Falling In Love At Coffee Shop
How this lousy writer creates stories.
"I think that possibly maybe I have fallen for you.
Yes, there is a chance that I have fallen quite hard over you."
This is how the song starts inside my six month old inspirational-ever-fighting headphone. Inspirational because - it always fights to exist a day more in spite of enduring this last stage of horrible lymphoma, which is a fancy word for cancer, I love to use fancy words (disregarding their literal meaning sometimes). Anyways, it is going to lose the left side soon. I need a million facebook likes to save my headphone.
'Cancer doesn't kill you, the will to survive a day more does', it says. Sometimes I have to insert fancy quotes a little here and there with a hope that maybe someday people can make tshirts out of them.
A beautiful girl just sat at the table that is facing me. I do not like cafes with the tables that face me - I do not want to advertise muscular circuses I host when I eat certain things.
Her eyes are blue and she is looking at me. Probably because of my t-shirt that says 'Hushhh! Writer at work here.' I am a show off.
I just smiled at her.
'What are you listening to?' She mouthed.
'Do you want to listen?' I mouthed back.
'Yes.' She replied.
I am dragging the chair to her. I so wish that it stops making that foul noise. I am attracting attention here.
Why is she giggling now? Was the noise too bad? What did I do? The nervous side is taking toll on me.
‘For a writer, you know nothing about science. I won’t condemn you for that, though. How do you think that this seat arrangement is going to favor us sharing headphones?’
‘Sometimes, where science doesn’t fit, common sense triumphs.’ I replied. Another t-shirt there.
‘Fancy. Do you want me to print a tshirt with that?’ She condescendingly replied.
How does she know about the tshirt?
‘What common sense are you going to pitch?’
‘How about using the loudspeaker?’ I framed a rhetorical question like a triumphant conqueror.
“If I wouldn’t know you, I would rather not know.
If I wouldn’t have you, I would rather be alone.” The song is in its best part. I have to hurry.
‘Do you want everybody to look at us?’ She asked.
‘Do you want to listen to the song or not?’ I asked back.
Her hair probably smells like the shampoo she used. Why do I find it enchanting, though? I can feel the law of attraction systematically conquering my common sense now.
“Lagaweli jab Lip Stick
Hilaaile Saara District
Zila Top Laalelu
How did the freaking song change?
Damn, I should have used the headphone.
In my defense, I cannot resist how catchy this song is. I do speak against sexualisation and commodifying of women but I think few things demand exception and for me this song is the one. I do not know why it still lingers in my playlist – the fact, as a matter of fact, haunts me and now I am totally making fool of myself. She is laughing hysterically. Her breath smells like, I don’t know, it smells like defeated common sense. Maybe?
I am in love with her.
‘Don’t worry Sudeep. I still listen to ‘Udreko choli’.’ And she continued laughing.
I have been in love with her since we first attended the orientation seminar of a Creative Writing course back in 2015. She has always been ‘A beautiful girl who sat next to me’ to me. But today, it is a different day because I cannot resist being in love with her anymore. The words have to come out. The time has come; the writer should speak the words he has been crafting for her – because of her.
‘I must clarify that I am totally against commodiying women and also aggressively against deducing them down to semi-nude entertainers.’ I defended myself, instead. The writer sucks.
‘Don’t explain. You are making me laugh.’
‘I shall continue nevertheless, I am awfully embarrassed. But somehow I cannot stop myself from appreciating the lyrical, and indeed musical, genius involved in giving life to ‘Kamariya….Kamariya….Kamariya’.” I added to strengthen my defense.
‘Lopa Lop, Lollypop Laagelu.’ She added. I think we are the victims of the same lousy, nevertheless, catchy song. I am in love with the irony we mutually share.
Meanwhile, I still haven’t left my seat. She is facing me and I am numb, like always.
‘This is not love, this is cowardice.’ My brain is revolting.
She is still sitting facing me. I wish she could witness my imagination. I have no other way to show her how much I love her.
Something is pushing me.
I am dragging the chair. She is still looking at me. The chair is still making that foul noise even in reality. I am sitting opposite of her now. I am shivering. I don’t know what I am doing.
‘Hey, umm, Supriyana.’
‘Hey, Sudeep. How are you?’
‘I am uhh..uhh…’ Panic attacks.
‘I think I need to tell you how much in love I am with you, If that makes sense.’
‘Huh.’ Didn’t she hear that? What does ‘huh’ mean? Does that mean ‘no’?
‘There is no poem I haven’t written for you. I would even refuse to dream the dreams that were not about you. But in real, I fail to express. I am lost in these strands of ‘Umm’ and ‘Uhhs’. I can’t stand being in love with you anymore. I want to be loved by you. I demand reciprocity. I know it sounds selfish. But.’
‘I am a writer, turn me into a man.’
‘Should I make a t-shirt out of this line?’
‘What?’ How does she know about the t-shirt?
‘For a writer, you don’t know how the words ‘I love you’ work.’
‘What?’ What is she saying?
‘You could have just said those three words and I would have still melted in your arms.’
‘I do not get it.’ I am puzzled. I was expecting nothing more than a cell in a friend-zone.
‘You don’t know how many times I have imagined sharing your headphone, Sudeep.’ Is she saying that?
