The Dancer in Paradise
Dancing in the room, with the lights dimmed, and I feel happy. Your hands are holding onto me, holding me against you, and I can't help but sigh at the entire way this whole episode is turning out to be. We met yesterday, over a coffee shop, and tonight, we're dancing in my apartment. We spoke about Suketu Mehta yesterday, and his book, and today the conversation had nothing to do with books really. We hardly spoke today. Just looked into each other's eyes, and I knew you wanted to come home with me.
God knows I wanted to let you in.
"He's actually my uncle," you said, and I turned around at the comment. You were goodlooking, quite goodlooking, I thought, that was my first impression. Also, a smartass for venturing your opinion where none had been asked for, and I let you know that.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" I replied, steely voice in tow.
Your divine smile did the trick. And you said, "No, no you don't. And I'm sorry for butting in. It's just that I'm awfully proud of the fact that he's my uncle. Believe me, no one gets more embarassed than him, when I act this way. Awfully sorry."
Of course I had to relent to that. The entire package was there. The grin, the elfen ears, that excessively long nose that I suddenly longed to reach out and squeeze, and I grinned back, "It's quite alright. I'm sorry if I appeared rude. He's really a great author. It's a great book. You should feel proud."
I loved the way you beamed. As if you'd earned a medal from me at that very instant. Was I being mad, I thought, but then you said - "Thanks a bunch. Let me make it up to you for the interruption. Can I get you a cup of coffee at the store here?"
And, I don't know what compelled me, I said 'yes'.
It all came out. You're the great author's nephew and live in the States with him. Here down for three weeks, and you'll be in Sri Lanka for a week in between. New to Bombay. "Well then, I must show you around," I jumped up to exclaim, and simultaneously rap myself sharply inside my head for doing so.
"That would be great," you beamed, and suddenly I couldn't resist. A date was set. A ferry ride to Elephanta. It helped that I've quit my job and on a break for some time. There's so much time to kill. Elephanta will be good. And dinner afterwards.
I decided to try my luck at dinner, because you're looking so delicious: "Do you dance?"
And that's when you grin, wink at me and reply: "I'm a dance teacher."
Salsa. The twist. The hustle. Lambada. The tango. Cheek to cheek, then. And finally, lip to lip. I'm hooked.
Hurried phone calls to friends follow the next day, and advice pours forth. "He's here only for another week. Then he's going away to Sri Lanka. He's not going to call you again after that. Just enjoy the passion now. Nothing more."
A scowl on my face. Why on earth won't I believe my friends? "What if it's more? What if...?"
"It's not more," chimes in friend no 2. "They come and they go. Non resident idiots are fun to screw. Screw him and get over it. Nothing more. Don't screw yourself like this now."
Reason shines through, and fights with the heartstrings. But... "He dances divinely."
"He'll dance right out of your life," comes the reply, fast as lightning, I'm not sure from which one.
A week goes by terribly fast. Terribly. Fast. And we find ourselves on the dance floor again, talking about everything but books and uncles. "What's Sri Lanka like?" I ask, in a whimper, not really wanting to know.
"Heaven." A pause, and then - "What's Bombay like?"
I'm puzzled, and don't reply, but then he does, for me - "It's paradise. Because it has you."He'll dance right out of your life
, I think, and grin at him through a steel heart. "You're glib."
"I'm honest," he replies, and I wish he would beam now. I want him to laugh and talk nonstop the way he usually does, about dance and books and travel and other things that don't matter, anything that won't make me look at him, like this, and wish I could reach up and squeeze his nose and stroke his ears, something which I don't trust myself at all to do... Ninny, I call myself, and wonder why it took so little time, such little effort. And then, I make up my mind, and tell him, "No, you're glib."
He looks slightly pained for an instant, but then the smile comes back on his face. He grins and kisses my ear, and I shudder at his hot breath. They're playing some delicious tango tune, and he holds my waist firmly, and pulls me closer to him. I'm grateful for that, grateful that he will take me to dance with him and then to bed later, so that we can forego this silly talk which drives me crazy, so that I can forget that he's leaving for his week-long trip to Sri Lanka tomorrow and that I will probably never see him again. Jumble of thoughts destroyed thankfully by the jumble of body movements as we twirl on the dance floor, but then he whispers into my ears as the final crescendo starts... "Hold on... you'll see..."
My friends have been angels. I've been thinking of you every day. Talking about you to them, and they've been patient enough to bear me prattle on. A week-long romance. I must be going mad. Or juvenile. But it seems so important to me, and I don't know why. A week full of dance and desire, a week full of absence and wondering whether you'll come back or not. And finally, it's over. "You're glib," I tell an imaginary him, whispering, while I fold the clothes fresh from the laundromat.
There was the episode when we went to Marine Drive together for a pizza, and got stuck in the rain. "I hate the rain!" you sputtered, hiding under the store awning, while I shrieked in glee. I'm a child in the rain.
"You're crazy!" I yelled back, nose dripping water, and hugged you, getting you wet. I think you were in two minds, whether to push my wet body away or hold on, but I didn't give you a chance. "And I'm demented!"
You started laughing now, and grabbed me in, away from the torrents now, "Are you always going to be this mad?"
I nodded my head vigorously: "Getting second thoughts?"
And you pecked my cheek, even as I tugged on your nose, "Not even if I tried!"
Bombay rains make me decidedly mad, I've decided, more than a week later, as I fold clothes on the bed. Friends are right, and lovers rarely are. Screw them, don't let them screw your head: the cardinal rule of a fling, and I.. and I flung it out of the window. I hate Sri Lanka now. I'm never going to go there, I decide, like a child.
