As the clock strikes 10, he briskly walks in to the department to serve coffee. Once he enters, his gait is slow and careful. His face is scrunched up in such concentration that a sweat bead on his forehead stays frozen, afraid to drip until the very last cup is served.
His footsteps always make a squelching sound, as though he walked for miles in the rain. Several times I run to the window to see if the sky parted, but it is the same dry soil every time.
One day I went to the pantry to grab a biscuit. I saw him sitting on the edge of a stool, waiting for a call from someone in the department. As soon as I walked in, I was met with a blast of hot air. I leant against the counter and asked him casually, “What’s your name?”
“People here call me Eggplant.”
“Eggplant?” I mused, taking in his bright purple uniform. The connection was easy to make.
“Yes.” he replied with a grin that didn’t quite meet his eyes.
“Wow, it’s so hot in here. Don’t you at least have a fan?” I asked, looking around. Inside the office, where the AC’s were perpetually whirring, we escaped the summer heat unscathed. I didn’t know the conditions outside were so starkly different.
“No, we do not get such facilities,” he said quietly, looking down at his shoes. The shoes that squelched from the sweat which accumulated while sitting stifled in a humid pantry. His life was measured by the distance between the pantry and the department. A distance that was so small-yet made all the difference.
He is back again, and it is almost 5 pm. His tray is laden with snacks and sweetmeats. After he serves everyone, he walks away, empty-handed. His tread is slow as always, and now I know why. It is to savour those extra few moments inside the AC-cooled department, before he returns to his post at the pantry. As he exits, I catch Eggplant pause near the door. He leans briefly against a wall, yearning to blend in, and sit there forever within the cool cracks. But his purple shirt is too bright, too unmistakeable. Then he is gone.
He will be back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, with the same old squelching shoes and bright purple shirt, and if anyone cares to ask, he will reply, “My name is Eggplant” resignedly.
Via Daily Prompt: Lifestyle