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Stories to Stir your Soul...


Coffee-Shop Thing (Part II) - rhea daniel





* * *

PART II

Pity all newlyweds. She cooks something nice for him, and he brings her flowers, and they kiss and think: How easy marriage is. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


“Hey!”

Sid felt something bump into his chair and swung around. His expression changed from annoyance to gratification in seconds when he saw that it was a breathless Tina.

“Sorry, just tripped on the stairs on the way here,” said Tina, dimple sharpening visibly. Sid continued to stare at her with the same foolish grin before Lily jabbed him in the ribs.

“Oh, yeah anytime, sorry,” he said.

“Yeah, sorry his chair was in the way,” Lily said with a raised eyebrow.

“So I got her this, see?” Tina held up a gift-wrapped box.

“Nice,” nodded Lily.

“So what’s in it?” asked Sid.

“Oh,” Tina’s laugh tinkled down Sid’s spine, “It’s perfume.”

“Lovely.”

“Ok I have to go. See you Monday.”

She twiddled her fingers and exited with a smile. Sid watched her leave and was thoroughly
pleased to receive a parting glance as she turned the corner.

“That smile,” he said with a sigh.

“-Is especially meant for idiots like you.”

Sid turned and looked at her with irritation.

“You know, I wish you’d stop going on about that.”

Lily kept her eyes on the newspaper, “She’s got you eating out of the palm of her hand.”

“Better than that scowl you got 90 % of the time.”

“It’s a frown, and it comes when I’m concentrating. There’s a difference.”

“Why don’t you try smiling once in a while?

“You’re telling me it’s the smile that does it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh please! Why can’t you just be honest? I know where you’re looking most of the time, and
you think she doesn’t know?”

“You want me to be honest about where I’m looking? Ok.” He stared levelly at her chest to make his point.

“Not like that, you pig!” Lily moved back in disgust, “Just…stop going on about the smile and the eyes and hair and everything.”

“What, you think the guy you’re going to marry is such a saint?”

“Well…well he doesn’t squeeze a gelatin hand-rest out of frustration like you do all day!”

Sid looked affronted.
“What, the one next to my mouse-pad? Just like you to make that connection. Spying on me in the office!”

“Anybody would make that connection,” Lily said pointedly.

Sid thought about this for a while.
“Does everybody think I’m frustrated?”

“Well, you keep grabbing and squeezing it. What do you expect people to think?”

“It’s a stress reliever?” he offered.

Lily smiled in spite of herself.
“It’s a hand rest,” she said gently, patting his knee.

* * *

They made their way out of the coffee shop and walked down the pavement of the busiest road in the city. The rest of the people chose to walk on the other side of the road, which was lined with shops. Sid and Lily walked comfortably on the empty side. The breeze whipped up Lily’s hair in all directions. Sid stole glances at her every once in a while.

“So,” he ventured, “Getting married and everything.”

“Yeah.”

“Nervous?”

“No,” Lily shook her head.

“Not even a little?”

“No, should I be?”

“Well, people get cold feet and all.”

“I’m not,” said Lily confidently.

“What about your job and everything?”

“What about it?”

“Well, what if he gets a transfer?”

“Well…” Lily hunched her shoulders and cocked her head to one side, “Yeah… I guess he’ll stay there I’ll stay here.”

“That rarely works,” Sid shook his head.

“People do it all the time.”

“Well what if you get pregnant?”

“Why would I get pregnant?”

“Women get pregnant all the time,” said Sid knowledgeably, “I mean…you’re into your job,
you’re happy, you’re married and then bang! -You’re pregnant! - And then you want to get rid of it and then you get weepy and sentimental and decide to keep it and then the next thing you know…you’re leaving your job to stay with the kid and then you’re trapped!”

Lily stopped to face him.
“Stop acting like you know everything, ok?”

“I wouldn’t say anything unless I was your friend and I was…concerned and stuff,” he shrugged, looking mildly hurt.

Lily rolled her eyes and continued walking.

