my eyes. ‘Had I seen wrong?’ I could not help asking myself repeatedly.
I must have. The day was 8th March, our wedding anniversary. Bunu had wanted me to take her to the flower seller’s market, and buy her fresh roses before they sold out. I had insisted on going for my regular morning walk in the park, and picking some wild roses.
Indroneer / 28 April 2014