Story of a lost journalist

January 27, 2017

Short Story: Ten Years

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 01:48

“You are really going?” she asks.

I nod. I feel calmer than ever. But she doesn’t know that. “You don’t really believe… after all these years?”

I don’t nod this time. I arrange the last of the Sari pletes and look at the tiny gray patch on the side of my ears. He’d like that.

“Will he remember the exact date?” she is restless. It’s not that I didn’t ask these questions. I did – had, every day, every year. But after ten years, I am dried up and this day, like I said, I feel calm. It’s somehow become the most ordinary day of my life.

“Am I annoying you?” she asks. I look at her and shake my head. It’s ok, I mouth. I don’t want to utter any words. I want to keep them all.

“Is that the same Sari? It looks so different.” It does not, really. It hasn’t been washed, touched. It has stayed at the same corner of my wardrobe for ten years. Dark yellow cotton with think black borders. He had said nothing when he put it on my table.

“You look good in yellow.” Now I know she’s jut speaking to ease the tension. She won’t believe I’m not tense. She has seen me go through the worst anxiety attacks, murmuring my fears of this day.

“I can’t believe it’s 10 years. I can’t.”
I can. I went and drew the last tally mark on the wall. I thought she’ll say something but she just watched sadly. She had seen me draw most of these lines and crosses, counting days over and over like an obsession.

“Are you sure you want to go alone?”

“You know I should.” I answer this time. She deserves my words more than anyone else. She had stood with me. She had always come back to me after every fight – fights when she tried to talk sense into me and I would not listen and shouted like a child. Finally she smiles today. “Are you taking the letters?”

“That’s for later.”

She puts a hand on my shoulder. “What if?” the question she has been dreading to ask.

“Then I will come to you and shout at you and tell you it is all your fault,” I say. Cause I don’t want to say “He will” and jinx it. I don’t believe in anything anymore. I honestly have no idea if he will or will not come.

Crossroads. The place has changed a lot in ten years. He had seen it as a deserted little spot, like a secret only he knew of. He had been so possessive of the place he took me there blindfolded the first time. I saw him wince when he saw another biker pass one day. “It’s gone,” he whimpered. He could be like that one day and be gone the next.

“I do that on purpose,” he admitted once.

I asked why though I knew the answer.

“To be unpredictable,” he said happily. But that I knew it would make him the opposite.

I knew it when that last day came too.

“I know this would shock you, upset you, but I think this is the best way to do it,” he said.

Crossroads looked dustier that day. I tried to concentrate on the dust to stop myself guessing – reading – his mind.

“I am going today.” He is surprised when I nod.

“You knew?” he asks. I shrug.

“You understand? This is that journey I told you about. Where I just go, without an idea of a return.” I think nodding will annoy him so I look away.

“I have to do this,” he says and it sounds like an unnatural line. So I look at him questioningly. He doesn’t know what to say. “I am not good at this.”

“Neither am I,” I tell quickly. So we shake hands and try to smile.

“You know our deal,” he winks.

That doesn’t suit him either so I play along. “Yea, ten years.”

“Ten years. But no guarantee. Neither from me, nor from you.”

“Of course.”

“No phone, no mail, no letters.”

Suddenly I get tired. I hadn’t pictured the last day like this. I thought it’d be full of meaningful silences. Not bland words.

He seems to have understood. “Right, I just wanted to make sure, you know.”

That I have a choice. To get a life. Funny part is I thought I only had that choice. He had never seemed a choice for me. ‘Closed door’, I dared to say once and he had nodded. But when he nodded, when he stressed on it, I felt something like hope. That’s when he first said that ten-year line.

“After my journey is over, after 10 years, I might just decide to start a life you know.”

I say nothing, thinking of the many meanings that line might have.

“I know just where to come back to,” he says, looking at me, half-smile, half-dreamy. And I drop all the other lines he said at different times – ‘No hope’, ‘Never’, ‘It’s not for me’. And I grab this one line I knew I would play in my head over and over again. I cry then. He doesn’t expect that. He touches my head – first and only touch, before that final day handshake.

That line stays as the last line for me. I wrote it on my wall and drew the first tally mark that day. Silly really, for a 30-year-old to draw lines on a wall and countdown like a schoolgirl. Many came with gentle suggestions at first, and then blunt curses – fool, idiot, selfish.

“Who would waste the best 10 years waiting like that, without even knowing where that man is, what he’s doing?”

I believed them sometimes. That I was a fool. But I had no doubts what I’d do.

“With or without him,” I sang to her one day. She laughed with me. Drank with me. And read my unsent letters for him. “You really wrote one everyday?” she asks today. I nod proudly. Not cause it was an achievement. I just liked the feeling of owning those letters.

“But they are for later,” I repeat, telling her it’s time to go.

She walks out with me. “Is he going to come in that lorry?” her final question, I take, cause she’s started her car before I answer. She puts a hand next to her ear and mouths, “Phone me.”

I walk, thinking of the lorry. I had told him that just once. We were on the beach and for some reason watching one of his favourite movies, Namukku Paarkam Munthiri Thoppukal. When the movie ended, I said, “That’s how I want to be picked up.” He doesn’t ask by whom or when.

“Yea,” he smiles, surprising me. He can really be unpredictable sometimes, when he doesn’t try. “I loved it too. The way he lifts her up into the lorry, and that horn too.”

“And the music,” I add, now confident.

But at Crossroads today, it’s all silence. It’s not the deserted stretch he left it as. It’s become a bike path. Luckily our people are still lazy to ride bicycles and ignore this path entirely. And fitting it all is a clock tower opposite where I stand. It was 10 when he had left, it is 10 now.

There’s a cool November breeze and I imagine my hair flying gently behind me, like the slow-moving heroines have them on TV. The Sari leaves only one hand free. And then I do hear music. Not the music from Namukku Paarkam. This is a new AR Rahman track. The beginning of ‘Thallipokathe’. It comes from a bad sounding speaker that I can’t yet spot. And I think of cursing the irresponsible youth when I see a lorry turn to the bike path.

He has sunglasses, and a spot of a beard. He is in black. That’s all I can make out. Rest is blurred in tears. Mine. And shock. Mine again. The pretty-girl picture in my head is gone. Here’s a 40-year-old woman sticking to an old word said on an old day and a 40-year-old man keeping that word. If this were a movie, there would be a flash of all the past scenes in that ten-second drive it takes him to reach me – how we met, became friends, didn’t care for each other for long till somehow we connected through long letters and songs, barely even seeing each other. He had been a declared bachelor for life, me, a hopeless romantic. We had changed in the five years we knew each other, and the two we really knew each other. We left no promises, except the vague mention of a ten-year wait. And now the ten seconds are over and he is in front of me, showing off muscles I dislike. Yea, he could lift me. I feel funny raising my hands, like I am on stage, doing an act I rehearsed many times. But he lifts me easily, slowly, and the bad speaker kept singing. We fall when I am finally up and inside. He places me on my seat and drives without taking off his shades. I am glad. I couldn’t emote. I have frozen. In joy, disbelief, but mostly in embarrassment.

