Divya assured herself, despite a burning dubiety, that she’d reached a significant milestone in her relationship with Aditya when, on a late Saturday night, her antsy phone buzzed with a storm of messages from Aditya. A cold inexplicable fear gipped her heart as she clutched the phone and scrolled through the stream of messages. Aditya’s love for poetry, or rather what he believed to be poetry, was notorious in the posse of aspiring writers who met every Saturday in a derelict café in North Bangalore. Divya wouldn’t have taken to him if she could take to anyone else but being a year shy of turning into a thirty-year-old virgin, Divya knew all too well the seething urgency of falling in love. She had begun with mild doses of admiration weaved intricately into casual conversations – finding the most opportune moments to call his fiction Kafkaesque or finding his jarring asymmetric poetic compositions venomously post-modern. Every praise was a chuckle pickled and preserved and it spread a sourness in her heart every time he blushed. She would overcome with pity – for the poor boy but more so for herself, and guilt and sorrow and a cruel screaming gaiety and it’d leave her wiping her hands with the tissue-paper for a minute too long as if she’d been plunged into a deep undersea cavern by the impact of his work of ground-breaking ingenuity. She’d then make a quiet show of getting back to normality – by pretending, for instance, not to have heard the last sliver of conversation or visibly forcing a laugh – and appear briefly flustered as if she’d witnessed sharp inerasable visions of other-worldly love-making with the man himself.
Everything about him – his thick-rimmed reading glasses, his bulbous hips, his predilection for tight-fitting jeans and his insistence on relentless off-kilter nodding – screamed of a man who’d find his inner peace in an older man’s armpit but for reasons she couldn’t understand – or care to understand – everything about him that should have blow-dried her vagina kept her awake until 3 am googling for the most oblique of references to incite his attention towards her. As Divya scrolled through the messages in her phone, a cold sweat drenched her back. A cold, heavy pallor drew upon her as his messages unveiled a poem of love. The poem was evidently self-referential – folding back upon itself like a public display of auto-fellatio – but devoid of heat like a slab of cold mammoth meat refrigerated since the last ice-age. A slow mournful rage rose in her chest, she typed a tawdry haiku but deleted it immediately as she realized that her orgasm in the last line was off by one syllable. A sneeze shook her and then another, dishevelling her hair and rouging her cheeks. Her skin simmered with the heat of a long unending night. Despite everything at stake, she willed herself into sending a sterile smiley that jolted her, a moment after it had been sent, with the slim possibility of it being mistaken for what something it wasn’t. Even in her niceness, she felt a flicker of mischief, of love and loss and she held her laughter in until the next sneeze disrupted her broken poise.
Aditya stayed an hour’s ride away from Divya’s house in a neat studio apartment that smelt of old books and dog fur. He wasn’t much of a dog person, much less a cat person, but rather someone who got frissons of excitement at convincingly pulling off a cat person or a dog person or any other kind of person while truly deeply committing to an unspoken promise of being perennially unresolved and stretch untruth to truth. He hadn’t read a word from all the books he regularly cleaned and sometimes licked the pages of in delight. He had strolled in and out of every aisle in every old bookstore in Bangalore, impregnating his jute bag with more books than it could hold and walking clumsily towards counter, standing with his neck tilted to the right and hips jutted backwards, as if beckoning a pat or a smack, handing out clean paper notes and never swiping any of his four credit cards. He would then go home, blindfold himself into darkness and channel a voice. The voice cascaded ill-fitted words and phrases, with false promises of rhymes and closure, intoning lies with love and sorrow with pride. His poetic profusion towards Divya was the outcome of one such blindfolded session and when he opened his eyes and witnessed what he had done to himself, he giggled with relief and madness and his eyes moistened as a relentless testicular angst tucked at his groin. He drew the curtains and pulled the darkness of his blanket over his warm hairy body.
Aditya met Divya on a Saturday again. She complimented his poetry, calling it nice. He smiled sweetly. Aditya and Divya remained virgins until thirty and the café moved into a more upscale locality that none of the wannabe writers could afford.