My girlfriend is this unearthly delirious mix of everything wrong and everything right in a person.
It was a Friday afternoon, and like almost every afternoon she came up with this yet another impractical idea--she was adamant about watching a C-Grade Nepali Movie with me. I am being Modest by calling it a C-Grade movie--it's a soft-core porn starring Miss Paneru.
Note: Paneru is a name every man in this country searches in Google (in incognito mode).
It doesn't take her much time to convince me into indulging in one of her insane ideas, and that is what I despise most about her. She is a manipulative woman. Maybe it has got to do with her being four years older than me, which makes me more submissive to her ideas, or maybe I am too gullible.
She has this systematic way of derailing my conviction every time I am dead set on not affirming to her.
"Agastya, you always complain about how Nepali Cinema is going downhill. You do not even give them room to improve." She rested the kettle hard on the table and managed to spill the tea all over the magazine I was reading.
"This is not Cinema, honey; this is pimping woman's buttocks and bosom on the silver screen to make a quick buck out of it." I tried to reason her back. There was no way I was going to watch a movie that solely depends on a woman's body parts. She, forging a dramatic silence, took the magazine away from the table and left it to dry by the window.
"Agastya?" She looked at me from across the room with those suppressing eyes. I, sometimes, wonder if she uses her age factor as an advantage to make me submit to her.
"I do not even like it when they sell woman like that, Arya." I was not going to give up that easily.
"Agastya?" She was now sitting next to me. She was a crafty conversationalist.
"You watch almost every Nepali Movie on YouTube. You do not even invest in buying tickets to watch them, and you keep on complaining about how they are inept and are not good food for a sound mind."
"Where are you going with this?"
"Let me ask you this, how is Nepali Cinema going to improve when people are always reluctant to invest in tickets?" She was few steps away from convincing me.
"Let's go watch another Nepali movie then. I am not against watching a good Nepali movie."
"Now, you totally got me wrong. I want to watch ‘Chaskaa'." I knew that she had her special reason.
"But why?" I wanted to know why she was insisting particularly on watching this movie.
"See, you want to become a filmmaker right?"
"A good filmmaker should first learn How not to make bad movies." She was right, but I was not going to buy that.
"That's why you are proposing that we should watch this horrible movie where the actress's butt does most of the acting. Come on, I thought you were a good feminist." I couldn't believe that she was trying to give me lessons on filmmaking.
"Agastya, I will punch you in the face if you pull that Feminist crap on me again. Are you going or not?"
"No," I replied almost like a reflex.
"But I liked the poster--," her excitement had transmuted into an unpleasant sulking, "--it was so poetic." She began to brood like a child.
"Stop it, you are 29, you don't look like a child anymore with those shiny eyes and all. I am not going to fall for them." I couldn't reveal to her that I too was curious about the poster now. She is a student of arts, and when she says something is poetic, I am tempted to believe in her.
I couldn't imprison my curiosity any longer, so I eventually asked, "What do you mean by poetic?"
She raised her head to look at me and I could see right through her eyes how she was already celebrating her victory. "Do you want to see the poster?"
"Yes. Should I search it on the internet?" I asked her back.
"No, stupid, I tore it off the wall on my way to your room today. It's in my bag. Be a good boy and hand that bag to me." Like I said, she is this unearthly delirious mix of everything wrong and everything right in a person.
She took the poster out and unfolded it. The poster showcased the lead actress of the movie partially covered with a crimson bed sheet. It's a classic Nepali way to sell nudity subtly; men are left to only speculate about objects inside the bed sheet. The intriguing part of the poster was that she had managed to cover the remaining half of her body with her hands. By remaining half of her body, I meant her bosoms.
"How is this in any way poetic?" There was nothing poetic in it.
"Look at her hands. She is already wearing a bra, and she still is covering her chest as if the bra was not big enough." And she began to laugh at her joke. But she was right, this huge black bra in the poster almost covered the actress's body and yet she covered her bosom like someone was still going to take a peek. I began to laugh too. I could visualize the censor board telling them to photoshop and add a huge bra there.
"That's how our society is, Agastya. No matter how much we cover ourselves, men will always find a way to sexualize us." The hysteria soon turned into a commotion, all thanks to her poetic interpretation of a censored poster. I could deduce that I was falling prey to her systematic dismantling of my negation.
"Okay. Okay. I am going to watch the movie with you. Stop making me feel guilty." I finally yielded to her musings.
"Barahi Movies, Bhaktapur. I already booked the seats." She burst into the information with a wide villainous smile. She is a devil's apprentice when it comes to toying with a man's conviction.
"You cunning woman." I had to acknowledge her clever display of wit.
"Now sleep, we have to wake up at six in the morning. The show is at seven." She commanded.
She was right. I learned filmmaking the next day.
-Never make Police Station look like a veterinary clinic. Hire a good Cinematographer.
-There is no point in making your characters undress themselves to eventually show them getting intimate under a lousy bed sheet anyway.
-If you are going to spend half of your movie showing a girl washing herself, don't make a movie, make a commercial about a bathing soap instead.
-A man who carries a camera is not always a cameraman and the man who says ‘Action or Cut' is not always a director.
-If you cannot tell whether the actress is crying or perspiring, don't hire her.
-Never take your audience for granted, some people might have IQ that exceeds yours. Not everyone has a room temperature for an IQ as you.