“Look, Lil,” he ran after her. “Stop, hey wait a sec. You mean you haven’t thought about all this stuff?”

“Well yes, but I’m trying to look at things positively and you make it sound so horrible!”

“But Lil! You just keep going on about female emancipation and all,” Sid waved his hands in circles.

“So?” Lily stopped to look at him, her cheeks flushed with anger.

“So you’re doing the same thing your mum and all the women before her did.”

Lily shook her head and looked at him quizzically, “And what’s that? Save me, I’m in the dark here.”

“You’re marrying for the same reasons they did...family, security…you know,”

“I’m secure. I have a job.”

“Lily, you don’t make much, ok? And you still live with your parents.”
Lily didn’t answer.

“You know I know a little bit about your guy and he’s nice, really. He’s so straight he even irons his boxers before going to bed.” He saw the corner of her mouth quiver with a smile when she heard this.

“Come on,” said Sid, “I know you. You’re too… practical. You’re going to marry for the same reason all women marry, financial and emotional security. What is so emancipating about that?”

Lily was short of words for once because Sid had struck an inarguable chord, The Truth. It leaked into her every pore and made her tremble with fear.

“Oh, God,” she put her face in her hands.

Sid put what he thought was a comforting arm around her shoulders.

“Well look at it this way,” he said cheerfully giving her arm a squeeze, “If things don’t work out between the two of you, you can always get a divorce!”


* * *


“Do you love me?”

Adi’s face twisted as he considered the question. Why did women ask it so frequently?

“To feel assured that they were needed,” his dad had told him. He thought about it often, they didn’t just want his time, his money and to be reassured that they were beautiful despite the wrinkles and the stretch marks. If they had enough of one, they’d be asking for more of the other. Where did it end? There was only so much of him to go around.

“Yes,” he said, as convincingly as he could, “I do,” and immediately felt embarrassed after he had uttered the same. Should he look into her eyes when he said it? Was she convinced? This is humiliating! Couldn’t they do without it?

Actually, he was no good at this. After having tried catching glimpses of her while hiding behind walls and making excuses to visit the HR department for a whole year, her best friend Jasmine took pity on him and introduced them. It was his inability to articulate his thoughts and bumble with his feelings that had attracted Lily to him in the first place. In fact, by his fourth bungle he had bumbled his way into her heart.

Or so he thought.

“But, you know, it might not last,” she said rather sadly.

“Why do you say that?”

“What if we fight, and we can’t reconcile.”

“We won’t fight then.”

“Adi, just because you can’t articulate your feelings doesn’t mean we won’t fight.”

“I’m improving.”

“That’s not the point.”

“That is the point, all marriages are difficult. Not one is perfect.”

“Yes, difficult. That’s why I don’t want to do this.”

“What? Why?!”

“I can’t handle the idea of leaving my job, getting pregnant, moving…and all this for one person.
I’m comfortable where I am right now. And I don’t want to change. Besides, I really think if I do this I’d be doing it for the wrong reasons. ”

“But--but…” he said stupidly.

* * *


The cordless next to bartender’s hand rang.

“Yes? Yes, yes he’s here. Yes, the boy with…er, yes. He is rather tipsy actually.”

Adi stared into the killer stuff that looked like water. Potato essence. Toxic.

It was that no-good scumbag Sids’ fault. He knew it the moment those words began to come out of her mouth. Adi, I’m comfortable here right now. Adi, I can’t do this. Adi, I’m independent right now and I don’t want to ruin that by getting myself hooked to a geek with a speech impediment.

Traitor! Rat!

“Shcum,” he said aloud, and gulped. Erk. Strong.

“Another round, sir?”

The bartender looked at the boy who had become a man. He came in here often with his
buddies but never went beyond apple juice. He wasn’t even ashamed of his apple juice.

But things had changed. He had taken his first sip rather tentatively, now he was gulping it with absolutely no awareness of the migraine to come. He was getting dangerously droopy eyed.

It had to be a girl.

