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Friday, January 28, 2005



A pox on the ex's of the world, she thought, and suddenly found herself giggling on the road at the idea, but then stifled her laugh after a moment's indulgence, becoming all too aware, amid shooting flushes of red on her cheeks, that a fat man with a balding pate and the door man at the store, where she had bought the full-sleeved striped shirt, had turned to watch her.

Of course, she had known that He was going to Malaysia for a long time. In a way, that was one of the reasons they had broken up. In a way, it had been far too much too handle even then, even that early, and the two of them had invented those reasons, those occasions, to look at each other, face each other across the bed with its triangular pillows as if it were some strange ocean that must be crossed and done away with - and they had decided to call it a day.

That's such a weird thing to say, she thought now, crossing the street - why 'call it a day', why 'broken up', why 'never saw each other again', why any of those euphemisms which signified the end of a bond that had threatened to swallow them both... she wondered idly all this, even as she opened the door of the cab and stepped in, and told the sharp-faced little cabbie which restaurant in Andheri he was supposed to take her to.

I never called it a day, she hummed, touching the steel lining of the cab window, I never meant to break up with him, though a part of me expected it to happen some day, I never did not see him again. He was always there, all through the two years we were supposed to have 'broken up'. Sigh. Maybe it should have ended that way, a long, long time back. Maybe I shouldn't have kept on expecting something to happen again, something special, something that would mean that the bond still remained.

But if I'm thinking about it now, still thinking about him going away, how can it mean that the bond is gone?


They were playing something on the radio that made his passenger hold herself tight and sigh over and over, and that drew his attention to her. He was an ordinary little man, too short for his age, too stout for his size, too mild for his profession. Or so he kept on chiding himself about. He hated his wife, hated her mother even more, but was in love with this yellow-and-black cab that he plied across the vast regime of Bombay that he liked to think, in some small way, was a part of him. A part of his territory, a part of his fief. And he liked to think of all the people therein, in some small way, connected to him.

He was a self-important little man. He knew that too about him, but he didn't really care.

And that woman's silent sniffling drew his attention to her. So he looked into the rear view mirror and wondered what she was all about. She was like any of those women you saw on the road, too fair to be Marathi and so he guessed that she was one of those rich Punjabis from Delhi who had come crawling to the broad bad city to look for a job. Good family, he told himself, and he was happy - she was not like some of that other trash that came limping in from Bihar and Bangladesh and Uttar Pradesh, who would chew paan and stain the sides of his beloved cab, or steal jobs from the Marathis who were the air and soil and water of Bombay.

He was a racial snob in some ways, but he liked to think that he was a patriotic snob who cared for his people, other than the virago who bore my wife!

It was something to do with a child, of course. That's what all women were teary about. They mollycoddled their children, held them close and never let them fall or break. That was bad for them, he reasoned, because all things have to bend. Look at her - if her mother had ever made her work while she was young, would she sit there, at the back of my taxi and give these silly groans? Would she look sleepy-eyed at the man on the bike next to us as if he reminded her of some face she'd once seen in a dream, then? So there's a child at the bottom of it. A child is sick, a child is in trouble, and she's going there now, to make sure that the child is safe.

And he grinned to himself and sped past a red signal, hoping that the constable was too busy to pay attention. He may have been too mild for his profession (or so he chided himself) but he knew what it took to be a cabbie in Mumbai. He was no fool.

And so, his theory troubled him again, at the Linking Road crossing. If it were a child at the bottom of it, why would the damn song on the damn radio affect her so - they play only silly love songs all the time, or something to make you dance and wish you could pour a bottle of burning whiskey down your throat... It's not a child - could it be a man? The little cabbie nodded sagely, in his white uniform, still crisp and fresh after a whole day's work, and wondered why on earth he had not seen it earlier. Women were mad about men as well, he thought, and blushed when he thought about his wife at home. She was a beauty, with a tongue that snipped through air, and she could be a holy terror when she was on his case. To give credit where it was undoubtedly true, much of it was because of that old witch's prodding (which brought him back to the idea of women being devils about their children) - but women went crazy about their men, and that could not be denied.

Now he felt really proud about himself, and turned around to flash her a smile. "Madameji, shall I take the road under the flyover, or go from behind?"

