We drink all night and then in the wee hours of the morning, I watch him wake up, get dressed and leave. I am too sleepy (or maybe too drunk to react). I just wave and signal him to return soon. He was going to, by midnight. And then we would drink again, chit-chat and forget about reality.
I have slept enough, but I struggle to get up. I roll on the bed. Someone’s at the door. The bell keeps ringing. I let a sigh of disbelief and irritation. Must be the maid. I get off the bed, and there she is waiting to sweep the immovable dirt off my house, the floors, and the vessels. But I never feel clean. Even after she is done with her work, I have to clean them. It is a habit and a necessity. It is therapeutic. 
I look at the clock. It is 10. I am happy, yet sad. I have slept an hour extra today. I am late for the list of work which I have been meaning to complete. I don’t want to feel guilty. Yet, I am a little dissatisfied. This is my story, my everyday story. No office, yet the pile of work keeps increasing—go to the bank, get the address changed, book the gas, clean the wardrobe, finish the writing, eat healthy, cook healthy and wait, for the day to end. 
I want to go back to sleep, and then I see five missed calls, 17 unread messages, and three e-mails. Wired, I feel. I sit down with the cell-phone in my hand. I want to organise the device, but I have pending matters. Missed calls from the DTH guy—he wants me to believe that he has a better offer for me, fictional stories in the form of series and movies, grown immature adults arguing, songs of lovers and fighters—all to help me escape the reality. 
One missed call from my mother, and one unknown. I am curious. I ignore. I have two emails from the editor—he wants the jewellery piece by tonight and the interview by the weekend. 
I am disappointed. I cannot find the difference between working full-time and being a freelancer. At least, when I worked full-time, I had a social life. Now, I have only him and our small apartment. I am not unhappy. This is what I wanted always, didn’t I?
I sit with the jewellery piece. It takes thirty minutes of my morning. I have to book the gas. We have been eating out a lot, it is unhealthy, I remember telling him. He has no problem with it. Sometimes eating out is not unhealthy. It is relaxing. I wonder. I look at my face in the mirror. The dark circles make me feel old. I am old, at least I feel old, too old. I struggle with the IVRS. I call the local agency, nobody answers. I try booking online. I wonder why he cannot do it. 
He is busy, earning. I am busy, I am busy, whining. 
I somehow manage to book it. I was good at it, once. Now, I feel lost and confused.
I walk to the kitchen, make myself a sandwich. I don’t need the gas for that. I call my mother. She wants to know whether I am listening to her. She does not want to know how I am. I am with him. I am happy, according to her. I wonder, am I?
I have to visit the bank. I am too lazy. I leave him a message that I will tomorrow, after all, I am at home always. He is okay with it. He is always fine with everything. Even if I break a glass. I am really lucky to have him, I feel. I think. I should be. Am I?
I decide to complete the interview which was left ignored. I start feeling sleepy. It is one in the afternoon. I can sleep for a couple of hours, wake up and finish. He won’t be here before night. I slip into the bed, I roll up and then I am transported, away from the reality.
I wake up suddenly. My sister needs me. I know why. She always needs me when she cannot tolerate the battle of being in love. I sit and wonder what it is like to be in love. I was, once, now I don’t want to remember. It makes me ‘me’.
I call her back. She disconnects. I am not angry. This is how she is. She will call back when she needs me.  I want to sleep more. I cannot. I feel the talons of the interview piece around my neck. I feel the pressure of being choked by deadline. There is time. There is never time. Do it now. 
I make myself tea. I sit to transcribe. One hour into it and I feel fatigue. I Google for exercises to fight fatigue. The videos look more like adult videos. Makes me wonder, should I, for once pleasure myself. I search for X-rated materials. All websites blocked. I feel like a teenage kid, desperate. I let go. I shut the laptop and walk towards the bookshelf. 
It is full of dirt. I try to remember when I had cleaned it last. I don’t. He does. He spends his weekends cleaning the house. He likes it. Both of us suffer from dust allergy but I have just learnt to live with it. Everything has to be perfect for us. For him in real, for me, in my mind. Yet, here we are. 
I haven’t showered. Last night, he cooked while I showered, read and then drank. I need alcohol, every night. I miss smoking. 
I miss smoking. I look at all these people and I am constantly reminded that this was yet another relationship I gave up. Yes, my relationship with cigarettes was one of telltale. I miss it. I do try it, but mostly when I am drunk and then I am guilty and then I want to move on as fast as possible. That is my relationship with a cigarette.

I wait for divine intervention. Nothing happens. I stare at the wall, waiting for it to speak.

The marks on the walls denote that I have staring at them too long to observe the uneven work of the craftsman who was paid to do this one job properly. Ironically, it reminds me of my incapability to hold anything still and lose control and what comes as the final product is an uneven yet satisfying work of art.

Art reminds me of him. I want to go and meet him. But, I am not sure. I still have time before he returns. He returns at midnight. I have seven hours. 
