She doesn’t like coffee much. She never did. Ever since she had tried a cup of black coffee without sugar on a whim during one of her earliest forays to a coffee shop, the charm of coffee has been lost to her. And over the years nothing has happened to make her change her mind. Until... until what? She was not a fan of this not remembering.

But the fact remained that coffee has now become her preferred beverage. Not strange perhaps after hundreds of coffee shops and thousands of coffees. And then of course, like her peers which would include any modern woman, educated, urban, and chic, she is not alone in preferring coffee to tea and smokes the occasional cigarette, even drinks, sometimes socially when custom dictates, sometimes sipping the wine for relaxation. Oddly enough, she seemed to have a feeling that her visit to the coffee shops must not be inferred as a weakness towards the beverage, hot or cold, milk or no milk, sugar or no sugar, cream or no cream. Simply put, a coffee shop was the place where she felt most at home. She couldn’t be certain anymore, but she feels pretty sure that’s how it used to be.

All this fleetingly passed through her mind as she sat, a little blankly, at her single table of the cafe and kept brooding. She tried to gather her thoughts with an effort. Too much straying. She needed to steady her thoughts, ignore the headaches and focus on remembering how and why she was where she was. And what was the meaning of her present predicament, or whatever it was, and the how’s and why’s of it? Even her primal instincts prodded her with no clue to help reconstruct what had happened, why she couldn’t remember things up to the last few days, and why whatever little she remembered was so sketchy in her mind that she had now to rely on her hunches and clues and signs to figure out everything.

Time passed on as she sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window without actually registering anything and trying to remember things more clearly. She was in a bad soup alright, what with a knife lying beside her, spattered with someone’s blood (it’s definitely not red paint or ketchup, she had tried to smell it and then scrape at it with her long fingernails, finally licking it a little, and come to the unavoidable conclusion that it was blood). The blood-stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.

He stopped typing just once more to read through this latest chapter he had written. He was progressing very well, he thought. The grammar and sentence construction were still a little off. He could do the proofing later. He might even ask her to do it. After all, if a hack like him could write as well as this, she could take some pointers from him if she wanted to succeed as a writer ever. He would not even gloat, he promised himself. Anyway, now that he had established a good flow to the story, he needed to carry on with it, without interruption.


She remembered the scarf though. It belonged to a different kind of memory, not like this reality of a nightmare she was with a bloody knife and crumpled bill for coffee lying beside her handbag. The handbag was definitely hers, she had concluded, as she was at a single table and no one had claimed the bag in the last one hour that she had been waiting for someone to come up and claim. No, the bag, the bill and the knife in blood all belonged to her. The strongest probability pointed towards that conclusion and that conclusion only. Oh, how her head had started to hurt again! How will she figure things out of this complicated mess if it ached so badly?

Anyway, the scarf was hers for she recognised it as one of her favourites. It was the first gift from (she couldn't exactly remember but it was definitely, definitely someone important and close to her, someone who knew her intimately, at least her taste in the texture and colour of scarves). Wait! She has made a crucial breakthrough (maybe deeply embedded memories didn’t count much, but at this point of time, she would welcome any fact about herself remembered as a significant step forward).

So, she loved scarves and had quite an assorted collection of them at her home wherever it may be. Wait! She remembered her scarf collection now and the dozens of scarves she owns. Well, the spark of inspiration was gone as suddenly as it had come. The unlocked piece of information might not be that useful in her present quest for remembering things, but who knows this may come handy later on.

But who had bought this scarf, this blue silk one that she had now? Was it a gift? She couldn’t remember, though she remembers the green silk scarf she also had, that she had bought for herself. Not this one. Who then? Nope, no luck remembering. She would get back to it later. What she needed right now to do was start remembering the essential pieces of information. She was sure that if she could do this, she might be able to reconstruct the sequence of events ending up with her in the cafe. Gather the clues first and then the rest will fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle and everything will start making sense in a coherent way without her having to strain her mind too much. She hates this situation she is in. And this mental exercise was already beginning to hurt her head in that funny way again.


Oh, there she went again, her thoughts straying! She had to start learning how to compartmentalise and prioritise her thoughts and memories since she remembered so little and the very act of thinking intently hurt her head so badly. It seems a good plan, good and sensible. OK, so she will now get down to the bare and cold facts staring at her face.

She had a blood-spattered knife covered up by her own scarf (details like the ownership of things must wait their turn like so many other things she also needed to remember, coherently). She was pretty sure though that the knife didn't belong to her although she was not as positive of this as the fact that she remembered the scarf as her own or that she loved going to coffee shops. Why, she had got this blue silk one just a week before coming here!

Oh yes, yes, yes, yes! Another breakthrough and this time it was an important one. She recognises the strange city, she remembers its name. But why was she here? Oh go away, she didn't remember so many details right now, maybe later. Wait, did she remember from where she had come here? Because that clue would most probably tell her where she lived. Nope, no luck.

The only thing she remembered with some clarity was the CCD she had last gone to and it seems to her that was ages ago, although she suspects it was not more than a few days, two or three at most. However, this she was sure could be discarded as a clue as it was not a very good one. After all she had already ascertained that she couldn’t remember any dates and the CCD was most likely the airport outlet one. She had probably waited for her cab there which she had booked by call after alighting from the plane (from where, nope, no success at all remembering that. She didn't have the ticket with her now. She had already checked her handbag, combed it a little absent-mindedly and not with any real watchfulness during one of the attacks of a blinding headache. And that had been twice since the last hour.)

So what else could she add to her pile of slowly growing collection of facts about herself to serve as a clue that explained her presence in the cafe, alone (she had a niggling suspicion for some time now that she had come to the city to visit someone important, she couldn’t prove it, but it was one of her umpteen hunches)?

First, she knew her name.

OK, OK, she didn't remember it on her own but did so only looking at the PAN card that was in the handbag. She had very cleverly and very professionally identified herself (in spite of the grainy photograph that was hardly conducive towards prompt and irrefutable identification).

That's what she must do with the rest of the stuff she must remember (why, oh why cannot she remember things? She had been feeling so nervous ever since discovering the blood-stained knife although she had been hiding her own palpitations from herself and trying to divert her unknown dark thoughts and fears towards the fruitful channel of remembering things. And trying to think hard only succeeded in inviting the splitting headaches back with a certain inevitable regularity). Even if she couldn’t remember on her own, finding little facts and small clues might help her eventual reconstruction of everything. Only if all this sleuthing didn't hurt her head in that funny way she would be so glad.

In spite of his earlier resolve to write through without a pit stop, he could not help but pause once more. He definitely needed to rework some parts like introducing the fact somewhere that his story's protagonist did not have her mobile and she could not remember where or she lost it. What had that workshop lady said? Free-flowing writing was supposed to be like this, right? He had not paid too much attention at that time. Now he tried to make up his mind if he should move forward with the story or rework the portions that he wanted before going on.

As if guided by instinct, he made a split-second decision. Better he marked the questionable portions with color and strikethroughs for identification and rewriting later. These were the tricks he used daily while writing his assigned quota of content, and would be as handy now too. He didn’t need guidelines from anyone else telling him what to do. He chuckled. It was she who needed all those stupid workshops and mentors. He had enough experience of his own about writing stuff to know that once you started, you did not stop. He wouldn’t either, anymore. He could do this, he knew.