She was not in her trance any more and was not looking out the window. She had expected the question, he noted, and answered a bit too loudly, as if he was deaf and had to be made to understand something. "Go from behind. It'll be less crowded." She flashed a brief smile and then settled back down, as if a major decision had just been made, and she was strong about herself again.

But that disturbed him once more. It wasn't just any man. It had to be somebody special. O good God, he thought and his eyes rolled heavenwards, was she pregnant and the father of her baby wanted to have nothing to do with her?! That would certainly explain a lot of things, and he wetted his lips, trying to hope that it explained nothing at all. Logic prevailed, however, and told him that his pregnant theory would straddle both the man- and the child-treatises. So it is a pregnant case then, and for a fleeting moment of mad panic he wondered what it would be like if she were to suddenly start screaming and have her baby right there at the back of his taxi, and he laughed in the next instant, telling himself that all of that was much too filmi for real life. Taxis and babies were a pole apart - two poles apart - and so he laughed again. She wondered why the strange man laughed like that, but thought it better not to ask anything.

But then there was the idea of it! She was pregnant, and she was sitting there at the back of his cab - obviously going through her fair share of repentance, but stil... some part of it shocked his conservative Marathi upbringing. But the Bombay-hardened self was not to be so effortlessly discarded either, and he joked to himself about how it seemed so completely out of the filmi celebrities’ filmi lives! She will run now to beg the father of her child to marry her - and of course, he will relent, fight with his mother (cold, stern, disapproving, like the bitch, his mother-in-law), the two lovers will be reunited, and their baby will have a safe, comfortable, legal life... !

He was an imaginative man. On the streets of Bombay, you had to be

"Lo, Madameji - " and he pulled the cab right in front of her restaurant, and watched her fumble out with a strangely lethargic haze over her. For a second, as she hunted through her purse for the change, he was tempted to reach out to pat her hand, smile warmly at her and say that everything would be perfect - but then she paid him and quickly turned away.

He watched her legs disappear behind the glass door of the restaurant, exchanged a matter-of-fact nod with the door man, and started the cab, feeling his beloved tremble below his touch as he shifted gears.


"You're giving far too much importance to him. I wouldn't go, if I were you. Leave it with a simple phone call," Rucha had said, tossing her head of tight curly hair forward, over the bowl of chocolate mousse on the table. They were words that she had run over and over again in her mind, after that late dinner in Andheri, before coming here. But it was too late to change her mind, too late not to ring the doorbell now that she stood in front of His door.

Of course I'm giving him too much importance. I'm over him, I should be over him, I shouldn't be running every thing we did together in my mind like this, in my mind. He's over. He's a friend now, just a friend.

She sighed. And remembered Priscilla's quiet eyes, as they had coursed over her at dinner, even while Rucha's had widened with angry indignation. Priscilla never passed judgment, or did so while it seemed that she never did. She had screwed up her mouth at the goodbye-gift for the Malaysia-bound, but she had not said anything about him. She had met Him when He had dropped down to her flat some months back, she had liked Him, she knew that He was potentially dangerous, but she never said (in words) how important he was and how critical this phase was.

Priscilla had put her in the cab to Goregaon, and told her to take care of herself. "Give me a call when you get back home." Of course, it was unthinkable (and unsayable) that she should spend the night there, with Him. "Don’t worry about waking me. I'll be up."

She had nodded her thanks, and hugged Rucha, who had clung on tightly and said, "Please take care of yourself, baby. I hope you throw the damn thing in his face!"

But she liked stripes, especially the stripes she had bought for Him, blue with thin dark black centres, over a plain sheet of white that teased and hinted about something fugitive she couldn't quite fathom. She couldn't think of throwing them at His face, and so she pressed her index finger into the doorbell, so that soft, low, insistent buzzing filled her world.

"Hey! You came!"


"Hi, yea, I told you I would. I told you I would." Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn...

"So come in - that's right - hey, can I get you anything? Yea, you know Amit, right? Amit - Aparna - and yea, that's Nisha, I don't think you guys have met. Nisha-Aparna. So, what can I get you?"

"Hey, Amit. Nisha - hi. I had dinner, thanks. I'm quite full. So, you're quite packed, I can see."