He stops again in ten seconds. And I see a few men waiting, smiling. “It is theirs, I borrowed for a minute. Erm, the speaker is theirs too, they didn’t have Namukku Paarkam.” His first words in ten years. Really? It could have been anything, but I love it. I love it so much I laugh and cry at the same time. And then I see the bike. The one he rode away in.

Now he says, “That is ours.” There, that’s my line to grab all over again. My word. ‘Ours’.

This time he doesn’t lift me. I climb pillion and think of the times I had wished to get on that bike and hold him but faked I didn’t care. The lorry men have not switched off their bad speaker. I hear a female hum in the song and touch him. I can sense a smile from behind. I bet he still thinks he is unpredictable.

And I wish someone was shooting this – us – from behind, we are riding away. With dust in our hair, bad music in the air, and wrinkles on our face.

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January 13, 2017

Every step she takes

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 02:46

“Shh, I think she’s up”

“The second call came?”

“No but I heard the bed sheets swish”

“Well, there’s nothing”

“Yea, she hates waking up before 10”

“Ah, here comes the second call”

“If only she spoke a little louder”

“It’s a wakeup call. What would she say anyway?”

“It could be a boyfriend”

“Or a boss”

“Why can’t we just go in and see?”

“We talked about this. She needs her privacy.”

“And the routine begins. The bathroom door opens”

“The tap water flows”

“Hey, she’s humming Hallelujah”

“Cohen? Must be still missing him. She really liked him.”

“Wonder if she liked George Michael”

“She hums through brushing her teeth. That’s gross!”

“Must be a happy day. The wakeup call must’ve brought good news”

“Ok, the bathroom door shuts. The front door opens.”

“It’s my turn to take a peek”

“Fine. Tell me what she’s wearing.”

“Navy blue shorts, a white tee and unkempt hair. Messy girl.”

“Let me take a look too.”

“Keep it down. She’ll hear us.”

“Fat chance. 6 months and she doesn’t know we exist.”

“Alright. She’s gone in.”

“Is she going to read the paper or do her workout?”

“My guess is workout. Yep, the music is on.”

“More Cohen. She likes him so much?”

“Women are emotional like that. A guy dies and she’s all over him.”

“Yea, pity.”

“Hey the next is a Tamil song. ARR”

“Must be random playlist.”

“Aww, she is singing along. I love that voice.”

“I think she’s dancing too.”

“Stupid girl. She’ll be late for work again.”

“Ah, she’s headed to the kitchen.”

“Is it coffee or tea?”

“Coffee. I saw Nescafe tins on her trash”

“Gross, man! You went through her trash?”

“It’s love, concern.”

“The girl is mine.”

“No she is mine.”

“She hasn’t played MJ for a while.”

“The girl’s got seasons. I think she’s done with the newspaper and coffee ritual.”

“What’d she have with it? Cereal or fruit?”

“Bread”

“You saw that in the trash too?”

“No, that’s my guess. It’s what I like.”

“Oh the shower is running. Guessing time. What colour will she wear?”

“Blue”

“Gray”

“Shh. She’s ready to go.”

“Hey it’s grey. My girl.”

“Hah.”

“Sigh. Nine hours. Nine long hours now.”

“Where do you think she works?”

“I don’t know. Look at her walk on the road. She’s like a walking fragrance.”

“Cheesy.”

“Don’t care.”

“Finally, I hear footsteps.”

“She’s back? It’s too early.”

“Oh darn. She’s crying.”

“What happened?”

“Hush, she’s on the phone.”

“Did she say ‘Don’t wanna do this anymore’?”

“Her job? Her boyfriend? Breakup?”

“It’s just a tiff. My girl never lets go of love so easily.”

“I suppose there won’t be TV or computer today.”

“Hope she has her dinner.”

“She’s sleeping early.”

“Wish I could be there.”

“She’ll be fine.”

“Do you think she knows we still care so much?”

“We are just dead, not absent. Did you hear that mumble?”

“ ‘Dad, mom, I miss you so much’.”

“Yep, she knows we care.”

 

June 17, 2016

Finding her

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 02:59

“That was the last you spoke to her?” she asked the mother. Mother could barely talk, she looked numb. The dad nudges her. She could hear him murmur, “Please talk to her, dear. This is going to help us find our girl sooner.” He is not as shaken as the mother. The more practical kind, the easily accepting kind. Or perhaps they weren’t close, the dad and the daughter, she found herself judging and quickly stopped. There’s time for that, time for all the introspection and crossing out of probabilities. Now wasn’t it. She had to know everything, hear every last detail. The mother, after more nudges, manages to form bits of words at first. “Ye-yes. Alappuzha. Train… pa-passed.” You can see the pain in her face as she remembers the daughter’s voice. The way she had last heard it. “She sounded sleepy but told me she wasn’t sleeping,” the mother was now talking without being asked. Words came out faster, she was reliving it, perhaps finding some joy to be in a time when nothing had gone wrong. When she still knew where her daughter was, on a train to Ernakulam, going back to work after a weekend. “She was excited about taking my special pickles to her colleagues.” That was last night, she thought, as the mother’s eyes wandered to her daughter’s belongings, packed meticulously a night before the journey. “There, I had put it in that rack,” she passed on useless information. Pieces of the recent past would keep falling out of her like that.

The dad had nothing much to add. He had driven her to the station, but didn’t notice anything different. He doesn’t remember anything spoken during those few minutes. She seemed preoccupied, he said when she pressed him. Would not make a good witness, this one, she thought.

The next one to talk to was her boyfriend. He looked nearly the same as the mother but more restless than broken. He was in that boyish hurry to set everything right. He wanted everyone to be on their toes, going out there, searching, not standing here. “We never talk on the phone unless it is for a quick minute to convey something that should be faster than a message. Otherwise it is all messages,” he said after a lot of persuasion. He was the kind who liked his privacy and seemed quite guarded about hers too. She liked that. “What was her last message?” It was obvious he had already read it dozens of times but he still pulls his phone out from the shirt pocket, taps his fingers on it and turns his face away. His voice sounds far. “She said she was in my favourite seat, the side sleeper.”

Was that genuine? She had no doubts it was. She didn’t like to hurt this boy more. Others would have pressed him to tell more, just to make it juicier and give eye-catching headlines in the newspapers. But that wasn’t her purpose. Her purpose was to know. Know everything. Only then she could find her.

The best friend came along looking puffy eyed. They haven’t seen in a week. She had messaged a day earlier, they planned to meet but couldn’t. Perhaps if they met, she would have told her something. Or more likely not. She wasn’t the opening up type. “I have to push stuff out of her sometimes. She doesn’t talk like girls do about boyfriend stuff.” It was almost a complaint, forgetting for a moment her best friend was missing. It seemed she would not mind the missing so much as not being informed of her decision to disappear. She could have been a conspirator in all this, her face seemed to tell.

Next in line was the boss. Apparently he was the last to talk to her before she was gone. “She had reached Cherthala. I had asked her,” he seemed worried and quite anxious to help. Like a sensible man, he decided to keep his worries for later and help with as much information. “So she must have been in the train till then. And then the next stop was Ernakulam where she’d get down.” She knew that was true. There were co passengers who saw her staring out of the window with music in her ears at Cherthala, like a typical train traveller. That was the problem. Because this was typical, no one would have noticed her much. Ear phones and window seats are the most sought after and most obvious perks of a train journey. Deadly combination, she let herself digress for a second, before coming back to the boss. “So what did you talk about?” He didn’t even pause to think, he had already done his thinking, it seemed to her. “Work. We had some urgent crisis to take care of and I was discussing it with her.”

