The Ex

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Me, who?”

“Nishanth,” I said, completely aware of the fact that she was pretending not to recognize my voice.

Your voice is the essence of my day, she had once told me while showing her disappointment for not returning her calls for almost the whole day.

It won’t happen again. I had to convince her with my best-pleasing-apology. It as well cost me two large ice creams the next day.

“Sorry, but which one, the one in College or the one in School?”

“The ex-colleague one.” I said plainly. As a matter of fact, she neither had a Nishanth in College nor in School.

“Oh, the ex. I’m sorry. I couldn’t recollect your voice.” Her voice stuttered clearly.

“Yeah, the ex.” I got caught up in her play with words. Wow, she is still good at it, I thought.

No words from her after. Was she plotting her next act? I didn’t want to give her a chance to act smart again.

“Well, how have you been?”

“Do you even care?”

“Of course, I do. You know that too.”

“Really, huh?”

“Listen, sorry about the unanswered calls. Okay?”

“Forget it. It’s not something that’s new to me anyway.”

Sarcasm, it is. The one she is also good at. The one which comes naturally (in a good way, though) to her.

“Will you even let me say what I wanted to?” I said, totally annoyed with her words. Yep, I did even though I didn’t have any right to do so.

“Sorry,” she gave in finally. Lucky me.

“So, how have you been?”

“Not so great. Thanks to you.”

“It still is about me, no?”

“It always will be.”

“It, precisely, is the reason I didn’t return any of your calls.”

“I know, idiot.”

Idiot, that was how she called me mostly. That was the signal that she got back to a normal mood. It was time to say what I wanted to.

“Look, I just wanted to say, I love you.”

She remained silent.

“I’m sorry. I know it’s inappropriate, but I couldn’t help it. I have been thinking of the past, of how I could have acted differently, of how things would be now had I made a better decision, and these thoughts kill me inside.”

“Hey, I know you. You did what you had to, what I would probably have done. Don’t stress yourself over it. Our bad luck, my bad luck, it was. What else could I say?” She almost cried.

I didn’t know what else to say either.

“And just so you know. I love you too. I always did, more than anything in this world. I always will.”

“I…” just when I started, I heard her husband’s voice in the background. He was calling out to her.

“Alright. Gotta go. Please feel better. I’ll call you tomorrow,” she said and disconnected the call instantly. Maybe, he came near. I will never know. If only she knew her call the next day might as well go unanswered.

Biscuit Love – The Other Side

A Friday night:

“Where are you?” my roomie screamed at the other end.

It was evident she was miffed. She wouldn’t have if it was any other day. It was her birthday, and she had planned for a special dinner, all by herself. Yeah, I hear you. It should have been me, but what could I do when my entire mind was planning for something else – something big, something that could possibly turn out to be one of the eventful happenings in my life.

“Two minutes, dear.” I was at my pleasing best. I had to for it had been more than half an hour since she was waiting for me. It was almost 8pm already.

“Oye, it’s the fourth two-minutes from you,” she continued. “At least tell me where you are. I will come over there. It really is terrible to wait at the gate all alone. You know the guys’ stare out here.”

“I’m so sorry, birthday girl. This is the final two-minutes. Trust me,” I lied.

I counted the heads ahead of me in the line. Even if it took a minute for each of them, it would easily take twenty minutes for me to pay my bill and get out of the store. I cursed everyone. I cursed the store employees even more. It was a Friday evening. It was typical of our company employees to storm the store to buy stuffs as if it was the only store available in the whole world, yet only one was at the billing counter.

“Alright. Final call, come soon or I am leaving.” She dropped the call, hastily.

I hated myself for troubling her on her special day, but I was helpless. I knew she would understand if she found the reason, which I clearly had no intention of telling her – at least not by then.

I looked at the Little Hearts biscuit pack I was holding. I felt like an idiot to wait for more than thirty minutes to buy this one biscuit pack. Love, you see, makes us do such stupid things.

“Just this?” the store guy asked with a what-a-jobless-person-you-are-to-wait-this-long-to-buy-this-one-item sort of reaction on his face.

Man, what’s with the face? If anything, I should be the one to react for making me wait so long, I thought.

“Yep.” I said staring at him, and that made him look away and complete my transaction.

I was too busy, or rather too late, to stand there a second more. I rushed to the gate. I got sight of my roomie. As I got closer to her, her focus was on the bag I was holding.

“A biscuit pack? You made me wait for an hour to get this single pack of Little Hearts? Really?”

“I’m sorry, dear. You know the Friday rush, no?” I dear her every time I want to mollify her. That had always been my trick, and surprisingly, it had cent percent success rate.

“You know that our reservation is for 8pm, right?”

“Oh, is it? I thought it is for nine,” I winked at her and continued, “Listen, I called the restaurant and rescheduled it to thirty past eight.”

“You did?”

“Yep, I had to as I have another two-minutes work before we get to the restaurant.”

“What? Are you crazy?” She said behind me as I walked to the roadside to get an auto.

As we were on the auto, I took out a box, kept my Little Hearts inside, sealed it and wrote his address on it. I signed the box in the name of ‘Anne Sandhya.’ (That was the name I decided for me if I ever wrote a book.) I caught my roomie’s stare, but I was smart enough to pretend I was occupied with what I was doing. She kept staring at me steadily, by the way.

“You really are doing it, aren’t you?” she said and knocked my hand.

I nodded.

“I thought you were joking when you told me your plan last night.”

“Nope, I meant it. I thought long and hard. It seems to be the best option given I don’t have the courage to face him and say all the stuffs I want to say to him.” I said as soft as I could as I didn’t want the auto driver to hear my stupidity.