"O, yea. These guys have been here from yesterday, picking up behind me (laughs). I dunno what I would do without them! Amit, you're not going to smuggle that CD away with you - that's going with me! Nisha - do something! (laughs some more) Shit - I guess this is it, huh, babe?"

(Aparna laughs) "I guess. But you knew this was coming. It's the best thing for you, remember? So, it's cool. You'll do great. (touches his arm) I'm sure you’ll do great."

"Yea, I know... but I'll miss all this. I'll miss Bombay, I'll miss back home in Calcutta. Will miss all of that stuff - and you guys!"

Amit: "Omigawd! Look at all the drama happening here! (laughs) Hey, hey, Mr NRI - that's enough out of you. You just get your greedy ass there and fuck some sexy chinks!"

(Amit ducks a cushion thrown at him by Nisha, who looks suspiciously sad about the departure, and Aparna wishes she could throw something heavier at him, like a boulder. Aparna laughs too, seeing that He is laughing now.)

Damn it - stop laughing, stop laughing! I wish I could claw your eyes out, bitch! "Anyway - I got something for you, babe. (thrusts packet out) I hope you like it (as he unwraps it)."

"Hey, wow - it's great. Cool. Nisha - don't you think it's cool? I love the colour. And, yea - stripes (laughs), should have figured you'd get something in stripes for me! (laughs some more)"

Nisha: "Yes, it's nice. Lovely colour... (murmurs something unintelligible) lovely stripes.. (more murmurs)."

Oooooo god, help me, help me. (smiles bashfully) Have I overdone it? Does he know? Has she guessed? O god, no, no, no, no, no, no… "I'm glad."

"So are you going home? Do you have a car or something? Why don't you stay over? Nisha and Amit will be here. We could have some fun."

Amit: "We're planning to hit the midnight buffet at the Radisson. Rich lady here (gestures towards Nisha) has daddy's little car, her very own Merc."

(Another pang, another giggle) "I won't be able to. I have work tomorrow morning. My boss will kill me. (to Him:) You know what she's like. I can't stay." Rucha will kill me!

"Awwww, screw that tight-ass. You can tell her, your maasi or somebody came down, and you had to stay over. No? You're sure? It would be a lot of fun... ?"

"Some other time," (he grimaces) He grimaced! "Yes, there will be other times, dumbass! So don't go all puffy-faced about it! Am sure we'll see you when you're this big hotshot! Then you'll come gloating about how good this is in Malaysia, and how good that is in Malaysia and -" (breaks into laugher, as everyone else does so)

"Shit, babe! I'll miss you! I'll miss you lots! (hugs her, takes her slightly by surprise) You take care, babe! You better take care of yourself for me!"

(Nisha shuffles uncomfortably on her feet)

"I will. I will. (smiles, brushes hair back from face, after the hug stops and they part) Ok, I have to run now. You take care - and call me sometimes." (pats His shoulders, then rubs them)

"I will, don't worry. (rueful smile on His face, as He opens the door for her) And I'll give your folks in Calcutta a call, and tell them that you're doing fine. Last I spoke to Aunty, she was worried that her baby daughter is all alone in the land of wolves. (laughs)"

"What wolves? You're leaving town! (laughs in the hallway - a tube light in the corner lights the place up well.)"

(Another hug.) "And do please wear the damn shirt!"

"(laughs) I will, babe, I will. You take care. I'll call."

It's over.

"What's important is how he takes the gift," Rucha had said earlier, "and it will all be in his eyes. So watch them, watch him closely. But please, please - don't read too much in it. Don't go overboard, please!" It had been confusing advice, and she had wondered what to do - whether to not read anything in it, or whether to stare at his eyes, with nary a blink, as he unwrapped the gift. In the end, she had done neither, her gaze had been somehow transfixed on his hands, as they had ripped the packaging apart and taken the shirt out. I didn't look at his eyes, shit!

"Be calm. Please be calm, baby," Priscilla had urged, rubbing her arm, over the dinner table. "You'll get through it in one piece."

I've gotten through it! Somehow, she knew she would - if only because Priscilla had said so. And because of the stripes. She had known that about stripes even before she had fallen in love with them. Stripes were safe. She exhaled. Tried to think of a memory, but nothing would float out before her eyes just now. It was as if some great big mental gap had formed. Tomorrow, they'll come, she thought, tomorrow they'll all come in waves and waves, and I won't be able to think of anything else, knowing that he's flying over some speck of ocean to Malaysia, and a part of me is going to wish that the damn plane crashes into the damn ocean. I'll cry tomorrow. But today, there was nothing. Nothing, and the realisation had its own subtle sedative for her.