I rush. I shower. I take out my black dress. I put kohl. Red lipstick. I hurry. I don’t know why. But, here I am. All dressed. I search for my phone and my tablet. It is too early, I tell myself. But, this is when he visits the gallery.
I was never really an art insect. My evenings were restricted to theatre, music and books. We used to visit the gallery to meet after a painful day at the office. I would sneak in between my shifts and then return to the sound of middle-aged men and women arguing over ethics and journalism. 
As I used to wait for him, in the gallery’s cafeteria, I saw the other him. Every day, sharp at seven. He would have his writing pad, a 20th-century Nokia phone, and would walk around the gallery until he settled himself at a table and sip coffee—Americano, regular, with two sugar cubes. 
Initially I ignored. Later, as time progressed, I became more and more inquisitive about who he is, about his story. I told him once about him. He found it funny, but never disapproved. And then our friendship turned into a relationship. I think it is platonic. It still is.
And here I am, in the car. Driving towards the gallery. I am not sure whether he will be there. I stopped visiting the place long back, when our families felt we should move ahead. We were happy being us. We did not mind. Sometimes I wonder why I had never objected.
I am almost there and then I suddenly brake. What am I doing? Why am I so desperate? He will be back by midnight. That is my life now. I should not be thinking about another man. And, then, I see him, through the glass door. He has grown a stubble. 
Someone is knocking on my window. It is the valet. He is asking me something. Yes, I am here to visit the gallery. I walk out. I collect my belongings and hand over the keys of my car and I might have given my heart. The valet drives away with my car. I feel nauseous. I want to run away. I cannot decide. 
Inside, he is waiting for me. At home, I am waiting for him. I am split between my conscious and my uncontrollable urge to finally walk up to him and ask. I walk inside.
I keep my eyes down and walk straight to the cafeteria. I feel I am overdressed for the occasion, but you never know what might happen. The waiter appears. He is happy to see me again. He knows me, everyone here knows me. I am familiar with this place. Once I was known. They want to know where I have been, what I have been doing. I happily answer, but my eyes wander away. It is searching for him. 
The waiter is gone, leaving me alone. I feel stupid to have come here. It is not right. What kind of person does this? I pick up the tablet and start reading from where I left last night. A few minutes later the waiter is back with the tea. It reminds me of the good old days, but were they good or was it another fantasy of my life? A dream, a tale, an unknown, incomplete chapter?
I decide I will finish the tea and return home. This is a bad idea. I am too cowardly to walk up to him and talk. I see him. He is there, as always. He has grown older. He has his writing pad, his fountain pen, the geeky glasses, a canvas sling bag and the new addition—the stubble. I watch him walk around, and then he disappears around the corner and again appears from the right. He is tall, lanky, crew cut—he always wears a sweater, I don’t know why. Maybe he is not fond of the AC. Neither am I. Something similar, I wonder. 
Time is running. I am collecting my belongings. It does not feel right, so I decide to leave. There is someone waiting at the edge of the table. I fiddle with my wallet. I am looking for cash. I cannot let them wait long. As I turn, it is him. I freeze.
I cannot move. I suffocate. I let go off my wallet and suddenly I am coughing. He signals for water. The waiter comes running with a glass. He gives it to me. I snatch it from his hand and I gulp. Another. And then another. I feel full. I cannot move. He is sitting next to me. He is asking me something. I am staring straight right at him. His eyes. They aren’t brown or black. They aren’t blue. What is the colour? He has big lips. They are not totally red. I bite my lips. He is saying something. I do not react. I feel dizzy. I am about to faint. I whisper. My voice is stuck.
He puts his right hand on my shoulder. It sends chills up my body. I want to pull him towards me, hug him and kiss him. I want to do all sorts of things. But, I stare. I am still staring. My lips move, but nothing comes out.
There is a crowd around us. I wonder how long we have been sitting like this. And then he signals everyone to leave. He must be really important. Everyone obeys. We sit like that for more. And then I stare at my wrist. The watch. The time. He should be here in four hours. I should rush. 
But, he is still staring at me and I do not want to leave. I want to talk. I cannot talk. I feel frustrated. He is patient. He is still looking at me. I suddenly blurt out, “stop.”
He leans closer. He cannot hear me. I am whispering. He asks me to relax. I relax. His right hand is on my left leg now. I feel wet. I feel ashamed. I look straight into his eyes and tell him that I want to go home. I do not feel well. He acknowledges. 
The valet brings my car. I get up and walk. I cannot move. He holds my hand. He starts walking. I follow him. We are standing in front of my car. It is time to bid goodbye.
He tells me that he will drive me to my home. I am worried. What if he sees him? But, I nod. Because I want him, I want to know him. The night is young. Midnight is far. He points me to sit. I, like a child, obey.
He is asking me something.  He is asking me my address. I don’t want to tell him. What if he visits every day? When I want to ignore, I act French, as if I do not understand what the opposite person is telling me. I am being her, trying to ignore everything, by being her. The older me.
I finally give him my address. I have spoken to him. He has heard my voice. I feel relieved. He starts the car and I feel sad. The end is near.
