How often do we zoom out and look at all these stories around us? How often do we realize that every soul is a story? Stories of lives ending, of new beginnings, of betrayals, of joy, or separation, of gloom, of struggle, of holding on and moving on and so many others never seizing to surprise us.
Sitting alone at Gloria Jeans on a Saturday afternoon and waiting for a friend to show up is the last thing I ever wanted. Maybe, not anymore. I was sipping up my Caffé Americano, doodling on my notebook and helplessly trying to look busy when all of a sudden a guy’s loud outburst caught my attention. It made me pay attention to all the conversations going on around me and shamelessly eavesdrop. I don’t think waiting alone has ever been this interesting before.
“Its just like a one night stand!” He said raising his voice and making everyone laugh.
“I like the way you think but we have people above us who expect us to report back to them.”
“So? Its not like they aren’t already fucking the system. Aik se aik harami bharey hue hain.”
“Aapki baat bhy sahi hai magar time bhy tou lagta haina in sab kaamon mein. Asaan baat nhy hai ministry tak jana.”
“Mango shakes ab tak tou ajaney chahye.” Said the bored looking guy.
“Yeh inhi ko dekhlo. Ya system chala lo ya chutyaape macha lo.”
“Aapko gussa buhat jaldi aajata hai. Relax hojayein shake piyein.”
“Aap piyein. I’m done here.” He stood up and left, leaving behind all the men at that table stare at him in disbelief.
“They have Iced Tea!!”
“They do? I didn’t know that. I’ll get one. Which one?”
“Lemon and Lychee.” They both said together and burst out laughing.
“Jinx! I’ll go place an order now phir I gotta tell you something.” She giggled and left while her friend fiddled with her hair and phone.
“Okay so I stalked ‘Him’ on Facebook for like two hours last night.” She air quoted.
“I think things might go far beyond my plans.”
“But you were only planning to date him for a month.”
“I know but OhMyGod have you noticed the way he looks at me? It makes me wanna yank them designer jeans off him.”
“Oh here we go again.” She rolled her eyes at her.
“Can you please keep down that phone for a minute and talk to me?”
“What do you wanna talk about Mom?”
“Can’t we just have a Mother-Daughter day out and talk. Jaise pehle karte they.”
“Well I’m sitting here right in front of you. Talk.” She said while typing yet another text.
“Honey I want you to know that you can talk to me about everything. Even about you and umm him.”
“Mom, I told you I don’t want you to poke your nose in my personal life. Please. Why can’t you just respect my privacy for once?”
“Watch your language, young lady.”
“Mom, I’m already not feeling good since… umm since Thursday night. Can you please just drop this topic?”
“Why? Oh Lord! NO!” She said, her eyes full of horror.
“What Mom? Stop this. NOW!”
“You had sex with him?”
“I told you stay out of my business, Mom!”
“Are you? Are you?! Ya Khudaya!”
“Here is your order Ma’am. Enjoy your lunch.”
And then the silence prevailed.
“I want a cookie Mom.”
“You can only have one if you finish your lunch first.”
“Thank you for letting me take you and kids out for lunch today.” He said reaching out to touch her hand.
She flinched and moved her hand out of his reach. “Sara, honey, take your brother with you and order mango shakes for all of us. Please.” She smiled at her daughter.
“I am only doing this for the kids. They don’t deserve an emotional blow at this age. I don’t want them to know about our separation. Not for a while at least.”
“Neither do I. I don’t know what to do. Kitni baar maafi maangun mein? Please come back.”
“The day you will be able to forgive yourself, I’ll forget everything and move back in with you. Till then you can work on earning the forgiveness.”
I think I saw him surrender there and then.
Disclaimer: This is not a work of fiction.
They kissed. Slowly, between the smiles and living in the moment. It was surreal. The night was unusually quiet and dark. They kissed again. This time because it was the requirement of the moment. The cold breeze coming from the wide open windows brushed against their skin, making them shiver under each other’s touch.