“Whatever. You girls are mad when in love.”

All I could do was to shrug my shoulders and lay my head on her shoulder.

“This would work out na?” I asked her hoping for a positive response from her.

“I wish. From the Little Hearts vs Bourbon stories I heard from you, I really hope so, but honestly, you could do better. Why this hide and seek game? God forbid, but what if he doesn’t find out?”

“I will keep sending him a pack every week until he finds out, one way or the other. He knows more than anyone how much I love Little Hearts, only he doesn’t know it’s second only to him.”

She hugged me.

We couriered the pack before we reached the restaurant. The dinner was perfect. How could it not be when I have a good friend in my roomie? She tried her best to divert me from my nervousness about the courier. We discussed so many stuffs, from our house owner naggings to the usual office gossips. I was sure she had a great time as well.

“Priya, it was one of the best times. I’m so lucky to have met you. Thanks for being there for me, always.” She said before she slept.

For someone who lost their parents to a freaky accident, she was unbelievably strong and calm. She was my inspiration to face life as it happens. “I am lucky, indeed, to have met you,” I said and kissed her good night.

The following Monday:

Like every other Monday since I fell in love with him, I was so excited to meet him. However, it was still different that day. It’s not an exaggeration, but a weekend without seeing his face was like an unbearable punishment. I did wish that we worked on weekends too.

I got to office early although I knew he wouldn’t be there by then. I kept turning back constantly to look at the empty desk behind me. Dude, where are you? I wondered.

I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I sat there staring at the mailbox caring less to read the unread mails. As much as I checked his desk, there were several texts from my roomie. No wonder she was as curious as I was.

“Hey, Priya. Good morning. How was your weekend?” my manager enquired with the usual unwarranted smile as he passed by.

“Great. How was yours?” I had to ask, out of courtesy.

I regretted it instantly. My manager did a U-turn and stopped by my desk only to start listing his weekend happenings. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the most awaited guy entered right then.

There it was, the hateful look whenever he saw my manager with me. I kind of admired it secretly, you know. He gets all furious with me as soon as my manager leaves. He always finds that my manager flirts with me (and few other girls in the team) needlessly. I disagreed with him most of times just to see him at his furious best.

Oh my God. Not now, please. I was worried. Do something, I thought.

“Hey Krishna, Sorry. I have to make a call,” I said and left my desk without waiting for my manager’s response. He may have felt insulted, but who cares. As I strolled out, I didn’t fail to notice my guy staring at me through the corner of his eyes. I loved it.

I dialed my guy’s number. “Hey, come out. Let’s go grab a cup of coffee.”

“Sorry, I’m busy. Why don’t you call your guy?” he said with his tone varying from loud-enough decibels to almost-muted decibels.

“My guy? Who?”

“You know who I mean,” he replied. Of course, I knew who he meant.

“You are my guy. Come soon to the fourth-floor pantry,” I said and dropped the call. It took me a few seconds to realize what I said. If only I say that in a serious conversation. If only he gets it. Life is not that easy, is it?

I had to explain him what had happened before. He laughed it away. He never holds anything against anyone for long. Although he may seem serious or angry at times, deep down he is that one cool guy who listens to the other side of the story and then reacts sanely. That’s one of the many I like in him.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. The whole day, the whole week, he didn’t mention anything about the Little Hearts in the countless conversations we had. So did I.

My roomie was more disappointed that I was. It made her more involved in my plan of sending a biscuit pack every week. One Friday, when I was sick and took off from work, it was my roomie who bought one and sent it to him.

A few more following Mondays:

Nothing changed.

I got to office early hoping it would be the day, finally.

I waited curiously for him to talk about Little Hearts.

We had our regular countless conversations about everything but the Little Hearts.

A Saturday night:

As my roomie and I were immersed in our late-night conversations after a heavy dinner, my mobile beeped. I knew it was from my guy. My roomie knew it too. That was because of the special message tone I had assigned for him. We both rushed to get my mobile, but I lost to her. She read out the text loud, “Hey, come to office early on Monday, say around 7:30am. Have something important to discuss.”

The sixth Little Hearts of mine did the trick, I thought.

“Ha, after all these weeks, your guy figures out,” she said and hugged me. It was the first time she used ‘your guy,’ and I hugged her tight for that.

Since his text was blunt and there weren’t any follow up texts, we both decided not to reply to his message. Yep, we both did. We were in this together as a team, you see.

The Monday:

I was too nervous to reach office by 7:30am. By the time I got to office, he was already at his desk.

“Hey, good morning.” He greeted me.

“Two minutes,” I said and went straight to my desk. How stupid of me? After all these weeks of wait, is that all I could do? God, I hated myself.

I didn’t know it was the nervousness or the fact that I didn’t respond well to his greeting, but I just sat at my desk pretending to be busy with something. It was like testing his patience.

After ten or so minutes, he came near me and started, “Hey, I have to ask you something.” I figured that his words were coated with hesitation. I knew that feeling. I wanted to make him comfortable. As I was about to say something, we were interrupted by our manager, Mr. Krishna, the great. He stopped by to ask for a pen. I cursed my luck.

I took out a pen from my bag and handed it over to him as fast as I could, or anyone could. If there was a world record for that, I would have beaten it by a mile.

He left us, but not before throwing some, as my guy puts it, the usual unwarranted smiles. I remained a statue to him as I didn’t want to piss my guy off.

“I didn’t mean to look, but what’s that book?” he asked. It wasn’t what I wanted him to ask.

I told him about the book and how I always carried it with me. He didn’t seem to care. He just said, “Oh, okay,” and turned back.

