“You are so impatient and inconsiderate”, she said.
At the time we were sitting at Pali Cafe eating a Caesar salad And she was telling me that I was inconsiderate about the feelings of Caesar salad. The problem started as soon as the salad arrived. The salad was fine but the bread crumbs were stale, leaving a foul taste in my mouth. I couldn’t eat it and called for the chef. I told him that it was stale and to take it away. He apologized and suggested bringing another one. I refused and sat there, looking at the other people in the restaurant and drinking another glass of wine.
“You didn’t have to make such a show about the bread crumbs. You could have just left the crumbs and eaten the salad.”
“It was bad.”
“The problem with you is that you are so impatient and inconsiderate with everything in life. And you don’t care how much you hurt people.”
“It’s my life, not yours”
Why don’t you try a little harder to look at the good side of life? Will you ever grow up?”
“I am a grown up. I can look at the good side, too. I am just not looking at the same things you are.”
“That’s what I mean. You’re so arrogant and narcissistic. That’s why you don’t have a steady girlfriend. I mean you’re thirty two years old.”
“Of course I have a girlfriend!”
“Bullshit. None of your so called relationships cross the six month line. How about love, understanding and some companionship? Without those, what’s the point? You ought to think about life more seriously Neha.”
That marked the end of our conversation.
Why had her attitude toward me changed so much over the past one year? Until then, she seemed to enjoy her elder sister’s company and take pleasure in my aimless lifestyle. She had become more critical of me ever since she had started seeing that girl. My sister had been seeing her for a year, but she and I have a history of twenty six years. I guess it’s not the length of time, but the intensity of the time that matters.
It was unfair, but when is life ever fair? She had to go to the bazaar to buy a pink sheep cup for her girl. I dropped her there on my way to Banana Bar. I was on my sixth vodka tonic when I noticed this cute person sitting with a gay man in the corner. I went up to her and asked her if she would like to go on a drive with me. We took a couple of beers and drove along the Marine drive till just before Nariman Point. It was a starlit night, and with Adele singing in the background, life looked better again. We got a little intimate in the car, and enjoyed a few kisses. She smelt of sea salt and that got me really randy. When I suggested we go to a hotel, she refused. I drove her to her house in Bandra.
“Can I invite you out again soon? “, I asked. I think the smell was still playing on my mind.
“On a date? Or to a hotel?”
I smiled and said, “Both, the two go together.”
“Why can’t I come over to your place?”
“Sorry I live with my sister.”
I watched her go and wondered if she believed me.
I had started living with my sister around 4 years ago. I had come to Bombay looking for freedom, women and a job. I was happy with my arrangements when one April morning my sister called me and told me that she had got through TISS but mother won’t let her come unless she stayed with me.
I gladly accepted. After all, she was my baby sister. Little did I know she would choose to tell me about her sexual orientation on her first day in the city! It was strange and yet comforting. We were the only two children of our parents, and it was interesting that none of us were straight. It really made me wonder about our genes.
To make cohabitation easy we came up with simple rules. The two of us would never go to a gay party together. And we would never bring a girl home. We would never date each other’s friends or exes. It was that simple. And it stayed like that even after she graduated and started working for Human Rights Watch. Her job took her many places and it was on one such work trip to San Francisco that she met this girl, a PhD student. Once she came back, she stayed in touch and soon afterwards they started seeing each other. I can never understand long distance relationships, but I was curious to know how long this would last. She was constantly texting or Skyping with her. A dangerous sign. She began to glow and looked happier even when on no sleep. Her girlfriend eventually came down to Bombay to do her research work. Another dangerous sign.
One morning she showed me her picture. I took the photo and studied her. Tall, dusky, long hair, but not athletic or slim from any standards. I couldn’t call her fat either, but she just didn’t arouse any interest in me. May be it was a part of my shallow personality as my sister often pointed out. I kept my mouth shut, and handed the picture back.
“Hmm”, I said.
“Nothing. What comes next?”
“I don’t know. May be we will move in together”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I am just 23 and like my freedom. I want to explore a little, play some more, take it easy, but not go crazy like you.”
“That’s a healthy attitude.”, I said.
“But she’s amazing. Sometimes I think I would like to spend my whole life with her.”
“How many times have you slept with her?”
“Shut up,” she said blushing. “Not everyone is like you, you know. There’s more to people than their hot bodies and skills in bed”.
I kept the sighs to myself. I took a beer from the refrigerator and headed to my room. I finished the beer and took a shower. In the shower, I thought about the girl I couldn’t get last night. Well, it was her loss. I’ll have plenty more opportunities.
The next morning, I woke up to an overcast morning, just like yesterday. But my life seemed to be starting up again. I made an egg, sunny side up and squeezed watermelon juice. I was watching Beyonce’s hot belly on the telly when my phone started ringing. I muted the telly and picked up the phone. Underneath that, there was a note from my sister who had invited her girlfriend for dinner on Saturday and expected me to be there. I shook my head disapprovingly and answered the phone. It was my girlfriend. She was headed to Goa for the weekend with her journalist friends and inviting me to come with her. I imagined us zoned out after smoking up hash, fucking her wild on the shore, and her accepting my every erotic whim without any reluctance. The flippant waves of pleasure were broken by the sight of the damn note on the table. I told her I would confirm by evening.
The phone rang again. It was my sister.
“Did you see my note?” she asked.
