We hail a cab which drops us at Ratu Road, from where, another cab drops us at the main gate of SAIL township, from where we walk through the Satellite Road to enter Shyamli. All the while, we are talking about her friends, her friends’ friends and her ex-boyfriends’ ex-girlfriends. I don’t have to say anything as my life has been quite unextraordinary. Imagine me as the agricultural tv channel they put on government set top boxes and imagine her as the flamboyant ESPN, in HD.
Shyamli is this beautiful township of Mecon, so serene that if Anurag Kashyap visited this place he’d start directing Bhajans. It was my idea to smoke in Shyamli. We walk and walk and walk and stop at a park which looks desolate except for a man fooling around with his German Shepherd. Why do people hang out with dogs? Like, what the fuck are cats for?
“Are you sure we should go in? “I do not feel safe in a park with a German Shepherd dancing around. She looks at me and starts walking. Into the park. Damnit! I follow her. Godamnit!
That goliath monster charges at us as if we ran away with his engagement ring, barking like German artillery of World War 2. Heer screams in fear. I am already bleached out, my heart on the tip of my tongue and my ribcage ready to slip through my ass. That’s how I’m dying! Godspeed!
But I jump in front of her anyway, and I’m not sure if I peed or what, but as I sacrifice myself to keep her from harm I tell her to get away. I don’t know what I am thinking right now but somehow I know that when I’ll look at this in retrospect, I will choose to visualise myself as a caped Zorro.
A miracle saves us though. The dog turns as his owner calls him back. He’s chuckling at a distance and even though I give him a nervous laughter in response, I want to sue him for life. We race out, swearing and wheezing. Then, we laugh and swear and laugh and life suddenly gets better, and safer. We could have kissed but I have the heart of a mouse so we just slow down in a street which looks devoid of people. That’s the place.
“We’ll smoke here. “She says. There’s no one around, except for a guard who looks like his wife became a monk and that’s why his life is hell and so he wants to poke around and have some fun from observing people’s activities.
I nervously pluck two cigarettes out and hand one over to her. Then, I light up the matchstick and light my piece, my heart a canon of Arras inside my chest. Then, with shaky hands, I light her cigarette too. I don’t want to die of lung cancer. And I don’t want her to die of lung cancer.
“You first. “She says. Dear Lord, forgive my sins! My lips touch the cigarette butt and even though it doesn’t feel like orgasm, goosebumps cover my skin. I inhale smoke little by little, as suggested by the Wikihow article for beginners, and look at her. She doesn’t look that ecstatic.
“It’s gone. Light it up again. “She frowns. I rub the stick against the box and light her cigarette. And just like that, we are taking drags. It tastes like burnt corns, which is not exactly delicious and it doesn’t have a soothing effect on any of my senses, as they swear on their mother’s life. In fact, I feel like I should have bought a Frootie instead. But a Frootie Date won’t look good on a blog post title.
Heer is grumbling about something. She looks beautiful while doing so. She wants to blow smoke clouds and it’s not happening. I tell her that that only happens in movies, but it doesn’t calm her down. She wants her smoke rings. She says that this friend of her blows smoke rings every Tuesday night at India Gate and people from all over Delhi flock around him to watch this spectacle.
As I look behind, the guard is gawking at us. He seriously needs to have fun with his wife more often, he looks so downtrodden. She gives up after a few drags and since I don’t have any good reason to do so, I carry on. My lungs still feel like lungs. But yeah, the smoke stings my eyes.
We walk under the starry sky, along the quiet avenues, not talking, our steps parallel and slow and in synchronization. And a few seconds later, Heer asks for my piece. I’m gobsmacked. ( Gobsmacked is this new word I’d run into in Lord Evans’ Merriam-Webster, and it means dumbfounded. )
“What? “She looks at me quizzically as I hand it over to her. As if sharing cigarettes is a normal thing! It’s quite intimate, it’s as intimate as sharing herpes. She deftly holds it between her fingers, like she’s Augustus Waters, and she begins to draw smoke. I blush like Hazel Grace Lancaster. After two drags, she scrunches her face and coughs.
