The moment I turned around, I stood transfixed. I had never seen her before. She was terribly cute. She looked down. She was searching for something. My eyeballs traced hers in silent synchronization. Then suddenly she stopped searching and went for her phone in the side pocket. She started murmuring something. A white top with blue jeans! That’s was had my heart pumping the red liquid ten times faster. My conscience kicked in late and I realized that I was staring at her for more than a minute. Not that she realized it but my mind echoed ‘Quit it’. Yeah! My mind! In accord with my decision to look away, it made an empty voice-
‘This is the first time you have been attracted to such austere simplicity!’
Now what was that? I brushed the thought away. The brain starts evaluating the pros and cons before the flick of the eyebrow. I try avoiding them all at once. It has a tendency to ultimately leave you in a pitiful state of indecision and self-mockery. I came back to reality only to realize my gaze in the same direction. But she wasn’t there. Where did she go? I turned around to search the one head which had left mine dazed for ten minutes. I walked on, bustling among people when someone dashed past me. I staggered back and was about to abuse when a voice said-
‘I am so sorry!’
I looked up and saw the same pair of eyes that I had seen before. They bore striking resemblance to the shore side pebbles, sparkling with radiant energy. Or did they? Was she wearing lenses?
‘Hello? Are you all right’, I jolted back to the present and replied-
‘Yeah! It’s OK’
‘I am really sorry. I have my submissions going on and I am late as always.’ She talked so animatedly that her expressions formed the perfect negatives of a filmstrip, with each one complimenting the beauty of the next. I gathered my attention and said-
‘No, really, it’s OK. Are you in IT?’
I could swear I saw a flicker of smile widening her lips. But she replied almost instantly-
‘Yes, I am in IT.’
I did have a premature ventricular contraction. What was going on with me? Was I over thinking it? Or was it the effect of her presence that made the butterflies play rugby in my stomach. I was baffled. I recovered quickly and said-
‘Cool! Carry on. Even I am running for it’
‘Ah! Really, were you?’
Now that caught me off-guard and I had no way to recover. I made a face and asked-
‘What do you mean?’
‘Nothing! See you around.’
And with those last three words still resonating in my head, I started my way back to the class.
I was nearly ready to take the blanket off when I realized that ‘Morning Boners’ are quite a thing to be considered when you have a roommate. I twisted and turned. It took me 10 minutes to flatten it out. I got up and headed for the door, took the paper and milk inside and started with the mundane morning activities.
In the past two years, bachelor life has treated me well. Getting acquainted with a hundred new people and interacting with them adds new layers of perspective. Your intellect grows simultaneously with increased affinity towards your own field or pushes you in a different path altogether. You just need to follow.
I had been on a run from my next exam for the past three days and this day seemed no different. I decided to take an afternoon walk with my cell phone. It’s actually the most convenient company. You don’t have to talk unless it rings. I stopped by at the medical store to grab Snickers.
‘That will be 35 rupees.’
I was taking out a tetra pack of milk when someone nudged me from behind. The pack slipped from my hands and was about to fall when my left hand grabbed it from below. I was about to swear when someone said-
‘Excuse me! I am sorry.’
I turned around and was hardly able to feel the ground beneath me. She was in blue pj’s wearing a loose white tee, the same combination when I first met her. She glanced at me and headed towards the counter. Bollocks! She didn’t recognize me. I followed her and asked for the total at the counter.
‘That will be 70 rupees.’
I glanced in her direction. With her hair tied in a bun, her glass earrings perfected the outlook. I again brainstormed ways to start a conversation. None! Not one fucking thought-all blue and white colored gibberish with glassy background.
‘It’s 70 rupees sir! Are you listening to me?’
‘Oh yeah, Sorry! Here you go.’
Among those hundreds of people I met, none gave me this experience. She was 101st. I had to do something different.
She was carrying a paper bag in one hand and purse in the other. I strolled around the vicinity of the shop. The moment she descended the shop stairs, I made my way up and-
‘Oh Hi there!’
She looked up and her eyebrows creased. Then almost instantaneously a flicker of recognition shot through her and she said-
‘I met you in college, didn’t I?’ with a dimply smile on her face.
My heart skipped one beat.
Wait! It skipped another. I gathered the saliva in my mouth and managed a weak ‘Yes’.
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Oh! I live nearby, you too?’
‘Well near enough to not sweat it out in the morning.’ she said while shifting weight on her right.
