After half a night of carousing at a local hotspot, Arian and Regina had left relatively early for their rooms. Right off the freeway, their hotel was situated on the northern fringe of town. It was budget chain hotel and the supposedly amazing deal they’d bagged online was proven bogus by a faint musty smell immediately greeting them on stepping into their rooms.
The ruckus surrounding them told them that some sort of maintenance work was underway in the wing their rooms were. The rest of the gang, including Regina, had just shrugged their shoulders but Arian went down to the front desk to argue. Nothing came out of it for the first five minutes as they were booked out for the day and the front desk person seemed to hate his job. When Arian showed no sign of backing down however, he looked at him wearily and called the manager. They finally agreed on partially reimbursing him. Which although nice, didn’t really help; what he’d hoped for was for his room to be changed. His friends refused to move to another hotel and he made his mind to drive back to campus in the night itself. And this decision was further reinforced by his subsequent fight with Regina, which was followed by a sixth break-up in two year relationship.This time, he’d told himself grimly rubbing soap across his body under a shower head that shrieked like banshee, there will be no going back. No fucking makeups anymore.
Considering he was one of the two chosen to drive that night, he’d drunk with restraint, grimaced at the tasteless music they played and allowed himself to be amused by Dan and Pablo’s rather pathetic attempts to hook up with girls they’d only just met.
He tried to keep his eyes and attention away from her while Regina did the opposite. Turning on charms like a slot machine hitting jack pot, and behaving as though the angry words exchanged earlier hadn’t happened, that they were a figment of his imagination.
Her reluctance to take their relationship~ any relationship~seriously, her philosophy of living without bounds and shackles, day to day, moment to moment, was slowly tearing him apart, taking himself away from him. She’d described herself as an eternal traveler when they first met. Her spirit had intrigued him. Her mystery had inspired him to weave wisps of words, soul and music together. It filled his heart and palms with emptiness now.
She was of the wind and it’s floating leaves while his soul longed to be anchored. While she’d tried to lend him her wings, he’d tried to hold her back, trying to protect what he long recognized as a bruised unraveling spirit.
And now…he was just trying, with a touch of desperation, to protect his heart from tangling more than it already was with hers.
She leaned close, pressing breaths, apologies and declarations of love against his ear and neck; and he found himself weakening, making convenient deals with himself again.
One last time. One last night.
He lay with with his body spent, his heart desolate and his mind more alert than it had been the whole day. What’s with predawn stillness and it’s ability to intimately acquaint one with one’s choices? What’s with him and his propensity to fall into post sex existential crises?
The sex had been mind blowing as always; it had an unknown thread crackling through it like live wire. Even as their bodies met and separated with a rhythm at once languid and frenzied, an air of desperate demand shifted and bent around them. Both tried to make the other surrender; both spirits tried to possess that which the other lacked or was unwilling to give.
She had turned her back to him after it ended; his constricting heart hinted at the possibility that his heart might already be more enmeshed than he was willing to admit. He’d tried to draw her close but she nudged him away.
Her voice was gruff as she said what she had many times before, “You know I don’t do cuddles, Arian”.
As her words hit him again, he waved the sheet covering his naked body away and rose to his feet. He looked at her back as he put his clothes on; his gray eyes flickering with thought. He felt sorry for her but his own turmoil made him feel ill equipped to help her at the moment; the stone lodged in his chest dictated he leave the room while he was still sane. And he did after the briefest of good nights and an even briefer eye contact. They needed to talk, he knew, but it needed to wait.
Funny how similar fucked up childhoods can carve people differently, he mused, his car slicing through pre dawn air on an almost empty freeway, bleeding them into the adults they become or never do. Just as the horizon cleft into streaks of light, he forced himself to stop thinking. Running his fingers through his untidy hair, he exited for coffee, turning the music on full blast. No doubt life is often a snarling bitch but nothing like coffee and music to tame her a little.
Well, I came ashore in the dead of the night
Lot of things can get in the way when you’re tryin’ to do what’s right
You don’t understand it, my feelings for you
You’d be honest with me if only you knew
I’m not sorry for nothin’ I’ve done
I’m glad I fought, I only wish we’d won.***
It was Saturday afternoon and Anita sat at her desk, studying and intermittently chatting with Aarti, a habit detrimental to optimal productivity, she knew, but near impossible to break at times. And after lunch, when Aarti signed off to go out with her family, his reply came. It surprised her because she had been sure she’d offended him. Sharing space high up in the sky and a single conversation did not make them close buddies…like she somehow felt in her heart for no conceivable reason. Silly. Weird. Her comment had been unwarranted, she’d decided right after sending that text off and she couldn’t even delete it like he had…but oh well…whatever.
His reply was refreshing and amusing; it intrigued her, reinforcing the image she had of him in her mind.
“Possible. But hey, I can only be held responsible for my conscious thoughts and actions. Not for socially conditioned/ internalized shit that might or might not be present in my subconscious. In my defense, I’ve never met a girl, of any color, who reminded me of Jasmine before and believe me, I’ve lived through healthy diversity all my life. Can’t you just take a compliment, dammit?
“I was just pulling your leg. Thank you. What are you studying?, she changed the subject and turned the table lamp on. It was four and already getting dark outside.
“I’ll be majoring in English soon, hopefully next year. How about you? “.
“I JUST decided on majoring in English as well”.
“Aha…Just like Sally Ride?
Anita took a sip of tepid coffee and smiled at the screen, “You still remember our conversation?
“Of course. It wasn’t that long ago“.
“It seems a lifetime ago to me“, she typed, her eyes dulling with shards of dreams, a pain that hit her out of nowhere and at a time when she’d least expected it. She bit her lip after she’d sent it, instantly regretting her inexplicable impulse.
