The party was going on in full swing. The DJ was destroying all the songs from the 80s and 90s by mixing unwanted beats and the drunk crowd was dancing to it. Music is supposed to heal but this… This was pure torture. I might be permanantly scarred from the aftereffects of prolonged exposure to harmful noise. Trauma and therapy were the other terms running in my mind when I noticed him. A tall fair skinned gym body in crisp white shirt and khaki pants. Hair is not short nor long and it showed signs of carefully hidden receding hairline. With that godawful music still blaring in my ears, so far he was the best thing I saw in the couple of hours I spent there at the party.
I was bored. I had no business here at the party. I was shanghaied by my colleague because she did not have company to attend a friend’s friend’s party on a friday night. This is what happens when your friday nights are empty nights and you have colleagues younger than you. They do not understand the caged sentiments of an unmarried stressed and frustrated woman of thirty. Now she must be there on the dance floor, grooving to that noise, in the arms of her friend’s friend’s friend’s friend. (Or was there one more friend?)
The Khaki pants came alone? He is late, its already ten. In another hour I have to drag Miss Hotpants from the dance floor and take her home. My duty here is to be the liberal modern version of the chaperone who ensures that the maiden reaches home safe or with minimal damages. (Thank you very much for your sympathies. I appreciate it…)
Mr. Khaki Pants looks this way. And he has seen me. Before he could even blink, he turned away to continue talking with whomever it was that he was with. Such an arrogant asshole. I can actually pinpoint the exact fraction of the second when he decided that I am not worth his sweat. Bastard. Turn into a Greek god and see if I care! I don’t give a shit man… Turn away. Turn your face all the way upto 360 degrees and kiss an owl.
So what if I am sitting at the bar, nursing a beer and my different complexes amd phobias and manias in my jeans and not-so-party-type-crop top. What if I have additional curves since I am 63kg packed in five feet three inch and do not go to Zumba classes on weekends. So what if I can’t remember the meaning of serendipity, cannot write a haiku and do not know the full name of Neymar? What if I do not have a facebook, instagram, snapchat, kik account to go posting around? So don’t you turn away Mr Khaki Pants. You will regret it. Don’t judge me as a boring wierdo. You could get really really surprised. I am the rarest of the rare person you are ever going to meet in your lifetime… I am the red diamond. I possess that quintessential flaw that makes me beautiful, unique and prices less. Those two slightly bulging sockets on your face called eyes are not for decoration but to See. I am the…
“Excuse me, May I join you…?”
Oh, it’s Mr.Hotpants. No. Sorry. Hotpants is the girl. This is Khaki Pants. And I am not just any any pants, I am the Jeans – the ripped, torn, faded and tenacious Jeans. Ha….
“I beg you pardon… What did you say?”
Oops. Did I just say that aloud. “Join me? Are you sure?”
“Is there any reason that I shouldn’t be sure?”
Huh!? You wont give me a straight answer, you dont get one, dummy. “If you must…”
“I must… I definitly must…”
Whatever the hell is that supposed to mean! This was not what he looked like half a minute ago. So I keep my beer down on the table and turn on this wobbly red bar stool and take a look at him, I mean, actually look at him.
He is a demi-demigod, if you know what I mean, a quarter of a God. Chiselled, angled, polished and shining, however, with a receeding hairline. Yet, slurrp worthy sort of man. What is he even doing here. I was already a judgemental bitch, now I am a self conscious heap of flesh and hormones. So I get ready to do the best thing I do. Chase away people. Its a scene straight out of those adult romance books, where the alpha male enters and sweeps over the timid yet delightful female protogonist and screams MINE. But unlike the books, I am not a delightful female and this is not going to be a reality. Too bad. But for now, this strictly off limits testosterone embodiment has awakened all the soldiers of the self doubting demon army in my mind.