-If you are making a film, make a film, don't make ambiguous porn.
"Agastya? Oi." I didn't realize that she had been calling me for past few minutes. I was too deep pondering about my filmmaking lessons.
"You liked the movie, didn't you?"
"Shut up." I didn't like the movie at all. If only I could take back those precious two hours of my life…
"It is at least better than Phony Confessor's stories." Now ‘Phony Confessor' is a pseudonym I use to post short stories on the internet.
"Don't compare it with my stories. I am not implying that my stories are incomparable but I would, at least, want a modest scale to compare my works with."
"Your stories are cheesier than this movie's script. This movie is at least better; it shows that a man and a woman do get intimate when they are in love. In your stories, they hardly even hold each other's hand." She was right. She loves to toy with my literary affiliation when she is in the mood. I began to scour my brain for the best comeback but my it nonchalantly chose to stay docile.
"Look at her ass." I couldn't help but overhear one of our fellow cinema goers aggressively complimenting my girlfriend's body. I just pretended that I didn't hear him say that and prayed that she didn't hear that too. See, I am a very peace-loving person, and I do not resort to aggression but she, on the other hand, is a former district-level Martial Art Champion.
"You fucking son of a cunt-less housefly. What did you say?" God never listens to prayer because she did overhear that unlucky fellow.
"I…," the guy began to stammer nervously.
"You fucking apologize, or I will crush your balls and make you eat them." She was in her zone now. No one can cage the aggression inside her when she is in her zone.
"I am sorry." He whimpered as he expressed his apology and ran for his life. My friends, I didn't tell you earlier, but I am telling you now that my girlfriend is a compulsive foul mouth and a professional martial artist – a very bad combination, I must say.
"You fucking son of a cunt-less housefly? Seriously? What does that even mean?" She swears in the language I can hardly make sense of.
"That is why I told you that you shouldn't wear this--," I pointed at her very revealing short trouser,"—thing, especially when you are in the theater watching Soft-core porn."
"Come on, how can you be so small-minded? I wear this because I feel comfortable in it."
"I understand that. But no matter how liberal I am, I will still feel uncomfortable around a woman who is wearing a cloth as the size of my boxer."
"Holy Fucking Mother, you disgust me, Agastya."
"What? I don't think it is more comfortable than a normal trouser."
"Says the person who only wears boxer when he is in his room."
"But I feel comfortable in that." And I realized that I fell for her trick again. "Okay, I get it."
"Hell yeah, you did." She began to celebrate her triumph.
"Agastya, I am starving."
"I cannot eat. I have a medical test today." I had been living my days off of pain killers for past few days. My lower abdominal area was malfunctioning, and the people in the hospital suggested that I should get tested for testicular cancer to stay on the safe side. Of course, I didn't tell Arya. She would be worried to death.
"What kind of test is this? Are you alright?" She began to worry again.
"Like I told you, it is just a routine our office conducts for the insurance purpose."
"Then have something. It is ten o' clock, and your test doesn't start before 12."
"I am just going to drink black tea." I insisted. She, still, didn't stop worrying.
We just had to walk three blocks to reach the nearest café. I couldn't help but notice that, for some reason, the employees in the café were a little more welcoming and responsive to her. I just followed her to the table at the corner.
I ordered a cup of black tea, and she ordered the cheapest thing on the menu. She adheres to parsimony when we are facing the end of the month – that is when we run out of our respective salaries. We are not spendthrifts, but we are not big earners either. She took a cigarette out of the packet in her back pocket and lit it while I watched the employees in the café strangely looking at our table with anticipation. I was alarmed, but I was not alarmed enough for what was to come. She blew her first puff out and passed me the cigarette. It is our ritual - I always take the second puff. She thinks that she takes all the poison in when she takes the first smoke. It is one of her weird way of expressing love. She thinks I am cheesy and yet she is the one who does these kinds of things.
"I told you I quit smoking, Arya." Since my doctor last mentioned cancer in the same sentence that contained testicles, I had decided that I would stop every unhealthy habit of mine, which included smoking and few other things that do not need mentioning.
"Oh, I forgot." She crushed the cigarette on the ash-tray. She never asked me why I stopped smoking. "I think I too am going to quit smoking then." She was referring to another ritual of ours. She never smokes if I don't take the second puff which meant that she from now on had to resort to only taking one puff of cigarette every time she lights one. She liked the idea. I liked it too.
"What if I told you that I want to marry you?" She asked out of the blue.
"You heard it right." She didn't bother to ask that question again.
"Well, I would say I would want to, but there are so many reasons that would make me think twice," I replied.
"For Example, You smoke," I said.
"That is only one disadvantage; otherwise, I have all the thirty-one qualities an ideal bride should adhere to." She rebutted. In our culture, there is a belief that a bride should adhere to all the thirty-two qualities to be eligible to enter into a marital life with an already and unquestionably flawless man.
"You swear in the language I cannot even make sense of. I still cannot tell what ‘son of a cunt-less housefly' means." I couldn't help but laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed teasing her.
"Okay, that makes it 30."
"You are four years older than me. There is no way your parents are going to approve of this marriage." We were technically adults, even by the virtue of the Constitution of our country, but we still had to ask for parents' approval before making major decisions in life which is a very ludicrous and ironic.