I laughed and lifted my right hand in greeting-
‘I am Karan.’
She adjusted her paper bag and clasped my hand with a cheeky reply-
‘People call me Kritika.’
She descended the stairs and stood looking at me. I was lost for a moment and then I joined her. The inquisitive look in her eyes demanded sincerity and respect. I stood there saying nothing for 5 seconds when she started
‘I have to reach home before 1. See you around!’
I wasn’t going to let her go with the same parting words as the last time. I took a deep breath and said-
‘Would you mind if I accompany you to your house?’
She stopped short in her tracks and turned around. I was about to chew my heart when I saw the same flicker of smile she gave me the last time. And I was never more elated.
‘I will find you’, with that, she left again.
It was very dark. The sole phosphorescent bulb glowed dimly. The hue created an indefinite arc casting a shadow of the spider that crawled towards it. The whole notion of an insect being attracted towards heat was unsettling.
Dark evades the light.
But aren’t they cold-blooded? And at that very instant it started to retreat. I realized that my bed vibrated and I twitched a little. Staying up late staring at the ceiling isn’t the brightest things that I have done lately but ain’t the worst either. I came out of my reverie and turned in my bed searching for my phone.
It was quarter to three in the morning. The phone light glowed and showed one Whatsapp message.
I clicked on the Facebook icon which had prominently become the part of my home screen. It was almost impossible to check the menu before I scrolled at least a page of this life-sucking social app. Preity Zinta was too gassed up with her hubby itching her at the wrong places saying wrong words. She had enough money to fart it upon the authorities and make the headlines within hours.
I was about to sleep when that green Whatsapp icon glowed again. Ah! One more click now and I will dump it in the corner.
Turns out it was from an unknown number with active privacy.
It said: – ‘Hey!’
Now that is very clever. You never know which reply will be suited among the hundred versions available. My personal best is ‘Heya!’ The suffix ‘a’ just a random abbreviation to ‘you’! Clever eh?
‘Who is this?’ couldn’t get my fingers to auto-detect the above word.
‘Ah! You don’t know me?’
Yes, you dumb sucker. I know your phone number: – Pretty enough to tell me if your balls hang on the chest or down with a handle.
‘I met you twice and never once we talked more than a few words’
Yeah! Do that and let’s play scrabble if you are on ‘Words with friends’ and if free still then. . . .
Are you her? No can’t be. How did she get my number? What do I care?
So. . . .
There was a sudden convulsion in my body and I felt a tremor down my spine. I churned my eyes and steadied myself, propped straight up. I was awake now. The very thought of her gave me Goosebumps all of a sudden and I started to feel guilty of all the things I thought about her.
‘Heya Kritika! How are you?’
‘Good. You free tomorrow?’
I remember when my Engineering Drawing’s teacher asked me about projections and when my Dad questioned my late arrival at home. I always used to come up with a clever answer or some kind of excuse. But this, God bless me!
‘Yeah!’ never been freer in life.
‘Cool, meet me at the medical shop.’
‘Great!’ I was considering to add the words- ‘it’s a date’ , but thought against it. This is a first.
‘Be there at 10’
I slept at 6 in the morning.
It was 8 o’clock and I was brushing my teeth like a maniac. Every germ in my mouth vibrated. I could swear I heard those making plans against my incisors. It was the first time the realization of a fully active-self dawned upon me. I pushed the brush across the molars to the inner side of jaw and brushed every silver lining. Damn them!
I wore casuals and had water for breakfast.
If I have ever learnt anything from bachelor life, it is but one single statement ‘Thou shall do well, if you need it enough to skip your food!’
I went down to meet her for the third time.
If serendipity is the most beautiful word in English, I will be its first and last admirer.
She looked down nervously. Chicken noodles dangled down her fork back onto the plate no matter how many times she tried to twirl them in. As she tried, her expressions graduated from innocent to cute to angry to cute again. I just kept watching her. It wasn’t like the time had stopped while she ate at a Chinese restaurant. No! No Bollywood melodrama! But it made me think of my proclivity towards women. I was attracted to girls who brooded over the nuances of life. You ought to have a solid and defined perspective of yourself to fall into that category. It is difficult being someone who doesn’t give a shit about what the guy standing next to her thinks about her. I didn’t pretend to be there. Neither did she, I guess! And that’s what made it real. We both were present there, emotionally and spiritually, under no duress. And then this line of thought ended abruptly. It is usually the second date that tells you the success of the first one. I wasn’t going to find out until I started talking, if I ever did. Her hair mimicked Maggie Gyllenhaal from ‘Stranger than fiction’ set on a perfect backdrop of her beautiful eyes. She raised her head and I asked-
‘You need another fork?’