“Wait. What did you want to talk about?” I didn’t want him to leave, not without talking about my Little Hearts. I was dying for that moment.

“Nothing,” he said.

I remained statue to my guy as well. I didn’t know how else to react.

“Priya, you do remember that Bourbon is my favorite, no? It will be forever.” He said and walked away.

I dialed my roomie and told her what happened. She was equally shocked and confused. She, however, talked me out of my reason-searching-mind.

Just so you know, we – my guy and I – didn’t talk much for the rest of the week.

My roomie and I broke our heads to figured out if he knew it was me who sent the Little Hearts. Eventually, as one last attempt, we decided to send him a big Bourbon pack that Friday.

The Saturday:

I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep the whole night. My roomie tried her best to make me sleep. Her words failed to do the trick. I was awake wondering about his reaction for the Bourbon pack.

Saturday morning was no different. The same questions, the same unable-to-sleep-mindset until around 12:30pm. It was when my mobile rang. It was none other than my guy. I answered the call with my shivering hands and rapid heartbeats.

Biscuit Love

A Saturday afternoon:

“Sir, courier,” the guy at the door called.

I got out leisurely and received the courier. It, me getting a courier every Sunday, had been a routine for the past few weeks. The item in the courier box had also been the same – a Little Hearts biscuit pack. It’s weird, right? I know. It got me thinking for the first couple of weeks. I spent time wondering about this unknown person and about the reason for the biscuit pack. I didn’t have a clue.

“Look at the sign. It’s definitely a girl. A girl who is crazy on you to give signals through her hearts – I mean the Little Hearts,” my roommate pitched in.

“Dude, someone is messing with you. It could be a guy,” said the other munching the biscuits as fast as he could. Needless to say, he was more focused on the biscuits than on who sent it.

I stared at the box. It was signed as Anne Sandhya. The name sounded unfamiliar, no matter how hard I tried to recall.

“It must be a girl at your office only. I don’t think anyone from College or School does this after these many years,” the first guy continued. “Talk to someone close to you in your team. Or just think. There must have been some signals of sort.”

I tried hard. Either my mind didn’t work well or there weren’t any such signals that I paid attention to.

That night, I texted her asking her to come early to office on Monday. She was one of my teammates whom I trusted, and has always been an honest well-wisher to say the least.

The Monday:

“Hey, good morning,” I greeted her as soon as I saw her face.

She smiled. “Two minutes,” she said and went on to sit at her desk.

I waited. For ten minutes or so. She was still at her desk. My patience held good, but only for few more minutes. I wanted to get it over with before my other teammates got in. I walked to her desk and stood next to her chair. She looked at me. From what I saw, she wasn’t doing anything worthy. I didn’t care.

“Hey, I have to ask you something,” I started hesitantly. Before I could say more, our manager, Mr. Krishna, cut me off.

“Do you have a pen?” he asked her.

What the hell is he doing here at this time? I thought. Who knows, he might probably have thought the same about me too.

“Dude, I am right here. She being your right hand and all fine, but why can’t you ask me first?” It’s something I wish I asked him. But then, hey, he was the manager and I was just another team member.

As my mind was busy with such random thoughts, her hands fumbled in her bag for a few seconds. Meanwhile, something got my attention. I knew for a fact that looking into a girl’s bag was a profane thing to do, but trust me, it was accidental.

As soon as he left (only after throwing some unwarranted smiles at her,) I asked, “I didn’t mean to look, but what’s that book?”

“It is my favorite book, “The diary of a young girl.” It is a book of the writings from the dairy kept by a girl, Anne Frank, during World WAR II. I always carry it in my bag,” she said enthusiastically.

“Oh, okay,” I said and turned back.

“Wait. What did you want to talk about?”

“Nothing,” I said inconspicuously.

My mind wasn’t ready to brush it off as a coincidence and rather started connecting the dots. I remembered her fighting with me once when I strongly argued that Bourbon was the best biscuit ever made. Of course, she was on Little Hearts’ side. And then there was one more incident about our favorite Girl Names. She said her favorite was ‘Sandhya’. In case you are interested, mine was ‘Neha’.

“Sandhya? Really?” I said.

“Oye, what’s with the really emphasis?” she said, clearly feeling annoyed. “Remember the movie, ‘Love Today’ and the heroine’s name?”

“I remember the heroine. She was my sweetheart for a while, but name, no.”

“Her name was Sandhya. I loved her character. She was simple and soft. As a kid, I was impressed by her character. Hers became my favorite name since then,” she elucidated.

So, she is Anne Sandhya, the unknown who sends me Little hearts. Or could be. I wasn’t still sure then.

“Priya, you do remember that Bourbon is my favorite, no? It will be forever.” I said and walked away. We didn’t talk much for the rest of the week.

The next Saturday:

“Sir, courier,” the usual guy at my door.

I opened the box. There was a big Bourbon pack inside. My roommates said something about it. I remained deaf to their words.

I rushed to my room, closed the door behind, and dialed her number.

A Story – Part 10

“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.”

“Sorry, what?”

“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.

“Yes.”

“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)

Her.

~ Originally posted on Feb 17, 2017.

He dialed the number he found on the ad. His fingers were too shaky, just as his mind was, to hold the mobile properly.

“Hello,” said the old lady in her seductive voice.

“Hi. I want to fix an appointment.”

“Okay. Name and time, please.” I didn’t know until then that if anyone could ask for the details that seductively.

“Gautham. 8 P.M.” Of course, I used a false name.

“See you at 8 then. I will text you the address.”

“Hold on. I’m looking for a specific girl.”

“Specific, who?”

I told her name. After a few seconds, she said, “Well, but she isn’t available until after 9.”

