That coquettish, girlish, mischievous smile you gave me just before you left the store, was the highlight of that Sunday. I couldn’t stop thinking about it whenever my other worries were not around. I say this because I had a lot going on in my head that day. There was the chance meeting with you. Then there was the probability of meeting you again in the future. There was the heartache from my breakup, and the heartache that Suhana’s incessant calls and messages brought on. The day would have been an epic, colossal, pain in the *bleep* had it not been for your evanescent smile.
Your gamine face, doe-eyes, cherry lips were all I could see when I wasn’t staring at the screen of my phone reading the millionth message that Suhana had sent –
“Please let’s talk!”
There wasn’t anything left to talk. It was over. It got over a long time ago. We were just dragging our heels over it.
“Papa is sorry for what he said. Please, let’s talk….”
Yeah, right! I could bet my life he wasn’t. He never liked me. He would always, always compare me to Khannaji’s boy who was a stock broker, played polo and was an ace at cricket. Her Father must have made a beeline for the Khanna’s the day I walked out on our relationship.
Then came another –
“I love you too much. You have to give me a chance.”
I still loved her…if it hadn’t been for her parents, maybe we would have been married by then, but it was never going to work out ‘with them’ in our lives. And she was the only child. I couldn’t have wrenched an only child away from her family. I was estranged with my own family for reasons best left unsaid. I knew what living without family is…was.
You’re almost an orphan. Rootless! You are that hound with no home who looks at face to face of strangers, no, not for meals, but for companionship, kindness. A semblance of normalcy.
And her parents were never going to like me. So, we never could have happened.
Another beep –
“How can you do this? We’ve been together for so long!”
Yeah, only because you insisted we keep up pretenses, Suhana.
Another beep –
“Dammit! Answer me! Why won’t you reply or take my calls?”
I didn’t want to because I could never stand her tears. That was my one weakness with her. I had to stay put for our sakes.
“If you don’t, I’ll report you to the police…”
Really, Suhana? And for what? For taking your Father’s shit all this while?
That was below the belt, sooooo like her Father. But I knew she didn’t have her wits about her, which was proven by her next message –
“I’m sorry for that. I don’t know why I sent that. Please, talk to me! Please… I still love you…”
I could feel my resolve wavering with each incoming message. I had to switch off my phone then for I knew I would end up calling her and patching up again, and watch history repeat itself. I would have never been able to forgive myself for letting her father belittle me again; I would have never forgiven her for being the cause of my misery. I never wanted pain for Suhana. So, I let her go…
The following week was sheer torture for me. One, because I had to keep my phone switched off for fear of Suhana calling or texting me again. I was using another number which a lot of people did not know. My colleagues had already informed me that Suhana had come to the Salon looking for me twice, and it was sheer coincidence that I happened to be engaged on shoots those two times.
Two, and more importantly, because you were still a no-show. What was that smile about? Why weren’t you here already? I was staking out that superstore and doing overtime at the Salon in hopes of bumping into you again, but it had almost been one week since that smile, and you were still a no-show.
Saturday night, I was still at the Salon at 8, waiting for an old client, a semi-famous actor, who had already called twice to reschedule and still couldn’t make it. What’s with people and fame? It’s like the moment their names get printed on tabloids and blared over radio stations and TV shows, their watches break! They never keep time, except a few. I was going to give him 10 more minutes after which I would just call it a day…night…whatever. I was antsy because I was dead tired. Saturday’s were shit busy and I felt like my feet were going to fall off if I didn’t lie down.
I had already started going through the motions of locking up. Checked that the doors and windows were locked, the cash counter too, the products and cosmetics stowed away properly, appliances all switched off, signboard power switched off. The 10 minutes were over and he still hadn’t come. I decided to just pull the shutter down and lock-up for the day. I retrieved my helmet, jacket and gloves from the small foyer of the salon and stepped out of the shop to lock up which took me about 5 minutes.
Our Salon was in an upmarket commercial building with a separate parking for employees and owners at the back. That’s where I was headed to, to my parked motorbike, when my phone beeped and I cussed out loud when I saw that client’s name. I dithered for a few seconds but then took the call. He was a client after all.
“Hi, Ashish… No, I’m sorry we’re closed for the day now….” Fame makes you take others for granted, I had noticed. “I’m sorry Ashish but I can’t reopen just for you… No, I just can’t do that, we’re not allowed to….”
I had reached my bike. Cradling my phone between my ear and my shoulder, I stuck the key in the ignition, zipped up my jacket and was putting the gloves on when I noticed something stuck inside one of the fingers. Had the lining in the gloves come off? I fished inside the glove while Ashish was still blabbering in my ear, “Look Ashish, I waited for more than an hour for you, even after you rescheduled a second time. I’m sorry but you need to keep time too…. Well, go ahead and talk to the manager, I’m sure he’s gonna say the same thing…. Yeah, okay!” And I hung up. That two-bit, brainless wannabe! I was dead sure he was going to call the manager and the manager would give me an earful about how to be civil with clients. Well, I wasn’t gonna wait around for his call. I had a life too.
I was still rummaging to retrieve whatever was stuck inside the glove’s finger. Out came a thick piece of paper, meticulously folded down to the seventh fold. I knew that paper couldn’t be folded more than seven times, theoretically, because of fold distortion (whatever that meant) and that one would have to use a lot of strength to fold it beyond 6 times. The amount of strength it must have taken to fold that much…but why?! And, how the heck did that get in here?!
I unfolded it, and unfolded it. The folding and pressure applied to it had already made cracks all over the paper. But when I finally got it unfolded, it had a message scrawled on it in blue paint:
Meet me at the Sunka Lake Hill at 7 tomorrow morning.
I’ll be waiting for you.
But I’ll wait only till 7.15…
Somehow, I knew it was you!
To be continued…
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.
Picture Credits: http://www.pixabay.com