"That is your problem, not mine." She calmly replied. I just smiled and looked at her. I could still notice the employees looking at our table from the corner of my eyes.
She abruptly stood up and pushed the chair she was sitting on aside. "Agastya--," she got down on her knees, and that is when it hit me that I was being proposed, "—you corny son of a bitch, no offense to aunty, will you marry me?"
"Fuck. That is why these people were looking at me like that." I pointed at the employees. I noticed that one of them was holding a huge package in his hand. I knew what was inside the package.
"My knees are hurting, idiot."
"Why do not I get to be the man in this story? I am already embarrassed. Stand up."
"Tell me first, ‘Do you want to marry me?'"
"Stand up." Call me patriarchal but I found it absurd that a woman was getting down on her knees to propose me.
"Tell me first."
"What's in the package?" I am a curious cat by nature; I cannot help.
"A vintage typewriter," she replied, "come on, hurry now."
"Yes, I am going to marry you, damn it." It meant that I had to cancel the trip to ‘Café Vyanjan' – it was the place I was supposed to propose her. Besides, a vintage typewriter always triumphs a clichéd greeting card. Yes, I was going to propose her with a greeting card. I regretted that later.
I spent the rest of the day in the hospital running from one test room to another. I asked her to go back to my room which took a lot of convincing. She eventually loved the idea of welcoming me with new dishes she had learned to prepare from YouTube.
I didn't return to my room that night. I was told that I did not have cancer but I hadn't anticipated the real horror of the evening.
She took longer than usual to pick her phone up. I could feel my heart throbbing with the sound of my phone connecting with hers.
"Hello. Agastya. Why was your phone switched off?" She sounded frantic.
"Arya, I think we should break up."
"Are you kidding?"
"It's over, Arya." It broke my heart. But this was for her good. I am not principally a far-sighted man, but I loved her, and it didn't take me a second to realize that she didn't deserve what was to come.
I didn’t realize that the voice was calling for me. I have never been called mister. Generally, there was always something that followed Mister.
The voice was a little insisting this time. I had to turn back.
“Mister, You dropped your suicide note.”
I checked my pocket and the voice was painfully right.
“Are you following me?” She was the same girl I met a half an hour ago and she was strangely following me.
Have you ever met someone who turned you into a better dier? A better ‘dier’ is a person who has a beautiful background story before he makes his final leap to eternity, not strictly to be confused with better ‘liver’. A man can live a dream to die alone in nightmares but a man who dies like a dream is the man who never failed living.
I met Arya when I was 23 and I was at the worst phase of my life. In fact I met Arya just a day before I was going to murder myself.
The scariest thing about wanting to die is you constantly look for reasons to live a day more. You want to live, but you don’t need to live, killing yourself is rather a horrid conundrum, I must say.
I am a procrastinator by nature. Of course, dying had to wait. I wanted to visit Basantapur for the one last time, I had to do that. Ironically, it is the place where I fell in love with my life for the first time. My grandmother used to take me there to feed the pigeons and I wanted to relive that moment for the one last time before I died.
I remember sitting there as a child at the Pati at the Basantapur Durbar Square watching my grandmother make weird noises to apparently lure pigeons into eating what she had scattered on the ground. The pigeons were terrified of my grandmother although she had been coming there for past six years. They still were not habituated to her and that is what I found strange. How can someone know that you won’t hurt them and still fear you? I was inquisitive as a child and I pondered on my world of questions a lot.
“Granny, why are they afraid of you although you always bring them food?” I asked her one day.
“Because,” she took a long pause, “although they know me, they cannot stop fearing what I am made of.” As a child, I always liked how she could answer all my questions in riddles and yet explain everything.
“They are afraid because we are made of nose, eyes, hands and legs?”
She laughed at my deduction. She knew that I needed a little clarification so she added, “They fear us because we are made of anger, sadness, worries, diseases, selfishness and greed which can overshadow our love any time.”
I am a good learner. I was a good learner. It was strange that it did not take me much effort to understand her philosophical answers. “They fear us because we can turn into a beast at any time,” I spoke my epiphany out loud.
“Because our love is crooked. We kill moths but treasure butterflies. We despise beggars but feed a dog with love. Our care is crooked. We chose to care what we love, and we love to love what appears good in our eyes. We are a difficult people. That is why they fear us.”
“Because we chose to love them not by heart but by habits,” I added. I was not an intelligent child but I must say that I understood how weird the world was even as a child. I understood how complicated we were. I understood how crooked we were.
But the lessons faded with time. My grandmother died and I never visited Basantapur again and some part of me died with her.
I used to score 100 in mathematics but I gradually forgot what I was best at – learning life. They never taught life at school. You always had to take detours to afford the lessons and most of the times they were costly. Life only accepts one currency - your mistakes.
It was the first time, after my grandmother’s death, that I was setting foot on the vicinity of Basantapur square. I wanted to understand life before I killed myself. I wanted to relive that moment with my philosophical grandmother for the one last time.
I sat on the same Pati I used to sit looking at my Grandmother while she fed the pigeons with her wide wrinkled smile. I just sat there and waited for the memories to hit me again. They didn’t.
I, then, poured the rice grains from my little basket waiting for the pigeons to come and pick them. Strangely, the pigeons were not interested.