“What is your name?” the demi-demigod aka Mr Khaki Pants asks. Polite. Of course all heroes in the books are polite. Righteous. Just the right amout of wicked. Fierce. Protective. Possessive. I knew the exact smiley to put in here…if we were messaging. Instead, I go on the defense, insolent and indifferent mode.
“I don’t want to tell you my name. You are at the bar for heavens sake! You don’t really have to know the name of the person next to you to talk to them. Drink. Avoid whoever it is that you want to avoid. Leave if you are done. Thats it. Done.”
“What makes you think I am avoiding anyone? And what is wrong in the saying the name? But wait, does that mean we can continue to talk…?”
“What game are you playing?”
“Asking someone’s name or initiating a conversation is a game?
Khaki Pants is still smiling and talking as if this is most sane conversation in this whole party. I am quickly losing the edge here. If I don’t escape, I am going to replay this later and wallow in embarrassment for hundred days. For all the bullshit I say, I am one nervous wreck when it comes to making friends on all my own. All thanks to the old me. No surprise there too. Another scene from the already published scores of books with a nervous female lead. Come to think of it, if its all out if the book, books are not all that fictional right?
“Ms. Nameless, Still here?”
“Unfortunately, here itself. Generally it is not a game. But under the current circumstances it is. Which I do not have any intention to play. ”
“The current circumstances being…?”
“Are you seriously stupid? Party. Late night. Lone girl at the bar. Drinks. And you come dressed like a wolf in sheep skin and ask hey pretty girl, whats your name… And you want me to believe its not a game?”
“Did you just call me a wolf in sheep skin? And you are an authority on wolfs and sheeps? Aaaand, I did not say pretty girl.”
This insolent ass. How dare he insult me in my face. My resolve to not tell my name, even breathe the same air as he, was damn right. Thank god I am not fair skinned or I would be a now looking like a pus filled angry red boil. Burning his khaki pants seemed suddenly a good idea. Again, all heroes are arrogant, cocky, teasing and comfortable in their wolf skin. Since I am not a herione, all this charm is just futile. Sad.
“As a matter of fact, I am quite an authority on wolfs, sheeps, rats and leeches. I am just deciding under which category I should actually place you. You did not say pretty girl. I am not deaf. But also, it doesnt matter because I am not looking for your certificate, you pppp….”
“Pig? Hmmm…. Something is burning… Is it your….eee?”
Ego. He didn’t say it aloud. Asshole. An he was laughing. Well dressed fair skin guys can be so distracting. He deserves zero marks for everything. Idiot. And he is not a hero. He is the villian. Apparently villians and heroes who have walked out of the books have similar good looking features. Damn.
“Yes. My vanity is quite hypersensitive. If you dont want your pale skin charred and singed, back off.” I finished the beer, slammed it on the table and left to go Hotpants hunting.
I walked fast, fighting to control my hurt ego and anger. I was angry with myself that I let him get to me. That pig. I could still hear him calling out to me to wait. Wait for you? Over my deadbody. Why couldn’t I keep my mouth shut? Why couldn’t I make a normal conversation? Why am I this bumbling bee when I meet someone? Why do I think I am not enough and inferior to them or they are far more superior to me?
Suddenly I was yanked back and slammed into a hard body. Gosh this man. He smells so… So familiar, so intimate and so right. I can feel the fragrance take root in my heart. It catches in my throat and mingles in my breath and diffuses in my blood. I think I might smell like him now. Well, no complaints there…
“Dont touch me,” I bellowed. It was an over reaction and not at all the one I wanted to bellow. But he just lost all the marks and I lost all my self respect. He will have to start again to score with me. I could feel myself seething in rage, smoke coming out of my ears, nose and eyes. Because it was hard to stay angry at him. Because its not him but me… Because I did not have the confidence in me to cherish or encourage his attention or time. Why was he still wasting time on me?
