19th September 2010, 11.20 A.M.
“… and you should have seen this guy beside him.”
“What about him?” I ask. I am in no mood to make conversation. Tee, on the other hand, is soaring with excitement. The kind you get when you have some wondrous adventure to share with someone dumber than you who might not come across such a feat in another hundred years.
“I think he was crazy. Every half a minute or so, he bumped his head with the back of his hand and talked something to himself, ha-ha. He did this throughout the journey; all the way from Madurai to Trichy, you see. I wondered how he went about his life hitting his head all the time. And Raghu. He was on edge throughout the journey. He shuffled himself to the edge of his seat and slipped uneasy glances at the man every other minute.”
“Oh.” I say indifferently. I am too engrossed in the present moment to give heed to the dead of the past. At present, the same Raghu, who Tee claims to have cowered beside a weird guy in the bus, is moving with his chest swelled as if he domineers the whole world, with Anitha in tow. It is her turn to cower now, though. She’s walking discreetly with her head turned down most of the time, and at the times it is not, her eyes roving about restlessly to locate any known faces. They are moving across the spacious vestibule of the cinema towards a pair of massive doors.
“What is it, Ben?” asks Tee.
“What?” I start a little and turn my attention back to his story.
“What are you thinking of?”
I smile inwardly. It makes me tingle with a queer sense of pride to see Tee and I have long since come past the levels of love where the communication between people is served only by articulation. It’s as if he has evolved a part of his that feels for me, feels like me. I allow myself one brief moment of joy, a catchall of pride and satisfaction and elation, before the portentous cloud spreads back on.
“Something happened this morning.” I say in a low voice.
“I sensed as much. You speaking in hushed tones is not a normal-happening, is it?”
I tell him about the suspicion of Anitha’s father and his checking of her phone this morning, as the subject of our conversation and her guy step into the gloom of the theatre. The darkness is near complete for me. I don’t see a thing except for the huge white blotch which is the screen and the intangible ghosts floating across it in dim colours and the radiance of its reflection on the faces of Anitha and Raghu. I finish the tale pointing out her father’s benign reaction while sending her off.
Tee hears it all out, and pauses for a while before speaking. “Odd thing. But why are you worried about that?”
I wonder if I should tell him the reason for my brooding. It might be a bit far-fetched, my instinct. No, I decide. I don’t want to trouble Tee with my groundless conjectures.
“Nothing. I was just going over how it happened. It was kind of spooky. The way the man sneaked into her phone and shook up his contact details.”
“My guess is, he would have believed in the contact being a girl as the name suggested. No father would know about his daughter going astray and pat her back to go that way in style.”
“Hmm,” I say. It is easy for Tee to say that what with he not having been there. The look on her dad’s face disturbs me. Obscure as my sight was, I still noticed the determination in his set jaw, the barely perceptible nod as his eyes scanned Raghu’s number. It did not bode good for me, and it does not.
“I wish it were the park again.” Tee puts in.
“You are not alone in that,” I state. They are seated now. I look to their left and right and see nothing but darkness topped with glittering splotches of light. I know the aisle is empty but for these two. Raghu was clever enough to pick a movie that had churned out its share of entertainment to people and was dangling in its last days of meagre collections. Anitha was clever enough to pick a decent theatre that was still bearing with the plight of the movie, waiting for the chance to chuck it out as soon as a promising new one turned up, but had to live with the scant income at present. Their adroit choices has left them cozily segregated here. Raghu has spent hours coming past miles for recessing himself with her in solitude. They would not like it being spoilt by the presence of a nosy bastard next to them. It is only a matter of time now.
After their romantic encounter in Anu’s home, Raghu made his journey to Trichy a routine weekend activity. It looked as if they had left some business unfinished during that whole day of intimacy they shared, and were in a fervour to get more. They tried to organise their first preplanned meet in public in person the Saturday after that, and botched it up good. It was on a park. Raghu could not keep his hands off Anitha, and she would not allow him to come any closer than an arm’s length. He tried turning every ounce of his charm on her, but she would not get the better of her fright. That night was interesting. They fought over the phone for the first time. They fought, because Raghu retaliated. I was surprised to find my mimic of the pattern of their talk turning out to be wrong, and Tee giggled at me. Anitha was flabbergasted for her part, too. It had been the only time he raised his voice against her, I realised with awe. Now I see, it was just the first.