‘I can handle noodles Karan.’ she replied with a crooked smile as I took another swig from my coke.
‘Yes, like you did the last time you met me…Oh wait! You didn’t!’ I said with some dramatic gestures.
She sat upright and gave me a doomed look. I puckered my lips and started battling the noodles with my fork. It really made sense now. Fiddling with them was a way to avoid conversation like this.
The last time she had messaged me to meet her; I was up all night deciding what to wear only to realize the other morning that she wasn’t anywhere to be seen even after an hour-long wait. Yes, she did apologize but no explanation! This startled me a bit and I embraced my ego suit for two days. Like any other bachelor, I caved in the third day and called her cell more times I ever clicked redial on my cell. She picked up and we had an awkward talk regarding the weather in Borivli. Very subtle! She finally agreed to meet me after a talk that lasted 56 seconds. And then my bachelor brain went for it again. Did she like me that much? Or did she want to end it? That was my brooding time.
‘Ok then! You want the reason for why I ditched you the other day?’
I looked up. First time listening to her words with full attention. ‘Yes! I do.’
Something in her eyes told me she was serious about whatever bomb she was going to dump my way. She pushed the plate of noodles aside and bent forward with her arms crossed on the table. I tried twice continuing to look directly in her eyes. But I slipped twice!
She didn’t notice that. And I was relieved to have that knowledge. How did I know that? Well, for starters, she was lost in some third-world self-contemplation which made her look straight across me into the void. I could easily tell that she had applied more mascara than she did the last time. (That’s a good thing, right?) Her cheeks had a sparkling red glimmer every time she looked sideways. It was like she wanted to talk and she couldn’t get the words out. I chatted with her almost every day and knew she was hard to fall short on words. So, it made me wonder for a moment when …
‘You remember when I first saw you at the medical. I did recognize you’, she said with a worrisome look on her face. If I know something as an engineer, the creased lines on your forehead appear only when you know nothing or you know something that you regret knowing.
‘My dad is the owner of that Medical store. He kind of saw both of us chatting that day and enquired about you later that night.’
Now it was my turn to stare into the void. An epiphany crash landed in my front brain. Why her dad got angry asking me for the money twice and why she left early without saying much. It was like a couple of rats let loose in your stomach or like not being able to fart.
‘Karan!’ she asked the befuddled me. I was listening to her. It didn’t show on my face but I knew what lay ahead. Yes! She wanted to end it here. It wasn’t a second date. It was a break-up date.
‘So, you mean, umm… we shouldn’t meet at the medical or umm…’
I sec, she stares at me.
2 sec, she still kept staring.
3 sec, she went for the glass of water
4 sec, she kept it down without drinking water.
5 sec, a smile lit up her face like a cannonball and she laughed for 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th seconds.
And I still kept mum for the next 10.
‘Oh stop this, you idiot. I meant that my dad knows we are in the same college. We need to be careful.’ she replied with a hearty grin.
And there was the hormone I was looking for. It was called ‘Ecstosian’. It fuelled your heart with uncontrollable blood pushing the limits of arteries ability to handle them. And I almost grabbed her hand when ‘Controlian’ kicked in. These two need to be documented in the medical logs.
‘That’s great!’ I flushed with evident clumsiness.
‘Let’s take a stroll!’ we went Dutch and made our way out towards the exit.
I kind of started to feel the irresistible force of relationships. The first thing that echoed in my head were:-
‘They have a good start‘
It was an old couch and had long served our backs since we lay on it. It wasn’t unusual for me to wake up early morning next to a girl I had gone out twice. It was completely insane. But she called me over last night for dinner at her friend’s place. Turns out the friend had organized a couple’s slumber party. Everyone had to bring the ‘closest one’ or stay home. She had many choices. But I topped the list apparently and I was ecstatic.
She curled up close enough for me to gaze in her eyes. Her eyelids spanning a smooth curve with no intention of greeting the face she barely knew. Well, it was correct, wasn’t it? We talked yesterday night. There wasn’t one topic that made sense. Like I began:-
‘Hey Hi, you look dashing.’