He was funny and I was rude. And I just spoiled whatever chance I had. Even when I am hoping inside the deepest of deepest part of my heart that he did seek me out because of me, I don’t dare believe it. Effect of reading too much of books. A girl’s vanity is really fragile. Especially a middle aged overweight girl. Confusing and totally useless thoughts flood my mind. My self confidence dropped to -18 degree celcius. I know I am not pretty. It was just an expression, thrown in for punch. And he had to call me out on it. Unforgivable. But he is still here with me, holding my upper arms in a firm grip. Oh yes, please don’t leave it. Oh No, please leave it.
Oh dear… did I just say that aloud?
“Where are you off to now?”
“In search of world peace. To build a rocket to send all chauvinists who think they are the ultimate males to Uranus. And start off a Facebook war with everyone who think…”
“Why are you so angry at me, for god’s sake? What the hell did I do? And you decided I was a chauvinst in the five minutes where we didn’t even talk like two civil human beings? I am sure even stone age people would have talked with more civility.”
That had me right on the spot. And my mouth locked itself shut with the key thrown away in the bushes or maybe it was into stone age, never to be retrieved.
“Yes. It is late night, lone lady and drinks. Did you even bother to think that it was better to talk at the bar than give the creeping predators the chance to pounce on you? Better give an impression that you are not, after all, alone.”
I did not think that at all.
“But no. You had to lash out at the outset itself without thinking what when where and who… And… Of course you have to be wary and not trust anyone immediately, including me… Or by any chance, is this your idea of taking care of youself?”
What do I say to that? I dont even try to look for the key that will open my mouth. How do I tell him that… That I was terrified of being alone? That I never had anyone who wanted to protect me? It happens only in movies… and books… that paranoid sense to protect someone against all small and large perils. Everyone always assumed that I could terrorize anyone who tried to come close to me. And I did terrorize. Until you.
It was my own insecurities that kept people away at a distance. When someone does walk in, I am swathed in apprehensions and doubts. I am trained to caution and question the intention of any man who approaches me. They all say you are different in the beginning and then hate you for being different. They say you are special only to scream later that you are nothing but an ordinary woman with ordinary…
“Do you believe that you are ordinary?”
“Shit! Did I say that aloud?”
“Yes. You did. Along with… Few other things.”
I can’t look at him. What he must be thinking about me. Mumbling bumbling bee.
It was the sound of his laughter that broke into my head again. His hand was still gripping me and he pulled me closer ever so tenderly that we were almost hugging. And he whispered in my ears, “My dear mumbling bumbling bee, and yet, you believe you are ordinary when you are anything but that…”
Beautiful lies. Again I am transported into the pages of different books that have immortalized moments like this. In those books, its magical, life changing and mind blowing and powered and deep. In reality, when I was deliciously hanging onto his arms, all I wanted to do was crumble into a heap and disappear because of shame. Forever. I am never ever going to recover from this assault.
With the little courage and dare left in me, I twist in his arms and he let go, but not before sweeping his hands over my arms, till the end of the fingertips, all the while searching for hints of protest or dislike in my eyes. There was no way in heaven or hell that I could say no to this man…
“I am sorry. Its just a habit.”
“To talk alone and aloud or to chase away anyone who comes to talk to you? All friends were strangers once.”
“Both. And some friends become strangers as well.”
He did not reply to that. And I did not say anything more. Standing there in the middle of the huge lawn of the resort, I felt strangely light and everything was less awkward. The great wall has been blown apart. It didn’t matter if he thought I was good looking or not, good enough or not. I did not want to ask if it will last or not. Whatever it was, it felt good.
He took my hand once again and pulled me further away from the middle of the party to a relatively less crowded place and thankfully far away from that godawful music. It was a poolside and near the dining place, with the right number of people, all those who wanted privacy and respected others privacy.
“What should I do to make you mumble and bumble again?”
