White Sheets

This was seven years ago – in a different city, but a similar hotel room. Familiar white sheets smelling of naphthalene balls and a room with no windows. At a second glance you will find that windows existed but were covered with curtains that matched the wallpaper, peach with big brown flowers. Karuna reached out to slide the curtains hoping for a view of the other side. “You’d better wash your hands before you touch me with those fingers. We could have found a better hotel room, you know.”

All that was visible on the other side was a wall. A dead end. Yet she stood and stared at it while Mandy opened and slammed the bathroom door and  then the wardrobe disapprovingly. “This place stinks of naphthalene balls.” Mandy dug her head into Karuna’s neck bringing back Karuna to realise why she was here in the first place. She turned around and looked at Mandy who was already busy opening the buttons of her kurta making a leap for her breast.  Mandy kissed Karuna’s neck as she worked on her nipples.

This was new for Karuna. The 101 emotions her body made her feel intersected neatly with the innumerable thoughts running through her vacant head.

“This I why I love her. No words needed. No talking. Straight down to business.  Wait did I just say I love her…ooh I like what she’s doing now…but I don’t love her. This is just lust. Plain and simple. We like fucking each other…she likes fucking me; I like getting fucked by her. I don’t love her. Well, in any case, she doesn’t love me…”. White light and bliss.

Mandy was fast asleep when she woke up. Quite like a child she thought. She watched her for a bit and then when all those thoughts came rushing back to her, she moved away.  She sat at the edge of her bed and lit her cigarette. She was packed and ready to leave. Her hand shivered while she contemplated whether to wake Mandy up or not.

They had done this before. The goodbyes. But this time she knew this was it. And yet she hoped it wasn’t. There was something final about the dead end outside her window. She’d leave and Mandy would forget about all of it. The thing about lust is, it exists only as long as you have the object of your fancy at the tip of your fingers. Once the fingers are satisfied, the mind satiated, you move on. This is what she had heard Mandy say the first time she laid her eyes on her. She believed it. She believed every word Mandy said. It always made sense.

No promises were ever made but she knew they were bound together.

Hotel High View the board outside read.  She thought she saw her at the window while her cab drove away. It was a fantasy she liked to believe in, much like what Mandy was…

***

She heard a distant ‘come in’ when she knocked on the door.  This is it she told herself as she turned the door knob. She walked in head first and then slowly shimmied though the corridor as if she expected someone to jump out at her. No one did. “Mandy smoked now, is it?” was the first thought that crossed her mind as she smelt a burning cigarette.

She was surprised when Mandy suggested meeting up in a hotel room while both of them lived in the same city, but that is how they always did it. There was something so appropriate about hotel rooms. Non-committal. Sometimes adventurous, sometimes depressing. Bedsheets soiled by one only to be washed and reused by another. So many stories must be woven into its seams by now. Of lonely people. Of strange escapades. Of unions and partings.

“Runa, that be you?” Mandy called out above the noisy television. Karuna’s heart leapt as she came face to face with Mandy, much older but charming as always. They smiled at each other, hugged awkwardly and moved towards the chairs in the room. “Naphthalene”, Karuna whispered. Mandy did not hear her.

This isn’t that bad, Karuna thought. I did not feel the familiar lurches in my stomach. After all, it might have just been lust. But maybe that too does not exist anymore.  She was disappointed but yet she was happy too. She wished she could see herself in the mirror before Mandy saw her. She could never let Mandy know how much she had prepared herself for this encounter.

Mandy looked at her up and down, leant over and offered her a cigarette. A whiff of her rose through Karuna giving her second thoughts about her realisations a few minutes ago. She caught Mandy’s eyes trying to figure out her confused state of mind. And then she caught the familiar look in her eyes. At once she knew her fingertips craved her. She knew they wanted to reach out and touch. And as if Mandy read her thoughts she got off her chair, knelt at Karuna’s feet and kissed her.

Don’t go, Mandy whispered. Never, she replied.

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Nilofer