She looked down and sat on the sofa. I sat opposite to her and looked around the house. OK! Her friend was a domiciled princess of sorts. There were more stuffed toys showcased than picture frames. That reminded me of the days when I had one. It was Bugs Bunny in a suit. I recycled it in my 9th grade cleanliness campaign. It’s like the harsh irony of life. Time has the power to make you love life or hate it. You just need to choose once. Like me, I dumped my bunny. But Shalini kept hers. Maybe for colorful reminiscence, maybe for a fear of losing them. We need to get attached to a way of living. It’s the only way to realize the good and the bad.
‘You look good too. You came alone?’ she asked slyly.
‘Was I supposed to bring someone?’ I asked, shocked by her nonchalance.
She said dinner. Not a date. She laughed and told me about the theme. It took me a while to realize. We talked about her goals and ambitions, her Alma mater, the reason she switched to engineering and why her dad owned a medical store. It was quite wonderful. She never asked me anything and I was relieved. Her face lit up every time she remembered an incident. Her churis clanked against the table now and then. For a brief moment, it was her and me, like her talking spree had taken us to an alternate dimension where time was a constant. It was her presence that made it all possible.
‘…… are you even listening to me?’ she asked suddenly.
I came out of my reverie and said ‘I loved Hachiko too!’
‘You did? Oh my god! We are so alike.’
Yes, the likeness meter compares the ‘movies seen’ nowadays. It’s how relationships start off. Young and juvenile! We talked another ten minutes and she dozed off to sleep. I followed suit.
She opened her eyes with a long yawn. I was already up, reaching for my socks when I felt her hand on mine. I turned back and realized she was still asleep. I slowly removed my hand from underneath hers and was about to get out when I felt her grip on my arm. I fell on my back directly in front of her. She turned to my side and leaned over my face, her hair creating a cylindrical curtain with jasmine fragrance. I was still. She leaned ahead and kissed me lightly on the forehead. I was rigid still, the tension in my body gripping holds of my masculinity. She was quiet. I lifted my head up and faced her, the curtain still keeping in check the moments’ aura. She was grinning. I leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. I swear the blush was visible even inside the curtain. The next 30 seconds was a cheeky lip lock when my hands held her waist and………..
‘Morning you guys, get up……….oh!’ Shalini walked in. I jolted back, out from the curtain facing her. Kritika kept mum. She started tying her hair in a bun with a loose grimace on her face. It was hilarious. My innards were looking for a reason to burst out laughing. But, I gave the proper expression; ‘The expression of being caught in the act’.
Shalini walked in with her hands covering her mouth in a classic melodramatic pose and said:-
‘Haye! Ye ladke itne sharmate kyu hai?’ and both started laughing. I gave up and joined them. Shalaini went out and Kritika grabbed my arm again.
‘Finish what you started’
I like the moments I live and I live the moments I like!
By this time, if you have read the previous parts, it won’t come as a surprise if I tell you that this story has a fictional blend twisted with utterly real moments. It is amazing how one can learn from his partner. They hadn’t labelled their relationship as ‘The Relationship’. Neither did they try too hard to act otherwise. Like a tie complements a suit, both of them filled in the gaps just enough to deem them inseparable. It was like the poles of two magnets, which had been long kept apart, were reunited and aligned in the right direction. It was a pitch perfect match.
If Karan had expected anything from his life, it wasn’t this. Kritika was the one distraction he could never overlook. His impetuosity was replaced with careful contemplation over things. Everything was linked with her. He knew he had to keep calm. Not every day an Engineer realizes the practical importance of the infinite solutions when two lives superimpose each other’s. His day began with a greeting and never ended unless she wanted it to. At times, he would call her up for an evening walk. Always keeping a safe distance from his dad’s medical store, they would stroll the busy streets, inconspicuous of the people around them. With their fingers locked in, they were oblivious to the world. What mattered wasn’t ‘The Relationship’ but the real-time interaction they shared. Their chemistry was impeccable. If you think it was materialistic, you would be wrong. Absolutely wrong!
They had a mutual understanding of their future. A unique one! Neither of them inherited idealism as good as either of their parents. They were self-proclaimed mavericks who had found the right extent of freedom in each other. If someone exploited it, the partner would keep him in check. It was a fail proof strategy.
Now that you know what their ‘relationship’ over the span of two months was like, I would switch back to first person and describe it in his own words.