Her long slender hands hovered over the keyboard as she paused, thinking of words to add to her previous sentence to rob it of some of it’s weight.
“Growing up is painful but necessary, J“, his response came after a short while; her fingers relaxed to descend like butterflies on the cold keys.
“Thanks“, they typed, without specifying what she was thanking him for. She knew he would understand and he did.
“For letting you bawl uninterrupted 40, 000 feet above ground? You’re welcome. How many people actually get a chance to do that? Didn’t want to play spoil sport”.
“Thank you for letting me join The Mile High club“, Anita typed with a smile, blissfully unaware of her faux pas, having always thought of The Mile High Club as a generic rather than specific term.
There was bit of a pause after this earnest gratitude was conveyed.
“Ummm. Okay. If you say so”.
His response did strike her as odd and she frowned to figure why, unaware of the mirth wracking her friend’s body at the moment.
“And now I’d better go and study my ass off”, he typed, wiping a tear at the corner of his eye, a slow grin deepening the cleft in his chin, “Talk to you later, J“.
J? J for Jasmine?, Anita thought amusedly as she sighed off too, pulling her mind back to the paper she’d been working on since morning.
Arnav walked out of the meeting with relief, shrugging his blazer off and holding it across an arm as he walked down a carpeted corridor toward the parking garage. A monthly meeting every hospital holds to evaluate the gap between what is and what could be, and to systematically encourage the team to use their voice to expand ideas and drive growth, their meeting had just stopped short of denigrating into a clash of egos- a tussle among various specialties. It was a brand new facility and it’s growing pains tangible to every one involved.
It was twenty minutes after five on a Friday and the only day in the week when he got done with work before Khushi. It was also the day when they dressed and ate out, a routine started by Khushi among scores of others. She even made lists or set cell phone alerts for every task or chore there was, big or small. He hadn’t realized before marriage just how much of a stickler for routine and organization Khushi was. And truth be told, although he loved his little bundle of energy to death, this quality of hers did make him feel frazzled at times.
Once in the car, Arnav texted her before pressing the ignition button.
“Where do you want to go tonight? Let me know so I can reserve a table”.
“I’m too exhausted to go anywhere today! It has been a crazy day and all I want to do is to put my feet up and relax. I’ll pick up something for dinner on the way home”.
Since he was about to leave, Arnav offered to do that in her place, smiling wryly as she protested genuinely for a second or two before adding a lengthy grocery list, a trip to their neighborhood Desi store and a trip to Dry Cleaners to his impromptu list of chores.
“And don’t forget to put milk in the fridge”
There is nothing like entering your home at the end of of long day and be welcomed by the combined scents of a home cooked or even home warmed meal, love and tranquility. It’s unmatchable. It’s food for the soul. Taken for granted most of the times, it’s value is perhaps best appreciated by those who’ve grown up without it, those who’re deprived of it or those who pause in the madness of life to be consciously grateful of it.
Khushi’s walked in and sighed, every muscle in her body relaxing as she dropping her handbag, sunglasses and keys on the foyer table and allowed her smile to follow the heavenly trail of scents. It led to their beautiful balcony with it’s white wicker outdoor set, lush potted plants, wind chimes, and a panoramic view of palm trees and inter coastal waterway fringed by the urban skyline.
Her besotted gaze was, however, only fixed on the sexy adorable picture her sweetheart presented, standing solemnly before their brand new grill, one hand in cargo shorts’ pocket and the other welding long handled tongs.
Arnav looked up from the smoking grill as she stepped into the balcony. His lips curved into a smile as she walked right into his one armed embrace, their lips touching briefly but tenderly.
“Let’s eat before you do anything else”, he said with a chuckle as her stomach rumbled loudly and elegantly. They were beyond being embarrassed by the various manifestations of the human physiology, as Khushi had put it rather delicately once, classifying it as yet another milestone in married life and another stroke on the changing face of married romance!
“Let me shower and change clothes first”.
“Please no”, Arnav groaned, carefully flipping Atlantic Salmon steaks that were brought pre-marinated from a local food market along with an assortment of mostly healthy side dishes, “I’m starving. Let’s eat first”.
That her husband had extremely low tolerance to hunger was another fact she’d learnt of him; much to her amusement he was practically a big baby when hungry.
Later in the night after dinner and cleanup and after she’d showered and changed into a sleep T-shirt and pajamas, they snuggled together on their bedroom couch, her tired eyes struggling to remain open for a TV show they both liked.
Even as her head grew heavier on his shoulder and her eyes began to flutter shut, their show ended; Arnav yawned and flipped the remote to a local news channel.
Perhaps it was a snippet of the unfortunate news that pierced her sleepy mind or perhaps she just sensed a change in Arnav. She raised her head slowly to focus on the screen. The newscaster was speaking about a preschooler drowning in a swimming pool in a town near them; without a word, Arnav turned the TV off.
As he rose and walked to the bathroom, Khushi felt a hollow sensation in the pit of her stomach, a heaviness in her heart. There are demons that recede into the shadows sometimes but are never completely gone.There are wounds that stop bleeding for a while but are never completely better.
Arnav emerged from the bathroom after a while, smiling at her as lay under the covers, making a remark about the show they’d just watched that she didn’t quite register.
He slipped in beside her and she slid close as always, resting her head on the curve of his shoulder, their bodies deriving strength from each other while their lips rested in silence and hope. It will get better in the morning, their hearts chanted, it always did.
This is where I end today with the hope that you liked it. Will look forward to your reviews and feedback as always 🙂