There was hardly half an hour from Cherthala to Ernakulam. Where could she have gone in this time? She looked at her watch. It was enough. She had what she wanted. She would go home and think about all she heard and add what she didn’t. She would have a complete picture. Of what she was. She waved away the characters she had conjured up in front of her, the real life characters who had last spoken to her before she decided to become missing. Once she knew what they had to say about her when she was no longer there, she would know where to find herself. She would not feel so lost. She could come back. Be found again.

April 25, 2015

Short Story: Morals and stuff

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 01:09

No one noticed her pass, with her big broom and cleaning stick. At first. Hair tied into a top knot, she set to work, cleaning the rails, picking up the many cups and plastic covers people on the train drop all the time. It was the break time between two trains, she barely had 15 minutes with her. And then all that she cleaned will be freshly wrecked. She must know it but that didn’t alter her speed or thoroughness. Just that no one clapped when she finished. A guy on the platform took the trouble to walk to where she was cleaning and drop his white paper cup drained of the last coffee drop. She picked it up too and he walked away, like a scout who did his deed for the day.

But then something happened.

Not an accident, not a crowd-pulling moment. Just an everyday every moment gesture of today. She opened a sling bag and took out a mobile phone. ‘Sssss’ went the kids nearest to her. ‘An iPhone’ one hissed. She moved some screens, pressed a couple of icons, touchphoned a few seconds with changing expressions. The broom and the stick had rested on her legs all that while. She picked up the tools in one hand, climbed up the platform and with the other hand made a call. “Yea, I will be there, can you give me 10 minutes please?” she spoke in English.

Now suddenly all the attention came to her. Not people up far, they could still see only a cleaner cleaning. But the nearby ones looked at her, watched her steps. Was she an overly educated sweeper or a someone else doing the sweeper’s job. One of the kids finally had the courage to ask. “Oh neither, I just saw all that junk out there and didn’t like it. I do the same thing when my son leaves his room messy. Always makes him guilty,” she winked. The kid who had dropped his candy wrapper two minutes earlier went to pick it up. His father smiled.

“That’s like the stories you tell dad, morals and stuff.” Yea, said the father. “But you know what I learnt?” The kid looked around him, “To not litter?” No, said the dad. “That you shouldn’t just ignore people or write anyone off as insignificant. The sweepers in these rails are cleaning after us, like our mothers at home. See how we looked at her when we saw her rich phone, like we are attracted only by wealth.”

“Oh but you can’t just pay attention to every single person you see, dad. There’s no need for a guilt trip there.”

“Maybe, but you need to show respect. Like you would a TT when you saw him. Not stand up from your seat and salute, I mean just the basic head bow if you catch their eyes. Not treat them like another rail on the track.”

“Dad”

“Yea?”

“No more morals, just do it like the lady and I follow thee.”

And the dad and son watched every passerby the next ten minutes and tried to smile till a middle aged woman stopped walking, came back and asked them what the hell did they think they were doing. “No overdoing, son, let’s just acknowledge everyone in the mind,” the dad said. “That one’s only for you dad, everyone loves a smiling kid,” said the kid, smiling at a girl five years older, and getting a ‘cute kid’ in return.

October 17, 2013

Short Story: Love Me

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 10:42

It is raining again this night. My driver has started whistling ‘Pyar hua’. I wonder if it is ‘cause of the rain. Or if he just wants to keep awake. But I like it anyway. He whistles better than he sings. Sometimes in our night trips, he would sing aloud the old songs of Jayachandran or Kishore Kumar. I think about asking him how he learnt so many songs, who taught him? Did he have a mother who used to sing to him or a radio he switched on every morning? But I am afraid to break the silence that we have formed over years of travelling together in the nights. There’s not even a customary hello-sir, or ready-to-go-sir. Never an ok-then, from my side. I wait every time at the parking lot outside Venu’s flat. My brother Venu..

Six years ago he takes us to live with him – me and her. The same night, he introduces me to the gray-haired man who drives an old ambassador. No hand shake, no nods. He does not speak as he sees the dry tears in my eyes. Venu tells me to go to work and goes in with her. I watch, as she looks at me with the eyes of another. He honks, it’s time to go. The same way he does today. Everyday. He comes exactly at eight minutes to 11 and honks once just to alert me. For often he has found me lost in thoughts and immobile. The honk wakes me up and I jump. Every time, still. And walk briskly to the front door, keep my boring black suitcase there and climb behind. I hate the driver-rider screening it brings but I have always liked a single room to return to, at the end of everything, everyday.

She doesn’t understand that. She tries everything, from pleading pouts to throwing tantrums. I sometimes relent. Just to see her winning smile. Just to tell her there’s something about never giving up. And just out of sheer love. I smile now, thinking. It is the only time I can use that word, when I use it for her. Love. I call her so, ever since I first saw her. She doesn’t understand at first, she just stares with her big brown eyes and looks away uninterested. But one day she answers my call. She comes running to wherever I am. Jumps on my lap and asks me if I called her. I put my name at the end of hers. Just so it reads love me.

‘Beep’. It’s her. That’s the third message this night. She misses me. And wants me to come back. How much I would love to, she doesn’t know. I do not reply. She would know then I am awake and call me. Keep calling me till I agree to drop it all and come back. I turn to my driver to divert my attention. He is singing Meri Sapnom Ki Rani. What timing, this man has got. It’s like all that silence we built together has told us everything about each other. If I want him to stop I just need to raise my head a little, he would somehow catch it in his rearview mirror. Several nights, I sleep like a log and he would honk to wake me up when we reach. Tonight, he doesn’t honk. He touches me, shakes me awake. I look surprised, I look betrayed. Our code is broken. He offers me his phone. “It is for you,” the first four words after six years together. I take the call. It is her. She has found his number. “Love, you know I can’t come back,” I say.

She wails, cries until Venu’s voice blackmails her. He would disconnect, he says. I can see her little face crumbling in fear, she’s got her mother’s eyes. “My dear, go to sleep now. Daddy will be back when you wake up,” I tell her. A new request comes to me. Sing to her. I look at my driver. He sings Omanathingal kidavo. After a few seconds I hear silence at the other end. Venu tells me she has slept in his arms. I tell my brother goodnight and look at my driver. He has turned to the steering. I raise my head a little. He stops the car, looks at me and turns it around. It is raining still, it must be raining at home.

August 21, 2013

Short Story: A copy of ‘Almost Famous’

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 13:58

To follow this story, you have to see the film Almost Famous. But no sweat, if you haven’t, I till tell you on the way. There is this boy journalist called William who is going to tour with a rock band, to interview them for the Rolling Stone magazine. Now this is back in the early 70s when people still read magazines, and it was a big deal to appear on the cover of one. There was no blog and website for every newborn, there were only magazines. When I watched William, I decided that’s what I want to be. He is in high school, I am just done with my college graduation. Jobless. All I had to do was find a band and tour with them.

