6 February

High BP calls. Usually, I switch off my cell phone before going to bed. But I had forgotten to do so today. I grab the phone at the 2nd or 3rd ring and answer it to keep Etcetra from waking up.

I hiss into the phone: “Hello.”

High BP: “Appi, sorry for calling you so late. Were you asleep?”

Me: “Yes.”

High BP: “I just called to confirm tomorrow. The movie. Remember?”

Me: “Yes, I do.”

High BP: “So I’ll pick you up at 5, at your office? All right?”

Me: “No, I’m working late tomorrow.”

High BP: “OK, then we’ll go for the later show. And have dinner together. Sounds nice.”

Me: “No, I think I told you I don’t want to see any movie.”

High BP: “You don’t want to see any movie, or you don’t want to see any movie with me?”

Me: “Whatever you’d like to think.”

High BP: “OK, will you go next week? There’s a De Niro film being released.”

Me: “Let’s see. Can I go back to sleep now?”

High BP: “Oh yes, sweet dreams.”

Oh yes, sweet dreams. I switch off the phone, and slide down into my bed. But just then, Etcetra switches on her bed lamp. She is sitting up in her bed, looking at me with a very meaningful look on her face.

Etcetra: “Who was that?”

Me: “High BP.”

Etcetra: “Why?”

Me: “What do you mean ‘why’?”

Etcetra: “Why was he calling so late at night?”

From someone who refuses to give us the slightest indication of her own routine, this interrogation about my affairs is rather unwarranted.

Me: “Just like that.”

Etcetra: “Oh. Just like that?”

Me: “He wanted me to go for a movie with him.”

Etcetra: “And are you going?”

Me: “No.”

Etcetra: “Why not?”

Me: “I don’t feel like it. Besides, I AM working late. And there are NO good movies running this week.”

Etcetra: “Or is it because of So-On?”

Me: “What’s it got to do with So-On?”

Etcetra: “Well, you know. You’ve given him proprietary rights over you.”

Me: “No, I haven’t.”

Etcetra: “Yes, you have. Why else do you hold yourself back so much?”

Me: “I don’t.”

Etcetra: “What’s wrong with having fun once in a while?”

Me: “What are you talking about?”

Etcetra taunts: “What do you think I am talking about?”

Me: “Are you talking about sex?”

Etcetra: “Guess?”

Me, worried: “Are YOU doing it? Aren’t you too young?”

Etcetra scoffed: “And aren’t you too old? Not to be doing it? Anyway, I am not talking about sex. I am just talking about going out with some one, getting to know someone other than So-On. Even if you don’t lo..ove them. Like High BP for instance.”

Me, defensively: “For one, he’s in the middle of a divorce.”

Etcetra: “So? Who’s talking of a long-term relationship? Or are you? Don’t you like High BP?”

Me: “He’s OK. He is nicer than I had imagined. I used to hate him so much. In college, I had such a bad impression of him. But he’s not quite like that.”

Etcetra: “Oh. That sounds promising.”

Me: “Promising for what?”

Etcetra: “Nothing. Just a bit of fun.”

Me: “Fun?”

Etcetra: “Seriously, Appi, can’t you just be frivolous once in a while?”

Me: “Frivolous? About relationships?”

Etcetra: “Yes, why not? Not everything has to be life-long love, you know.”

She switches off her lamp, and is soon sleeping. I sit up in bed, wracked with anxiety about her and her ideas of fun. And also thinking a bit about High BP, I admit.

I dream of him and Brad Pitt, later at night. Unmentionable dreams. I wake up, and look guiltily at Etcetra, sure that she has divined my thoughts even while she is sleeping.

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