Fuck, I thought. “Make it 9 then. Listen, I want this girl specifically. No one else.” I said firmly.

“Sure, sir.”

The call was disconnected. The ‘Sir’ had a sugar-coated-respect all over it. I couldn’t help but smile at the fake-respect people throw at others just to please them, to show them their fake-care.

Her face flashed in my mind. The face I saw almost eleven years back on the last day of the school. We both didn’t know where we would end up, but wished each other well for the future. I saw my love, my first (and the last), walk away. Certain things are better left unsaid, some say. I followed, assuming fate would get us together some day, foolishly.

Amidst the thoughts about her, I dozed off. It was almost 7:30 P.M. when I woke up. I rushed to get ready. My whole body was shaking as I locked the door. Man, it’s been more than a decade and I still haven’t gotten over the nervousness of meeting her.

I reached the hotel by 8:40 P.M. I dialed the number. I was directed to head to a room in the second floor. The number struck a chord with me. I was also told that she was with someone and that she would meet me at 9 in the room. My heart broke. I knew I can’t fix it back. Helplessly, I walked to the room with a broken heart.

In a few minutes, I was in front of the room. The number plate read 2106. What a coincidence, it was. It’s her birthday, June 21. Ever since I knew of it, it became my passcode, for everything. Love, you see. The door was unlocked. I entered in and sat on the bed. Yes, I was still shaking.

It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I heard a knock at the door. I stood up. She entered in and locked the door behind. She looked tired. She was, literally. It wasn’t surprising given what she was up to in the past hour or more. I didn’t realize I was crying.

She looked at me as she adjusted her dress. Her face showed that she recognized me instantly. We both stood speechless. She walked towards me and tried to say something. Only the words didn’t come out. I hushed.

I knelt down in front of her and asked, “Will you marry me, please?” with a purposeful stress on the ‘please.’

A Story – Part 8

~ Originally posted on Nov 23, 2011.

I recalled my friend’s fact#21 in my mind, “You’ll have a very good future together if the last two characters of your name are same as the first two of your partner.”

Do I need to say this to her? I thought. How stupid of me to bring this topic now, I beefed myself. With these thoughts running inside, I started to think of a way to get rid of this ‘facts’ topic even though I knew I can’t kid a girl without any reasons. You know how good they are at these things, at getting an info from the other person, that too when the other person had created a trap voluntarily.

“Hello, there?” she patted me on the shoulder.

“Yep,” I nodded in approval, coming out of my thoughts.

“What are the facts?”

“Just forget it. They’re lame, you see.”

“No matter how lame they are. You brought it, now please tell me those,” she was adamant.

“It’s only one, actually.”

“But you told facts, not a fact,” she said giving an added effect to the word ‘facts’.

“Okay, here I’m, dealing with a grammatical genius, huh?” I tried my best wit.

“Are you going to say or not?” she asked firmly, with her hand sliding towards her bag. Oh my God! Is she about to get that pamphlet out? I thought.

“My friend, he is actually drafting ‘love facts’ for his girlfriend. He just told me one of his facts drafted so far,” I said in a hurry.

“Is it? It sounds interesting. Come on, go ahead,” she was keen.

“You’re lucky if you marry someone whom you happen to first meet at a place, um, meant for studying.”

I don’t know why I didn’t say the actual fact that I was told by my friend. I don’t know why I decided to come up with something different instead. Moreover, I don’t know how I came up with a fact on my own that would eventually strike a chord on her.

“Wait a second, are you serious? I mean… is he serious?” she was eager with her response.

I just shrugged my shoulders.

“I, uh, okay, do you, um…” she tried to say something.

“Look, don’t read too much into this. He is just stupid to draft such things. Well, maybe to impress his girlfriend, who knows?” I tried to bring her back to her comfort zone.

“Place meant for studying? Does he refer the library?” She was still showering on the fact. That was evident.

I’m not sure what my friend would have meant by it, if he had come up with that fact (furthermore, I’m not sure if he had met his girlfriend somewhere in a place meant for studying). What I meant was the library, only the library. But I wasn’t bold enough to accept that, and eventually my mind was left to get hit by the questions – Do I need to play it safe? Or Do I have to go on with it and see where it takes us? Or Should I be smart as a whip to change the topic? I was confused, failing to figure how she might react to whatever I say. If only I was a good mind-reader.

“Yeah, a library,” I was afraid of her response, and continued, “Or a college, or even a school.”

“Hmm, whatever, but why did you call it lame?”

Ah man, what is she expecting from me? That I should say he meant the library, and by quoting that, I was referring us. Should I say that? What if she was really feeble by asking me further details forgetting the fact that we had met at a place meant for studying?

“I called it lame because it was drafted by my friend, after all, and only for the sake of impressing his girlfriend so that he could get a…” I stopped.

“Get a what?” a question again. My bad, I cued.

“Probably a GIFT,” I said, wondering what the relation between a GIFT and a KISS is. Well, a kiss can possibly be a gift, right?

“Whatever. Get me his other facts as well. It’s funny and interesting too.”

I don’t want her to listen to the reply that my friend had given me a day before when I asked for his other facts drafted yet. Hence, I simply nodded.

“So, what have you decided about the course?” she started again.

“Yeah, I’m okay with it,” I said merely not to disappoint her. I wasn’t in a mood to catch her frowning face.

She was more than happy. I was able see that from her face, her body, and her everything. Or I should say I felt it around. Meanwhile, she fumbled into her bag and took few sheets of paper out.

“Do you read stories?” she asked holding the bunch of papers in her hand.

“Yes, I do. Don’t you know I visit the library often?”

