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  • Writer's pictureRewa Anand

The Social Project

Jude Winters often found herself being bored by the frustratingly normal world around her. Today, however, she was actually enjoying herself. It was about 7:30 in the evening; the sky had just darkened, and Jude was sitting surrounded by her family in the fanciest restaurant in her neighbourhood. However, that wasn’t what was holding Jude’s attention.

That morning Jude’s professor had caught her daydreaming in class again and made her wait back after. “You’re a bright student, Ms. Winters.” She’d said, “Why don’t you pay attention during classes?” Jude answered bluntly, “I do like your subject, Ms. Evans.” She replied earnestly, “It’s just that sometimes I find the real world so dull, that I drift off into my own fantasy land.” Her teacher had smiled, “Well, I won’t give you detention this time, if you complete one assignment for me.” Jude nodded and her teacher continued, “I want you to observe and assess three strangers around you. Their appearance, reactions, mannerisms- every detail, and then report back to me.”

This was why Jude was spending her time in the restaurant, observing her surroundings and trying her best to keep from daydreaming. The first person to catch her eye was a well-dressed lady in expensive clothes, wearing a striking golden bracelet. I'll call her Collete. Collete, Jude thought, was a rich heiress who wanted to live like a commoner. Jude observed the way Collete kept checking her surroundings as if making sure no one was following her and decided that the lady had run away from evil relatives who were trying to steal her property. She also noticed Collete holding her left wrist, the one with the bracelet, close to her body as she ate, ‘She thinks someone is going to steal her last connection to her former life.’, I conspired.

“Jude dear, do you want more tea?” Jude startled out of her reverie and took a moment to accept the tea, before turning her attention back. ‘So, someone is trying to steal from Collete, but who?’, she wondered, before noticing a waiter making his way towards Collete’s table, with a large tray of spaghetti. ‘Aha!’ She thought with satisfaction, ‘Of course! It’s the waiter!’ The waiter was wearing the black and white tuxedo, like all the servers at that restaurant, gliding between tables, taking everyone’s orders. He had shifty, dark eyes and his hair was stringy brown. Jude decided at once that it was a wig. ‘A clever disguise,’ she thought, ‘but, it can’t fool me.’ She named the waiter Thomas, she didn’t want to spend time thinking of a better name for a thief. She watched him as he moved close to Collete’s table and held her breath each time he moved his hand anywhere towards her bracelet. ‘But surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed Thomas’s attempts at thievery.’ She looked around till her attention was captured by someone else.

The woman sitting at the table nearest to Collete was a smart, capable-looking lady, in a stiff black suit, with her hair scraped back into a tight knot at the nape of her head. Jude saw her gaze sweep over Collete and Thomas and felt the triumph of getting to the bottom of the mystery. ‘She,’ thought Jude in delight, ‘Is obviously a spy, sent by a Justice Organisation to catch Thomas, in the act of stealing Collete’s bracelet.’ She accepted the vegetables that her father was now ladling onto her plate. ‘She’s the best agent. Her agency didn’t think anyone else was up to the task.’ She quickly named the spy Barbara Jones, because every spy should have a professional surname. She kept her eyes on the three for the rest of the dinner; she saw how Thomas steered clear of Jones’ table and let another waiter serve her. She observed how Collete kept checking her watch as if counting the seconds till she was presented with the cheque. She observed how a young boy, at a table near hers, dipped his broccoli in chocolate syrup before devouring it. This last part wasn’t pertinent to her investigation, but she found it fascinating.

Soon, one of the waiters presented their table with a cheque and they had to leave. But she didn’t feel any disappointment, as she usually did when she was jolted out of one of her daydreams. Instead, she felt extreme joy. ‘Who knew real life could be so interesting?’ Jude thought. ‘I should start paying more attention to my surroundings.’

On Monday, she stayed back after class and practically skipped over to her teacher’s table. After listening attentively to her narration, Ms. Evans burst into laughter. “I’m sorry, Ms. Winters.” She said before Jude had the chance to feel hurt, “It’s just that, that was the most entertained I’ve been in a while.” She faced Jude, with a solemn look on her face, “But you do know that the things you thought up are probably not true, don’t you?” Jude thought about it, “I know,” She admitted, “But I don’t feel as disappointed about it as I probably should.” Ms. Evans gave a wide smile, “That, Jude, is because you have learned to observe your surroundings and find the magic in reality” she said. “Instead of imagining a fantasy land for yourself, you paid attention to the things happening around you and were still able to enjoy yourself. I don’t want you to stop thinking and imagining, but find the magic around you in the most normal happenings and you can still be content. You used to think that the real world was dull, but didn’t you enjoy it yesterday? Weren’t you amused?” “Yes, I was.” Jude agreed, with a nod. “Ah, then won’t you pay attention in my class from now on and try to find the excitement in it too?” Jude gave her teacher a sheepish grin, “Yes, I will.” Ms. Evans looked pleased. “Okay, then. Run along, Ms. Winters.”

Jude beamed at her teacher, before walking out of the classroom. ‘I can’t believe I ever thought the world around me was not interesting’ she thought, ‘If I care enough to look for the magic in reality, I can always find it. And, who knows,’ she continued, ‘One of these days my crazy theories might end up being right! Wouldn’t that be something?’

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