It wasn’t easy. Number one, no magazine or newspaper would pay me to tour with a rock band and interview them. Why couldn’t I do it on phone like everyone else, they ask. I say I will forget about my payment, would you just take care of the tour expenses. They would as long as it is in train and not too long. This was disappointing. All the rock bands I knew took flights, not like in the movie, where they had a huge bus that they loved.
Number two, there were no tours happening. But I found a local band called Sentinels planning to come from Kochi to Trivandrum for a show. Only a local paper has once carried a photo of their performance. No one knew about them. I mean, yes, there were fans. There is a fan following for every video uploaded on Youtube. So that didn’t really say anything.

The Sentinels were very happy when I made the proposal. “Of course you could tour with us, we have a gig in Trivandrum this weekend. We are going in train, would you be okay with it?” I would be more than ok. Well, I would have preferred our own private bus where we could make all the noise and sing songs together like William and his band. But this was more practical. My magazine – again, a local one – agreed. So we started from Kochi on a Friday evening. It’d take about four hours. I began my interview with Sunny, the fat drummer. He was always ignored, he had complained to me when I first met the band members. Everyone went for the lead singer or guitarist. The drummer was just the long-haired punk in the background no one wanted to talk to. I assured him drummers had their appeal, and all the girls fell in love with them. This seemed to cheer him up a bit until he remembered, that’s never been his story. I had my question ready for Sunny. I copied it from William. And added more to it, for effect.

“Do you experience the feelings that you express in your songs? For example, when it is a love song, is it because you are in love? When you sing a sad song, are you sad?”

The question didn’t seem to make any sense to Sunny. He said, “You know what? That’s a bad question, you are a bad journalist. I am going back to my drums.” He then went on to literally hug one of his bags, which I assumed carried some part of his instrument, or maybe it was his teddy bear. He did seem the kind to carry one. But I didn’t want to give up, and like William, end up with no interview. I went near him and pressed again. “What made you join this band, Sunny?” This was more simple, he shouldn’t be upset. But he was. “What do you mean? You think I am not good enough to join a band?” This guy had a huge problem of inferiority complex. “Did you think it would get you a girlfriend?” I know, that was very rude. But by now, I was annoyed too. So I was pretty surprised to see the fat lad grin. “Did Lenny tell you that?”

Lenny was the bassist. I smiled. “Come on, tell me the story. I won’t write it, I promise.” He laughed louder this time. “Oh you can write it, I don’t mind. Maybe that will give some girl an idea to come talk to me.” And that was it. This long-haired fatso started with the drums in class 7, to impress his classmate Leena. She was a diehard fan of Midhun, the drummer of Avial Band. Or, so she said. Little Sunny learnt his first few lessons and tried to show it off but Leena never took notice of him. Frustrated, he began to vent all his hurt on the drums. And then, somewhere between the frustrations and the strength it gave of holding those drumsticks, he forgot about the girl. And fell in love with the sound of his music. He spent time with his drums for hours every day. He’d cut classes on days he didn’t feel like leaving them back at home. Now I realized it had to be those drumsticks that he hugged, not a teddy bear. And somehow I made my conclusion thus: It’s always about a girl, always.

Next, I went to Lenny. His real name was not Lenny. And he wouldn’t tell me what it is. “I just had to adopt this one so it’d rhyme with the others in the band – Sunny, Tommy, Mickey.” Seeing my puzzled expression he said “Yeah these names are pretty common where we come from. We like to believe we are descendants of the British who left us 70 years ago.” It was 66, but I didn’t correct him. Lenny was not as sensitive as Sunny. Well, at least not on the outside. He seemed to maintain a serious air around him. Laugh quietly when he did, and not drink or smoke. I should say Tommy and Mickey were smoking almost all four hours of the journey. Actually the journey took longer, but I will get to it later. In a bit, I mean. I won’t make it too boring. And Sunny was sipping what he insisted was a cola, but everyone knew was mixed with cheap rum. He was only 17, and was still wary of what the ‘uncles and aunties’ who saw him in the train would tell his mom back home. “You never know who knows us and who doesn’t. Mom’s no rockstar but everybody knows her!”

Lenny, on the other hand, had no interest in drinking or smoking. “Or girls,” he added with a smile, guessing my next question. “But why?” I suspected this was an act. “No space, no time. Music takes it all.” Bah. Too artificial, too readymade. And yet, looking at his brown eyes and uncombed long curls, his Elvis-like side burns and stubbles, I couldn’t help believing them. I was, like any other girl fan, in love with this man, forever. Well, to be technically correct, for 6 months, since they launched their first single on Youtube and I accidentally discovered them. I had in fact suggested Sentinels, only in the hope of spending some time alone with Lenny, on the pretext of an interview. I had to look away, love was all over my face. The train was drawing in at Alappuzha. As if on cue, the three others stepped down to stretch their hands. “You can go too, I will wait,” I said, still looking away. Silence. I turned back. He was looking at me, the brownness of his eyes, moving here, and there. Absentmindedly I said “Here, there, everywhere.” He laughed. “You like the Beatles?” Oh no, did I sing that Beatles song, or did I just say it. Please god, please tell me I didn’t sing it. “You have a good voice you know.” Oh darn, I sang! “We are not thinking of a female vocalist now, but if we are, I will definitely give you a call,” he winked. “Why do you love music so much?” I blurted out. I was acting like a jealous girlfriend, jealous of the music he gave everything to.

“To forget.”

I raised an eyebrow. “A girl?”

He looked down. “Alice.” I said nothing. The siren had gone off and everyone got back into the train. He looked outside the moving train and said. “And to remember.”

I got the answer to my first question. He talked, without my asking. “I can’t do happy music when I am sad. So I wait. No one is eternally happy or sad. They come and go, and come and go. All these feelings. They never stay forever. Just like Alice.” He laughed. “Now that sounded cheesy. But you know you can’t always wait to make music. I can’t wait for love to come to me every time there is a love song to play.” And then he began to hum their single, ‘Love to love you’. What a voice! I liked it better than Tommy singing it. “Why don’t you do vocals?” He looked at me, one of his strands flying in the air that the train windows blew in. “You think I am good?”

I nodded like a helpless fan. “Absolutely. You are brilliant.” I paused. “So, when you sing this… are you in love?”

“Hahaha. You are a nosy journalist now, aren’t you?” More like a nosy fan. But yes, I was going too far. Had to keep this professional. And then he continued, “Yes, lucky me. I am always in love. Not with the same girl,” he winked. “Other people may call it flings or crushes or lust. For me, it is all love. Every time. I don’t think of how long it will last, what kind of desire she evokes in me, of commitments or hurt. I love to love.”

How sad there were no private bathrooms in the train, like in the flights, they showed in movies. Where new lovers go to make out. Lenny was now singing the rest of the song. He had taken his guitar out. Sunny began to drum on the bag he held. Mickey too got his guitar. Only Tommy looked out of the window. Maybe he heard my asking Lenny to be the vocalist. Not that I didn’t like Tommy. I liked his Bryan Adams-like voice. It had a permanent crack, like the voice of an adolescent attaining puberty. I went to him, an apology written on my face. “Can I do your interview next?”

He didn’t hide his annoyance. “So you think it’s finally time to talk to the lead singer?”