“Bring it on,” Adi waved one drunken hand. This stuff was actually making him feel better.

'Whoosh. I’m going to fly like an eagle. I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to fly into space alone and leave the human race behind to destroy itself. And I’ll take my Star Wars DVDs along and watch them over and over. And my LOTR, and my Batman comics, and I’ll read them until I shrivel up and die in a lost corner of the universe. But I’ll be happy, with no Sids and no…no Lilies…'

A sob escaped his lips.

“Oi, Adi! Man, I thought I’d find you here.”

Adi swung around unsteadily from the barstool at the sound of the hated voice.

“You!”

“Yeah man, been looking all over…” Sid stopped. An unsteady Adi made his way from the bar
with a dangerous look in his eye.

“You t’ink yrrr sho cool…with yrrr..ssh--shynishishm ‘n vryth’ng?”

Adi lunged and swung, and missed Sid’s chin by about ten inches. The momentum twisted him around and he fell backwards, hitting his head on the floor.

“Arrrgh,” he groaned, momentarily, and then passed out.


* * *


He opened his eyes to a haze of blues and grays. It was cold. The couch he lay on was gray; the people were blue. Plutonians. His spaceship had landed on Pluto. No, the people were gray but the couch was blue…and now they were merging and becoming a grey, blue, purple...yellow…

“Quick, show him your face! Or he’ll take another swing at me.”

A strange female voice said, “Oh, shutup. What did you say to him anyway?”

“I didn’t say anything! She’s the one who broke the engagement!”

“He tried to punch you because he blames you for talking Lily into changing her mind.”

“See? I knew I’d come to the right place. The female haven for bitchin’ parties. Just sit back and blame the man.”

“Shtp grlng.”

“Shh. He said something.”

“He said, ‘stop yelling’.”

“How do you know?”

“He’s hung over.”

“Whrami?”

“You’re in a LOUNGE. A LOUNGE,” enunciated Sid.

Adi reached back and felt a lump at the back of his head.

The woman made a noise in irritation.

“Sid, you’ve made a mess. Now you have to set it right.”

That had to be Jasmine, Lily’s best friend. Which means Lily knew about his condition. Oh God. He tried getting up. Something pierced his brain.

“Lie down,” Jasmine’s voice echoed in his brain authoritatively.

“So now what. Shall I call Lily?” asked Sid.

“I already did.”

“What?!”

“Deal with it. I’m leaving.”

“No, don’t leave! He’ll try to hit me again.”

“Good, you deserve it! Every time you see something good in this world you destroy it!”

“Hey, that’s harsh!” Sid sounded hurt.

“What’s going on?”

Lily! Don’t see me like this, Adi thought desperately. He tried getting up and made a brave effort to open his eyes.

“Adi!”

Adi got up shakily; his knees ready to give way any second.

“I have to say something,” he managed.

“So do I,” said Sid.

“What’s going on? What did you do to him?” asked Lily, her arms crossed.

“I didn’t DO anything!” Sid yelled.

“Lily. I’m in love with you. You have to marry me,” said Adi to Jasmine.

Jasmine took his arms and gently faced him in Lily’s direction.

“That’s it. No lace, no icing. Plain and simple English,” Jasmine patted his shoulder encouragingly.

“No Lily, don’t marry him. What about you and me?” said Sid.

“What?” the other three said together and turned to face him.

“Yes!” he stepped forward and took both Lily’s hands in his. Lily looked momentarily perplexed, and then annoyed.

“What are you trying to do?” She pulled her hands away and crossed her arms.

“Don’t you see? The reason why you’re so doubtful about him is because you’ve got someone else on your mind! Me!” he laid both his hands on his chest.

Jasmine snorted loudly from behind Adi. Adi reached an arm back to lean on her for support as another wave of nausea swept over him.

“What are you talking about? We hate each other,” said Lily.

“Exactly! Our arguments, our fights, there’s passion there! Don’t you think it’s wonderful that we’ve stuck together through it all?”