“Yes, yes. But do you read short stories penned by someone, like your friend?”

“I don’t have any friends who write short stories, but I do read the ones that circulate through the emails.”

“Okay, fine then. Here is a story dedicated to my friend that was penned by her friend. Read it, if you’re interested.”

“Sure, why not?” I said and plunked the papers from her hand and asked, “Was it her boyfriend who dedicated it to her?”

“Nope, just a friend who is a boy,” she replied quickly.

Why would a guy, literally, dedicate a story to a girl? That guy must be crazy or the girl must be crazy not to understand the hidden reason behind it, I thought. Actually, I was crazy to think like that. Later I found that he dedicated it to her merely as a friend, just because she was nagging him to write one for long.

“Huh-uh” I nodded sarcastically.

“So, if at all you write one, whom would you dedicate it to?”

“Neha.”

“What?”

“I mean, Sneha,” I said and stressed again, “Sneha.”

She stared me through the corner of her eyes.

“Okay, it’s time for me to leave. Have to hang out with my friends. Will call you sometime tomorrow to fix the date and time to go to the center to register us for the course,” she said happily, and left the library in minutes.

I sat there still looking at her walking away.

… to be continued (part 9)

A Story – Part 7

~ Originally posted on Nov 3, 2011.

The rest of the day went by with the thought of me messaging her. Message, not to let her know the time alone, but to have a casual chat with her, like any friends would do. Yeah, given our conversation back in the library that day, I was a friend of her already. Or at least, I thought so.

I was just roaming in and around my home, then was lying on my bed, then was standing at the terrace looking for the moon when it played hide and seek with me, and then was staring at the television with no idea of what was playing. All these activities, I did holding my mobile in my hand with a message composed to her that was left unsent – only the message changed from a mere “Hi” to “What’s up?” to “Are you busy?” to “Had your dinner?” to “I’ll be going to the library at 9”.

Amidst these crap activities of me, there entered my friend, screaming, “Hey man, have you ever tasted a lipstick?”

“What? Did you say ‘A Lipstick’?” I was baffled.

“Yes, a lipstick,” he gestured as he sat next to me patting my shoulder.

“Sorry, dude. I had several eatables all through my life, but a lipstick wasn’t one of them,” I laughed, wondering what had gotten into his otherwise savvy head.

“I think she should change the flavor,” he said with his head traveling east and west.

“Man, what are you talking about?” I was shocked.

“Nothing, just forget it.” He stood to walk to his room.

“Hey, wait,” I said trying to pull him down. But he was too strong to be pulled, and I was left with no other option than to follow him nagging.

~~~~~~~~

“What happened?” I asked him as he was making his bed. I repeated the question ample number of times, in different tones, until he responded.

“Man, why are you nagging me? It’s just that I kissed my girlfriend. Okay?”

I remained silent thinking of me being in his shoes. No, don’t call me names. I thought of me in his and Neha in his girlfriend’s shoes.

“I guess she got a new lipstick, and that tastes horrible, you know,” he said rubbing his lips with his fingers. He might’ve imagined the lipstick stains being stuck in his lips still.

“So… you do it often?” I knew it was lame to ask, but I couldn’t help it.

“Hmm… yes, only if you refer ‘at least once a day’ as ‘often’.” He said winking, “Thanks to my love facts that I’ve been showering on her lately.”

“Love facts?”

“Yeah, it’s just the facts that I draft when I’m into her, I mean, mentally. Like when she is away from me, yet with me in my mind, you see.”

“Is it some kind of a trick? Just to taste her lipstick, uh, I mean, her lips.”

“Do I look like Barney Stinson of ‘How I met your mother’ series? No way. I’m rather serious buddy. Look, do you want to hear today’s fact?” His then-recent addiction of that sitcom was evident in his words.

“Of course, yes,” I was excited.

“Here’s fact number twenty-one…” He started.

“Hold on, did you draft twenty-one facts already?” I cut him off, thinking about him tasting the lipstick twenty-one times (at least) already.

“Come on man, it’s no big deal. Now, listen to the fact for the day, ‘you’ll have a very good future together if the last two characters of your name are same as the first two of your partner’.”

I had already started to run the respective characters of his and his girlfriend’s name in my mind, and said, “But your last two and her first two didn’t match?”

“Are you a male chauvinist or what? Give her the first preference,” he replied in a cool manner.

“Poojitha and Harish. ‘H.A.’, it is,” I shouted.

“Do you think I’d come up with a fact that is not in favor of us? Idiot,” he said. (Yeah, he was right. Idiot, I was, for I’d never come across such things on my own.) I should come up with my own facts, I thought.

“But why only two?”

“My name isn’t Tharish to have three,” he said.

I replaced Poojitha with Neha. His fact drew them to be a good partner as well. Hell, no. I shouldn’t give him any clue about Neha, my inner mind voiced. I then scanned mine with Neha. Crap, his fact was not in favor of me, not in favor of us actually.

“It sounds lame dude,” I said and turned back.

“Uh-huh,” he smiled.

“Okay. Give me your other twenty facts now,” I asked him just to check if any of them works for me. Desperate, I was.

“No way,” he said, “I’d give you only after I reach my target of hundred.”

“Hundred?”

“Yes,” he nodded, proudly.

“You are something man, really,” I said, “And don’t ask her to change the flavor next time, instead ask her not to apply it when you want to, you know…” and left his room.

~~~~~~~~~~

I was only thinking about ‘The Love Facts’ for the next few hours. When he could draft the facts for his love, why can’t I? I thought. The funny fact was I wasn’t even sure of the relation between me and Neha then, and of what was cooking on her mind, but I began to think about ‘the love facts’ already. Maybe, it was because I pictured that she was the one for me, no matter how early it was to decide.