I looked at him with sharp eyes but it easily melted and trickled to a smile on my lips. I felt my cheeks stretch and eyes crinkle and it reflected in my heart. I should really stop reading all those books. I can’t live an original moment without even thinking of the scenes from all those romance stories. Jeez…
“Did you just say Jeez?”
“Shit. I did? Again?”
“Again? I think thats the first time you said Jeez. ”
“Uff, not that… I mean, saying aloud what I am thinking. Its hazardous. ”
“Hazardous to whom? You or others?”
“Maybe, but I think, its the only gap in this whole facade you have build up.”
“I distrust men who say things like this the first time they meet with someone…”
“Like, I can see there is a sadness in your eyes… Like I can see that you are not like the others, Like you are hiding something in your eyes… Like you said, facade and gap and blah blah blah… ”
“Hmmm… I dont have a reply to that. But I have a question. What sort of men do you trust then?”
I have no idea. Actually. No face or no ones name came to my mind as an answer. I have quite a few friends. I have had a boyfriend. But whom do I trust… That absolute trust, where you would entrust him with your life, heart, money… is there no one in my life like that?
“You dont have to look so blank. If you asked me the same, I dont think I would have an answer either.”
Why was it suddenly easy to be with this man? Thats a drastic deviation from what I had been thinking of him a little while ago. But the pieces of the puzzle seems to have arranged themselves to make a coherent picture. A picture worth a thousand words. For someone who was spewing senseless rubbish till Khaki Pants knocked some sense into, I seemed to have lost all ability to talk. After the what-is-your-name fiasco, he did not repeat the question. We both sat there with our feet dipped in the pool, the distant partylights throwing shapeless illumination every now and then.
It was creepy. It was serene. It was odd. But comfortable. Then the full enormity of the bullshit I had thought and spoken came down on me. I turned to look at him. He was sitting a little far away, pants pulled up till his knees and swaying them in the water. He was singing, sometimes humming, a tune which I could not recognize. English, of course. I am illiterate when it comes to english songs. But I replied with a hindi song. And it became a game.
The first button of his white shirt is undone and I got a good look at his chest. That thing-involantary shiver- now I know what it is. I couldn’t stop looking at it. Chest hair. Oh Lord. I was having indecent thoughts. Coupled with my obsession with romantic books, this was getting way more than indecent. Is this how men feel after being exposed to lush cleavage and hmm.. other similar areas…? Oh. Dear. Lord.
Our tastes were different. Our worlds too. Another point which proves that I am not meant to be the one sitting beside him in a romantic setting. He deserves an apology and gratitude for putting up with me. Its well past eleven. I have to go in search of Miss. Hotpants. Its time to go. But, I dont want to go. I dont want this night to end.
He stopped singing and turned to me. When I saw him, I couldn’t stop thinking that he is a good man. What is it about you that synced so well with my neurotic psychotic self?
“Is that scientifically correct…”
“This neurotic psychotic self…”
Oh, I thought aloud again. Now it was getting funny.
“Neither do I think so. If its correct then its ok. If its wrong, who cares…”
As if he understood perfectly what I was saying, he laughed and said, ” You wanted me to listen…”
I pulled myself out of the pool, my girl parts and jeans wet, and said the preface for a goodbye I did not want to say. “Eh, yes, I am… I am sorry for today evening. I was terrible, rude and everything beyond that. No offense meant, its a sort of conditioning, to prevent damage to self. But tonight, it didn’t work as it was supposed to. I am sorry. ”
“Are you saying that interaction with me caused you irrepairable damage? Then I should definitely make amends…”
“There are dents in my ego and my self esteem. Dont worry, its all for the good. I will definitely think twice before I pull my blades out. And of course, I am going on a crash course to stop thinking aloud.”
“All that is fine. But with others. You can be whatever you want to be with me. I’d love to handle your blades.”
“Was that a question you wanted to ask me or an explosion of one of those thinking aloud….?”
I am still blank. I don’t dare think about the meaning of what he said.