I saw a woman strolling towards me from the corner of my eyes which I inherently ignored. I thought she was a tourist and didn’t bother to raise my head and look at her.
“Isn’t it strange how these pigeons know we won’t hurt them but still are afraid of us?” The tourist asked an unexpectedly familiar question.
“They fear what we are made of,” I replied almost like a reflex without even looking at her.
“Can I join you?” She asked. She sat on the slab before I could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
“Yes.” I replied. She had already sat. Besides, I was going to die; I did not care much about a minute social charade. For the next few minutes, we sat there silent although her camera made our share of noises.
“You are strange,” she opinioned and giggled.
“What gave me away?” I asked. The opinion was rather surprising and agitating at the same time.
“I don’t know you just look strange.” She replied. A fair answer, I say.
I just stood up without saying a word and began to walk towards the tea stall that was at the end of the square. She was unfairly intruding and I was not in a position to entertain such distasteful social charade that demanded reciprocity.
I set myself on the bench at the tea stall and tried to distract myself with the newspaper articles. Reading first few lines in the headline was rather challenging given the noise those old folks made who were playing the game of chess on the bench nearby.
I am not a dedicated reader of any sorts of literature but strangely that day I almost managed to read the entire newspaper. I was on the second last page when I noticed that an unbelievable number of spectators were gathering around the bench where the game of chess was being played a few minutes ago. I naturally got curious and decided to give it a look.
“What is happening?” I asked looking at the tea vendor who was busier than he was few minutes ago.
“There is this girl who has already defeated six people in a matter of minutes. People are gathering to look at her crushing these old fellas. It is good for me. Everyone is ordering tea.” He looked rather elated.
I stood up and decided to give it a look and to my surprise there she was, the tourist I met almost half an hour ago. She looked at me and winked. It was rather embarrassing since everyone turned and looked at me.
“Is she your friend?” The old man who was playing her asked. I just nodded - which was somewhere between ‘Yes, I know this girl who is apparently kicking everyone’s ass’ and ‘No way’. I couldn’t decide between them so I just nodded one of my Poker face nods.
“She is going to defeat me in the next two moves.” He was the first man I had seen who enjoyed being defeated.
“Come on, Play her.” The old man asked and the crowd began to cheer. I looked at the tea vendor expecting some help, I don’t know why, but he was busy filling all those cups. I could see his face lighting with an incessant smile. I was pushed into joining her.
“Are you ready?” She asked. And it was the first time I had seen her face. She must have been the most beautiful opponent I had ever played chess with.
“Whatever.” I hopelessly replied.
Now let me explain you how my brain works. I used to play Chess and the cards a lot when I was a child. But as I grew, I realized that my brain hurt whenever I tried to use it in full capacity. It felt like my nerves were going to pop under my scalp. That is when I began to avoid jobs that required thinking. I must say that it was one of the reasons I wanted to kill myself. I had practically exhausted the use of my brain.
I cracked my fingers and decided to play the move where you could defeat the opponent in three moves. It was a childish trick. I didn’t care much if I was going to win or lose. So, I went with the childish plan.
“I think I shouldn’t move my soldier here. I would instead move my horse here.” She said picking the horse and making the move. If she hadn’t taken her decision back about moving her soldier, my game plan would have failed.
It was the third move and I checkmated her. I defeated her – the girl who defeated almost a dozen local professionals - in just three moves. I stood up and walked away silently. I, somehow, didn’t feel like I won.
I didn’t realize that the voice was calling for me. I have never been called mister. Generally, there was always something that followed the word Mister.
The voice was a little insisting this time. I had to turn back.
“Mister, You dropped your suicide note.”
I checked my pocket and the voice was painfully right.
“Are you following me?” She was the same girl I met a half an hour ago and she was strangely following me.
I quickly walked to her and took the note from her hand. I had nothing to say. I turned around and went on my way.
“Hey.” I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.
“Why are you following me?”
“Well, first thing, that was the best suicide note I have ever read,” She paused and scratched her head, “I have never read any suicide note to be honest.”
“Wait,” there was something in her voice that compelled me so I stopped, “can I ask you out? I mean you are going to die and all.”
“What do you mean?” I was a little unsettled.
“I mean, since you are going to die, it won’t matter what you are going to do today,” she paused and tried to find the hint of approval in my face, “C’mon, I will pay.”
“C’mon, kanchha, I will pay.” She said producing a wide phony smile.
“Tell me that’s your fake smile.”
“Okay, that’s my fake smile. Now, will you go out with me for a cup of tea or something?”
“Whatever.” I was defeated. She, finally, found that approval she was scouring my face for. I still thought that a minute long social reciprocity won’t do harm.
“Can you hold this tripod for me? I am so tired.” I couldn’t believe her but I carried her tripod all the way to the café anyway.
“It’s so awkward to sit with the person who is going to die tomorrow.” She finally broke a fifteen minutes long silence and spoke.
“You know what is more awkward?” I asked.
“To sit with a person who knows I am dying tomorrow.” I replied. She laughed but controlled it immediately. I could see that she was trying to look serious but it was in her nature - she was cheerful and awfully loud, to prove it, everybody in the café was looking at us.
“Are you a virgin?” I couldn’t believe that she was asking me that.
