[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13 & Chapter 14]
They found a niche in the wall of one of the buildings. Diano took out a tissue and wiped the spot until it was dry enough to sit on.
“Thanks.” Andy sat down first.
“You are welcome.”
“I’m sorry about this,” said Andy.
“Don’t worry. I didn’t like those guys either.”
“I don’t want this to spoil your evening. I know you were enjoying in there.”
“That’s alright. I want to see other places too.”
“I hope James and Rock do get out in ten minutes. It’s chilly out here.”
“That’s because our bodies are cooling down.” Diano noticed he was shivering.
“And guess what? It’s started coming down again.” Andy held out his hand to feel the raindrops.
“Ha-ha. I think we need to find a better shelter.” Diano looked around and spotted a telephone box a bit further down the road. “How about that one?”
“The telephone box? Again?”
“Do we have another choice?”
They walked to the box. Diano shut the door as soon as they were inside. The steady drizzle turned heavy and they could see their breath condense on the glass panes.
For a minute they stood still and listened to the sound of falling rain on the roof and the glass panes. Neither said a word. Diano could hear his own breath and his heartbeat.
“What?” Andy had caught Diano looking at him.
“Nothing.” Diano blushed.
“What?” Andy prodded.
“Shit. It’s them.”
Diano turned around to look at the club entrance. Andy’s boss and his friend stood there, looking up and down the street. They were discussing something until one of them shook his head. And then, just as abruptly as they had appeared, they disappeared back into the club.
Diano could hear Andy let out a sigh of relief. Both of them had been holding their breath.
“Don’t worry.” Diano put a hand on Andy’s shoulder.
“Just worried about going back to office on Monday.”
“Your boss should be sober by then. How many people work at your office?”
“Just the two of us.”
“What! Just the two of you?”
“Yeah. So I’m uncomfortable about this.”
“Do you think going back in there and chatting with them is gonna help?”
“Of course not.” Andy shook his head. “I don’t consider that as an option.”
“I feel bad you’re in trouble because of me.”
“No. Why do you say that? It isn’t your fault.”
There was another moment of silence. It had stopped raining but it felt safer inside the box.
“Anyway, I’m working on it.” Andy said.
“I’m looking for another job. Hope I can find one soon.” Andy looked lost in thought.
“Yeah. You must. That guy’s a creep.”
Diano got lost in his own thoughts. Life was so strange. Here he stood next to a complete stranger inside a telephone box in a strange city going through bad weather. And he didn’t feel awkward at all. It seemed like the most natural thing to do.
Andy’s cell phone brought them back to reality. It was Rock.
Diano saw Rock and James walk out of the club. They looked in the opposite direction first before turning towards the telephone box. Andy stepped out to wave at them. The four met up and walked towards James’s car.
The next destination was a KTV station. James and Rock loved Karaoke. Some of their friends had booked a room and were busy partying. When the four arrived, Diano found the others in a slightly inebriated state. But the atmosphere was jolly and everybody welcomed him.
Although most of them could sing well, nobody was as good as Rock. Some of his renditions were perfect. Andy turned out to be a bad singer. His keys were all over the place and he looked embarrassed, starting and stopping a few times. While most of them burst out laughing, Diano chose to look serious. He gave Andy an encouraging smile.
When Diano sang, the gang quietened down to hear him. They clapped in appreciation when he finished.
The mood turned romantic as they picked one romantic song after another. Diano noticed Andy had moved close to where he was seated. He turned and looked him in the eye. Andy didn’t look away this time. Diano moved the bags out of the way so that Andy could sit next to him. Andy moved closer and put his hand over Diano’s. Nobody paid them any attention.
The KTV session continued until an hour before dawn. Andy had dozed off a few times and his head rested on Diano’s shoulder. Diano had not made any effort to move out of position. It felt comfortable.
Rock stood up to signal the end of the session.
“Hey, you lovebirds. Wake up. It’s time to leave.” James said.
Andy got up and stretched.
“Just as I was about to fall asleep….” Andy teased James.
“You were already asleep, my dear.” Rock laughed.
They walked out of the building and said goodbye to the gang. Diano and Andy walked to the taxi stand.
“Do you want to sleep over at the hotel? It’s nearer than your place.” Diano said.
“Er… It’s okay. I think I’ll take a cab home. I’m tired. Thanks for the offer.” Andy smiled. “When do you fly?”
“After a few hours of rest, I’ll check out and head for the airport.”
“Okay then. I guess, this is where we say goodbye on this round.” Andy smiled.
“Never say goodbye to me,” Diano corrected him. “Say — I’ll see you soon. I hate goodbyes.”
Diano took Andy’s hands in his.
“Take care, my friend. Come back to see me soon. Ha-ha.” Andy laughed.
“I’ll miss you. Thank you for the lovely evening.”
They continued standing there hand in hand, looking into each other’s eyes. It was time to leave and yet not the right time.
Diano thought whether kissing Andy would be inappropriate. Was it too early? No, he’d rather not risk their friendship. A weak moment.
A loud honk startled them.
Diano gave Andy a hug and held the cab door open for him. As the cab drove off, Diano waved at him. Then he got into the next one and headed back to the hotel.