Absolution (V)

By the time he is out of the shower, the phone has already gone bonkers. Family is seldom patient in matters of a phone call, never mind that he has been living alone for a good twelve years now. Once a week, at the opportune moment, if someone managed to look at his call log, she/he would be convinced that my man was the family guy. So he duly calls everyone in that missed calls list, patiently talks to everyone, and by the end of the last call, is late by about 30 mins. He was supposed to meet the others in the apartment lobby at about quarter-to-eight, so after a midnight-blue-suit-and-a-silk-bow-tie seconds later, he rushes downstairs. “Oxfords, not brogues”, the pointlessness of this statement notwithstanding.

The jolly herd hails a fancy looking car and makes a dash for the fancy place. Amid the chaos, his silence is a welcome respite, for after every couple of minutes when the others are done arguing over things non-sequitur, they look at him in anticipation and then turn away like spurned lovers. He is unflustered, calmly looking outside the window, without thinking much. It’s a state where you know stoner rock did its trick. Once a while he proposes to plug in his phone into the aux, trying to convince them of the benefits of exploring new music. His proposals meet the same fate as their glances. There is a casual mention of how the destination would be littered with good looking girls walking arm-in-arm with not-so-good-looking boys, followed by a joke about him replacing the face in the forever alone memes. He takes the joke on his chin, laughs with them.

The 40th floor of the building manages to hide the city once the sun sets. In a city that never sleeps, Saturday’s aren’t much different. The air is still sweaty, the roads still strangulated by the overflowing traffic. The cranes atop buildings under construction light up, pulling off a houdini in plain sight, camouflaging as aspirations of an increasingly deluded middle class. The party is a lot like the Harvey Dent fundraiser from that Batman movie, though. Jazz, champagne, gowns, pearls and people. For all the jazz that his silk tie represents, it is little more than a corset for him functionally. He steps out into the balcony for a breather.

It is rather amusing how privilege complicates the way a lot of us lead our lives. It slowly creeps behind our backs like some kind of a monster, slithering covertly, seeping inside us, until what remains of us is no more than a cowering frame that dangles at the frayed ends of sanity. And until it sleeps, the howl of the winds is too loud for the mumbling struggle within to break out. In time, the boundaries between the two selves — one that actively tries to think about privilege as an albatross around the neck and then shrugs in helplessness, and the other that rues the ubiquitous access to that albatross — become wide enough for apathy to comfortably snuggle in. Sometimes, these albatrosses manifest as satin ties and sparkling wines.

As he saunters back, apparently confident of having taken in sufficient fresh air for another go at posh, he hears a familiar laughter and some talk about a certain Beethoven symphony. Not too far from where he is, a svelte figure holds the attention of half a dozen mortals as her hands trace a wavy motion. A familiar smell wafts its way unto him and sucks out all that he thought would help him last through the next hour. That’s when he decides that a cold beer never hurt any soul.

A few seconds later, he catches a glance of her catching a glance of him. There is a lot that they both read into each other’s glances. Surprise for him, answered with nonchalance by her. Her question answered with a stupid glint. Amid all this, there is a small matter of impatience in her eyes and anxiety in his.

He takes a few steps in her direction when she calls out a name, mischievously. The host introduces two familiar people, and the two on their part, make sure the rest of the evening goes by without incident.

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