“Can you keep your voice lower? And why the hell do you need that?”
“Oh, no! You are a virgin. You are going to die virgin.”
“Shut up and keep your voice lower.”
“You are going to die virgin.” She whispered. I couldn’t believe her.
“I can have sex with you, if you want. I mean I cannot let you die virgin.”
“What are you? A prostitute?” I asked agitatedly. She was unbelievable.
“Hushh. Can you not keep your voice lower?”
“I cannot believe you are saying that to me.”
“Shut up.” She rebutted.
“Hey, listen.” She went into whispering again.
“I know it is too much to ask,” she paused and took a long breath, “can I be your last friend?”
“The last friend you ever made in your life?” She added.
“You are unbelievable.”
“I know. But can I?”
“That means ‘yes’?”
“Yes.” I replied.
She raised her voice all of a sudden and called for the Bill. The owner called us to the counter instead. The café temporarily lacked manpower.
“Sir, I do not doubt your mother’s character. Did your parents have pet? Because I doubt that your father is your biological father.” That was the first time I saw Arya throwing one of her tantrums. The owner was dumbfounded by Arya’s reaction. We ordered two cups of cold coffee and they charged us 800 bucks for that. I couldn’t believe at what I saw in the bill. Well, for Arya, her belief system was shattered. She was about to grab the café owner’s collar. But, I stopped her. I took out my wallet and paid the man and we hit the road.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know. I was so angry.”
“Shut up and let’s leave this place. You asking me questions is not helping me.” She replied. She was unbelievable.
My phone rang all of a sudden in the middle of the night. It was an unsaved number but I was quick to deduce who that number belonged to.
“Hello.” I answered the phone.
“It’s Arya. In case, you haven’t saved the number.”
“Why are you calling me in the middle of the night?”
“Did you kill yourself?”
“What kind of a question is that?”
“I was just making sure.” She replied.
“Will you die tonight?” She asked her obtuse question again.
“I don’t know.”
“Please, don’t die tonight. I am going to take you to another place tomorrow and I promise I will pay the bill this time.” She innocently swore. I couldn’t believe her.
“You smiled, didn’t you?” She asked. She was partly right. She had her uncanny way of finding her way into your life.
“Please don’t die tonight.”
“Whatever.” I hung up the call. I couldn’t believe that a stranger was infecting me. She was a strange stranger. It was a soothing infection, albeit strange.
This was our routine. She would call me every night checking on me if I died and asking me not to die, I would strangely oblige.
She would then take me to all the strange places in the valley – the LGBT themed party was the strangest place I had ever been to. That was how the chronicles began.
I, soon, found myself staring at my phone’s screen desperately waiting for her to call.
“Are you awake?”
“You will not die tonight, will you?”
“No. I think I am not.”
“Good. I have something to say.”
“No, I won’t go to any party with you again.”
“Not that.” I could sense her downheartedness through the phone.
“I screwed up.”
“I want to cry.”
“What happened, Arya?”
She began to cry on the phone.
“What’s your address?”
“House No 224, Purano Baneswhor, Near SMILE consultancy.” She almost answered like a robot.
“What happened, Arya?” I yelled on the phone. I was in front of her house. She refused to come down. She just stood there at the window.
“I am sorry.” She incessantly kept on repeating those words.
“I refuse to leave this place unless you come down and tell me what happened.”
“Fuck you.” I asked the taxi to leave. I just sat there at the edge of the road waiting for her to come down.
She stood there at the window just staring at me. She was probably testing me.
The gate clanked and she finally came out. I won.
“What happened, Arya? I beg you to tell me.”
“You will hate me.”
“I am pregnant.”
“I had sex with a person and he ejaculated inside me…”
“Shut up. I am not asking you the details. Whose baby it is?”
“A random guy. A one night stand’s.”
“I used the pills. I don’t know how it happened.”
I couldn’t say or do anything to calm her down. I didn’t know how to process the news. She began to cry and I involuntarily ended up letting her borrow my shoulder. ‘That’s what friends do,’ my mind tried to explain the situation to me. I didn’t know what to say.
“I went to doctors. They say I have to wait 4 months for abortion.”
“What? What did you say?” I was astounded. I didn’t realize that I had jerked her away from my shoulder.
“What did I say?”
“What did I say?”
“You are not going to kill this child.”
“Are you crazy?”
“No, you are not going to murder her.”
“Something tells me that the baby is a her.”
“Stop it, Agastya.”
“I will be the father to this child.”
“I wanted to restart and maybe that is how I am meant to restart. I will look for her. Live with her. Live for her.”
“It is not easy, Agastya.”
“I will give her the childhood I craved for. I will work my ass off to make her smile. Don’t murder her.”
“You saved my life maybe it is because the universe wanted me to save that innocent life sheltering inside you.”
“Agastya, are you listening to yourself?”
“I promise I will look for her. I promise. Please don’t kill her, Arya. I promise, Arya. I promise.” I was crying. I don’t know why. I am a difficult person. I, sometimes, cannot explain the things I do.
“I love you, Arya.”
I pulled her and wiped the tears off her face. “It is weird. I know. I know what is going inside your head, Arya - the permutations of disbelief telling you to stay away from me. I am a derailed life and you are the tracks that lead me back to home again.”