I tried to lighten the air by smiling a lot. That didn’t work. He turned away again. And talked to the trees outside. “I know what you all think. That I am a bad singer, and people like Lenny should lead the band.” Oh my, this little Bryan Adams, with hundreds of fans, was more insecure than young Sunny. Tommy was the oldest in the group, I knew. He was 28. He was previously with other bands, trying his hands at guitar and keyboard. Unlike the other new members, he was pretty popular because of his experience. He was also the most good-looking among the lot. Though my thoughts would always be partial, to Lenny. Tommy looked like a teenager with his straight hair falling all over his face, his red face, and tiny lips and dimples. It was so easy to fall in love with him. His insecurity made him dearer, perhaps he knew that. I wondered. Aloud. “How could you have all these fans, and still not feel good about yourself?”

He didn’t even turn. He spoke to the trees again. “They don’t like me. They just love the fame ‘n all. They’d go after anyone who holds a mike or a guitar in his hand. Just a status thing.”

“You mean groupies?”

“That’s what you call them?” this time he turned to look at me.

“Yea.” I had just learnt the term from ‘Almost Famous’. “Girls who follow music bands around, sleep with them n all, for some kinda status symbol. Maybe to brag.”

“Oh I didn’t know they had a word for that. Yes, groupies.” He said and slipped into his thoughts. I wanted him to talk. The train was nearing Kayamkulam. I had to finish my interviews. But more than that, I wanted to cheer him up. “You have got real fans you know. People who love you for what you do, for your music.”

“Oh yea? Name one!”

“Me.”

“Ya right.”

“I started listening to Sentinels only because of your voice.” This was true. “I thought it was a teenager who would crack soon. And I wanted to hear all the music he could make before he became a man. It was such a relief when I learnt you are 28, and your voice will remain so forever.”

He smiled. “It does sound young doesn’t it?”

“The youngest. And you have no idea how charming that is. When you sang the Poison cover Every rose has its thorn, it was like a boy singing it to a girl next door. I mean, it felt so real.” I wasn’t sure if this would sound complimentary but he smiled more. And sure enough, he too had a girl in his tale. The next door girl, Sheila. Bam, I was right on spot. “Sheila used to say the same thing. That I sound like her little brother Kevin. She used to look at me tenderly when I sang and I thought that was love.”

“Was she older than you?” Darn I really am nosy!

“Yes, by three years. Maybe I was another Kevin to her. When she ran away with Michael, I thought it was my fault. I thought no girl will ever like me. For me.” I so wished at the moment I had fallen for Tommy instead of Lenny. I mean Lenny would anyway get tons of girls but Tommy would always be insecure, wary and push away every girl that came his way.

The train pulled in again. We had crossed Kayamkulam so this had to be a crossing. That happens a lot here, trains waiting for other trains. Like people, waiting for people. “Hey, when is my turn?” Mickey came to sit next to me, with a cup of coffee and a cigar. “Have you ever thought of quitting,” I asked looking at the smoke falling on my face.

He didn’t seem to understand the question. “What, this?” he looked at his cigar, like it was a harmless little thing. “He’s like my best friend, man! We’ll never separate!”

I shrugged and looked outside again, to watch the other train come. But it took a long, long time. It was dinner time. Lenny brought food packets for all of us and to my joy, came to sit next to me. He whispered “Is his smoking bothering you? You could always sit opposite and do your interview.” I was touched by this concern. “No, no. I am fine.” I actually loved the smell of cigarettes. I imagined Lenny looking at me and blowing smoke rings into my face. Too cheesy, like he says. But nice, still.

We opened our biriyani packets. I realized I was hungry and ate like a pig. When I looked up, I had four faces looking at me and grinning. “Oh my, you really came for the free food didn’t ya! Some fan!” said Mickey. That’s when we connected. In the two hours our train waited for the other train, we talked about everything. Our mothers, brothers and long lost fathers. Our childhood and our love. “Come on, you made all of us tell our love stories. Mickey would also tell you about his Minnie Mouse soon. Now tell us about your love. Is it all about a boy for you?” I blushed. I couldn’t look at Lenny, who asked the question. I tried to deny, in vain. And ended up giggling stupidly. “So, who is the lucky man?” Tommy asked, wonder in his eyes. Did he expect it to be him? “Is it one of us?” This man really couldn’t keep anything within. I tried to drink some water to hide my face but Sunny grabbed the bottle. “Ah ah, nice try, miss journalist. But you gotta answer our questions too!”

I gave in. “Ok yes, it’s all about a boy.”

“Which one?” Tommy again. “Not you,” I said, putting my tongue out. He pretended to be hurt. Clutched his heart and said “Ouch, that hurts!”

“Then, then? Is it me?” Sunny. I shook my head.

“Oh my! It is Lenny isn’t it?” asked Mickey, with mock surprise. By this time, they all knew. It was written on every line of my face. “Shut up! I have to do an interview”. I tried to be professional. It didn’t work. They all started guffawing like a bunch of monkeys and Mickey literally lifted me up to place me on Lenny’s lap! Lenny took charge. “Guys, stop! She is a journalist, here to interview us.”

“Yes, a journalist in love!” Tommy seemed to have got cured of his insecurity. A little too soon.

Mickey, Tommy and Sunny began to sing ‘Love to love’. Lenny moved his brown eyes up (me being on his lap, was looking down at him) and asked, “Is this true?”

I was trying hard to say no or shut up or at least stop blushing. Why can’t these expressions be in my control? It was my face! I tried to ignore his question and join the others in their singing. But not trying to stand up from his lap. He laughed. “It is!”

I gave in. I fell on his shoulders. But this was Kerala. The passengers from the other sides walked in with raised brows and asked us what was going on. I jumped out the next second. Lenny went to talk peace. By the time they left and all was back to normal, the train started moving again. I missed seeing the other train cross. But my thoughts were away. I didn’t jump out just cause we were interrupted. I jumped out when I sensed a kiss on my neck. Did Lenny just kiss my neck?

I got lost in my thoughts for too long. The others had gone back to their drinks and smokes. And Lenny, I didn’t look at. I was afraid of what I might see on his face. Outside, it was another big station. Kollam. Oh no, just one more stop to go. I had to finish my work. “Mickey” I suddenly called. His interview was short, and a little hushed up. He was 25, same age as Lenny. They were classmates, and fell in love with the same girl once. I wondered if it was Alice. He chose to be a guitarist cause his dad was one. And he grew up listening to its sound every evening at home. “It was only natural that I ended up like my dad. Guitar’s like my older brother, man. It was there in my home even before I was born. And I grew up with it.”

I realized then that what Lenny told me in the beginning was true. It was not a readymade answer. They were all in this for the music. Maybe it’s a girl that started it. But then the girl would take second place. It’s all about music.

We reached Trivandrum. “Won’t you come for our show?” Sunny asked. I nodded. “Free pass for you,” he waved bye bye. I smiled and walked away. I had started the journey thinking I was like William, the boy reporter of Almost Famous. But wasn’t I just another Penny Hale, wasn’t I a groupie? A mere fan who’d follow a rock star cause he was a rock star. Wasn’t Tommy right? I felt my neck. I kept one hand there, and walked. No, he wasn’t.

