I wasn’t planning to leave the house. I was too sleepy to do that. But as I was walking Rhea outside the apartment, she came close to me and planted a kiss on my cheek. Then she whispered, “Won’t you come down with me?” Her voice soft as a summer breeze.
For some reason, I was taken aback by the kiss. It was surprising considering we had slept together the last night. I shouldn’t have felt like that. I should have felt at ease. But I didn’t. Maybe because it was the first time I had slept with someone whom I didn’t love. It was like being washed over by a sea wave and left dried after that. A feeling of strange void.
“Won’t you?” She asked again, breaking my chain of thoughts. Usually, I would have said no. I’m rude like that. But now, I felt obliged to say yes. And I said that. But it felt forced and unnatural. Things had changed between us. She had changed.
I went back to the bedroom and searched for a T-Shirt to slip into before going out. Then I spent a few moments searching for the key which I had thrown on the table and forgotten. When I returned she was already standing outside the door, humming the old Bach melody, lost in some thoughts which I could never guess.
In the elevator, she stood closer to me than usual. Her head was leaning on my shoulders, her gaze towards at some point on the floor. I didn’t realize I was breathing heavily. She pointed out that and then made some joke about I being fragile. I didn’t hear it properly.
We had to wait for Uber – she had booked a pool. I thought of something to say to kill the silence bearing upon us. But she appeared to be at ease with everything. The silence and the words. She stayed silent when I was silent, she replied when I said something. How can she be at ease? I shouted in my head. She turned her head towards me at exactly that moment. I smiled back, feeling a little irritated by that.
The cab came and she slipped into the backseat. I could still feel the touch of her fingers where she had pressed before leaving and saying goodbye. The cab started and tiringly moved ahead. She kept looking back. She kept waving at me.
Even when she was far ahead I still lingered. I don’t know why but I had a feeling that she was still waving at me. It was hot and soon my forehead became moist. Only when the cab had turned right and disappeared that I returned to my apartment. I relished the cool dampness of my room.
In the kitchen, the food was all gone. Only if I’d ordered for groceries as I’d been planning since last three days I would have had something fresh to eat. I opened the refrigerator and found a half-eaten sandwich. A can of beer was the only thing not stale.
I took them out and went to the living room and plopped on the couch. The sandwich felt heavenly. It was then I realized how badly I was starving. The mobile rang with notifications. It was when I looked at the mobile and saw streaks of messages from Rhea (one of them asking for a lunch tomorrow) that I realized that I was feeling nothing for Rhea. She was absent from my mind.
Rhea was a friend of my co-worker. I had known her for some time now. We had been together on a couple of gatherings, and it wasn’t that she wasn’t smart, but for some reason, I wasn’t attracted to her in any way. It happens right. Two people who are nice to each other, perfect, smart but they never click. There is no chemistry. Nothing can be done if there is no spark.
And I was sure that she felt the same thing for me too. She showed no interest in me, in that way of course. We talked and laughed. But nothing more than that. It was our unsaid agreement. It was our tacit rule.
But last night when we found each other alone at my house, when everyone had left after a small party, something happened, and the rule broke. Maybe it was the gin cocktails or maybe it was the Bach Symphony playing in the background. I don’t know. But something happened and soon we were making out on the couch. It was as random as it could have been.
It was a digression. And I was sure to treat as a digression only. A one night mistake that should be locked into a vault and thrown into some deepest recess of mynconsciousness. I was ready to forget it. But the way Rhea held my hands the whole night and looked at me with that soft gaze today I fear it was not going to happen. It had already grown into something that I feared I couldn’t control.
The next day during the lunch I met her at a nearby restaurant. She ordered Pasta for us, with garlic bread and cola on the sides. She didn’t even asked me whether I wanted Pasta. She was looking at me more than usual. Smiling at me more than she used to. Her hands kept on brushing me time and again. She was mentioning something about she liked and a place we can visit the coming weekend.
“I hope you are alright” I cut her in between. She stopped, and stared back at me, a blank expression on her face.
“I meant about the last night,” I continued, “about what happened. You know, I hope you are not feeling bad or something about it.” Her blank face didn’t change. No emotions dawned upon her face. She was like a moment captured in a photograph. I avoided her gaze while talking.
“I mean, you know, things like this, when happens, things become, what I mean, they kind of turn awkward. So I hope things don’t become that.”
I continued speaking for some more time. But it was kind of reiteration of the same thing. Then suddenly her face broke into a smile. “Of course,” she said, “why would they be!” she laughed. She then smiled and finished the rest of her Pasta. I didn’t finish the rest. I had lost my appetite.
Her cab was already waiting when we walked outside the restaurant. She said goodbye and slipped into the car. This time she didn’t kiss me or anything. As the cab sped ahead, I could see the back of her neck through the window. She was sitting straight, still, hardly moving.
It was the last I heard from her.