She looked for a cab.


He was an ordinary little man, too short for his age, too stout for his size, too mild for his profession. Or so he kept on chiding himself about. He hated his wife, hated her mother even more, but was in love with this yellow-and-black cab that he plied across the vast regime of Bombay that he liked to think, in some small way, was a part of him. A part of his fief.

He was sitting ramrod straight now in his cab, surveying the empty road around him, where the cab was parked. It was late, but a woman had come out from one of the great big colonies that lined the road like gigantic beehives. She looked around for a while and stood there. Remote, he thought, and he slitted his eyes.

The radio was playing a remix of one of his favourite film songs, and though he didn't quite care for all the groaning and moaning that seemed to be the staple of all the remixes they played on the radio, the original tune still held a vague attraction for him, like the memory of some long-ago pleasure he had partaken of and there was still a jolt of that thrill left in some new device he had unearthed. But the song was winding towards its end, and he was anxious to be gone from this place, he had to get back to Parel, and Goregaon was simply too far away to appeal to him.

But she would come to him, this night crawler who had crept out from beneath that vast worker colony. He was sure of that, and wondered what was taking her so long. She seemed to be thinking hard about something, and he ran over the usual suspects in his mind - something about a child, man-trouble, or... he chuckled to himself now - something like that poor pregnant bitch he had picked up earlier that night. She was pondering about something, but the call would come, he was positive.

Sure enough, she roused herself now, spotted the cab parked unobtrusively below the streetlamp in the otherwise deserted road, and yelled - "Taxi!"

posted by livinghigh 10:57 AM... 0 comments

Monday, January 10, 2005

A particular man

A particular man

The boy out on the ledge next door stared back at the man in the window. The man in the window was contemplating that, contemplating the wide-eyed look of curiosity that gazed unabashedly at this strange new creature that had moved into the building. The man at the window was ordinary enough, the kind you saw strolling down G D Ambedkar Marg everyday, peering at the factory shops of the expensive brands, entering a couple of times, looking furtively at price tags and then walking out of the store within ten minutes to enter the shop next door. Not that he was cheap, he liked to think himself particular. I'm particular, thought the man in the window, sipping his coffee, looking at the boy out on the next-door ledge.

The radio was playing Downtown and he could almost nod his head in tune to that sappy, silly song that was so endearing to him. It seemed thoroughly out of place here, in this Parel colony building, the sounds of disquietingly loud English music, decidedly retro, blaring forth from the radio. A louder strain of Marathi film song would not have seemed so out-of-place, he mused, adjusting a book on the window shelf and sitting down on the seat beside the ledge. Not that he was a snob, not that he looked down upon Marathi film songs, he was simply new, with the curiously indifferent contempt that the new has for the established. He was reading a book about romance, about strangely found love among strange people, and he found that he couldn't really concentrate. He found that the little boy on the ledge simply would not let him, and so he let his open book remain on his lap and the music waft around him, but he looked out at the window, meeting the boy's eyes with his own.

They were exchanging notes that way, some sort of a grave confidence. He could hear the boy's mother busying herself in the background, not as if she was somewhere unseen in the next flat and he was on the other side of the building, but rather, as if he was standing next to the boy and the mother was clattering, crashing, cursing just a little way behind him, a little indistinct but so, so near. He almost thought it disquieting, because he knew that what he could sense about the boy, the boy could sense about him. He wasn't really sure whether it was a game, but he knew that they could both play it.

The man in the window seemed oddly familiar like that strange creature you see at 12 pm at night in front of the mewad ice cream man's stall, eating a faluda, which was fancy because it came in a glass mug and cost Rs 10, while everyone else merely wolfed down their Rs 5 kulfi cones. He would take his mug and his faluda and sit on the brick fence that was constructed over the flyover, so that he could eat while watching the cars whiz by. They were mostly taxis, because this was an out-of-the way area. Only if you were going towards Byculla, and there was a traffic jam over B A Ambedkar Marg, would you want to go through this road. They were building some skyscrapers on the other side, towards the main road, G D Ambedkar, and the man in the window, with his glass mug in his hand, would sometimes look up at the looming skeletons and probably wish he could live there. He would always have earphones attached, and you could hear the loud music from the little grey Walkman attached to his belt, as if he had lugged a heavy stereo with him out on the road. For the most part, he was ignored, but the boy on the ledge would never fail to gaze at him and wonder about him.