I messaged her to come to the library around 10:00 A.M. the next day. I didn’t get a reply. Ironically, I was happy for that because, back then, I was clueless of what to talk about if her reply builds up into a late night chat. You know what, for that exact reason, I messaged her late night with a hope that she might have slept already and I didn’t have to bother about the chat.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Hi,” I greeted her. She looked ravishing, as usual, in her blue Shalwar. I wondered how many hours had she spent before the mirror preening her ready. Call me whatever, but I wanted to be her mirror.

“Hi,” she waved back. She entered in and took the chair next to me.

“So, what have you decided?” she was concerned only about what she wanted. Or maybe I assumed so.

“You know what, my friend has been drafting some facts lately. I heard his latest one yesterday. It was interesting.”

“Facts, what’re they about?” She might have guessed them to be related to her stupid course. Her curiosity showed that all.

Love facts, I wanted to say, but ended up saying, “Facts, as in, facts. Do you want to hear that?”

She nodded. Just.

… to be continued (part 8)

A Story – Part 6

~ Originally posted on Oct 24, 2011.

Silent, I remained for few seconds. She was looking at me for an answer still, looking for a positive reply. Her eyes said that all.

“What?” the voice that woofer-ed in me echoed out this time.

“I mean, could you join with me to take up the course, please?” she gestured. I haven’t heard anyone saying ‘please’ so pleasingly ever since I had heard the word for the first time.

“Actually, I, uh, am not into these things, you see,” I started reluctantly before she cut me off.

“Come on, please,” she interrupted. When I haven’t even fixed the puncture caused by the first pleasing ‘please’, she shot the second, even stronger.

Given the punctures, I should’ve nodded instantly. Man, who would want to disappoint a girl, let alone the cutest ever, but I wasn’t in the greatest of my senses. Ironically, I wanted to think. To shake off the to-be-shot-pleases, I wanted to distract her. I took my mobile and pretended to be busy. I knew it’d be a wussy excuse, but as I mentioned, I was out my senses. I couldn’t think of anything better.

My mobile, it was dead still. It then occurred to me that I switched it off on my way to the temple, and that made the accident scene to flash in my mind once again. On seeing me turning my mobile on, she asked, “Why did you switch it off?”

Before I could say anything, she continued, “I tried to reach you over the phone in the morning.”

“Is it?”

She nodded, I guess. Yeah, she nodded, but so slowly that I couldn’t be sure of her nod.

“Oh! (Wow, I thought) I went to a temple in the morning, and I had to switch my mobile off. Rules, you see,” I said with my heart swimming in the laugh ocean.

“Temple?!?” she exclaimed in a tone that clearly stated she wasn’t going to buy in my words.

“Yes, but what’s with it to get such an exclamatory tone?”

“No. Don’t get me wrong, but you don’t seem to be a temple-guy,” she said looking straight into my eyes.

What’s with these girls? Only they come up with such terms. A temple-guy, oh wow! How awesome it is? No, no. Not at all.

“A temple-guy?” I asked controlling my temper.

“Yeah, a guy who goes to temple every weekend, like a girl, you know,” she seemed enthusiastic, “Wait, No offense. I mean, kind of sensitive, kind of…”

Enough,’ I wanted to say. “Alright, I got it.” I broke in.

She remained silent, like me. I stared away somewhere, like her. We both were wondering how to change the topic, realizing we both weren’t comfortable at that point of time.

“Hey, so you’re okay with the course, right?” she tried her best. That’s one specialty of the girls, being easy at changing the topics, as and when required.

“I’m not a temple-guy, okay? I just accompanied a friend who, in your terms, maybe a temple-guy,” I said failing to get over the term, ‘a-temple-guy’.

“Okay, okay. That doesn’t matter.” She smiled. Or tried to be, I’d say.

“And with respect to the course,” I stopped to look at her and asked, “could you please give me some time?”

“Sure, but, the course is going to start next weekend.” She pointed to the text in the pamphlet.

“Look, I’m actually not interested in these courses and all,” I hinted my reluctance to her.

“But why?” she shot an easiest-of-all question.

I couldn’t come up with an answer. I never could, not even when my parents shot me with the same ‘but why’ bullet (several times), not even when the librarian shot me with the same (once). Lastly, another gun, a new one – in the form of Neha, was the latest to fire at me.

“No specific reason.”

“There has to be one, else why are you so adamant?”

“I have a good job. Moreover, my life, in the present scenario, is pretty smooth. Why bother about CAT or any other for that matter?” I didn’t mean it. I merely said what struck my mind then. As I mentioned earlier, I really couldn’t come up with an answer for that question.

“Hmmm, ok,” she simply shook her head. It was evident that she was foiled.

That was the last thing I wanted to see that day, her gloomy face. I had to do something, apparently, say something, to make her smile, or at least to wipe that gloom off her face.

“Look, I can’t explain things to you, please understand,” I said.

“Okay. Who am I to compel you? I can only request you to think about it. That’s it,” she replied composing herself to be normal.

“Hmm… sure,” I gesticulated.

“The coaching center is far away from here. I thought I’d go with you, and study with you,” she seemed she wasn’t ready to skip the topic until she got my approval.

“You mean I will have to take you with me in…” I deliberately skipped the last part.

“In your bike, if that’s not a problem for you. Else, we can go by the bus, only we have to walk some distance from the bus stop to the center.” She said while her fingers struggled to align her silky strand of hairs that fell on her forehead. My fingers had this urge to help her in aligning her hairs. Wait for it, I told them.

