Absolution (IV)

On her way back, there is mist in her head. She is trying to fight her way out of it, peering through the droplets of thoughts that hang loosely inside her brain. Most times the mist serves her good, it gives her the will to look past everything nebulous, to make a good fist of all the chaos and put everything back in its rightful place. Sometimes though it breeds inaction in the hope that the sun will eventually shine through. And some days, that does not happen. Those are the days when she thinks her investment in the rather expensive apartment is indeed worthwhile. Today is not one of those days, but she still seeks the familiarity of her room. She pulls out her music player from her bag along with it, the key to her apartment. They key chain is The-Beatles-crossing-the-Abbey-Road picture. A genuine smile breaks out, in acknowledgement the comfort she seeks — both by the way of her music and her destination.

The bus journey takes inordinately long, but she is patient. She has Beatles for company and the occasional cityscape as food for thought. The taste of the breakfast and the conversation at breakfast still lingers in her mouth — the food laden with cheese, and the conversation desperately trying to camouflage its salt in the taste of the cheese. The Friday night dalliance was a first for her, but something she does not want to lend a lot of importance to. After a lot of ruminating, all without much outcome though, she thinks that propriety often leads to self-loathing. Knowledgeable as social media is, it rightfully shows a human being’s standing with universe in perspective, and she, as a result, has come to firmly believe that any amount of thought would still remain too insignificant in the grander scheme of things. So while she has drawn boundaries for herself, those boundaries are elastic. “Norwegian Wood” is a good reminder of that.

She gets a call from her parents; her face quickly replaces the scandal with nonchalance; she assures them that all is fine and she has finally employed a cook for her meals; reminds them about a Shimla vacation that is already 2 years due; casually mentions about her Kerala trip; chides her mom for tagging her in every Facebook post; jokes about eloping with a boyfriend; ends the call confirming that she will be home in a week. In between sentences, there is a small conversation about her marriage, which she dutifully partakes in. She is very fond of her parents, but with age, a certain degree of tiredness has set in in these conversations. Today was another going-through-the-motions, with the same questions, same answers and same jokes. “There is nothing you can know that isn’t known”, the Beatles sing to her, or to her parents on her behalf.

After about an hour, she reaches home. Heart is where the home is. She says a casual hello to her flatmate, gulps some wine to wash away the taste of cheese and locks herself in her room.

“I am home, thanks for the breakfast”, she texts him and goes off to sleep.

The last time she went out was yesterday, and before that, about three weeks ago. She likes to count herself among the connoisseurs of food and drink, has managed to get on to the invitee list of invite only parties, and seldom repeats restaurants. All these years, she has tried hard to “belong” there, and now has an ever growing sense of comfort at these places. She is going to place not-of-her-choice tonight.

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The last time he went out for dinner was yesterday, and before that, a long time back. The few friends he has prefer fine dining to his rather modest culinary preferences, and he often does not feel at home amongst the fancy crowd — he’d much rather be the lone patron there than be surrounded by stuffy silhouettes and pretty faces draped in exquisite sartorial elegance. And after all this, there is the small matter of expensive alcohol at fancy places and he can’t see a lot of value in dutching the bill. While he believes in table manners and politeness as a virtue in general, he finds it extremely unjustifiable when he has to bear the cost of alcohol. He’s going out tonight for a friend’s wedding reception at an upmarket place. For all that matters to him, there are likely to be familiar faces and he won’t be paying the bill.

The day has aged beautifully it would seem, and appears brightest at dusk. The tangerine streaks have raided the sky, stretching from one horizon to almost the other. It has gotten slightly windy, and the last puff of clouds is struggling to remain afloat. The city is lumbering back to life, shaking off its hangover, as the lazy calm outside his place starts turning into a din. He can already see the snaky traffic from his window, as he tries to weave past the snaky trails that the turn of events has sketched in his mind.

A most powerful way to think about misgivings is to not think at all, and the meekest response is self-loathing, the kind she would hate. After failing at avoiding a conversation he wanted to, and then failing in that conversation as well, it has not been a relaxing weekend for him. He tried to dust off the slight discomfort, but ended up with a broken mop. While the conversation may have ended, in letter, the way he wanted to, he has not been able to reconcile with the tone and the spirit of the it. He has indulged in self-loathing, which, in turn, has brought along a whole host of unforgiving memories from the past, only serving to pile up even more misery. He has called himself names, admonished himself through the day, and prayed to God to lay upon him a deserving punishment. By the end of it, and a short nap later, he is looking out of his window, wondering to himself about his flawed moral code, generalising that to all human beings, and then absolving himself of everything.

The clock strikes 19. He switches on the mobile internet and sees her message flash across.

“Great, have a nice day!”, he writes back.

He steps into the shower, as a waft of her perfume lingers on.