His phone buzzed. It was his favorite notification tone. It would cheer him up every time he heard this tone. His eyes would light up, his heart would beat faster. It’s the tone he had set for Dummy’s messages. Dummy, or Damyanti, was his best friend. He picked up the phone and read the message. His heart sank.
“He finally asked me out for a date!!!!” it read.
“That’s great!” he managed to type.
He threw his phone away.
“Hey! You must be Damyanti. I am Abhishek. May I have a seat?” asked the man, who she thought looked more charming than his profile picture. He placed his shades on the table, sat on the chair across her, adjusting his hair.
“Damn! He looks so perfect in that white shirt!” Damyanti thought. It was not her first date with a complete stranger whom she had met online, but she felt this was different. She was never a shy person, but she was at a loss of words for the first time. Luckily the waiter came to her rescue with the drinks they had ordered.
A couple of drinks later, she felt much relaxed. The calm music in the background also helped. She opened up to him. They talked about themselves, their hobbies, their friends.
“You should meet Dumbo. He has such a sick sense of humor. You would love him.” she giggled.
“Dumbo?” he was confused.
“Oh! Rishabh. He is my best friend.” she said.
“But why, Dumbo?” he was still confused.
“He calls me Dummy. Damyanti… Dummy. You see? So, I call him Dumbo. It’s like revenge. I know it doesn’t rhyme with his name.” she tried to explain.
“So, may I call you by your nickname?” he asked.
“What? Dummy? Never. Only Rishabh calls me that. You can call me Dums if you want.” she said sternly.
“Okie-Dokie, Dums!”, said he.
She silently slid her hand and let it touch his palm. He was quick enough to understand her cue. They walked out of the restaurant into the starry evening with their fingers entangled, her head resting on his shoulder.
“You weren’t sleeping, right?” Damyanti asked.
“It’s nearly 2 at night. I am not the only human who tries to get asleep at 2 at night. What is it, Dummy?” he spoke into his phone, one eye closed, another eye blurry, trying to adjust to the dark room after the sudden brightness of his phone’s backlight.
“It was awesome today. He was so nice!” she blurted out.
“Oh! How was your date?” he asked dryly.
“It was perfect. We talked so much. We went to a movie after lunch. Then he walked me home. He held my hand all the way.” she was very excited.
Hm was his reply.
“It’s the best date of my life. I think its gonna work this time. I have a feeling.” she said.
“It’s late. Go, get some sleep.” he said.
“Hey, Dumbo! Thanks! For suggesting this new dating app.” she said.
“Good night, Dummy.” He hung up. He tried to sleep, but all he could do is lay awake in the dark, thinking of her.
Eight months later.
He sat across the table from her. He was wearing the red checkered shirt. It was her favorite. They were at their favorite café; they had come here often. Everything was perfect. But something was missing. She could feel it. Something was wrong. Where was that charming smile he always had on his face?
He took a sip from the glass of water and looked around the desolate café nervously. Only one other couple was occupying the table at the farthest corner. He felt more nervous.
“It’s not working anymore,” he spoke suddenly.
She looked up to him with confusion in her eyes. He paused a moment to let the abruptness of it sink in.
She spoke calmly. All she wanted was the reason.
“I never wanted to bring this up, but I think your best friend might be the reason.”, he said.
“What are you talking about?” she was bewildered.
“You know, every time we talk, you bring him up. You never talk about yourself. You always had stories about you and your friend to tell. Sometimes it felt like I was in a race with him to win you over.”, he tried to explain.
“You felt insecure about us?” she asked.
“Not at all. I was never meant for you. Nor were your two failed relationships before me. He completes you. You had always tried to fill that incompleteness he left, with random relationships.”, he paused for a moment.
“Don’t you get it? You love him. That is why you could not invest yourself completely on me, or anyone else for that matter.”, he said. Her eyes were moist.
“And don’t think I said all these to get rid of you. We will always be in touch. Like friends.”, he tried to lighten her mood as he closed the door of the Uber for her. She gave him a weak smile and looked away, working hard to fight off the tear that was about to roll off her cheek. As the cab drove off, she gave in. She could not hold her tears any longer. ‘What if all that he said was right?’, she thought.
He took out his phone. It said he had 13 missed calls from Dummy. He rang back. She did not answer. He tried once again. This time he heard her voice at the other end. Her voice was heavy.
“Hey, Dumbo!” she answered.
“What happened? I had so many missed calls from you. Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Yeah! Everything is fine. Just wanted to talk to you.”, she said weakly.
“You are crazy. You know that? When I saw those missed calls, I thought something was wrong. Actually, my phone was on mute. You know why? I was on a date! You remember the app I suggested to you? So finally I convinced this girl to go on a date with me. She is sweet. See, I have been blabbering all about myself for so long. You tell me, Dummy. What’s up with you? Dummy..? Hello..? You there…? Hello…”
She held the phone in her hand as a kohl-smeared tear dropped on its screen.
Originally published at http://scribbler467476403.wordpress.com on May 9, 2020.