‘I was infatuated. Or maybe struck by the charisma of her unadorned love. Oh wait! It was too mawkish to be called ‘love’. What would you call it?
When she quit all the work to tie her tufts of hair in a bun, my heart would skip a beat. An involuntary smile would stretch across my cheeks, crooked but happy. And then it slowly recedes like waves from the shore, relenting to nature’s call. I was drawn towards her like an insect attracted towards heat. During class, I just used to stare at her unflinchingly calm disposition. Then she would look back, as if convection just made air her bitch.
She exerted an invisible force upon me and I was happy to comply until I saw her that Sunday afternoon.’
There are things which elude the human comprehension at times, then ricochet back and hit him right where he buckles in unanticipated agony. His ignorance of these things isn’t imperative. It’s rather the nature of the things which he chose to ignore. How do you weigh the importance of things? If every decision needs to be quintessentially materialistic in the broader perspective, then would you never look at it from an ascetic viewpoint?
If Karan was put up with this dilemma, he would gladly prefer being a tramp rather than being stamped! He was a self-proclaimed romantic at heart. His actions looked ambitious but his true self was buried deep inside; untouched and unadulterated, devoid of the blatant animosity that surrounded him. As a person, he was the most ideal ambivert you could find.
It never occurred to him that things that look happy in nature are always put to test knowingly or otherwise. In his case, it was the latter. That Sunday afternoon was a soggy mixture of sweat and petrichor all around the neighborhood. He stepped outside his house, greeted the watchman with a curt nod and walked down the wet road towards the medical store. The moment he entered the store, he realized that Kritika’s dad was at the counter. Epiphany struck him hard and he double checked his collar and shirt sleeves. He chose his words carefully and asked-
‘Do you have aspirin?’
‘Yes, wait a minute!’ he replied and turned the other way to give Karan the weirdest shock of his life.
KRITIKA WAS THERE! She was fumbling with the medicine strips and arranging them in order. The sweat beads started downwards from his forehead, between his eyes and trickled from the tip of his nose on the glass slab before him. He was momentarily frozen. And then again someone shouted-
‘Kritika! Where is the Aspirin Box?’
She turned back towards the customer, gave a solemn expression of surprise and almost instantly started helping her dad. He was shell-shocked. Why was she working in the store? Did her father told her so? Or was she just being the ideal Indian daughter? He decided to leave the medical store first.
It took them five minutes to find Aspirin. The headache seemed to have disappeared in thin air since he saw her looking for the medicine; and that too for him. He reached home and called her. She picked up on the first ring and he asked-
‘Hey, what’s wrong?’ with the sense of urgency in his tone.
‘I don’t feel like talking, so don’t call back.’ she replied with almost no emotion. He was confused.
‘Wait! Wait! What’s the issue?’ he asked, feeling a bit annoyed.
She took almost 5 seconds to reply and when she did, there was no one in the house to not stare at his half-baked face.
‘Karan, I really like you.’ his heart sank and she continued, ’I was in my room yesterday when my dad knocked. He sat beside me and we had the weirdest talk. He wants me to study further.’
Karan still didn’t see any reason for her working at her dad’s medical store. Unless that’s what his dad meant by ‘further studies’. Actually, he didn’t even mind. She had got him by the first sentence and he was too involved now.
He shouted on the phone;-
‘What? Wait… What? What are you talking about?’
‘I am going for my MBA next year. I might not be in town. So it will be better if you don’t contact me anymore’
At this point, Karan couldn’t comprehend the reason behind not meeting him. He wasn’t that bad. And she liked him. That makes it official!
Why are you denying yourself the company of a good guy? (Presumably) It wasn’t like he was even forcing her into a relationship. He never wanted to label it. He never did. Then how can one be so indifferent? And that too, so soon!
‘All right! What about right now? Why are you so insistent on not meeting me?’ that’s the best he could do for now.
She sighed for a moment and said-
‘Whenever I meet you, I see us together in the future. I feel good at once. And then I get apprehensive. And it all goes downhill from there.’ And she stopped talking. For a moment, he thought she was crying and felt bad. Wait! He didn’t even say anything. Then why was she crying? He was going to ask her when she added further-
‘I want to know where we are going with this.’
