Short Story by Anurag Minus Verma
She is silently nodding now at a young man with grey, curly hair and an intellectually fatigued face; the kind generally found in men who have thrust intellectualism upon themselves via their righteous Facebook posts and now they feel they have to carry it everywhere, even during the most mundane conversations. Here, the topic is, “Is Modi a fascist?”
She walks off to the washroom, and finally takes a deep yawn. She pats her face softly with wet wipes, and wonders how long she will have to suffer these boring talks on her first ever Tinder date in Delhi, where she had come to attend a Comic Con. She notices a small blotch of Joker-inspired lip color near her mouth from the event, and out of sheer boredom, mimics “Why so serious…?”. Perhaps disgusted by her bad acting, she unlocks her phone and looks at his Tinder profile again. He looks more attractive on Tinder than in real life. Perhaps, she finds him hot when he doesn’t talk. She fantasizes grabbing his curly grey hair by the locks and letting him smell the Zara roll-on perfume she had specifically applied to her left breast. She wonders if this guy is as horny as her and if he’s using the Modi banter just to kill initial awkwardness or because he doesn’t find her attractive enough. She looks down at her belly fat and quickly pulls down her crop top, covering her tiny navel behind the Fabindia linen.
“Aren’t we living in an era of darkness, Ankita?” he asks, lounging on the Starbucks couch, sipping a cappuccino with a double espresso shot and almond milk.
“We are. But, what’s the solution?” she replies, putting on a sincere expression.
“We need to educate people. The problem of India is illiteracy. We need to post more political content on social media and educate everyone on why Modi needs to be thrown out of power to make India a better place.”
“That makes sense.”
“He uses the religion card every time. Like Marx said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation…”
“It is the opium of the masses. I know what he said and I absolutely agree. No questions asked.” she replies quickly as to avoid listening to this cliche quote.
She picks up her chocolate croissant and takes a bite. The crisp ends fall all over her plate. To kill the awkwardness and the terror of sudden silence, she adds, “This man says he does yoga every morning but look at his physique. He is a liar! How can a yoga guy have such a round paunch?”
“Now, you are stepping into the fat-shaming club. I don’t agree with that. I think all body types should be respected.” he replies.
This gives her an equal dose of embarrassment and hope. With a sudden glee and confidence, she stealthily adjusts her crop top and her navel catches the golden Starbucks light again.
They step out for a smoke. The city is hustling in the dazzling madness of a Saturday night. He crushes the ice mint button of his Marlboro cigarette and passes it on to her. She thinks of complaining about the strong menthol flavor but gives up the idea.
“Do you drink?” she asks.
“Yeah, but I currently prefer only low carb beers because I am on a low carb diet.” he replies briskly, toying with the cigarette between his fingers.
She recalls a self-note from long back: Never trust a guy who orders low carb beers and quinoa salad on a date.
She looks at the stiffness of his body and wonders when he will shed this burden of profoundness and reveal his real ridiculous self. She notices an abstract tattoo on his left arm and is tempted to ask him about it, but then gives up the idea to save herself from another random philosophical attack.
“We can go back to my place for some drinks or would you prefer a bar?” he asks, genuinely.
“Anything is fine with me.”
“I think we should go back to mine because then we can roll a joint and listen to the music of our choice. These clubs play nasty Bollywood crap! I like minimal electronica. I am tripping on Nicolas Jaar and Acid Pauli these days. But don’t you think this weather is perfect for some Faiz Ahmad Faiz?”
“Oh! I can’t wait. Let’s go.”
Walking back to his place, his strong left arm occasionally brushes her soft right arm. It has been almost a year since she was physically intimate and now she feels aroused at the random place. Once she felt horny even while checking exam sheets with a teacher inside the school building where she teaches Social Studies.
At his neatly arranged apartment, a pile of books is placed on a table and a small bundle of The Hindu is lying in a corner. The blue walls covered with posters of Che Guevara and quotes by Noam Chomsky.
She recognizes a soapy smell of recently sprayed room freshener and wonders how he could be so sure of coming back here with his date.
The room is dimly-lit and his face glows in the screen light as he puts on a song on his laptop: ‘Hum dekhenge!’
He opens two pints of beer and both gulp down half of their bottles in one go. While rolling the joint, she thinks about various topics to come up with but abandons them so as to not be stabbed with the pocket knife of political correctness by this woke guy.
The song is suddenly paused by an online YouTube advertisement of Modi delivering a speech on dealing with exam stress. Out of sheer irritation, he gushes and skips the ad.
“What the hell! This man pops up everywhere.” he exclaims.
Seizing the opportunity to get the conversation going and eliminating the dullness, she promptly replies, “Yeah, I am so done with this man.”
“Seriously, ya! He drives me crazy! Always increases my stress levels. I’ve been suffering from anxiety lately.” he replies while violently gulping down his low carb beer.
She walks up to him and caresses his head.
“You need to take it easy and relax for a bit.” she says softly.
He performs some breathing techniques to calm down while she rubs his back. They remain in that position for a while. She can feel his breath, smelling faintly of chewing gum and tobacco. She gently presses her lips on his. He slowly scans her back with his fingers and then moves to the front. She can feel the rush already.
Her hands grip his grey curly hair. In the spur of the moment, she pushes his Ph.D. books off the study table and slips on to it. They kiss some more. She slides down her jeans, he takes off his pants, and feels her warm body. That drives him crazy. All the profoundness starts melting away, and finally, a natural, wild human side comes out in full display. She wanted to watch this face. This naked face without the stress of intellectualism. His vulnerable face without the make-up of wokeness. He takes her from behind. She takes control from the top. He licks. She sucks. The boring room of a Ph.D. scholar now dazzles with sheer madness of fresh love.
She wonders if common hatred, rather than shared love, brings individuals together. As the YouTube ad of smiling Modi pops-up again, she smiles back at him in gratitude for making this magical evening come true where she came three times in the last twenty minutes.
This is the short story from the book I love you but only on weekends by Anurag Minus Verma. Please buy the book on Amazon to read all the stories.