The doorbell rings, and it must be friends 1 and 2 with the pizza. Pizza and sobby love stories for a rainy evening, that's my life. Thank god my new job begins from tomorrow.
And there you are. Dishevelled. Smiling. A big nose and elfen ears. Smiling. "I'm back... and it's Paradise again."
I stand there at the door, looking at you. Red bags and black jacket, dripping wet in the rain. I step back, and walk over to the stereo and switch on the CD which I haven't removed in a week's time. "Just in time for a dance," I smile, as your hands encircle my waist.
Giving the boot
"These boots were made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you," she crooned in the radio, and you had to grin, imagining that blonde temptress in her tiny denim shorts, frayed suitably so that strands of blue fabric strayed over her smooth cream skin.
"And what about the boots?" Sid asks, smiling at me. He's amused at something.
What about them? I ask back, a bit irritated at the grin in his voice. Sid has a way of standing up and saying something that makes you think you're being silly. The really irritating part is that nine times out of ten, he's right.
"Well," he says, the infernal idiot, stretching up to his feet, yawning and crisscrossing his legs, long long long legs, and settling back into the lazy couch, hugging the pillow closer, but that silly smile of his remains the same, "The song is about the boots after all. So maybe, after all that beautiful theorizing about the blonde's denim shorts and creamy thighs, you could spare a thought about what the boots are like."
Appy titters. "Moron," she coughs aloud, and I'm inclined to agree. Nancy Sinatra had weightier topics on her mind when she was singing Boots, I'm sure, than boots themselves. Appy's inclined to agree, mind reader that she is, and says so: "I’m sure that Nancy Sinatra had weightier topics on her mind when she was singing Boots, than boots themselves!..." The problem is, I often suspect Appy of sarcasm, and she often happily admits to the crime. So that's why I look at her askance now, not very thrilled at her backing, as I would be perhaps, if Archie had said the same thing.
But Archie says: "You guys are nuts. That's Jessica Simpson singing that stupid song, for god's sake, and not Nancy. Was Nancy even blonde? She was brunette, na?"
Archie's the practical one. The one who peers at the world from behind shades of grey and black and white, not too many colours like me, who's perpetually on the run after rainbows... and boots now, I suppose. Archie's not very impressed with either Jessica Simpson or Nancy Sinatra.
The other two, however, have vested interests, and I can't trust either. Sid has a crush on Nick Whatshisname, Jessica Simpson's ex, and that's why he can’t stand thoughts about the blonde or her frayed denim jeans. And Appy swoons every time she hears Frank Sinatra sing The Way You Look Tonight. She's seen the last scene of You've Got Mail
only a gadzillion times, the rose garden where Meg Ryan sees Tom Hanks come through with his dog, and that's when you have the score in the background, love wrinkling noses and foolish hearts being touched in lovely ways. And Appy never fails to sigh in heartfelt angst when she sees that scene. It's enough to make Archie go 'O pleeeeeezzze!' in a most pitiful way.
"All of you are complete philistines, I swear. What's important is the tone. The boots are secondary. That's why you don't have to think of them all the time, Sid. It's the woman you're supposed to be looking at." And in cue to my words, Appy throws another pillow towards Sid. But that's when I decide to take Appy the Sap head-on, and charge at her next: "And honestly, Jessica's version is much better than Nancy's. Nancy was hardly as sexy! I mean, have you guys seen the video? There's this hot chick in an old Western saloon, in these tiny shorts and high knee length boots, hitting guys and dancing on table tops. It's a complete male fantasy come true. It’s all about kink and sex. Nancy doesn’t even come close!"
Appy's sputtering now so much that she can't respond to that one, and that's when Archie pushes her glasses back higher up the bridge of her nose, and says in her Sigmund Freud voice: "So, you never told us that you have S&M fantasies. Do you like rough sex?"
Sid hoots in laughter and I get a pillow thrown at my face. I'm not very amused. Before I can retaliate, however, Archie drones on: "The video has Jessica dancing in the saloon, causing all the guys to hit each other - a brawl, in fact. And then, in the middle of it all, Jessica and her dancers are gyrating and touching each other erotically and all the men pipe down after they see that. That kind of stuff actually perpetuates several myths about male heterosexuality - most importantly, the fact that heterosexual men get turned on by seeing women touch each other and themselves. It's remarkable how grown men will fight to compete for the affections of a woman, but will immediately be 'good' and sit down to watch if the woman in question starts making out with other women in leather and boots. So basically, heterosexual men are in love with the entire S&M fantasy, however much they go blue in the face denying it."
Appy, mutters to herself: "I like S&M. I like kinky."
Part of me is listening to what Appy said, and feels happy cuz she's really hot and sexy, but the other part of me is distracted by Sid the Fag’s sudden outburst: "Straight men are morons! They run after chicks canoodling themselves and can't stand it if gay men do it! Double standards! EFFing double standards!"
Archie sighs in heartfelt approval and I want to tell them both to go fuck themselves. The fag who doesn't go two days without getting laid and the dowdy hag who's not got laid in years. Talk about strange bedfellows! I'm about to say something mean which I would probably regret later, but am saved when Appy croons almost to herself, "I hope Frank Sinatra wasn't gay. Do you think he was, Sid?"
Sid sighs happily, and chirps in, his Homosexual Pride abated for sometime, "I have no idea. Dapper dude, though. I wouldn't be surprised. It would be so cool, if all those mafia guys in 1920s America were gay!"
Archie sighs again, pained at the misrepresentation of the Capones and says, "You have your decades severely mixed up, Sid. I suggest you stick to lusting after Nick Whatshisname and leave Frank for the Sap Bowl there."
And that's when Sid sticks his tongue out to Archie and me, and quotes from a very unlikely source: "These boots were made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you!"