“Yeah. Sorry, but I am going to Goa with my girl.”
“You expect me to believe that? I know what you’re going to do. Go someplace and have fun with some girls you hardly know. Can’t you give me one evening?”
“I can’t. Things are at a very delicate stage with her. And don’t forget: we have a rule not to trespass on each other’s lives. You invite your girlfriend over and I’ll go with mine to Goa. What’s wrong with that?”
“A lot is wrong with that. You have not met her even once and your sister is seriously thinking about moving in with her. Will you please join us this one time? If you’ll do that much, I promise to not be judgmental of your sex life till the end of the year.”
“My sex life is non-existent at the moment. I may not survive without this trip to Goa.”
“She will play the guitar for us. She’s good at that.”
“Good with her fingers, huh?”
“You dirty mind,” she said, and hung up.
I got dressed and left for work. Later in the evening, I called my girlfriend to say I couldn’t join her. She was obviously annoyed. She didn’t say a word and hung up. Receiver still in hand, I dialed the number of the girl I had met a couple of weeks ago, but her phone was switched off.
My sister woke me up early on Saturday morning.
“Get out of bed, will you? I have to clean the apartment and need you to go and get me some stuff”
She stripped the sheets and ordered me out of my shorts. My only refuge was the bathroom. I showered and looked at myself in the mirror. I wondered why do all women become like your mother. My little one was falling for someone from a tall building and there was nothing I could do about it. I sighed and brushed my teeth. I still felt the alcohol in my blood and needed the bed so bad.
I went to the kitchen and poured myself some coffee she had made for herself. She handed me a list asked me to add diet coke to it because her girl doesn’t drink anything else. No wonder her waistline didn’t exist, I thought.
I went to the neighborhood supermarket and bought everything on the list. At home, I found a tee and my mid rise, straight, non-ripped denims on the bed.
“Change into those”, she said.
With another silent sigh, I did as I was told.
Her PhD girlfriend came at 3 o’clock. I was sitting in the balcony with my beer and Mumbai Mirror when I heard her car. Too early for dinner, but I couldn’t care much. I looked at her outfit and noticed an over starched white kurta over loose blue pants, an orange big loose bag hung over her shoulders and black floaters. Floaters? I sighed again.
“I think your activist girlfriend came straight from the Arvind Kejriwal campaign”, I said to my sister who was marinating the chicken in the kitchen.
“Keep her company for a while will you? I’m almost done here”.
Bad idea, but I didn’t have a choice.
I opened the door to Ms PhD and she just jumped into my arms and give me a tight hug. I was shocked, but on the verge of committing suicide when she said, “ I have heard so much about you big sister”.
Sister? This was such a mood spoiler. I showed her into the living room and offered her a beer.
“I’m allergic to alcohol. I wouldn’t mind some diet coke though.”
“Diet Coke makes me sick. Last world cup, we ran out of beer and I drank 6 cans of diet coke to bring some good luck to the Indian team.”
“What did it do you you?”
“I kept burping like a crazy pig for the next two days and……”
“Why don’t you bring your guitar Neha? Sonia also plays very good guitar”, interrupted my sister.
“Sounds fun”, said her girlfriend.
“I hear you are good with your fingers,” I said.
“It’s true,” she said unabashedly.
They sang songs from the 80’s and it was quite amazing to see the two of them. They looked happy and comfortable with each other.
Later we ate some food and got talking.
“So, what’s your research subject”, I inquired.
“OCDs”, she said.
“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There are a lot of people who suffer from OCDs. Like yesterday, there was an interesting case about a girl who cannot control the urge to kiss strange people. She would have the urge at any time of the day, and would kiss any one– old or young. She is obviously troubled and is seeking medical help.”
My sister laughed and added, “Neha would make an interesting subject for your study!”
Her girlfriend raised her eyes and looked into mine.
“Oh come on. Promiscuity is not an OCD”, I said in defense.
“No, it isn’t. Maybe she just likes to get laid, not everything is to do with mental health issues. Sex is good and some people happen to really like it, baby. Just because someone stretches the standards set by society of sexual expression, it does not necessarily make him or her perverted, or suffering from OCD”, said the OCD expert.
Around the time I was finishing my fourth beer, and the dinner was ready: Chicken pan noodles, honey chicken, salad, and fried potatoes. As always, my sisters’ cooking was pretty good. I opened the wine and drank it alone.
“What do you do on the weekends?”
My sister answered for me.”She just wastes her time meeting random girls, going to queer meetings and annoying everyone there. A lot of them think she is a bully.”
“Now, there you’re wrong,” I interjected. “I just go along with my own ideas about things. What other people think or do, doesn’t concern me. And I don’t bully them. Instead, I do social service by expanding their horizons. I may be not be a serious one, but that doesn’t make me a heartless soul”
“It’s too much of an effort to stay sad and serious in life”, added OCD expert.
She was not a bad person, I thought silently. I finished my dinner, and left the apartment for a walk.
I headed to Toto’s and saw a good looking, but unfamiliar face. She was sitting alone, drinking vodka tonic. My kind of girl, I thought.
I joined her for a few drinks and flirted with her shamelessly. Later we went to her place for some fun. Strangely, her naked slender body didn’t arouse me. I got neither warm nor wet. She took off her clothes and mine in seconds and the next minute; she was fucking me hard with her ice cold tongue and feather light fingers. And I found myself starting into the bare blank ceiling.