“Hey, you hardly know me.  How come you are, you know, like, um, you trust me this much to ride with me?” I asked her as I wasn’t comfortable with her words even though I was glad deep within. The main reason was that I thought she would ask anyone the same for a bike ride. Instantly, I hated myself at my imbecility to think that way as I knew she wasn’t that sort of a girl. Just because she was easy with you doesn’t mean she is low, I told myself.

“It’s simple. I would not have asked anyone else, no matter what. And moreover, I know you well,” she was at her casual best.

“I warn you, I’m not that good. I might kidnap you and…” I stopped, realizing I was about be bad, for real.

“And what?”

“And, could do anything, like, kill you,” I tried to sound like a villain.

She laughed. “Really, that’s quite a point. I should think about it then,” she tried to sound like being cautious.

“Yeah, you should.”

“Listen, I’ve heard about you, a lot, from ma’am. You don’t try to be a not-so-you just to escape from this,” she pointed the pamphlet and continued, “Seriously, if you aren’t interested, forget it.”

I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. I just turned and looked at the wall behind which the librarian sat. Something had happened in the past two days when Neha met the librarian, I figured.

“Okay, bye.” She stood to leave. My legs too stood reflexively.

“Hey, I’ll think about it. I will seriously give it a thought. By the way, will you come tomorrow?”

“If you want me to,” she killed me again. A killer smile, that was.

“Okay, see you tomorrow then,” I said as we reached the main door.

“Let me see. But you should come with a positive reply, okay?” She said and gave me her mobile number, and asked me to message her the time I’d come to library the next day.

As I was saving her number, “Hey, listen. I like a temple-guy. And I like you, even if you aren’t,” she said and strode away like an express. Yeah, like an express. Fast.

… to be continued (part 7)

A Story – part 5

~ Originally posted on Oct 22, 2011.

All along the way to the temple, I couldn’t resist dreaming about her, about me running into her in the temple, and about us doing the prayers together in the temple. Thanks to my pal for accepting my offer to ride my bike. It’s way better to dream when seated in the pillion than when riding the bike. As I was riding in my dreamland, I failed to notice my friend riding the bike in a route that I wasn’t aware of. It was at a signal, only when I came out of my dreamland, I noticed it.

“Hey, where are you going?” I questioned him, dazed.

“To the temple,” he replied.

“But, it’s on the other route, right? I mean, near the Odyssey.”

“We’re not going to that temple, buddy. We are going to…” he replied something that I failed to heed as my senses were dragged to an accident where a bike collided with a car on the other side of the road.

“Shit,” I exclaimed.

Before I realized what had happened, people who stood nearby rushed to help the guy (who was) in the bike (few seconds back). He seemed to be okay, I thought. Meanwhile, the green signal was on, and my friend continued to ride in the way unknown to me. That accident stapled my mind and my mouth. I remained silent, too silent to care where he went, and too startled to question him further.

I just thought what if I was that guy, what if I was meant not to meet Neha anymore, and so many other negative what-ifs followed. I was sick of those questions running in my mind. I didn’t want those thoughts to march on for long. I took my mobile out from my pocket and checked for any messages or calls. There were two new messages. My heart skipped a beat, and then skipped several beats.

I navigated to the inbox only to get frustrated. The messages – one was from an unknown number to advertise some courses, and the other was from 121 to let me know the unbilled amount of my mobile usage. I got furious and switched my mobile off. Twenty more minutes, we reached the temple. I tried hard to keep my mind away from Neha, and thereby, the curiosity of meeting her at the library few hours later. But I couldn’t until I saw a beautiful girl at the temple standing before us, before me in the queue. We, my friend and I, kept ourselves busy following her all around the temple. We simply strode behind her wherever she went, stood behind her in the queue again to get the prasad, and sat near her when she did. So I would say that I was partially successful in keeping my mind off Neha. Alright, now, don’t get us wrong. We didn’t do anything bad; it’s just that we followed a beautiful girl admiring her beauty, you see.

It was almost 10:30 A.M. when I reached the library after dropping my friend at our home. I tried to be as calm as possible. I went straight to the study room. Neha was not there. I then hooped to the librarian room and met her, I mean the librarian. I curbed myself not to ask her about Neha with a hope that she would herself speak out about her. I exchanged the usual morning pleasantries. I blathered for few minutes expecting her to bring ‘Neha’ in the conversation. It didn’t help. I then took a daily that was lying on her desk and walked to the study room.

After few seconds and few slow steps, I turned and asked, “Well, did you see Neha around?”

“I guess not. She hasn’t shown up yet,” She replied.

‘Never wait for the fruit to fall itself. Ask what you want, and thereby, get what you want.’ That’s the mantra to be followed in life. I learned it that day.

“Oh okay, thanks.” I said and strolled to the study room.

I sat on the chair that faced the entrance of the library. I did that purposely so that I would be the one that Neha sees first as she pulls in. The time entered its 11th hour of the day, but she didn’t enter the library. Though I took the daily for no real reason, I was left to read it through to kill time.

“Hi”

The voice startled me to get out my immersion into the paper. It was Neha. I saw her wearing pink t-shirt and blue jeans, looking completely different from what I had seen earlier. Yet she was the same, she was staggeringly BEAU-TI-FUL and STUN-NING. There are few dresses that would make anyone, who wears it, ravishing. There are few people who appear ravishing irrespective of what they wear. Sometimes people get confused between the two cases. I wasn’t at all. She was one of those few people who fell in the second category; there was no room for a second thought.

“Hi,” I greeted.

“When did you come?” She asked as if she was talking to her closest pal.

”Just a few minutes back.”