It was like Karan could hear bells tolling faraway until he realized his heart was in his mouth. With this? What? With what? Wait! Is it safe to answer this question after dating 2 months? He wasn’t exactly sure if he even knew the answer. What happened to ‘Living young and wild and free’? This was the first time he couldn’t find proper words to express himself.
‘Would you prefer to talk ‘this’ over tea? Meet you at 7 near Faraday’s?’
‘Be there at 7:01 and you might not see me again’ and the line went dead.
Karan grabbed hold of his pillow and took a black pen. He made two caricatures of himself and hers facing each other. And then he made a bold line stretching from one end of the pillow to another. It was like he was giving words, in this case-figures, to his thoughts. He always maintained himself at the other side of the line. Call it his insecurity towards commitment or the fear of losing his independence, he always wore a mask of contentment. His projection of happiness was an image which portrayed utmost respect towards oneself and all. He worked hard to earn it. But this time, he inched closer to that line and gave in.
This was the first time he crossed the line!
Now, the fact that he still felt proud to have done it is what amused him.
As he walked down the wet gravel road, his thoughts wandered aimlessly; forming and diminishing, their transient meaningfulness leaving a dreadful impact of unanticipated apprehension. He knew the power of thoughts. He stopped short and started rummaging through his pockets. Walking on the street with a cigarette in one hand, a bouquet in another, and a broken thread of memories wasn’t the best image he had of himself. He kept reminding himself that crossing the line was his decision. He took another step.
Faraday’s was a melee of people after dark. It was the perfect place for forlorn lovers to bring out the angst and clear their conscience. The aroma of coffee beans and brownies stimulated a thought-provoking sense of engagement. Karan stepped under the street lamp and rehearsed his questions again and again. If someone saw him that day, they must have thought the poor fellow is demented and talking to his demons. His silhouette made unfathomable random movements just like his state of mind. It was almost an hour before his cell phone beeped twice.
‘Where are you?’ read the message.
‘Meet me at the usual table’, he texted back.
The moment he walked in, there was a buzzing hum of human voices that made him feel vulnerable. As he walked towards the far end corner of the café, he could see her sitting there. She got up and started walking towards him. He put a smile as bright as morning sunshine. Less than a feet away, she smoothed the locks in her hair and puckered her lips like she was about to say something silly. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She closed the last gap between them by holding his hand and with an arched foot, she didn’t let him breathe. He trembled as his lips met hers and his eyes brooded a faraway memory. She dug her hands into his hair and caressed his face, feeling the beardy contours. He grabbed hold of her arms and tried to mould himself into a tight embrace. She didn’t want to. He cupped her face into his palms and planted a deep kiss on her cheeks. And then it happened!
She got distraught and without saying anything, dug her hands into her purse, took out a white piece of paper and handed it to him. He was too entranced to understand the fragility of the situation. His lips could feel the tenderness that ensued after the pink left its mark. He steadied himself and looked at the paper that was forced into his hands. He opened it.
I write this with the intention that you won’t tear it apart and understand the shackles I am bound by. After I met you, I thought there were only two things in my life. You and Me! Everything else became trivial. I was living in a bubble of happiness too happy to burst out of it. And then roared the inextinguishable fire of my parents. The bubble was history. They looked at the side of the coin we never flipped. I didn’t even get a chance to explain myself. When I saw you at the store, my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t want to burden you with the knowledge of my inevitable doom. I didn’t want to do MBA then. I still don’t want to do MBA. I want to play with words like the way you do. I want to feel the adrenaline rush I felt the first time I met you. I want to kiss you under the canopy of my hair. I want it to be the way I want it to be. I tried to push you away but I couldn’t. With your pen in my hand, I ask you to bear with my words and give me time to fill ink in the bottle, give me time to fill in the blanks I have created, give me time to make myself whole before I bore a hole in you again.
If you ask me as a guy sitting two paces away from them, I probably had a script for my next blog.
Karan stood transfixed while he the words echoed in his mind.
‘Give me time!’
He was about to curse out loud when someone nudged his arm. He was too lost in the letter to look back. It was the guy who owned the medical store.
He woke up that day knowing that yesterday was a reality. He didn’t want it to be. He could have done without the kiss, without his lips on hers, without taking in the whiff of her cologne. It was the first time he felt vulnerable to the world he was going to face. He took a while digesting the fact that yesterday wasn’t a dream, that yesterday he didn’t kiss someone goodbye. Someone kissed him goodbye. With his unshaven stubble and messy hair, he looked like those forlorn lovers who spent days and nights in their bed scared of the next rejection. He felt exhausted.
