14 December

I wake up and the flowers are drooping in the glass I had plopped them into last night. But they make me smile. I have never been given flowers without any reason before. Though of course, High BP has an ostensible reason to give me flowers, somehow I think they were not given to me for that reason at all.

I am still grinning when the phone rings. For some reason, I think it must be High BP, and for some reason my heart is thumping when I pick up the receiver and say, “Hi.”

So-On: “Appi, have you just woken up? Your voice sounds so husky.”

I feel foolish. What the hell! I give myself a good shake. That man has bewitched me with those ridiculous flowers. I reach out, pick up the bunch of flowers and fling it towards the wastepaper basket in the corner.

Me: “Oh no. Oh yes. Yes, just woke up.”

So-On chats for a while and we plan to meet up soon, but I think for the 1st time since I know him, I barely pay any attention to what he was saying. My mind is preoccupied with High BP, and how and why:

1. His mandatory flirtatious techniques with any and every female in his vicinity have taken me in.
2. We hardly discussed his case, and what we should do about Pallo’s lawyer, at the coffee shop yesterday.
3. I was expecting him to call.

I shake my head and get up. Etcetra is sitting up in bed, with the wilted flowers in her hand. My aim as usual has surpassed my intentions.

Etcetra: “Is Cockroach back?”

Me: “What?”

And we both burst out laughing.

I have not thought of Cockroach in a long, long while. How could I have forgotten the heaps of flowers he gave me? But before I proceed, let me tell you that Cockroach is not a name I gave him; he had acquired it from his friends in school. I could never be so mean as to give him a name as obnoxious as he really was.

From our 1st day in college, Cockroach would sit in a corner seat somewhere in the middle of the classroom, slightly crooked in his chair. The rickshaw-walas do that; sit on the edge of their seats, because that’s the way they had their driving lessons, with their more experienced rickshaw-wala friend sitting beside them. I know because once, unable to resist, I had posed the delicate question of this one-bum sitting feat to a friendly rickshaw-wala.

Cockroach from his vantage point would look around the classroom and every morning, his eyes would fix on one female face for the rest of the day. No amount of:

1. Squirming.
2. Glaring.
3. Shushing.
4. Or making angry gestures

would deflect his gaze.

After a week or so, some of the chivalrous boys picked up a fight with him on a girl’s behalf, but like the pest he was named after, he was un-squash-able. His vague smile never left his face. In the next class, he was back to his leering, and all of us including the teachers, gave up on him, as if he were mad.

By 2nd term, Cockroach had become bold enough in college, to pick up prohibited flowers from the prohibited garden of the Principal’s cottage, and make strange little bouquets to give to his girl of the day.

In the 4th term, Cockroach stopped changing his favourite girl every day and fixed on me. Day after day, he would offer me the flowers. Day after day, I would feel his gaze on me during lectures.

Suddenly I wonder if that was why High BP had given me those flowers? Had he really noticed my discomfiture at that time, did he remember those silly incidents of college days?

I actually did go out with Cockroach once. Not really a proper dinner or movie date or anything like that, but for coffee at the Barista close to our college. It was Ogre’s idea.

Her way of tackling problems is to barge into them head-on, and that’s what she would always persuade Etcetra and me to do, whether it was:

1. Tackling a school bully.
2. Or getting down to chemistry homework.

So when our house had become a sad cemetery of sad flowers, Ogre put me to work.

I was scared all the while we sat at Barista that one or the other of my college mates would see me with Cockroach. I would never live that down all my life, I thought. Why did I not think of some other place to go to? But I hadn’t wanted to subject myself to a rickshaw ride with him.

I meant to talk to him sternly about his gazing at me and giving me flowers. Sternly, but sympathetically. Bring out the best in him and all that.

But when I had finished my reconnaissance of the coffee shop for friendly foes, I saw what Cockroach was doing. Gazing at a girl across our table.

The girl was giving me weird looks, as if I ought to be responsible for my ‘guy’s looks’. I wanted to submerge myself in the icy blue slush before me. Instead, I stood up with it and left. Cockroach gave me a fleeting glance and turned back to stare at the girl across the table.

At home, Etcetra had laughed. Ogre had shrugged and said, “Oh well, at least you tried.”

Back in class, I found Cockroach’s gaze turned elsewhere and the flowers at other desks besides my own.

I had once narrated the episode to So-On as a joke. He had laughed, then looked at me

And said: “Appi, you need a real boyfriend, poor soul.”

I:

1. Wondered if he actually thought that I went out with Cockroach because I wanted the pleasure of a date?
2. Realised for the 1st time that So-On could be quite patronizing with me, and that I didn’t like that.
3. Felt offended.

So-On had looked surprised at my glowering face. He had hardly ever seen me as anything but sweet, unless I was raging against Etcetra.

He had apologized, “Hey Appi, I was only teasing.”

I had scowled at him. I knew he had not been teasing, but helpless before his brown, mischievous eyes, I had smiled.

After that, So-On has never mentioned A Real Boyfriend to me again.

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2 Comments on “14 December”

  1. […] Continue reading Appi’s story at 14 December […]

  2. dipali says:

    Hmmmm- gimme more!


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