We drive in silence. We are waiting in the traffic. It takes an hour to reach my home in the traffic. Without, ten minutes. He tells me that. I know that. I want to tell him, I know. I cannot.
I look at him. He looks back. I cannot control. And then I do something stupid.
I am out of the car. I am running. I am running in my heels. I stumble. People are staring at me. He is running too. Then I cannot run anymore. I fall. He thinks I am mad. And I faint. I am exhausted. I let him carry me. He is carrying me. People are staring, I do not care.
We are somewhere. When I open my eyes, I am lying down on a couch. I toss. I realise it is not my home. I get up with a jerk. The books lying on the coffee table in front of me fall. He comes running. He has changed. He is in his pyjamas. They make him look older. He looks matured. He has a tattoo on his right arm. He comes close to me and sits. He runs his hand through my hair. I feel like kissing him. I don’t.
I let him comfort me. I lean against him. My eyes wander around the little room. It feels cosy and warm and then I see the time. He will be back in two hours. How long I have been sleeping?
I let go. I stand up. I cannot stand. My head feels heavy. He tells me that I fell while running and hit my head. I can feel the pain. It hurts. I tell him that I need to go. I tell him that he will be waiting for me. And then I look at him and I want to ask him all the questions I always wanted to ask. He nods at me. He tells me that he will drop me, only if I agree to not to jump off the car and start running. I tell him I won’t. 
I tell him I suffer from anxiety. He says he understands. I lie. That is not true. I don’t suffer from anxiety. I do, only when he is around.
We are once again inside my car. He is driving. I ask him how he will return. He says he will get a cab. I want to keep talking. He has a heavy voice but a melodious one, too, one for the radio. I realize his house is not far away from mine. But, do I want to come back? 
I look for my phone. He is driving. My hand touches his. I feel wet. I am ashamed once more. We are driving through a dark lane. I don’t know this place. I ask him. He says it is safe. It is faster and shorter. 
In that dark lane, while he drives my car, I stare at him. He knows I am. He asks me what I do these days. I tell him I don’t do anything. He remembers me visiting the gallery with a man. Silence follows. I don’t reply. I tell him later. I married that man. I am disappointed with myself. 
We are almost there. I ask him to stop a hundred meters from my house. He asks why. I tell him, I need a cigarette. He obliges. I walk out. The shopkeeper is about the shut the shop. He sees me. Smiles and hands over the regular. Same brand. Same quantity. 
I walk back to the car and tell him that I can drive myself now and he should get a cab before it is too late. He says he does not mind. I insist. He agrees. I am disappointed. I don’t want him to see him here. It will be hard to explain. I don’t want to lose him. Not now, maybe never. At the same time, I don’t want to see him go. I am confused. He calls for a cab.
He bids goodbye and offers his hand. I reciprocate. I don’t leave his hand. He looks at me. He looks around. He comes close and then whispers in my ears that he will see me again, soon. I can smell him. He smells good. Our lips are close, very close. 
He is gone. And I am standing there. I feel lonely for many years. I let a tear roll on my cheek. I drive back.
I am smoking by the balcony. I see him get off the cab. I stub the cigarette and walk towards the door. He comes in. He is surprised to see me dressed. He does not ask where I have been. I tell him I was smoking. He hugs me tight. I can feel his broad chest and muscles around me. I sink into him. I kiss him tight. He is taken aback. I never do this, but he is happy. He kisses back. 
We stand there, kissing. And then he picks me up and puts me on the couch. He goes back and collects his bag. He opens it and takes out a wine bottle. He has got my favourite wine. Once again. And my favourite brand of cigarettes. He walks up to the vinyl and plays our favourite numbers. He pours the wine into the glasses. I see him. He sees me seeing him. He comes back, sits next to me. Offers me the glass. Tears start rolling from my eyes. He comforts me but does not ask why I am crying. 
When I have stopped, he tells me about his day. He wants to ask what I have been up to and why I am dressed. I can sense it in his voice. He does not ask. He knows I would tell him. I will tell him everything, one day.
I tell him that I went to the gallery. I tell him I was bored and I felt like visiting the place. He is surprised but happy. He likes the gallery and likes the idea of me visiting it. I tell him then that I felt sick and that I wanted to smoke. I don’t tell him anything more. He wants to know, but he does not ask. 
We sit there listening to Miles Davis for hours, drinking wine. I am tipsy. I am still wearing my dress. The lipstick clings. He looks at me, lovingly. He picks me up in his arms. I hear Miles Davis play Blue in Green behind. He walks through the corridor, I am still in his arms. He puts me down on the bed. I can still hear Miles Davis doing the magic that he does with his trumpet. He is about to leave me there. I grab his hand. He looks back. I am very tipsy. He leans closer. His head near mine. I kiss him. He kisses back. 
I tell him, I was missing him and that’s why I went to the gallery. He looks at me, stares right into my fuddled eyes. He kisses on my forehead. 
He believes me. And he does not.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.