I tried to feel her cheeks with my fingers. “Serenity must feel like this, Arya. I want to dissolve into your skin.”
“Agastya.” Her lips began to quiver.
“You are the voice that saved my life.” I began to scour her eyes for the reaction. Her tears have disappeared but her lips were still quivering. I am not a problem solver but I wanted her to not fear me. I wanted her to stop shivering. I closed my eyes and somewhere I found her lips. We began kissing on the edge of the road that led to her home.
“You taste like tears, Arya.”
“You taste like shit.” Arya was back.
“Shut up.” I lashed out. It was a harmless lashing out.
“How are we going to continue this?”
“Everybody will call me a Pedophile.” She sounded worried.
“Who told you that you are not a pedophile, Arya?”
“I am a Feminist. If your face didn’t look like pussy, I would have killed you here.”
“Come back and kiss me.” And she pulled me and we began to explore the proximity. She was my Pedophile.
When my best-friend left for the US, he gave me the keys to his apartment. He had paid the lease for the whole year and he wanted me to make the optimum utilization of it. I had those keys in my drawer, but I never knew what to do with them. But now I did.
“This is where we are going to live, Arya.”
“This place is beautiful.”
“I know, you are scared, Arya. But trust me I will never leave you room to complain.”
“Shut up. Where is the kitchen?”
And that is how we found each other, Arya and I.
It had been seven months and I had been coercing Arya into getting an ultrasound. I wanted to tell her ‘I told you so.’ Because I knew that it was a little girl who was living inside her.
“Agastya, I hate to tell you this. But you are right.”
“I know.” I couldn’t keep my eyes off the report. Our little girl was there. I was practically holding her as my fingers wrapped the report.
“Are you crying?” She asked.
“No, stupid. Can you give birth today?” I was getting impatient.
“Shut up. You are crazy.”
The first few month of living together was not easy for us. She had left her job back in the US. Her savings were in the verge of extinction and she didn’t want to tell her parents that she was unemployed. We were broke and I couldn’t find a decent job.
She never looked worried. She always had that smile on her face that gave me the strength to carry on and not lose hope. Hers was always the smile that washed my disdain away.
“You will find something worth fucking up your life for. Do not settle for the job that you are not into. I believe in you, sugar.” Arya would say something like that.
“Don’t call me sugar.” And I would always find a reason to sulk.
“But you are a little child.”
I came home one day disappointed. I was still not unemployed and it took a toll on me. I was exhausted and I wasn’t expecting any surprise. But Arya was standing behind the door and she caught me off guard. She wrapped my eyes with both her hands.
“Now, don’t you try to take a peek. I have a surprise for you.”
“Arya, stop it. It is ridiculous. How many ‘World’s Best Dad’ mugs are you going to buy?”
“Shut up. And try to walk in my direction.”
“Better not be a handcuff. I am so not in a mood.”
“Can you please shut up? God, you are never patient.”
She finally rid my eyes of her hands. I had to adjust my eyes to the lighting. The room was candle-lit. And in the middle of the room was a table.
“You like it?”
The table had something that looked like old suitcase. I began to walk towards it to take a close look.
“Why are you not talking?” Arya was growing impatient.
“It is a typewriter! Arya. It is a typewriter!” I exclaimed.
“I know, stupid.”
“But where did the money……………..” She placed her fingers on my lips to hush me up before I could frame the question.
“I love you, Arya.”
“I, too, bought something for you. But I think it will fuck the mood up.” I was going to prank her. We always pranked each other with stupid ideas. We didn’t want to grow up. I think that is why we fell for each other.
“What?” She closed her eyes.
“It will fuck the mood up, Arya.”
I took the gift out. It was wrapped with an old newspaper.
“A fucking breast pump. Seriously? I am going to kill you, you ass-sniffer.”
It took me an hour to calm her down.
I typed my first story ‘Falling In Love With A Conductor’ and mailed the first chapter to one of the renowned publications to be published as confessions in their magazine. They first published it online to play safe and the response was uncalled for. The internet turned crazy about the story and they were demanding the next chapter. Everybody was talking about the story online. Celebrities tweeted and re-tweeted the link and soon Phony Confessor became a household name.
The next chapter brought me the fame I never even fathomed, I wasn’t exactly ready. Soon, everyone knew it was Agastya who was behind the name ‘Phony Confessor’. Someone inside the publication leaked the photo of the envelope the documents came in. My email address gave the world the access to my facebook id. I was flooded with fan mails.
“I am afraid, Arya.”
“I am not a good writer. I am just a storyteller.”
“You found a way to touch people heart.”
“Now, man up and reply to those mails.”
Amidst those mails was the email from the Editor in the magazine. I was being offered a job of a storyteller in the magazine. They had a separate column for me in the magazine where I would publish my stories. The money found us again.
“I love this name.” Arya consented.
“People will want her to become a doctor, or an engineer, or an MBA, but I will not let them shape my child. I want her to be curious when she grows up. Not doctor, not engineer, just curious. I will set her free. I will give her the opportunity to look for her own answers.”
“Agastya, you are being cheesy now.”
“Whatever. I won’t let the system decide my child’s future. I want her to find her own quest. Learning from somebody else’s error is a costly education. I want her to be wise and not educated. My child, she will kick everyone’s ass.”