“Achcha, did you come by yourself?” she asked, pulling a chair next to me.

“Yeah, in my bike,” I said pointing my not-at-all-visible bike.

“No, I mean, uh, by yourself or after hearing from ma’am,” she said gesturing towards the librarian room.

“Ah,” I smiled, wondering what to say, and continued, “Heard from her.”

“Thanks. And well, sorry to bother you.”

“No… no… not at all. In fact, I would have come here anyway. You know, it’s Saturday. I would be here around this time on all Saturdays.”

“Oh! Is it? That’s great.”

“Not really, but on most Saturdays,” I tried to cover up remembering the librarian’s stare the other night.

She killed me. I mean, she smiled. I lost my life whenever she smiled.

I remained silent as she hunted something over in her bag. A typical girl, I thought. Yeah, that was me on my judging senses. What else could I think when she dug her hand inside her bag for few minutes already? I just got lost in her. After few minutes, she took out a pamphlet that announced some offers for the CAT coaching.

Oh, here it is, she is expecting some suggestions from me, I thought. Seriously, when a guy is with a girl, he simply thinks a lot, more than he ever did in his life yet, like ever.

“I came to know about this through a friend of mine. Heard it’s a good coaching center. Can we both register for the course?” she said riffling her eyelids more than once per second.

“What?” my inner voice woofer-ed in me.

… to be continued (part 6)

A Story – Part 4

~ Originally posted on Oct 19, 2011.

I went to the library the next day around 5:00 P.M. only after sewing in the excuse I had a day before. Since I asked for permission this time rather than passing the information to the Manager, he was firm enough to ask the reason. I was left with no other choice than to use the previous day’s excuse. No use. Neha didn’t turn up that day as well.

Nevertheless, my mind was not ready to give up on her. I badly wanted to see her. A couple of days ago, I badly wanted to talk to her, solve problems with her. But things had changed in me. That day, I just was hoping to see her, to the least. Howsoever the things had changed in me, things didn’t change around me. She didn’t turn up the next day as well. Okay, no use of escaping from the office with lame excuses anymore, I warned myself. I just didn’t want to spoil my hard earned reputation at office for the sake of catching an unavailable *whatever*.

As I was struggling for my sleep that night, I just played the words – “You don’t know anything about her, except her name and her preparation for CAT, not even her place of stay, not even her place of work, nothing at all. Better forget her, forget everything and stop being a fool.” – repeatedly in my mind. The more I reminded myself that I didn’t know her place and work, the more I blamed myself for not looking into those details in the registration form the other day. I knew it wasn’t a big deal for me to get to know those details of her from the register. I just didn’t want to do it that way; instead, I wanted to know everything about her from her. Moreover, a bit of me assured that I would meet her sooner, for sure. Amidst the thoughts, I didn’t know when I dozed off.

For the next two days, I was able to restrict myself from going to the library. But destiny had different thoughts. The second day, around 9:00 P.M. as I was returning home from my office, I happened to meet the librarian at a departmental store in our colony. I have been in the colony for almost a year, but not even once did I run into her at any place in the colony other than the library. Destiny, it was. A big news was waiting for me in her.

“Hi,” I greeted her, hiding my excitement.

“Hey, why didn’t you come to the library for the past two days?” She asked.

“I was busy with my work,” I replied bluntly.

“Actually, I wanted to call you later tonight,” she said.

“Why, is anything important?”

“Not really, I guess. You were wanted to come to the library tomorrow,” she started.

“Wanted?” I interrupted her before she could say more.

“Yeah, you are. It’s this girl, Neha, who actually wants you. I mean, uh, wants you to come.”

“Uh-huh, but why?” I asked hiding the excitement in my tone.

“No idea. She came to the library yesterday and was enquiring about you. I guess, she did wait for you, but you didn’t turn up,” she elaborated, “And she even came today, and was looking for you. When she was about to leave, she asked me whether you will come tomorrow.”

“Oh,” I tried to fuel her to make her words slide freely.

“I told her that since it’s a Saturday, you’d mostly come.”

“But I come on all Saturdays, right?” I said that I shouldn’t have. My words made her to look at me with disapproval. “Okay, not all, but on most Saturdays,” I tried to make up.

“That’s why I used the word ‘mostly’.”

I nodded, sheepishly. Meanwhile she continued, “Whatever, I gave her your mobile number before she left.”

I wanted to hug her for her credible help. But I just said, “Thanks.”

“So, will you show up tomorrow or like, you’re working?” That’s the sarcastic her.

I was too blank to answer her. I just smiled. I bid bye to her, and left without doing what I went to the store for – to purchase stuffs for dinner.

I didn’t sleep that night. I just lay in the bed with my eyes closed. I opened my eyes every half an hour to check my mobile for a call or a message from her, only to get disappointed. I woke up early (I shouldn’t say I woke up as what I did all night can’t be termed as ‘sleep’) and got ready to go the library.

“Where are you going?” my friend asked on seeing me in a rather unusual getup, given the time was 7:30 A.M. on a Saturday morning.

“To the temple,” I lied.

“Oh, fine then. I too wanted to go the temple. It’s something special today it seems. My mom wanted me to go,” he said and went to the bathroom without even waiting for my reply.

Why does every mom be specific about this? If the day is something special, we must pay a visit to a temple. But luckily my mom didn’t ask me to go the temple that day. Neither was I with that idea. It’s just at that instant when my friend questioned me, I had to lie to him. What’s better than a lie with ‘the temple’ in it?

So that was it. I was made to spend my early hours of the big day in the temple with my friend. And unfortunately, there wasn’t a call or a message from her yet. I was disappointed and a tad worried.

… to be continued (part 5)