“You okay? ”
She nods through the hazy cloud of vapour and goes back to sucking through the cigarette as I steal longer, intent glances at her. Heer is ethereal. Not in terms of physical attributes or the ability to talk interestingly and consistently, but in terms of being so expressive without having to make an effort. You have to see her to be able to believe. She’s not a person, she’s an event. Witness her unfold and smile in joy.
She tries a few more drags and then gives up. She returns it to me with a frown. I have developed a sudden liking for smoking. And I love this girl who smokes because I-have-to-exhale-puffy-clouds-and-watch-them-glide-away. And I absolutely abhor, loathe and detest the guard who’s following us like a tail. We take a U-turn and keep on walking. I am drawing smoke from the same spot her lips touched moments ago, and in a rather unconventional way, it does feel like kissing. As I’m relishing the evanescent taste of her mouth on the brown tip, she pirouettes and gives the guard a spectacular display of her middle finger. I am blank and confused and awestruck and terrified. But that’s the normal psychological state when you’re with her. The guard stares at us and I tell Heer to run.
“No need to run. HE’S A FUCKING STALKER. “She says and I’m ready to sprint, but the guard is only staring at us, expressionlessly, so we cancel running and simply assume he is a zombie, and float away.
“This is the principal’s house. “I point to K/95 and she paces up.
“Oh no! I’m dead if he sees us. “She speaks in hushed undertones.
“He won’t. Only the guard will. “I say as I peer at the armed guard who also has the longest moustache I’ve ever seen in real life.
“Damn! “She says as her steps are hastier than before.
“The guard. He was at school, you remember? ”
“He sits at gate number 3 nowadays. What about him? ”
“He sits there because of us. Umm..we were late one day. One of my friends flashed a hundred rupee note before his eyes and he grabbed it and let us enter. Well, I recorded it on my phone. And then, I blackmailed him. I always reached school late, and then one day, he disappeared. ”
“Poor guy. That’s so wrong. ”
“That’s not. He is a corrupt man. He deserved it. ”
I do not say anything. I feel sorry for the guard but I don’t want to discuss morality and ethics on a cigarette date. Also, Heer could nuke an entire continent and I’d still love her with same passion. As we’re about to enter the E/16 street, I see a familiar gigantic homo sapien trudging towards us. He is Lord Evans. THE FUCK!
“Shit! Run! “I say, and we wheel and run. He has already spotted us though. But anyway, we keep running.
“Why are we running? “She asks, panting.
“Lord Evans. ”
“What the hell was he doing there?”She says, exasperated and baffled.
“There is an empty house there. We go there and click pictures and make scary videos of the place. ”
“He didn’t see us, right? ”
“He did. I’m so screwed. Let’s go somewhere else. NOP. ”
She nods and then, we go to NOP. We watch the famous Haunted guest house, buy chewing gums, sit at a bench, take selfies, share the silence, feel weird and leave together.
On the way, she asks,
“What after tomorrow? ”
And all of a sudden I am just an empty space.
“Seventy more days to go. ” She reminds.
I know. And I know it won’t be the same after she leaves. I’m suddenly enveloped in this gloomy shroud of sadness. People leave, after all. I don’t know how to stop her. You can’t deceive time. It’s just not in your hands. I don’t want to lose her, but today’s warm moments will be blisters tomorrow, and they’ll pinch and hurt and stay. So I don’t want to say anything. I’m already missing her, and I know I’ll miss her more when it ends. That’s the theory Einstein won’t give you – the closer you get, the worse you break. I don’t want to break, I’m scared. Moreover, we are playing roles, so maybe I’ll have to be careful and hold my emotions before they begin to fly high.
“We’ll see. ”
The smoke fills my heart. I’m just ash.
She doesn’t say anything. I don’t have the guts to. So we leave it there, the question of tomorrow, floating in the streets, rustling in the breeze, looking for something, somewhere, some time…..