“I like the easiness and vulnerability of this moment.” He said going through her book shelf and lighting a cigarette.
“Vulnerability is a social construct. And so is love. I like what this is.” She replied while going back to fixing her study table.
They both moved around the room, sharing a cigarette, kissing now and then, listening to music, tossing the empty coke cans, singing along the lyrics and ranting about random stuff.
“This, happening here, is right. It makes sense. Its harmless. You know not caring about being labeled. Friends with benefits. Such a stupid thing to say. Pathetic, don’t you think? I mean they have made romance look overrated by relating it with love all the time. Fucking helpless love-struck morons. You’re getting me, aren’t you? Isn’t it just…….”
And the night continued in the same fashion.
“Hello. Yaar suno what are you doing abhi?”
“Hey nothing. I’m in my room reading a book. Why?”
“Yaar idher ajao lets order something. I’m bored and hungry.”
“Acha gimme five minutes, okay?”
I grabbed my phone, wallet and key, locked the room and walked over to the next room. He had left the door open for me and since it was always very informal between us, I just walked in. His two room mates were fast asleep so we decided to go over to my room because it had the extra sitting area and order the food.
“Two Chicken Cheese burgers and two cokes please. Room 101. Thank you.”
We made small conversations, laughed a little and fiddled with our phones until the room service guy arrived with our food. Though the food there was pathetic, we ordered it every night nonetheless. Anyways, the guy arrived with our food looking sleep deprived and slightly high. We paid him and he left without saying a word.
“I have always hated eating alone. And some of my not-to-be-remembered memories are of the times when I had to eat alone.” I said. “I know me too but sometimes its good like that. Loneliness can be a bliss sometimes you know.”
He had told me everything about himself earlier that night and the friendship between us changed in an unimaginable way. I can’t remember the last time I was able to talk my heart out in front of someone without thinking about being judged. We ate while making small conversations about current hot gossips in our social circles and our existing but hopeless love lives.
“Lets finish eating and go sit downstairs in the garden. Its kinda nice out there and I need to smoke too.” He said.
We left the plates outside my room and walked over to the garden. The hotel was deserted. Shady as we liked to call it. The view however was breathtaking. The night was unusually quiet and the moon was shinning proudly against the dark sky. We walked over to the far end of the garden and sat on the slightly damp grass. He lit a cigarette and we started to talk. It was one of those conversations where you confess, find something about yourself and get to know the other person all at the same time.
“WHAT?! WTF?! How did you know that?” He said, utterly shocked.
“I know. I’m very observant. And sometimes its very easy to see through some people”. I laughed.
“Haaan but phir bhy how? Its not like I don’t know you or something.”
“You know about me but you don’t know me.” I said and winked at him.
He looked so different under the moon light. Contend. Beautiful. Not the same person I met in the morning. It was as if he had removed an invisible mask and now he sat in front of me with all his expressions naked.
“You know what I mean, right? That something. Yaar I know it exists.” He said.
“I know. You know nothing can happen and there’s possibly no future but you still hold on to these hopeless shreds just because its so beautiful the way it is.”
We talked about all the things possible. Relations, life, families, society, social circles, men and mostly men.
“These men are chutiyaas, I tell you.” He said while lighting up his fourth cigarette.
“Pata hai yaar phir bhy kasam se. Itna frustrating hai yaar.”
“Frustrations ki tou baat hi na karo bhenchod khatam hokey nhy deti!”
And we burst out laughing on that.
We were still laughing when we heard Fajar ki azaan. “Hum kitney haram hain kasam se. Azaan ho ri hai hansna bandh kero.” He said between the fits of laughter. “Blasphemy ki hadd hain aap.” I said
Seclusion is such a bliss sometimes. Sitting there on the damp grass of a shady hotel while the world slept and was far beyond our concerns, I found joy after such a long, long time.
He helped me stand up and we walked back to our rooms leaving a night full of memories behind us.