Disclaimer: This post is a work of fiction and all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
“Congratulations”, I smiled. “A dentist in Baltimore?”
“Yeah”, she nodded, her eyes wandered all over looking outside the window, fearing someone she knew might spot us together.
She had called me few days ago to meet up, and here I was, sitting across the table sipping a soda in that same quiet restaurant in Kupondole we often met for last two years. This was our last meeting and we had just agreed were not going to see each other again.
She was getting married.
“You know the drill right? Even if we bump into each other, we’d pretend we have never met before” She said.
“Do you seriously believe he will never know it? I assume he has several friends who know you were going out with me” I responded.
“And why wouldn’t you tell me his name?” I added. “I just want to know who that poor guy is, does he even know what is he getting into? ” I reached out for her palm across the table and squeezed it hard. She pulled it away almost instantly.
“It doesn’t matter - none of your business, have you brought my pictures?” She asked – a little annoyed with my ill-timed humor.
I handed a large manila over to her looking straight into her eyes. She grabbed it, took a moment to count the photographs inside.
“Where is the one in the bathing suit?”
“I lost it” I lied.
“You men” She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
We didn’t speak anything for few seconds; she started fidgeting and looked outside the restaurant nervously.
“Relax, will you? No one is going to see us here, and even when someone does, you can always tell I was your friend in college”
“It’s not that, you boys don’t understand, you live in this free man’s world and seem completely oblivious about how parochial Nepalese society thinks about women”
“Seriously? You are telling that to me NOW? Whatever happened to that society when you were drunk out of your wits in club X zone last year, and how we spent a night in Nagarkot while your parents were travelling?”
“Shut up, just friggin’ shut up” She lifted a fork off the table and pointed towards me “Another word and I’ll kill you”
“Truth hurts eh!” I chuckled, “Your hypocrisy surprises me Sheetal, all these years you lived the life the way you wanted, drank gallons of liquor, stole your dad’s cigarettes, even smoked marijuana during a picnic in Kakani, and ranted about cultural emancipation of women. But now, since you are getting married, you just want to portray yourself as virgin f@#$ing Mary”
“Alright, big mistake” she snarled –folding the envelope and shoving into her bag “I shouldn’t have dated a loser like you”
“I thought you loved me” I squinted.
“In your dreams dimwit, I just pitied you”
Our relationship was all about wisecracks and sarcasms, we were friends before we became lovers and although we both cared deeply about each other, we could never get enough of calling each other names. Quite honestly, I doubted if our relationship lasted a week if we both were mushy lovers. I never bought her candies, and she never set a foot inside Archie’s to buy a Valentine’s Day card. However, there was something about her that was bothering me today, I never saw her so hostile. I understood she was trying to be indifferent towards me but I could not comprehend what the sudden animosity was all about.
“What’s bothering you” I asked.
“Nothing, nothing really. I just want to go home.”
“You’re kidding me, we are supposed to have dinner together, I mean how often are we going to see each other again?”
“Never….!” She looked into my eyes for the first time. “You don’t get it do you? I am getting married in few weeks, and this dinner doesn’t change anything if that is what you were hoping for.”
“I mean look at you.” She added, “You’re still a junior in engineering school, who still has ages left to prove himself. To top it off, you are insecure, envious, average looking, and the only reasons people know you is because of your brother.”
“Wow!” my eyes narrowed. “Is that what you had in mind about me all this time?”
She looked away, looking outside the window once again.
A long silence ensued.
Sheetal and I had been completely honest about how we felt about each other. I’d tell her that her breasts resembled mosquito bites, and she’d tell me I had toes like an alien’s. She listened to Celine Dion; I hated Celion Dion. She thought my dad looked as evil as Prem Chopra, and I’d pick her often for taking a picture with Rajesh Hamal. We literally hated everything about each other yet somehow managed to survive two good years. I have to admit, despite all these behavioral misalignments, I liked her very much. But now, on the final day of our relationship, the last thing I wanted her to do was belittle me like I was a piece of trash. I quickly did the math, over last two years; I had spent almost ten thousand rupees worth of gasoline, only on her, let alone other expenses.
I had just started hating her. I suddenly wanted every penny back. Few hours ago, I had left home sad, very sad, that I would never see Sheetal again, but now I just couldn’t wait to get her out of my sight.
“Alright, let’s go” I grabbed my helmet and headed towards the door.
“Sir order??” A young server leaped towards me, with a small piece of paper and a ball-pen.
I stared at him for a moment. He swallowed hard.
“Here, “ I handed him over a twenty rupee bill, I momentarily forgot I had bought a bottle of Pepsi, “keep the change”.
I closed the door behind me, leaned against the restaurant’s glass window and lit a cigarette, my fingers were shaking for no apparent reason. The thought of her being still being within a close proximity disgusted me.
“F@#*ing slut”. I mumbled. I couldn’t wait to get home and burn that picture of her in a bikini to ashes.
She came out of the restaurant a moment later, clutching her handbag. The yellow Manila was not visible anymore. She must have thrown that envelope away and neatly tucked in the photographs.
I saw her reaching out for a taxi and speaking to a driver. I saw him shaking his head.
She stood there, looking for another cab and was visibly worried when she couldn’t find any.
“Alright, whatever” I muttered in annoyance and walked towards her.
“I am going to drop you off” I said apathetically “and don’t say a word or else I’ll kill you”
She silently sat in the rear seat as I kicked my motorcycle to start. I then accelerated instantly; cutting a suv which almost rear ended me. It honked several times. I smiled; I remembered how she feared me riding recklessly. Next half hour was more than enough to avenge every bit of slander she had bestowed on me.
She didn’t say a word, I looked into the mirror, she had closed her eyes.
“Could you ride towards Indian embassy? I don’t want to be dropped off in Lazimpat.” She finally spoke to me, her first few words in last half hour.
“Stop, stop right by the gate, in the alley” she pointed towards the alley between the then British and Indian Embassy”.
“What?” I looked at her in the mirror, “You want me to drop you ‘here’ “?
Ever since I was a child, I had heard stories about that dark alley between British and Indian Embassy. Densely covered by long bamboo trees which grew right inside the walls of the Indian embassy and extended all the way to the other end of the road, it looked ominous even in the broad day light. To make matters worse, there was a British cemetery few hundred yards off that alley and there were stories that the evil spirits that came out of the graveyard scared every pedestrian that walked that street in the evening. It was already 7:00pm and the alley was pitch-dark.
“Seriously Sheetal, you want me to drop you here?” I asked again.
She didn’t say anything for few seconds. And suddenly, I felt her arms around my chest. She embraced me from behind and leaned her head on my back. I froze, the feel of her breasts against my back reminded me of the old times when she used to hug me as I sped my motorbike. She was crying.
“What’s wrong Sheetal?” My voice mellowed for the first time after that argument.
“Nothing…” She got off the motorbike.
“It just that….” She said sniffling. “…..I love you very much, and didn’t want it to end like this, but it had to. I tried every possible thing to make you hate me as we were breaking up, that would have made things easier, but I failed, I failed miserably. The last thing I wanted to tell you was how much I’ve loved you, but now, look at me, I made a mess out of myself.”
My jaw dropped as I blinked twice in disbelief. I clearly didn’t see it coming.
“My only request is….” She wiped her tears. “Don’t smoke too much; I know how vulnerable you are during such situations, this will soon end, and you’d be fine within a week.” She kissed me gently.
“I want to see you in America soon”