There are those situations in life when the fabric of nature seems twisted out of its real shape. It’s when you are withheld by the innumerable trivialities, which as inconsequential, seem to fade away with time robbing you of your vitality and virtue. Just like the fabric loses its elasticity after stretching it to its limit, you feel less contended and devoid of energy. Though it had been only 24 hours, Karan was brushing his teeth like he had seen the mirror for the first time. With the brush in his hands, he fell into deep contemplation as his reflection stared back at him. Was he really the stretched fabric fabric now? His phone buzzed and he came out of the reverie.
‘Hey man, you up?’ It was Akshay. They shared math class together.
‘Just woke up, give me a minute’, he rinsed his mouth with Listerine. It was a new day and he wanted to look lively unlike yesterday.
‘I haven’t got whole day Karan, meet me down in 10’, and the line went dead.
There was a stark bluntness in his voice which caught Karan off-guard. He didn’t pay much attention and got ready. Maybe he wasn’t the only one having a bad day.
Akshay was as big from inside as he looked from outside. He smoked like a chimney and drank like a pig. But he was always there, lending a patient ear whenever needed. Karan waved his morning greetings to the watchman and strode towards the front door. Akshay stood at his usual place; the base of a lamppost which had been cemented so many times that even King Arthur would find it difficult to wield the Excalibur had it been there instead of the lamppost. A cigarette dangled carelessly from his hands.
‘You sure do have a death wish, don’t you?’ said Karan as he lit up one for himself.
‘Says the one who just got dumped?’ he replied with a chuckle.
Karan had called him last night and shared his burden right away. Instead of providing a shoulder to cry, he had told him to piss off and sleep because his Wi-Fi was acting weird as he couldn’t download Baywatch. He didn’t mind as long he was listening. Yes! Even guys bicker a lot at times, without alcohol!
Karan thought about it once again. She told him she needed time to sort things out. But was he willing to do it? He brushed that thought aside as they made their way to college. It was a good day to start something new. The noise of the bustling traffic made him realize time and again about the nature of life. Like Frost said, it goes on! Engineers would never appreciate the hidden beauty of his words. But Karan did. He wanted to be a poet that day.
It was lunch time and Karan left his seat to have a cup of tea at his usual spot. As a final year engineering student, Karan could say that even they needed a sense of belonging somewhere. It didn’t matter if it was a remote corner of the canteen. It was his spot. As shitty as it might sound, he knew it was true. That was when Cheryl approached him.
‘Hi Karan, you look like you need company’, she chortled as she took a seat right opposite to him.
Karan raised his cup of tea and looked at her. She was glimmering with her shining silver top and black slacks which complimented her pixie cut hair cut. She resembled those ballroom dancers who performed while the orchestra played in the background. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach.
‘I am talking to you, Karan’, she said impatiently.
Karan wasn’t listening. He turned back and scanned the room to look for other dancers. No. Bad call! No luck. He swerved his head back towards her slowly and said-
‘What’s up shiny’, with a mocking smile on his face.
She ignored him and asked-‘You coming for prom next Sunday right?’
He sipped his tea. ‘Isn’t it a bit too early for prom?’
‘Well, they called some professionals. I thought it can’t be half bad if I shake my leg too.’
All right! So prom was near and he didn’t know about it. It made him more sad now that he knew he didn’t have a partner. He nodded as she asked him-
‘Don’t tell me you didn’t know. I thought you would be out shopping with Kritika.’
‘Who needs to go shopping when I can undress you right away? He couldn’t say that out loud. Remember Karan! You are still a loose fabric. You are on a break. His head echoed. She bought back memories of her. Memories he could never forget. Memories he would never forget.
Suddenly, he knew how he could save his relationship and get over this infatuation over Cheryl.
He lunged forward towards her, almost knocking his cup of tea, and kissed her left cheek. She was taken aback for a moment and was about to ask the reason behind this sudden display of affection when he hurried across her without saying anything. She didn’t want to accept it but she liked the adrenaline that pulsed through her right now. She was still dazed when Karan called from behind-
‘I wanted to do that the very moment I saw you. You look fabulous. Give me ten minutes and I will tell you why shouldn’t you lose that outfit’, and he turned back again and dashed towards the auditorium where the dance practice was going on.
It was a good day for Cheryl at least.