“No...no…” said Adi weakly. He reached out a shaky hand but Lily seemed miles away.

“We’ll be miserable together,” said Lily, looking at Sid with what resembled revulsion.

Sid took her hands in his again and pressed them to his chest.

“Exactly! Miserable. TOGETHER.”

Lily stared at him for a full five seconds, incredulous.

“Besides,” he shrugged, “You’re like, what--twenty eight now? Pretty soon the wrinkles will start showing; here, there and everywhere- Especially with that scowl of yours. And no one will want to know you…except for me, because I already know you!”

Lily made an angry noise and pushed him away.

“You idiot! You epitomize everything that I despise!”

“Tell it to him Lily!” said Adi’s weak voice from the couch. Who put him on the couch? He had to get up. He moved one foot and it landed on the floor heavily.

Sid was laughing.

“Yes, all married couples start hating each other after a while. But we already hate each other! Think about it, we’ve saved on a couple of years!”

Adi managed to get up.

“Lily, don’t listen to him. Isn’t it better not to start off despising each other?” said Adi, leaning heavily on Jasmine.

“Lily, at least you won’t be unaware if any disaster should come along! We’ve been through practically everything together! Already!”

“No, don’t listen to his bullshit!”

“I’m surrounded by morons!” groaned Lily.

“Of course, as you know, I have my…needs as well,” continued Sid, emphasizing on ‘needs’.

“Ugh, Sid, you’re absolutely revolting! And Adi, how could you think I could be so gullible?”

“I—I—“

“And Sid, I think there is a small chance of me being happy in this world, and I certainly won’t find it dwelling on every ugly little detail with you!”

“So you’ve changed your mind again?” said Sid. “How typically female! Full of contradictions!”

“That’s ok! So you’re with me now?” Adi said, with a hint of desperation in his voice.
Lily looked at him with calm resolve.

“Yes,” she said quietly.

Adi grinned happily from ear to ear. He let go of Jasmine and moved over with great difficulty, and took Lily’s hands in his, gazing at her behind his glasses.

“Darling.”

“Sweety-pie.”

“We can watch Star Wars together,” he said dreamily through his foolish grin.

“That remains to be seen,” said Lily.

“Let’s go,” said Adi, headache forgotten. He moved purposefully towards the door of the lounge, pulling Lily behind him.

“Where are we going?”

“Wherever.”

Jasmine and Sid watched them leave. Jasmine nudged Sid.

“What if she agreed to marry you?”

Sid had been holding his breath for sometime now. He let it out in a rush.

“Man! Thank God! For a minute there, I thought she would actually say yes. Imagine spending the rest of my life with that irritating women’s lib, complaining, annoying…” he caught Jasmine’s eye and stopped, “Hey come on, show a woman her choices and she’ll make a choice! And I was her only other choice!”

“Atleast you admit you’re a lousy choice. You’re really full of it you know? When will you stop?”

She shook her head.

Sid shrugged.

“Well, anyways, that was a close shave. I nearly saw my life dissolving before my eyes.”

Jasmine looked worriedly towards the door, “I hope she knows what she’s doing.”

Sid snorted derisively, “I hope he knows what he’s doing.”


* * *

-rhea daniel
(darkness_box[at]yahoo[dot]com)

6 Comments:

At 12:23 AM, Blogger sumandatta said...

wonderful job rhea...this does hav tht bernard shaw/wodehouse kinda british humour...in fact it's a brilliant one act play it is!

 
At 4:28 AM, Blogger Ayn Zoya said...

Brilliant! :-)

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger Aditya Bidikar said...

Lovely. I agree with Suman. It'd make a good play.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Finch, Scout said...

awesome read, rhea :-)
love the details..

 
At 2:13 AM, Blogger Prachi said...

it was too good... good work

 
At 4:09 AM, Blogger Rajiv Seelam said...

Rhea.. I felt like there's something between Sid and Lil.. Is it just me or It's there.. right there.. In those 5 seconds?

Found you in a reply-comment on rja's blog..

 

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