He never fails to wonder about me, the man with the book on his lap thought. The RJ was talking now and the music was interrupted. They were collecting funds for some orphans and wanted people to contribute. The man in the window smiled tightly and went back to his book, but he looked up again when the doorbell chimed.

"O, hullo, what are you doing here?" and he wondered whether what he had just said seemed rude to her.

The girl at the door smiled at him, however, so he supposed that she hadn't thought he was rude, and so he was glad. "I was just passing through, and thought I'd come in to say hi. Where's Tushar?"

"Ok, you were passing through? Ummm... Tushar's not here, though." Her eyebrows moved upwards, and so he smiled with a sigh and said, "He had some work at the office. I think, and after that, they'll have to run down for some interviews."

"Office? On a Saturday?"

"Yea - "

"Man, those bastards make you guys slog!"

"Yea - " Was she going to come in, was she going to come in, was she going to come in, was she going to come in - "Anyway, why don't you come in?"


"Alright - " Her bright eyes flashed now, and she smiled that grin he knew so well. She pulled her handbag closer to herself for some reason and stepped into the flat with a somewhat longer step than was necessary, and brightened with a somewhat greater degree of animation than was necessary - "Alright, I will step in - for a moment... So this is the place, is it?"

He closed the door, it closed smoothly without a noise, and showed her the window seat. She sat. "Yes, this is the place. You've been here before, haven't you?" Of course you have, I know you have. I discovered your little spotted hanky here on the window seat one night when I came back home, and when I looked again five minutes later, he had quietly slipped it inside his pant pockets. I know you've been here. I know you've sat there by the window, and I wonder whether you know that I sit here all the time myself.

"No, no. No. I've never been to your place. Tushar never brought me here. This is my first time. Nice place, though."


"So, what can I get you?" he rose and bustled towards the fridge. The radio was still on their Golden Oldies hour and Lynn Anderson was begging pardon about promising any rose gardens to unsuspecting and mistaken dolts, or something like that. The light from the fridge lamp seemed to warm his foot when it fell upon him, but that was ridiculous, of course. "We have Coke, and some sort of juice - " he squinted his eyes - "Orange juice. And of course there's coffee. I'm having coffee. Do you want coffee?"

He popped his head out from behind the fridge door with a comical quizzical look on his face. So she laughed and uncrossed, re-crossed her legs. "What - the 'boys' don't have anything stronger than coffee, is it?"

She was trying to make a joke. He hated the uneasy edge behind her humour, and tried to dissolve it by trying to appear as vulnerable and simple as he could. "No, babe. We're good little boys. It's you bad mommas who rob us from the cradles, remember?"

Squint. Bad joke.

But she still laughed. She was getting desperate. "No coffee for me, thank you. I'll go to the office now and catch your flatmate. I'm sure he'll take me out for coffee. Too much of that stuff and I'll become a nervous giggly wreck. I'll have some juice, thanks."

"Suit yourself. One juice coming up."

Tall glass. He would have liked to provide some sort of embellishment to it, but had no idea how. He was the strange man in the window, he remembered, and as he looked out of the kitchen window, he realized that the boy on the ledge was still there. The boy was nearer, it seemed, nearer even than the strains of Que Sera Sera floating in from the living room. He was gazing now at the pretty woman sitting on the window seat, and the man thought - how many other times has he sat there on the ledge, watching her sit on that seat, or perhaps lying down, with Tushar in the window. The idea was strangely voyeuristic, strangely thrilling, partly morbid and partly depressing. In the end, he was relieved. It was a link, a tenuous link, but a link nonetheless, between him and what he missed when he was not there and the two of them were together.

"I love this song," she said, when he handed her the juice. "It's one of my favourites."

He laughed easily now. It stirred a memory within him. "O my god, yea. Do you remember those evenings at the hostel?" and he laughed again, half afraid that she would say no and snub him, half afraid of a million other things, but then laughing all the same.

