“You aren’t going to let go of it, are you? I asked.
“Nope, not until I know who she is,” she said instantly and continued. “Unless you don’t want me to. No pressure.”
As much as I wanted to tell her the truth that I used ‘Sneha’ as a cover up, I didn’t want to strain our friendship – that was only in the budding stage yet – by doing so. How awkward would it be to reveal that I meant to say her name, not Sneha? I thought. Among several alternatives that flashed in my mind, I chose what I thought was the best.
“It is not a big deal. She is a fictional character I made up to have an interaction whenever I want to.”
“Never mind. It’s not something you need to worry about.”
“Do you really have a fictional character? I mean, do you really talk to some invisible, I don’t know, a person?”
I made a mistake. That was not the best; that was a lame excuse I came up with. I ran through my memory disk hard and fast. I wanted to come up with something that wouldn’t project me as a psychopath.
“Nope. I was kidding,” I said and laughed. The follow-up laugh was to make me sound real.
“I don’t know what to say anymore.”
“Listen, I want to be honest with you. There is no Sneha. There is no fictional character either. I meant to say your name when you asked me whom would I dedicate the story to, but in order not to make the situation uncomfortable, I said ‘Sneha’. Neha, Sneha, you see. The rhyming.”
“Achcha… I knew it.”
“What do you mean you knew it?”
“I knew you meant to say my name. Do you really think I would have asked you about Sneha persistently otherwise?”
I pictured her stare back in the library when I said ‘Sneha.’ The meaning of the stare was all the more palpable now.
“I’m speechless. Who are you?”
“Haha… Okay, listen, I got to go. My roommates are here. We have planned to go for a movie. I will catch you later tonight.”
“That’s fine. Have fun. Bye.”
“Bye.” She said and disconnected the call.
I turned back. My friend was there, just a few meters away. He came to dry the clothes and stood there to listen to what I was talking. Friends, you see.
“Dude, what are you doing here? I thought you were washing,” I said confused and worried more so, wondering how much of my call would he have heard.
“Who is Neha? And who is Sneha? What are you up to?”
“Don’t read too much into it. It’s just this girl who visited the library today. There was a mix-up with her name. A funny incident. I was talking to the librarian about it.”
“Whatever,” he said with a mocking smile.
I didn’t want to stay there any longer. I rushed downstairs. I thought it was over. I was wrong.
“Did you know he met a girl, some Neha or Sneha, today?” My friend started as soon as he came down to the hall after doing his laundry.
“Uh-huh, interesting. Who is she?” My other friend didn’t want to spare even a second.
“Man, you didn’t believe me, did you?” I looked at the other guy.
“What is not to believe? You said you met someone at the library, and that there was a funny incident too, right?” he said and winked at me.
“What’s the issue then? I merely said what you told me. Don’t he need to know about her?” he said pointing to the other guy.
Of course, he didn’t want to be left-alone. And in fact, that was more than enough to make him curious. He then started nagging me to tell more about the funny incident.
Lying to my friends was not a problem. It never was. It was just that I couldn’t come up with something funny related to Neha-Sneha. They both were totally jobless and tremendously interested to overlook anything that I said. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, after all. I didn’t want them to dig deep into what I said and continue that conversation any long. As I was on the spot, my mobile flashed.
“Hi,” a text from her.
The message tone was a welcome catalyst to their burning appetite. It only made them extra-hungry to know more about the girl.
“It is from her. Isn’t it?” One of my friends shot at me.
“What is from her? And who is that her?” I wasn’t ready to give up.
“The message. From the library girl.”
Library girl? Sounds cool. I might as well call her that, I thought.
“Nope, it is just a promotional message from the mobile operator,” I said. Since they themselves were the haters of such annoying, unwanted, frequent messages, they didn’t dig further into it. I was glad I came up with something spontaneous, and thanked the operators for the first time.
It took me a few more minutes to make them skip the topic. I managed to do it by stating that the funny incident was just a mix up with the girl’s name and by diverting them to another conversation involving their respective favorite actors. I spent some time with them fueling their argument-fire before stepping into my room. Afternoon nap was the excuse.
“Hey, Library girl.” I replied as soon as I got to my room. It was only some 30-odd minutes too late. Addressing her as “Library girl” made me surprisingly so happy.
“Movie time. I will catch you later. Sorry.” She texted back.
“Okay. Enjoy the movie.” I replied and went for a nap.
… to be continued (part 11)