May 24, 2012

Short Story: 10-year-old Thoughts

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 15:58

I want to stop the pages of my notebook from fluttering wildly in the wind. I want to move my hands away from the burning rays of the afternoon sun. I don’t. I watch the moving pages with the same inaction I look at the light on my hands. Light had to be a good thing, I think carelessly. Why does it have to burn?

The little girl and her mother sitting next to me are quiet. The child rests her head on her mother’s shoulders, indifferent to the same scorching sun and its tan on all of her little body. She had the window seat. But like all children she got tired of whatever excited her five minutes ago to peep out and is back to rest on her mom’s lap. The mom looks blankly ahead, the kind of look that said she is not thinking of anything at all. I wonder how she managed to keep her white Sari from wrinkling everywhere.

She gets a phone call and the blankness disappears from her common face. She speaks to someone in an everyday language. Another day of her life, that’s all this is. Yet she treated it importantly I am sure, planning the minute everyday details well in advance. Maybe she laid out the Sari and blouse on the previous night. Her child’s clothes too she must have chosen and ironed with care. A planned mother, mothering. Her munthani is now touching my fluttering pages, the way Sam’s sleeves would sometimes tangle with my stuff. Sam had always worn clothes much too big for his slender body. He hoped to hide his littleness in large blue shirts.

I haven’t seen Sam for ten years. Since the day he ran away from home. The day he yelled at dad and eloped with his classmate. He was 21 and without a care for tomorrow. Someone told us he got married. I was 11 then. But I was still sour at him. Not because he ran away. But for not calling me to run with him.

He never spoke of girls to me. I would keep snooping around for clues. I was sure he had a girlfriend. Suddenly his extra large shirts had disappeared and in place of them came well-chosen T Shirts with funky writings on them. Mom gave him hell when he appeared one day with an F-word line from a new movie. He smelled of different perfumes. The walking bus-taking brother of mine suddenly wanted a bike and jacket and sunglasses. I was right about the girl, just boys were better at not leaving clues behind. He had no diary I could find from under a bed. No letters stacked deep inside a desk. He never talked in whispers on the phone or write text messages. But he went missing for long hours after college I knew were not spent in the company of his boy-gang. Finally without a warning he announced he was marrying his classmate Veena. Dad and mom thought he was joking. Soon there were yells and protests and door slams and concerned relatives coming to bring peace. Nothing worked. He disappeared the same night into the darkness outside leaving a note with one word ‘Gone’. I felt betrayed. He left me out of everything. Why?

The bus brake woke me up from 10-year-old thoughts. The woman stood up, and took the sleeping child in her arms. She whisked past me, her Sari gently brushing my face and I smelled different perfumes. When the bus left, I wondered.

I missed however in the rear view mirror, the image of an impatient man, now fitting into the size 44 blue shirts that were too big for him once. A man who frowned at the woman, establishing a 10-year-old marriage on the curves of his face. The woman acknowledged their relation by ignoring him and climbing on to his bike without a word. The child clung on, slightly disturbed by the movement. Sam still had no diary. But if he had one, he would definitely have written a name in every few pages. Mine.

November 5, 2011

G and B – Full Story

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 23:32

Warning: Lame story in three parts. Not suitable for anti-paingili folks 🙂

Part 1

“Please?” she tried to pull a sad face unsuccessfully.

“There could be people there who know me!” he shook his heads, sipping his coffee.

“Oh B, they won’t know a thing. We are just doing this to pass it off in front of him.” She spoke, jabbing her cutlet.

“G come on. I could come with you, but what good does it do to pose as your boyfriend?”

“Look. You can call it ego, call it anything you like. But two years after his wedding, I can’t go in front of him like some lonely pathetic case who still couldn’t find someone.”

“So you wanna show your Ex? Hey you have a wifey so what. I have this handsome dude bf”

“Minus the handsome dude part, you fit in perfectly.”

He frowned again. But he was coming around. “Well you know I’d do it any way. I get to have free food.”

“Plenty of it. We are attending a marriage lovah boy.”

“Oh ye honey I like that.”

It wasn’t tough to spot him. He stood next to the groom, looking as good as he always did. She bit her lips. “B maybe this was a bad idea. We should just leave.”

“Oh no G, I am not missing all that food for nothing! Girl, do you know how pretty you are looking today? And with Mr Handsome by your side, this guy is going to be the jealousest person in the world today.”

“That’s not a real word, but I will let it pass considering you laughed like a hyena seeing me in this dress before.”

“That’s my girl. So you ready?”

“Yea, hold my hand B. Not to show him, I just wanna make sure my legs don’t fail me.”

“Hush you are doing good. Just remember you are one awesome person. See, I am not even winking.”

He did not seem to notice her at first. Or maybe he was just ignoring her. “Should I smile at him? Or just pass by?”

“Let’s be like normal people and wish the bride and groom first. Don’t you think they deserve our attention after all that food?”

“Oh yea, sure.”

It was the groom who finally broke the ice. “G, you remember E. He came all the way for my wedding. And this is his wife, Mrs E.”

“Hi E”

“Hi G”

“Hi Mrs E”

“Hi”

Pause. Embarrassing smiles.

“Oh and I am B, G’s boyfriend.”

It was only for a second, but G noticed his brows twitch and his eyes narrow, before he smiled. “Hi B, how do you do?”

“Good. I have heard lots about you from G. And how do you do Mrs E?”

“Splendid.”

Maybe Mrs E has heard of G before. Maybe they weren’t looking forward to this meeting. Yes, that made sense. “Well I better get going then. Bye,” G said.

“Yea, take care,” he said. And she thought there was a pinch of affection in his words. She walked on, not turning back, and before she knew it, B took her hands in his and kissed it.

When they were out, she pulled away. “Why’d you do that for!”

“Hey it needed some originality. You should have seen the look on his face!”

And he did indeed look lost. “Oh come on E, they are just pretending. He is not her boyfriend. She wanted to show you she’s doing fine.”

“I know dear. But she doesn’t know she really is doing fine… with him.”

 

Part 2:

He was a little annoyed when the call came. “G, I told you I was at work.”

“Sorry B, I am sorry. I will call later. Later I will call you. And yea. Bye. Am sorry.”

He immediately repented his words. She never called unless there was a good reason. And knowing G, it would have taken a really strong reason to call. “Is everything okay?”

“Oh yea. Oh yea. You go to work. Work B.”

He could hear some vehicles in the background. “Where are you?”

“Out. I am out. Out.”

“Ok what is wrong?”

Silence.

“G? Are you there?”

Silence again.

“Ok I am coming. Where are you?”

“No no you work. You are working. I shouldn’t have called.”

“Just tell me where you are.”

She told him.

 

When he finally reached her, she didn’t even seem to recognize him. “G? What on earth happened? You look so unwell.”

She stared at him. “You are B”

“Of course it is me.”

“Then where is he?”

“Who?”

“I don’t know.”

“Geez G would you just tell me what happened.”

She turned to look at him as though just finding him there. And said in a matter-of-fact casual tone, “I was raped.”

He just stared at her, letting his mouth fall. He stopped the first words that came to his mouth – are you joking. No. It really happened. And she was not herself. “I… but how,” he couldn’t stop himself.

