His eyes roamed freely, from the vantage point behind the half-closed door. There were people all around. They were laughing and drinking, joking and then, laughing some more. Their sometimes raucous laughter shattering the quiet of the evening and obscuring the gentle tingle of sparkling crystal. Some were huddled in corners immersed in clouds of smoke and serious discussions. His eyes took them all. It was a perfect setting – a social gathering where people paid to get entry. He knew the crowd.
His eyes searched for the right ones. They roamed the corners and searched the middle of the room, leaving out none. One by one, his eyes picked the vulnerable. The soft twitching of the cheek, the nervous twisting of the hands, the unhappy fluttering of a wayward eyelid, they all gave away some weakness and his eyes marked them all up.
Confident that now he had a list in mind he slashed through the crowd with the grace and poise of a dancer on an ice rink. He sliced through them, his firm steps and scary, wayward dreadlocks seeking immediate attention in a room full of sleek bodies and overpriced designer rags. His great height and wiry frame was shod in a shapeless dinner jacket that was somewhat crumpled. The peacock feather pendant that hung from a silver chain over his white hastily tucked-in shirt and the trident tattoo on his neck set him apart from everyone else.
And yet, his dark hooded eyes sent out a mute command that made crowds part and make way for him. His eyes met none as he strode towards the podium where his assistants were already at work.
Almost halfway through he stopped suddenly and turned right. The lashes hiding his eyes suddenly fluttered and he started straight at a lady in designer dress that shimmered and clung to all the right places, showing off a beautiful full figure. Her face was flawlessly painted and not a hair was out of place from her glossy bouffant. She was picture perfect with the carriage of a queen holding court. She was surrounded by a bevy of polished men and women who were paying obeisance to her beauty and prowess. She was obviously the belle of the ball.
But, the eyes had earlier seen through her bravado. They had seen the shredded tissue clutched tightly in her left palm that had a pink and black smudges on it. She had been crying. Her laughter and smiles were brave but sad. Such deep grief he knew, stuck only at the departure of a loved one.
He walked up to her in a room that had gone silent in anticipation of a showdown. The unkempt man strolled up to the graceful lady and stood in front of her, crowding her space. She looked up haughtily at him, her diamond eyes throwing a challenge at his blazing ones. His eyes, unemotional and unflinching and cold as well as hot at the same time, looked back at her scattering her challenge to the winds. Then, slowly without breaking their eye contact, he pulled out a pristine white silk handkerchief and proffered it to her.
"There is no need to hide your tears."
Her eyes faltered, their challenge dissolving in sheen. She looked away. He pushed the hanky further up. She took it from him and hiding her face in it dissolved in a sea of tears.
"It is OK. Everyone loses a loved one. It is good to cry and bury your regrets before moving on."
The soft words spoken for the lady's ears, ricocheted in a silent room. It was heard by all, along with the soft whimpering of a lady's sobs.
He did not wait for an applause because he knew that there would be none - not yet. For now he had spoilt the party but, had grabbed their attention.
His eyes now looked for the next person, the next guinea pig.
This was how it worked. His magic lay in his all-knowing eyes and with them on alert, he was invincible. People called magic a slight of hands; he knew it was the eyes that led the hands.
As the evening progressed he had the audience eating out of his hands but, his eyes were wary. They had spotted someone who could look into his soul – given a chance.
She was a tiny woman sitting in the front row, near the stage. She was different from everyone else in the crowd. She wore a simple hand-woven saree of thick cotton with intricate tribal design. She had flowers in her hair instead of expensive jewellery. Her eyes were bright and kohl-lined, shaped like almonds. She smelled of fresh jasmine. The soft intoxicating perfume disturbed his senses. The large bindi on her forehead was like a beacon calling his eyes back to them like a ship lost in the ocean. She was looking closely at him with sharp, keen eyes and it was obvious that she did not miss anything. Her eyes were interested in him and following his. He knew that if he looked into those eyes he’d sink into them without a trace just like the weak in his audience sunk into his. The prospect was daunting and though his heart tugged, his mind was scared.
Halfway through the act, he was looking for a volunteer who would agree to be hypnotized and cut into two. She stood up eager even as his eyes were searching for the weak-willed.
Her eyes were seeking his, sending him unsaid messages. He could feel it from the goosebumps on his arms. He did not even need to look at her. He knew that she was on the verge of walking up to the stage uninvited when his eyes fell on a young giggling girl in the back and summoned her on-stage.
Thereafter, she lost interest in the act altogether. Her eyes stayed glued on her mobile phone ignoring the various acts that kept the rest of the audience enthralled and applauding. He knew he should feel good because he had won over another audience. But, he was sad, because, his eyes had won the crowd but lost the one whose eyes had sought a companion in his. In his heart he knew that it was a huge price he had paid for 50 minutes of fame.
|The Magician” Art Print by Leslie Ditto|