“Let me explain, Ms.Nameless. I repeat. You can be yourself and anything else you want to be with me. If you decide to be Cleopatra today, you can. Or if you want to be Kill Bill, you can. And I want all your thoughts, both silent and aloud. Understood?”
I took a step back. Then another. Then another. And I turned to run. Far away from his hypnotic words and impossible promises and dreams. I could no longer swear at him. What did he think he was doing?
Once again, he closed his hands on my arms to pull me closer and hugged me from behind. I have always dreamed of being held like this. But not like this. He is breathing near my neck and it took my breath away.
“Don’t run. I know its crazy… too soon. We didn’t even talk…. I dont know what to say actually…. I dont even know what is happening.
He paused and arranged himself around me.
“I didn’t think our conversation will go like this. I came here for distraction. And I got it. A far better one than I imagined.” He sighed and settled me deeper into his mould.
“I want to spend more time with you. I want more. This… This is not enough. I cant let you go. I know you are lost. But so am I. Stay a little longer with me. Please.”
All this time, enclosed in his arms, I was getting drenced in those magical words. It cooled my heart like no rain ever did. It soothed my soul like no prayer ever did. I was so wrong. He felt so right. Books do not overstate the impact of this moment. I was living one of those magical moment with my heart beating at 140per minute.
“Hey girl… What are you doing?”
Miss Hotpants. Impeccable timing. As it turns out, I had become a wanton chaperone and she, a responsible maiden.
“I have been searching you for ages. I see that finally you are enjoying a party. But sorry to say this lady, its time to go. Next time, you dude… ”
I did not try to break free from his embrace. His arms only tightened around me.
“Okay. I dont know what is going on between you two. But you have time until the cab arrives. I’ll wait outside. See ya in five…”
Hotpants was not all that insensitive huh… Who knew… I was far more judgemental and resentful than I realized. Yet another proof that this man deserves a better female in his arms. I close my eyes and savour the moment and take in his fragrance as much as I can, feel him with my everything. I know this is all I am granted and I will take all of it.
Khaki pants… What is his name? Oh dear… I didnt even ask. He turns me around, his face and eyes shining in the party lights.
“Who Are You?”
He laughed and said, “I thought you might never ask.”
And then he swooped down and kissed me. Sweet and wet and tender and soft. He tasted my lips cautiously, then carefully, then eagerly and hungrily. I was no bimbo. After reading all those novels I knew how to kiss and I did exactly that. I must be doing it right because I was actually blessed with a surprised gasp, a closer pull into his chest, tighter hug and more of that unnamed emotion flowed easily between us.
Miss Hotpant’s call woke us again into the hard reality. Without another word, he broke the kiss and took my hand and walked with me to the entrace to the waiting cab. He did not ask me to stay again. Oh boy, how it hurt… I feel like I was being seperated from someone I knew for years.
He opened the door of the cab. Nobody has ever done that for me. I think I might just burst now. I cant say goodbye to him. He is practically a stranger, but I cant, can not even look at his face. It is already hurting like never before. As I try to get into the cab, he pulls me into his arms for a real deep and full body hug and whispered in my ears.
“The next time we meet I am not letting you go away. So watch out…”
“I am not a regular party person. Why are you so sure we’ll meet again?”
“I’d bet my life on it.”
“You are mad.”
“Yes. Wonderfully mad. ”
The cab driver is honking, annoyed at the delay and Hotpants is looking at me like I have sprouted 6 tails and two horns. He pulls away just like before, caressing every inch of me that he can touch and I get into the cab. I cant believe he just said that. I have to leave something of me with him. I just have to… I leaned out of the window and call out, “Hey listen…”
He was still standing on the same spot watching the cab pull away. Was he for real? As the cab stopped, he ran down and bent to face me, and I reach out to touch his cheeks and whisper in his ears…
“They say what is in a name. It all started as a game. Everything has changed and nothing is the same. This is very very lame but I am gifting you my name.”