Beta, Hello bolo. This is Neelima-ji. Remember, we met at Tardeowalla function. Bittu’s father’s sister. You know Ramesh uncle. Yes. Her sister.”
This was one of the usual routines I have grown used to, ironically just days after Komal left. My mother in fear of my long beard and non manicured toe nails thought this was possibly the best time to go out and do window-wife hopping from relative to relative, neighbor to neighbor. My mother never passed an opportunity in letting them know what a loser I am in letting my US ka visa go. There was this one Universal Studio ride I presume, it haunts her dream for being missed, let-go, never to be ridden ever again, reduced to a mere YouTube video she will reload and comment on.
“What do you do, beta?”, Neelima-ji asked, truly wanting to understand my psyche.
“I masturbate twice a day.”
That was the first time I spoke in the last ten days. I still remember when and how I met her, in the midst of every tiny problem in my life these days, I think of her in my free time. The first time I met Komal, again, my childhood friend, now my roommate.
(I arrived an hour early. Shalu aunty had informed me that a colleague from her boutique shop will be visiting Dubai. She wanted her to stay with me. I had an extra room and Aunty wanted her to feel welcome.
‘Ahhh…I think that’s her.’ I saw a young girl in her mid twenties walk up to me. She wore large sunglasses that covered most of her face, but I was sure of one thing that I got her age wrong.
The placard said, “Komal Aunty” I hope she was not offended.
She stopped right in front. She removed her glasses and stuck it down her neck like a chain.”You..You must be..” “Hi..Hello, I am Ashish.”
We hardly spoke on our drive back home. I couldn’t take my eyes off the side view mirror hoping to glance a more clearer distinct look of her.
My mother was frantic when she opened the door. It was as if monsoon arrived a year early. She got cosy in her room and it was time for dinner.
I could see from the corner of my eyes that she ate half heartedly, constantly looking at her cell phone. I tried a few conversation starters but I suppose most felt to her like a polygraph test with a usual binary 0 or 1 response. But my mother spoke irrespective. She re-narrated stories of her and Shalu Aunty’s childhood in Victoria Garden and their teens at Shivaji Park .
I could see the sparkle in Komal’s eyes, as if she had not listened to a story for a very long time. She told Komal, that Shalu still bears a scar on her leg from an iron rod hit by a cop who stuck her as she spit paan right inside his mouth while he was yawning. That story got her crackling.
The tables started shrieking. This was not an earthquake. My mother was having her bi-weekly episodes. She would tremble and shake. Lose her motor skills and blurt out strange incomplete words as if she is cursing you. Every time she looked with eyes wide open towards Komal, something unnerving in her got her to stand back.
I spoke to Komal an hour later. A daily doze of sleeping pills and the TV blurting out Mohammed Rafi songs generally does the trick. “This is usual. Today it lasted for 20 minutes only,” I said with ease.
“And you handle it alone?” she was curious.
“No, I get the building guard to help me out. He is Nepali. Nice guy.”
Her cellphone interrupted me midway.
“Ji,Ji,Ji ji Ji…12:30, I will send you the address,” she looked at me. I was in her room.
“I have a meeting now,” I suppose it was Shalu aunty on the other side.
“Arre, today is Friday. It’s like India ka Sunday. Where are you going? Should I drop you? We can go out to watch a movie? Salman’s new movie is…”
She seemed too busy, “They are sending a car. I have to change now.”
I stepped out, “OK, I will pick you up. What time is your meeting getting over? Movie we can watch tomorrow evening. Even Mummy will come.”
She couldn’t look straight in my eyes, “I am not sure. I will be back tonight. They will arrange for a drop. No issues.”)
She will be back tomorrow. With every book that I pushed into a shelf, I could not help but be distracted from the excitement that occurs when someone close to you moves far away and come back. I got a job of a librarian in a local book depository. I often look back at the time when I was a kid with notebooks and textbooks that I hardly had any interest in reading but ample when it came to arranging and stacking them one over the other, in different orders, in alphabetical manner, length wise, breadth wise, height, subject related. Anything that would help me waste time. I suppose I was doing the same thing here.
