“Where are you? But you said you were at the Metro station 15 minutes ago! I’ve already bought our tickets. No, no, I’m not going in without you. Yes, ok, I’m waiting. Hurry up.”
I was waiting outside the theatre, movie tickets in hand. The movie had started 5 minutes ago. We had planned for this a week ago. And even while I said that I waiting, and asked him to hurry up, I knew I would have to throw those tickets away. He had just gotten out of bed. I could tell from the heaviness in his voice.
We hadn’t gone out together in 5 months. He was struggling with his finances. He had thrown away too many part-time job opportunities: he never prepared for the demonstration class for the tutor’s job that was going to pay Rs. 500 an hour! He went to the interview at British Council too high on hash to remember what he had answered. After 3 days at the job, programming for Mr. Todi, he just stopped going, without notice, because he didn’t like the area the office was in.
He said he wanted to be financially independent, didn’t want to take any money from his parents. I respected him for that, and so I waited patiently for 5 months, until he got a singing gig with a band whose vocalist had fallen prey to laryngitis! I hadn’t worn my new purple dress in the 4 months since I had bought it. I was saving it for our much anticipated date. The night of his gig, I tried my dress on and swirled around in front of the mirror. It looked great even after lying fallow for 4 months in my cupboard. It did have a musty smell though.
But it never really mattered. That night, after the gig, he took all the money he had been paid and got drunk and stoned with his Bihari college friends. I couldn’t reach him on his phone all night, all of next morning, afternoon. I folded my purple dress, snuck a naphthalene ball in it and buried in my cupboard beneath all my other clothes so I wouldn’t have to look it every time I opened my cupboard.
Screw hetro-normative expectations, I thought. Why should it always be the responsibility of the man to take a girl out? So I said I’d take him out to dinner.
Our first year anniversary of going out: we went to One Step Up, ate chicken stroganoff and pasta in white sauce, and he went home. I remember exactly what the stroganoff tasted like because I was concentrating on chewing it so much. We ate in silence. I think I might’ve asked him once how his parents and brother were, and he had replied, “Fine.”
That night, Sandy asked me on the phone how my date was. I had to ask him to repeat himself several times because there was a thunder storm raging outside.
“How was your date?” he shouted.
“Fine. I mean, I don’t know. What was I expecting, anyway, fireworks?”
“Well, D did get you fireworks for your first anniversary. Look outside.”
And right then a blue streak of lightening forked across the midnight blue sky, and then another. And I smiled. How come D hadn’t come up with that line?