She squealed and licked her lips. "I always thought that Seema had this thing for you. As soon as she heard you sing Only You, she was gone for a toss! And you were like this major snake-in-the grass! You had such a major thing for her!"

She was pulling his leg, but he laughed along, content to let her believe in her own fiction. Seema was miles away now, and he hadn't thought about her since that last email where she had informed everyone grandly that she was going trekking in Gulmarg. He had no idea how good or bad the trek was and had never asked anyone about it. There were times Tushar tried to draw him out like this, too, but he never reacted. He always grinned, like this, and sipped a drink or looked at the wall clock for signs of Seema the Spider crawling up behind him.

Coffee was the ambrosia of the gods, at times like this. Billy Joel started singing Uptown Girl now, but the moment of easy humour and easy memories had passed. "So, were you guys supposed to go out today, you and Tushar?"

"Not really... this juice is divine. Dad was going into Marine Drive and I got down at Siddhi Vinayak. Hopped on a cab to surprise him." So she wasn't "in the neighbourhood" at all. "I thought he'd be home. It's a Saturday, for God's sake! I forgot that you guys are owned by a behemoth monster!" She grinned that lopsided thing that Tushar was crazy about, but which he found mildly patronising. "How come you're not at work too, by the way?"

"Different departments - " and he switched the radio off, because Golden Oldies was over and they would start making stupid jokes and handing out passes for movies soon, in return for silly antics on your part. He had done that himself once, and won two tickets to a play, for which had to sing a crass line from a crass Hindi song in a packed train. He imagined the boy on the ledge dancing wildly to that song, careening with laughter, wild and happy. Not on the ledge, where he still was, gazing fixedly at them.

"So what do you think about the flat?"

"O. O... it's - nice." He grinned. The stairs always took everyone by surprise. The flat was paradise, once you came inside the door and left the pan-stained stairs out of your life. But he was used to that now, and certainly, the children of the neighbouring flats who played in excitedly loud tones every evening on the landing barely noticed them. They would yell and scream and hide under the stairs as you climbed up and fumbled at the door with your keys, making you an unwitting and perhaps unwilling participant in the glorious drama of fairyland kings and queens that was being enacted there. The one of the ledge was always someone important in the game. He would be the king or the Superhero who had been waylaid, ambushed, trapped, betrayed, bamboozled by the evil minister of alien, whom he always managed to defeat in the end. It was fascinating, in a way, and sometimes he would purposely stand at the door, pretending to get his keys wrong, jangling them again and again, ears keenly waiting for the war cry that he knew would come and the bugle toots from the child designated the Imperial Footman.

"The crowd's pretty low-class, but the flat's cool. I like that. It came furnished. TV, Fridge, beds, chairs, tables, cupboards, gas stove, geyser. We hardly spent anything on that. Only shopped for food and supplies." He had no idea why he was talking to her like this. It wasn't as if she was interested. Her juice was finished and the empty glass was on the floor. He thought - do you want to see the bedroom? And then stopped with the thought, you've seen it already, I'm sure! And then he bit his lip. It hurt. He wondered if the little boy on the ledge could feel that too.

"Anyway, I have to leave," she got up now, gathering her silly little bag that was done up in absurd tufts of cloth and mirrors. "I want to catch Tushar at the office."

"O. Ok, then. Great to see you. Do stop by more often."

"I will. Bye. Love the flat. And the crowd's not that bad, at all - for Bombay" she smiled and he hated her when she did that. There was no music in the background now as they hugged and he thought there was something sad about that. There should be some grand finale to this meeting, he thought. There should be something that rent the air with some beautiful sad notes of a song that people died for in the days when they were young and remembered now only for their lost passions. "Goodbye," she said, and patted his hand fondly, and opened the door. A yell from the Superhero adventure filled the hall, and he gave an apologetic grin -

"It's like that, sometimes. Take care."

She stepped over the Imperial Trumpeter, all of two years old, sitting precariously on the top step with his silver paper clarinet, and hurried down the stairs.