“I lost my way to a place I had to go to. And they tricked me.”

Her tone was so casual he wasn’t sure if she was just telling a film story. “I don’t know what to… G, should I take you to a hospital?”

“No”

“Shall I take you to your home?”

She jerked up and looked at him, buried her face on his shoulders and cried hysterically. “Mom… mom is home… I can’t go home. I can’t.”

He held her that way for some time and said gently: “Ok will you come with me?”

She nodded.

He took her to his home. “No one here today,” he added on the way so she’d feel at ease. She seemed absent minded. “I want to take a bath, I have to bathe,” she said.

“Of course. You can use my bathroom.”

He led her to his room and went out to come to terms with what just happened. G just got raped? What was happening. His head seemed to whirl. “B!” she opened the door and called out.

“Hey what’s up? You want something?”

“I can’t do it B. I can’t take a bath. I can’t I can’t.” She was panicky like a child about to face an exam.

“Don’t worry. Can I help you with it?”

“No no no no.”

“Don’t worry you won’t know a thing.” He made her sit on a stool and gently poured water on her.

“My dress is getting wet B.”

“So I will give you my clothes. They are really awesome.”

She looked up and for a moment seemed to forget her predicament. “Yea”

She kept quiet as he continued to wash her hair and face. He brought a towel and dried her hair. “Now G I want you to dry yourself up and wear these clothes I have laid out ok? They are going to be big for you but you will look great.”

She nodded. And mechanically obeyed him. He waited outside and started smoking. There was no time to even reflect on what happened. She needed him now more than any other time. Yet what could he do?

 

“Can I have a smoke too B?” she asked timidly.

“Of course, but do you smoke?”

“No. Will it make me feel… good?”

“Tell you what. Why don’t we have something to eat?”

She shook her head. “I don’t want anything.”

“But it would make you feel good.”

She said nothing as he brought a plate of rice. “Only curd and pickles to go with it, you like that?”

She nodded but didn’t seem interested to eat. He was doubtful what to do but when he made balls of rice and took it to her mouth, she didn’t resist. “It’s like mom’s pickles,” she said dreamily. He smiled. When she seemed lost, he showed her to his balcony, talked about his neighbors and gardens and made her eat. She seemed to listen to all that he said with great interest. “What happened then?” she would ask sometimes. Her eyebrows would shoot up and her eyes widen as he cooked up stories to get her attention.

 

“Do you want to rest a bit?”

“Okay.”

She fell asleep as soon as he tugged her in. “Don’t go away B,” she murmured.

“I will be here.”

Two hours later, she woke up with a start and told him she was ready to go home. “My clothes are not dry yet.”

“I will bring them to you later.”

“B… what will I tell mom?”

“I think you’d know best G.”

She nodded.

 

 Part 3

 

She was getting wet in the rain waiting for him. He saw her standing there from the distance, stealthily walked to her side and hugged her from behind. She shrieked and looked back to see him. “B! What are you doing? This is me.”

 

“I know,” he couldn’t stop smiling.

“You make me wait for 10 long minutes and then hug me for no reason?” She was definitely back. No more of that helplessness he couldn’t bear to watch on her face. He smiled. She never said thanks, she never talked about it. But the way they dealt with each other, it was clear. It was over and done with.

He said now: “G, I got it.”

“You what?”

“I got it! I cleared it!”

“Really?”

“Really!”

“Really really?”

“Really really!”

“Wow”..

This meant he was going away for higher studies. Away from her. For how long, he had no idea. But that didn’t seem to matter right then. They jumped around excitedly holding each other. She took his hands, kissed them and dropped them fast. He in turn, held her face and kissed it.

She pulled away from him and let her face down. In shock. Between fighting her tears that got lost among the raindrops, she could just mumble “What is wrong with you?”

“I am so sorry G! I am in… I have been for long. I never meant to say it but now it just came out. I am so sorry.”

“Why…”

“I am sorry…”

“Why did you wait… why didn’t you say it?”

“Cause I knew you didn’t want it. I knew you didn’t feel that way.”

She tried to kick him but slipped and fell on his shoulders. “How did you know without asking me?” she asked panting.

He held her up, “But does that mean you… you…?”

She shook away his hands. “Don’t ya try to help me.” She was trying hard to look angry but her dimples gave her away. “Yea I do dumbo. Now don’t make a scene of it.”

He hugged her and kissed her again. She was still trying to kick him.

Disclaimer: G and B in this story stand for Girl and Boy. This is fiction, any connection to real life or other stories you may have read about is possibly coincidental, or else I may have lifted it 😀

July 10, 2011

When he met her

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 17:40

(Story writing after long. Warning: in Mallu, we call this kind of writing ‘painkili’)

The advocate agreed to offer a couple of books that may help him. He was about to say thanks when she knocked and came in with a cup of coffee. She extended the cup towards the advocate. What a weak little thing, he thought. “Your coffee Sir”. The lips hardly moved.

The advocate looked up, rose from his seat and slapped her. He stood up, too shocked to speak.

“How many people do you see in this room?” the advocate yelled.

“Two Sir,” she said biting her lips. No tears, he noticed. He found his voice at last. “What’d you do that for?”

The advocate looked at him. “No one can be this dumb, coffee for one!”

“I don’t want your coffee. You can’t just slap people for something so trivial.” He tried to raise his voice and wished he knew sharper words.

“Trivial,” the advocate said thoughtfully.

“I can’t believe you!” he said and because he could not think of anything harsher at the moment, walked out. She, after miraculously balancing the cup all this while, placed it on the table and left the room. The advocate sipped the coffee dreamily. As she came out, he was waiting at her table.

“Why do you let him treat you that way?”

“I am his secretary,” she said packing her bag.

“So? Your job is to get slaps?”

“Was his maid.”

“What?”

“Was his maid before. He offered this job and a hike because I know to read and write,” she paused and added “Time to go.”

He followed her out mechanically. “Did you go to college?” he asked at the gate looking absently at his bike.

“No, I stopped after school.”

“Does he do that often?”

“I guess so.”

“You don’t mind?”

“I wouldn’t get a better job with my qualification.”

“Can I help?”

“How?”

“Do you write?”

“I like to but my qual…”

“I know someone. Can you bring me some samples?”

She thought for a moment and said “Yes but…”

“We could go there tomorrow. If you come here, I will take you there.”

She looked at his bike. “Could you give me the address, I will reach there.”

He thought she looked uncertain. But she turned up the next day at the precise time. He took a look at her samples and led her in to meet the HR. She walked in nervously. Timid, very timid, he shook his head. As he waited outside, feeling anxious, he pondered over the strange situations one lands in. Here he was worrying about a girl he didn’t know existed a day before. But at the moment, he had nothing else in mind. She came out excitedly. “I got it. I really got it.” More shocked than happy. He smiled. “I knew it. You write well.”

“Thank you so much. What can I do for you?”

“Buy me a coffee,” he smiled.

Her smile faded. “Ok.”

She walked on and turned back. “We’ll go?”

“Where?”

“Coffee.”

“Now?”

She was silent.

“Is everything ok?” he was confused.

“Yes,” she smiled. “Come.”

He went along, not sure how to react. She ordered one coffee. “Aren’t you having anything?” he asked.