“Shut the fuck up and turn the stoves off.”
“Okay. But be reminded, I will not let the world taint her.”
“Now go, stupid. Unless you want to eat burned Gravy, you can stay.”
“Off I go.”
I was given a separate cabin to work on my stories. I could come and go at any time but Arya thought that I should respect the office’s norms, so I used to go to office three or four days a week and worked full time.
I was at the office and it was six o’ clock in the evening which was way past my office time and I was adamant on leaving the office only after finishing the story I was working on when the call came.
“Are you Agastya Neupane?”
“I am calling from Nightangle Nursing Home. Are you Arya Shakya’s kin?”
“Yes.” I was excited.
“There has been an accident.”
“Please visit the hospital.”
The anxieties found me again. I turned numb as I received the news. It wasn’t supposed to be an accident. ‘Why didn’t she call me?’ I kept asking myself ridiculous questions. I ran all the horrible probabilities inside my head on my way to the hospital.
“We could only save the mother.” The doctor told.
“What are you saying?”
“We are sorry. We had to save one life.”
“Please. Shut up. Please.”
“I am sorry sir.”
“Can I see her?”
“You cannot. We will inform you when you can see her.”
“What happened to her in the first place?” I had so many questions inside my head.
“Your neighbor heard the scream and when he broke the door she was lying in the pool of blood.”
“It was a rare case of the hemorrhage of uterus. She might have slipped. She lost too much blood.”
I don’t remember anything after that. I remember the hazy bliss and a momentary blindness. I probably passed out.
I took her home. It had been fifteen days. She wouldn’t talk and I couldn’t say anything to her. She called me a writer and yet I could not put anything into words to break the silence. She looked weak and I could see how broken she was. It was her misery and I knew she needed time to heal. I never said a word.
A month passed, we would only speak routine things and filled the remaining void with phony smiles. I knew it was her misery and I told myself that I didn’t deserve to be sadder than her. ‘I should be strong,’ I kept on repeating myself. But then I wouldn’t feel strong. Her smile was my strength and it was lost. I would go to the kitchen which was far across the room she rested in. I would cover my mouth and cry. I didn’t know what to do. Arya was my courage. And I couldn’t see her that way. I lost my little Supriyana. But I didn’t deserve to be sadder than her, I should stay strong, I kept on telling myself that. I would cover my mouth fearing she would hear me crying. I wanted to be her strength. But somehow I found myself breaking apart.
I will never forget that day:
Arya caught fever and I was no way a good cook, so we mutually decided to order some food. It was late at night and nobody answered the call. We were doomed. She was sick and I couldn’t keep her hungry. So, I decided to raid the kitchen and put my best effort into it. I made rice pudding, I tried my best to.
“What is this?”
“You are sick. Rice pudding will be easy for you to swallow.”
We dined silently. She was still not comfortable talking. She was right in front of me and yet I missed her immensely. She was the one who would make disgusting faces when I ate and then I would sulk and threaten to leave the table and that was when she would apologize and go back to her crazy business again. I missed her.
All of a sudden, Arya began to chuckle. I raised my head in disbelief. She began to laugh hysterically pressing her belly.
“What happened?” I asked.
“How are you eating this? This tastes like shit.” She couldn’t control her laughter.
“Holy shit, I thought you lost it.”
“Shut up. Do me a favor.”
“Never cook again.” She was still laughing. I walked to the kitchen to do the dishes. She followed me.
“This is not the right place to cry. Our kitchen stinks like anus.”
“What do you mean?”
“I love you, Agastya.”
My hand was covered with foam. She slid her hand to catch hold of my slippery hand. I was shivering in disbelief.
“I love you. Now look at me you little boy.”
“I can’t.” I couldn’t stop the tears. If I had known that it would take her my cooking to start talking to me, I would have cooked every day. I couldn’t believe she was back. I was confused and I didn’t know what to do. I just broke into tears.
“I love you, Stupid. You are my strength. I know you cried. I was just angry at you that you were not sharing your sorrows with me. It was our sorrows.”
“I am sorry. But….” She covered my lips with her fingers and hushed me up before I could complete the sentence.
“I love you. Now bring those pouty lips of yours.”
“You are a pedophile.”
“You are stupid, Agastya. A stupid child.”
I was shivering with hunger but I didn’t feel like eating. I broke up with Arya on the phone and I was worried about her.
I am a simple man. All, I could see was the future I was going to ruin for Arya. She didn’t deserve what was coming.
“We are going to make another Supriyana or maybe Aarav. I want to make a herd of children with you. Will you be ready?”
“Shut the fuck up. You are late for work.”
“Let’s make our herd.”
“Okay, Four Children.”
“No. I can’t do that. Two.”
“Two point Five.”
“What is two point five?”
“Okay, neither yours, nor mine, let’s make it three?”
“Shut up. Now go. I want to sit down and finish editing my documentary today.”
“What the hell? Okay Three. Happy?”
“Go to hell, Agastya.”
“I am going to hell.”
My sperm lacked certain cells which would render me infertile. In another language, I will never be a father again. I didn’t know how to break that news to Arya.
I did not want to break her heart, again. That is why I broke up with her – it’s an irony; but a necessary one.
She didn’t deserve what was coming.
To be Continued…P.s. And Sudha Malakar Knows the ending.