Sunday was gloomy. For the first time she wished Hairy Chest would do something because it was awfully quiet. But he wasn’t back. The lock on his door told her so.
Monday was equally gloomy, and wet. It rained relentlessly, as if the weather gods had left the tap running. The unusual downpour had flooded the streets near her office so that people had to wade through shin deep waters to get to anywhere. But inside the office, the day flew by. She threw herself into her paperwork which she had neglected over the last week because she didn’t want to dwell on what was to happen in the evening – the ‘date’ with Kirat. She had no desire to recount and relive the episode of her father’s death, and everything surrounding it. But Kirat was doggedly pursuing her about it. He had texted on Sunday evening –
Hey! Kirat here. I’ll see you in Barista near Regal. Have something of your father’s.
It was short, formal-ish, and no matter which way you looked at it, there was nothing to read between the lines. At 6.45 she logged out and headed straight to the elevator, without touching-up. She didn’t care what she looked like. This wasn’t about her.
C.P. was only a stone’s throw away from where she worked but the deluge and the rain made it impossible to move an inch without getting wet, inspite of her raincoat. She decided she could do nothing but walk. She waded through the water, not caring that her trousers and her pumps were getting soaked or that her polka-dotted umbrella and raincoat were entirely inept at saving her from the rain-pellets above. By the time she reached Barista she was almost soaked through below her knees.
It was 7.15 and Kirat was already seated, drumming his fingers on a table by the time she reached. She waved. He waved. Then they shook hands, she noted. Yes, this wasn’t a date. Stop reading too much into it, she scolded herself. Was she hoping that the Adonis sitting across her would sweep her off her feet? She reminded herself who he was.
“You’re soaking wet! You wanna skip dinner and just go home?” He looked appropriately concerned.
“In this weather and at this hour, it’ll take me two hours to reach…” she shrugged off her raincoat.
“You’re right but I hope you don’t catch a cold on my account.”
“Don’t worry. Its just my trousers. They’ll dry up in no time.”
He shrugged. “And…where do you want to go for dinner?”
“Here is just fine. The weather’s really bad for us to be wandering about looking for a place to dine at. Let’s just stay put.”
“Sure? They have only sandwiches and baked stuff here.”
“Yeah, yeah. Absolutely!” she flashed him an officious smile.
They each ordered a cup of coffee and some sandwiches. Then they fell into awkward territory. He tried to talk about her day. She tried to talk about his day at the gallery. He told her how Bashir was unavailable and how Nina Aunty gave him a hard time about giving him her number. She laughed and told him that Nina Aunty was very protective about her. Then their coffees arrived and there was nothing left to talk about.
Then he dived into his satchel and took out a parcel. He unwrapped the brown envelope and revealed a few sketches which she immediately recognised as her father’s work.
“These have been an inspiration to me. I’d taken them only to study but never got around to returning them to him.”
She looked at them summarily. She knew them all. One sketch caught her eye. One with her 10 year old face on it. The sketch was smiling. She was not. Then she couldn’t look anymore and she looked away. He sensed it immediately and started shoving them back into the brown envelope.
“…Then, when I learnt about his death, I tried to locate your family. But no one would tell me anything; I never understood why. I had thought I would hand them over to Bashir this time since he was best friends with your Dad, but then…I met you…” Their eyes met.
Thanks, she mouthed. He gave her a ghost of a smile.
She launched into the inevitable. “You want to know how he died, right?”
He was taken aback by her brusqueness. “I know he committed suicide. I just never understood why a prolific and brilliant artist like him suddenly dipped into anonymity and then took his own life. Things were going well for him…”
“He cheated on my Mom. She has Bipolar Disorder. And after that her depression worsened. She was institutionalized. Still is. He blamed himself for it…”
“So…you’re all alone?” he looked concerned.
Neither spoke for a long time.
Then he whispered “I’m an ass. Obviously this is painful for you and had it not been for my curiosity, you wouldn’t have had to live through this again…It’s just… I never understood why a man who talked me out of suicide would commit it himself.”
She blinked hard. “Why?”
“Depression. Disenchantment. Pressure to perform. I stopped believing in myself… or in anybody else.”
“But you’re brilliant. I saw your work and how people received it…” she blurted out.
“Yeah, but there was a time when my fingers shook at the thought of holding a paintbrush. He pulled me out of it. That’s why I couldn’t wrap my head around the news of his suicide.”
“I’m sorry” they said at the same time. Then smiled. Finally the ice had broken. Conversation flowed and the minutes ticked away. They talked well into the night.
At 3 in the morning she crawled into bed recalling the conversation they had had. She had insisted on taking a cab home. She didn’t want him to see her sad-ass apartment building. He was sooooo gallant and gentlemanly, she recalled. He politely listened to her prattle about her work. He didn’t let her pay her share. He said it was on him. He arranged for a cab for her. And almost as soon as she had reached he had called to check if she was safe. She thought about the Raymond advertisements. He would make a perrrrrrfect Raymond Man – The Complete Man, as their ads proclaimed. But he’s an artist, Trish. She sighed and turned to her side to doze off.
She didn’t hear Hairy Chest turning the key in his lock and muttering “Panda Eyes still hasn’t paid up!”
She was running late the next morning. Naturally. But she had no court matters. If I skip a head-bath I could make it to office just in time, she calculated, and she did exactly that. She stuffed an omelette into her mouth and was half way through her door when she noticed the door ajar on the neighbour’s side. Curiosity killed the cat. She peeped inside only to find him sprawled on his bed sans a shred of clothing on, sleeping on his tummy. Thank god for that barely-there-blanket, or she would have thrown up the omelette at his door. Hairy Chest wasn’t just hairy on the chest, but everywhere. Yuck!
She noticed clothing all over the floor. Dirty dishes too. And what was that gawdawful smell? Rotting food, maybe… She ran away.
In the afternoon her landlord called her and demanded that she pay back Hairy Chest for the door…and to tame herself. Tame myself? She was livid. The pot was calling the kettle black! She tried telling the landlord why she had acted that way but he wouldn’t listen. Apparently, he and Hairy Chest were chaddhi-buddies (bosom pals). Go figure! No wonder he’s an ass too.
When she made it home, he wasn’t around. So she begrudgingly slipped an envelope of money under his door with a note in it –
She went about her business and at 10, promptly went to sleep. Sometime around midnight, Hairy Chest came home and cussed out loud. But she was peacefully asleep and unaware of it.
But next morning while going to the office, she noticed another sticky note on her door –
While she seethed inwardly, she knew the exact come back too –
She headed to work, picturing herself giving Hairy Chest a full body wax. Ohhhhhh, the sadistic pleasure of it!
To be continued…
©Pradita Kapahi, 2016
Picture Sources: http://www.printablee.com & http://pixabay.com