I was waiting. Waiting for time to pass. Waiting for her to arrive.
(I saw her come out of her room wearing a dark heavy coat with insights of something flashy underneath it. I better not seem like staring Stanley. The car is here.
Komal is lonely and busy, which is what I don’t understand about her.
She was about to pick up her bag and leave when my mother suddenly got hold of one of the straps and stopped her in her tracks. She probably knew more about her than I did.
“Don’t go. It’s not worth it. Beta,” she said calmly.
Komal didn’t reply.
“Mother, let go. Let her go,” I tried to squeeze each finger out of her tight gripped fist.
For the first time, I saw guilt in Komal’s eyes. She left either way.
On the telly, the news reporter warned us about an incoming sand storm, different from the one I felt inside my living room. The storm grew louder and denser. We closed our curtains. There was no point in looking out of the window, when all you see is red.)
I am here at the airport ten hours early. Should be enough time to practice a speech. Should I get her some flowers, carnations? Where will I find them near an airport now? What does she like? Will she love red or maybe yellow or violet or a mix OF everything?
(I caught her reflection on the balcony window. I ran up to her. Her eyes were sore, her lips unable to yell out the pain she was in. I bought some warm water, a blanket and wiped the residue of her face and palms. They say, by nature humans wash themselves everyday to forget but she seemed to cover herself either by design, with her make up or by God himself with this storm. The more clearer her skin became, the more clearer became her scars. Self inflicted. Out of sheer anger. Projected outwards at a world that had failed to understand her.
I kissed her. She kissed me back. Grabbing her by her arms. Raising her by her buttocks. I pushed aside the pillows and cornered her to an armchair not letting her go anywhere. Our lips locked in heaven. Our eyes shut wide open embroiled in the pleasure of darkness. The feeling of having your lips run parallel to one another, rubbing incandescently. The sand storm outside grew louder. The narrow slit of the balcony window whistled a long howl.
We died and were reborn in that storm.)
As I waited at the airport looking at the smorgasbord of relationship displayed at the arrival gate. I could not help but remember the call. Her call from the airport when she left. What am I doing here? That day….
The phone rang, “K, Hi, I am at the airport…I just wanted to say…I think you made a mistake. I don’t think I ever made you feel or ever expressed such an emotion for you. And..”
“Please come back. Don’t go. I don’t think you should be doing what you are doing. Actually, I don’t even care. I want you here. With me. Can you please come back. And I…”
“Stop crying. I told you I will be back in a couple of weeks. Stop crying. I..”
“I am really in love with you. I don’t know from when. Possibly right at the time when we both got ejaculated from our father’s insides. I was destined to be with you. Remember the time, at Poddar uncle’s place we played all night. I pressed your chest when you had nothing. You felt something and you said nothing. We laughed.”
“K..Sto…,” No you listen, I continued, “I am going to speak to my mother about this. I..I want to marry you. Yes. Let’s get married. Let’s…”
“No. No, I don’t want to marry you. I don’t want to marry anyone. I am not in love with you and I don’t want to fall in love with anyone. I don’t believe in love, never will. I am happy with myself and I hope you find whatever you are looking for.”
It was Komal. She stepped out of the Arrival gates with the same clothes she had worn when she had left. A sign of things returning to normal. I stood on the opposite side of the road running late after trying to find her the perfect gift. Chocolates. She looked at me. She stopped in her tracks. I signaled her to wait.
“I saw him at the opposite side of the road waving with a box that looked like it had chocolates in it. He signaled me to wait. A bus blocked my view for a second. A moment enough for me to think. I waved at a taxi nearby and left. Even after the call if he does not understand. Gosh! I am not sure how to deal with this now. He is still my roommate.”