The week next to that happened to be a pleasant twist of fate for them. Her father had gone on a business trip out of station on that Thursday. He was not due until Monday. On Saturday night, her mother confided in Anitha she was going to some far-off temple the next morning (I forgot the name now). Her daughter wasted no time in telling this to Raghu and inviting him to come on the next day. Tee and I had to sit out another episode, a steamy one for them and an equally irritating one for us, that Sunday.
It was the park again next week, and another bitter quarrel which lasted for most of the following week. Raghu did not give up on his side of the argument. Anitha was furious to find herself losing the hold of her supremacy in the relationship and she fought back. Tempers flared to alarming degrees. Yet, an uncanny truce suddenly materialised between them with the advent of the weekend. Raghu came up with a solution to make his trips to Trichy eventful. That Saturday, they met in a theatre. And until that time, I was under the impression people went to cinema theatres only to watch movies.
“Ben, I forgot to tell you. you remember the rowdy guy I told you about? Naga?”
“Yes, I sure do. He’s the one who slaughtered a guy last month, right?” I ask, a trifle disconcerted by Tee’s taking up a subject completely off context.
“Yeah. He was murdered two days back.”
Tee initiates a diversion and I play along. It is a story about a guy, with whom Tee tells Raghu chummed with sometimes in the past. He is a mean ruffian, Tee states. He has told me a lot about the guy and the fraudulent activities he pulled off with his underdogs. I like gangster stories. Tee possesses a special flair to narrate them in a thrilling way. I listen intently enough, but I watch things happening in the dark all the same. Tee and I have decided not to talk about them. I wonder if Tee has turned a blind eye at Anitha and Raghu. A faint voice deep within me says he has not.
Two weeks back, when they came together for the first time to watch a movie, or on that pretext, I was relieved they were not spending the time again in bed. My relief was short lived. Raghu became perky with the promising darkness. The lights were not switched off for long before he threw perception to the winds. His hands extended boldly over to her, and started to creep across her body. I was beginning to feel nauseous. Anitha made a vain show of resisting at first. Her eyes opened wide and she looked at him accusingly. She scoffed as if with repulsion, snapped his hand away. Her reaction stayed thus for as long a time as it would be sufficient for her to point out in the future and accuse him of having made randy advances while she was innocent if there came a question of chastities. Then, as in her home before, her resolve dwindled into nothing. I’d not be lying if I said it transformed into cooperation in some time. They squirmed and rocked and wriggled in their seats for hours, not caring about anything else in the world but just the pleasure the friction between their skins was giving. I was positive I saw a smattering of heads in their front and back rows. It was too dark for me to decide on the occupation in their own aisle. However, the last thing they seemed to worry about all that time was someone else snooping into their private moments.
Over their adventures in the gloom of cinema theatres the past two weeks, they have taught themselves such knowledge and skills that they could publish a book named, ‘Smarter ways to slake your sex urges in theatre’, or, ‘Cozy poses to perform fellatio in theatre’, or some better name in that vein if they wished to. So today is no different. He has already begun, groping in dark for her feminine assets. She is staging fake objections for now. She’s smiling this time, though, which presages a quicker plunge into action by Raghu.
Tee pretends to explain me the details of Naga’s homicide. I pretend to listen and sound amused. Our owners, on the other hand, are sloughing off the pretentious skin they have donned for the world until now, to show their true colours in the dark. Nothing is normal in this setting here, yet somehow we coexist, faking normalcy.
I look at Anu and Raghu, their bodies working in shadows, and wonder why I feel alarmed when I should be feeling triumphant Anu’s father has got suspicious of her. I ponder over the reason. Tee is unwary of the trouble eating me up, and blabbers on. He knows I’m occupied with something, but he mistakes it for the distraction caused by the intense sexual activity nearby and he does not want to talk about it.
The ghost of the question of my concern over their love’s imminent danger swoops down on me time and again, more insistently every next time.
And I am evading the answer I have known very well all along, just like men evade the certainty of their death approaching with every passing day.