“No.”

It suddenly dawned on him. “Gosh! You don’t have money!”

She looked up worried. “I have for one coffee.”

“But not for two. Gosh I was only kidding. You don’t have to buy me coffee.”

“You did me a big favor. You don’t know how big.”

“No I didn’t. You got the job because you have talent. Ok?”

“But you took me there.”

He stared at her. “This is silly. Ok, let me pay for both of us this time. And when you get your first salary, you take me out. Ok?”

Her emotions flickered like the flash of a camera. “Ok.” All smiles again.

“Would you please let me drop you this time?” he asked after coffee.

She hesitated. “I have already troubled you much.”

“How come whatever you call trouble is my idea of pleasure?”

She smiled again.

He had to keep asking her if she was still on the bike. She strived best to sit away and lightly. Her idea of ‘not troubling him’. He watched her expression in the rear view mirror and smiled. “Do hold on to the bars behind if you don’t want to hold me. Else the wind will blow you away.” For the first time, he heard her laugh freely. It sounded like the sweet ripple of water on rock.

He thought of her that night. He liked to imagine she was part of nature like the leaves and the woods and not of an evolved species. He spotted her face on tree tops, among the fluttering butterflies, on waves that touched his feet. That’s where she belonged.

He would see her again next day. She was going to offer her resignation at the advocate’s. He knew it won’t go well and volunteered to go with her. She would hear nothing of it. But he was going anyway.

Turned out he was a little late. He just about managed to stop the third slap from falling on her. “The nerve! She was a maid here! For five years! A maid, I tell you!”

“Shut up!” he hissed before shielding her. The advocate looked confused. “You, you are behind this!” he wasn’t angry, just surprised. Without a word, but staring hard all the way, he took her hand and walked out of the house. He expected to see a tear-stained face but instead saw a calm one. He realized what he thought unjust was part of her life, like waking up every morning was to him. The advocate too was a strange man. Not cruel, just strange. He didn’t mean to hurt her. This, the advocate must have thought was the way of life and tried to fit in by playing his part. Human beings are strange. He looked at her and happily disassociated her from this weird species. She was nature’s. Somehow made a wrong entry into the human world.

Unaware of these thoughts on her, she said cheerfully, “I will start new work tomorrow. Thank you again. I remember coffee next month.”

He wanted to say a hundred things but chose to nod and depart. The next few days were the hardest. He knew where she worked but he also knew he wouldn’t go to meet her no matter how much he wanted to. He smiled. He didn’t even know her name. But his role in her life was over. He will have to miss that coffee next month. Right?

June 25, 2008

No girls and boys, only humans!

Filed under: Fiction — Cris @ 23:27
Tags: ,

Tony and Liz were going through Tony’s emails. Tony dropped in on his way to the dentist’s at Liz’s, whom he always considered a good friend he lost to the lunatic world. She was now drinking lime juice her mother brought them and reading his emails happily. She didn’t think of any need to look elsewhere or pretend she wasn’t interested like other girls he knew. And funnily, Tony didn’t mind her reading them. It would be as safe with her as it would be with thin air. Cause Liz never thought about them again. Telling her something was as good as not telling her something!

He reached an email that was sent to a males-only group.
“Oh! Liz quick! Close your eyes”
Of course this only made her widen her eyes and look more interested. Tony closed the window and laughed. “Sorry dear that’s not for little girls to read”

“Hey I am as old as you! I can read anything you can”

“It’s not for girls Liz girl”

That was one thing that always made Liz angry.
“There is nothing that is not for girls!!!”

Tony smiled. They have had this conversation before.
“Really?”

Liz realized he would make it hard for her now. But she couldn’t give up now.
“Yes”

“So you want to see that email?”

“Yes I do”

“No matter how gross the contents are”

“I don’t care”

“You don’t mind reading really bad words?”

Liz gulped but held her stand. “No I don’t”

“Ok but we will have a deal then. If I show you these words, you will have to use them. When I ask you to”

This time Liz took longer to reply. “Alright” she said meekly.
Tony opened the email and he was amused to see Liz trying to keep a straight face and look nonchalant.

Tony whistled. “Ok Madam, grab your shoes. We are going out.”
Liz had now lost all her cool but she went along. Stopping outside a small hotel to get Dosha, he said calmly, “Your turn”.
Liz wasn’t expecting it there. She gulped and said one bad word softly and slowly, taking 15 seconds to finish it. “Ha that was so slow you wouldn’t know what the word is!”
This was a challenge. She felt the whole female population depended on her to win the battle now. She closed her eyes tight, covered her ears with her hands and with all the effort she could gather, gave out the bad words she read in quick succession.

Tony didn’t expect this and with her ears covered, Liz was louder than usual. A few people turned to look at them now. Tony took Liz’s hands and walked away as fast as he could. Liz, open eyed was puzzled to see all the eyes on her and went with Tony silently. The shop keeper was also equally puzzled and didn’t call after them.

“That was so stupid!” Tony yelled as soon as they were a safe distance away.

“Sorry”

“There could have been people who knew one or both of us!”

“I am sorry! But it was your idea!”

“I didn’t ask you to shout!”
Tony, though boiling with anger, was amused by the whole episode and couldn’t do a good job hiding it.

After a little while, Liz said gathering all her courage “Well that proves what I said before. There is nothing that’s not for girls”

Tony lost the last bit of solemnity and burst out laughing.
“Alright Liz-boy! You are as much boy as I am. But don’t you ever dare say the other way”

Liz’s huge eyes now brightened. “Of course that’s it! It is your turn now!”

“What for?”

“To prove you could do whatever I could!”

“Ho ho wait! That’s your side of the bargain! I never said anything about it”

“Yeah but I have to prove the other side too. Now that it’s clear there is nothing manly, I have to prove there is nothing womanly either”

“I don’t think I like where you are going”

“It is simple. What is considered a womanly thing?”

“That’s easy! Gossip!”

“Exactly! Now I am going to tell you something about someone”

“Ha that’s easy. You think I will go around telling it? Liz, guys got better things to do!”

And sure enough Liz told Tony something that left his mouth open for a long time.
“You just made that up!”

“Nope you really did fail in Math this sem”, Liz said happily knowing he can’t resist not talking about it.

“How the hell did you know?”

“Oh from gossiping”

“Well I don’t believe it”

“Okie Dokie”

“And no I won’t let you win. I won’t ask anyone about it”

He kept his word for 29 minutes. Then he got out of the house and sure enough, he called up everyone he knew to know his fate about Math.
And sure enough, the word got around and after several layers of gossiping the message came back to Liz. She called Tony up in an hour “That was fast”, she said between laughing.

“Ok so I had to talk. But this is no gossip! Its my paper for heaven’s sake!”

After minutes of laughing, Liz let it out that she invented his paper’s fate when he was at her house.

“Argh!!! I have a good mind to give out all those words you yelled out today! If I really fail in Math, you are dead, girl!”

“What did you call me?”

Tony laughed and said “Girl? What girl? There is no such thing as a girl.”

“No boys either”

“Of course not. Never heard of them”

“Only humans”

“Only humans”

Finally Liz and Tony had an agreement. Tony would never say about manly and womanly things and Liz would never ever ask to read any of his emails!

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