The man in the window stepped away from the door and walked into the kitchen with a tall glass in his hand. The kitchen window was small and circular, and the little boy on the ledge could not see much through it. But he could hear the angry hiss of the opened tap, as if a volley of gnashing snakes had been let loose upon the man in the window, and he saw his hands furiously rubbing something, and so he imagined that he was washing something. His face was cold and passive, and especially so when he turned around to see him through the circular connection between them. They watched each other through wide eyes for a second, two, three, four, that dragged onto maybe a whole minute, and then he smiled, shook his head and walked away. Not in the living room, where the boy on the ledge could see him, but inside his cavern, his room, perhaps. He was a strange, particular man, the boy mused, who had strange particular desires on another strange particular man.

posted by livinghigh 2:49 PM... 1 comments

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Wrong Side of the Street

The Wrong Side of the Street

I'm seeing you after what seems like years. And I feel none of the passion I did earlier. I love you, still, at least I think I do. But I feel none of the passion, none of the ache. I flirt with you still, I touch your arms lightly, I whisper in your ear, and am aware of the slight tremour in your skin, but I want none of that.

I am content to see you like this.

It was not always like this.

There was a time when I would wait, wait, wait, wait and then wait some more to hear from you. There was a time that I would take the cell phone when I saw your name on the display screen, and scamper away somewhere to sit in seclusion and talk to you, listen to your drawl, the way you told me you wanted to see me, be with me, love me. And then I would come back to my chair and my friends would nudge me, and ask me how fast the rocket that had taken me to the moon had gone.

It was something like that. Something stupid.

I remember that time we were lying in bed, a piece of sinful chocolate truffle cake between us. One fork. Chocolate cream smeared on the white china. My eyes liquid as I looked at you, my lips hungry for you. We talked about love, about what we wanted from each other. The boundaries were drawn, and I knew that. You were from the wrong side of the street, and I was from the never-never land that you outgrew ages ago. We were playing with each other, it was a god-given boon that the play was always so intricate, always so delightful, and always left us feeling slightly unsatisfied at the end, panting always. That was the way it was meant to be, you said, and I agreed. I was panting, I was sighing, I was in heaven, though I held myself back.

But of course, it didn't really work. When we went out for dinner with your friends, I would become this listless creature who is awaiting his last meal before he is shot. When we would be in the dark, in the movie hall, I would slip my hand underneath yours and squeeze slowly, and beg you to reciprocate. I would do little things in the dark, but freeze instantly when the intermission came on, and one of your brainless friends spied my red face and suggested popcorn. I think they wanted to know what the hell you were doing with me. I hope the answer wasn't that hard to come to you.

"I'm not sure where this is going," I would say, in unconcealed ire to my friend. He would stroke my arm in response. Sympathy, sadness, ire, I wonder if he felt any of those of my behalf... I would almost feel the salt in my eyes out of frustration.

"I haven't got any word as yet. I can't be the first one to call. I'll look funny. I'll look desperate."

"No, you can't. Wait, then. Wait. The call will come, don't worry too much," he would say, and I would hope that he was right.

Of course, the call would always come. You would always call and explain things away in a breezy enough way. There were reasons in the world for you to be delayed, and I was supposed to understand it. I told myself that I should understand it. You were from the wrong side of the street for me, for god's sake - everyone had warned me about you. They had pointed you out to me at parties and told me never to go within ten paces of you. I didn't. I believed my friends. I kept away from you.

You were the one who first came up to me.

It was my fault I couldn't resist you.

Not then, not when you first came up to me, a smile on your lips, and not when I found myself slowly slipping into you. I told myself, get your guard up again. That one is on the wrong side of the street, that one is not meant for you, you can't slip, you can't slip, but of course I did. And that was the end of it.

Because you caught on. And that was the end of us.

So, over another piece of sinful chocolate cake, you told me that I was on the wrong side of the street for you, and we should move on. I did. I listened to you, and reasoned with myself that you were right. That this falling business was likely to give me vertigo if I didn't cross to the other side of the street. I looked at you and nodded, and never cried, hugged you that night, and stayed awake the whole night, blinking away tears that refused to come, while staring at the shadows playing on the floor in the dark.

You wanted us to move on, and I did. I moved away to another city, and told myself that Thank God you had caught me before I had fallen wholeheartedly, that Thank God, you had had the grace to leave me my dignity. I suppose I thanked you too, in my mind, in my private reserve, so many times, thanked that you were on the right side of the street.

posted by livinghigh 6:01 PM... 0 comments

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