To Know A Woman by Boudhayan Mukherjee

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Some questions. Better not be asked. When Sandra came one morning. Didn’t know her. Before she showed herself at our Merilin Park flat. Chris had sent her straight from Bangalore with a letter. A brief chit: twenty-two year old Sandra, fed up with corporate job. Desperate for a change in life. But for heaven’s sake don’t fall in love. 
She sat on the settee, exhausted. The attractive profile, face, a bit jarred by the unknown city. I read the chit. She didn’t blush. Love didn’t mean anything at the moment. Have some food. But before that she needed wash.
Washed, she looked more beautiful. Face and profile fresh. My parents in Delhi, a bachelor’s flat. Can she cook? Fleet-footed, nimble-fingered, she produced buttered rice, then omelettes, we ate.
The strange loiterings, at Bangalore, she told me. Repenting, you are, I told her . Yes, I missed a lot in life. Very fast life out there at Bride Street. Bang. Uselessly fast. I gathered nothing. No meaningful relations, no personal friends, no permanent virtue. Bang, bang, bang, Bangalore, it was.
You came to Calcutta to slow down the pace? Possibly, she ventured and looked quizzically at me, reclining on the divan. Her good-length body blurred on my optics.
No sex, I warned myself. Briefly closed my eyes and promised. Let a different relationship develop.
You smoke, she asked, and you bunked your office for me today?
Both, and I gave her a ready-made one and she sniffed and said, no. Give a plain one. For long time to come, she said, wouldn’t inhale hash.
In the evening, we went to the lakes. She wore leather skirts. Am I attracting too much attention? Yes, I said, and the superannuated evening walkers, nodded affirmatives. I long for a discreet life, she confided as we walked upstairs. A paler life, eh, I told, giving her orange-juice. Yes, - no rhapsody, none, sipping, she said. Ten hours and we were operating on the same wave lengths. Coffee for both, another joint for me, both feeling fine.
So Sandra, I informed her, I don’t feel confused that you’ve come. Chris, my ex-mentor is more sensible than sense. He thought me a cushion, mebbe, on which Sandra can sleep peacefully for a while. Right? She racked her brains, smiled, said, gratis .

A bachelor’s flat now, would she stay here nightly? A million dollar question of  which we both knew the answer: no love, no sex , so fear not co-habitation. 
As we chanted  the resolution to ourselves, mantra-like, the power went off, I sweated as she did, but why did we, when ample breeze blew in through  the south-facing window?
The candles, before the flames blew off, reflected a divine glow on her face. Don’t fall in love, I warned myself.  And rolled another joint, to keep myself engaged.
Candles  relighted, we spoke casually about life in general, about her parents who migrated to Canberra last year, leaving her blank. Her unfruitful loves mine. About Bengali girls and Goan men. About betrayals. Sins, films, morality and murder, changing Indian economic policies, the Left Front, Indian-English poetry. 
It was a broad session, until we converged. The intimate personal problems, we had to show each other. Our faces mellowed in candlelight, and speaking more slowly, she confessed that she finally been in love with Chris for the last two years. But he had married her younger sister last month. Her hurt hurt me. 
I felt  too much of love for her, for a moment, like the flicker of the candles.  And puffed a mouthful of intoxicating smoke, inhaling deeply. She rose and her breasts heaved. I took shelter under closed eye-lids. And the promise, chanted mantra-like, again.
You have an extra room, and spare pillows? She lamented about her carelessness to pack essential items in her kit. You are not much of a tourist and it doesn’t matter if you use my tooth-brush. I consoled her.
The power-cut continued and I cursed, god damn! Brushing her teeth, she said, it looked like candle-lit Christmas at Mapusa, when she was a child. That means, I supplemented, you’re emotionally nostalgic. Calcutta will support you. She giggled like a school- girl froths from her mouth spraying my head.
At night, on the balcony, the night-breeze rustled through our loose garments. So, it was the anti-climax with Chris that sent you here, I prodded her. I didn’t come, Chris advised me to, she told rather innocently. Chris thought you could be my best companion for the time being. To roll me over the emotional crisis, to raise me above the hurdles.
But shit, I cursed again. I am not a homosexual or impotent. Yet asking me not to fall in love. That is an insult, you know. 
Chris is an honourable man, she smiled. We didn’t click, so I’m here. Would your parents object if I stay here for sometime?
The corporate boss, Christopher, jilted Clementine. How I loved her, how I loved her, how I loved my Clementine. But I kissed her younger sister and forgot my Clementine. 
As I sang, Sandra winced. She was still in love with her brother-in-law, obviously.
An ultimately drizzle put us back into the rooms. Power returned.
A bulge on your trousers is making you look foolish at the juncture of your thighs, she laughed frankly.

Oh god save me. Oh no sex can’t overpower me. Oh Chris, why did you send her? What’ ll’ she do with me? I with her?
We retired to separate rooms. She didn’t, but I bolted the adjoining door. The bolt was on my side. What could I do? What would she have done if the latch was on her side? Oh Chris, oh Sandra, Sandra what a test for me. Would she knock and say, you self-protective bastard, can’t believe a helpless woman.
Then I slept soundly. Bright morning to see her face again. Calm and profound.  Both of us. At breakfast.
I must tell you something I didn’t last night. You might have thrown me out. I am pregnant by Chris. But he doesn’t know. 
We looked at each other for long time. A shaft of sunlight haloed her beautiful head. Birds on the avenue tree tops, we could hear, chirping. A little breeze wafted in. Now tliting her head she looked away from me, outside the window. I couldn’t understand the look in her eyes.
Slowly, I raised myself, went, and held her hands. Silence unveiled deeper happiness.

Courtesy: KOLKATA2000


Comments

KBDGR8EST said…
An interesting take on life. Patience has its own surprises, an untold story waits.

What happens next?
Marshwiggle23 said…
Fascinating story, enjoyed every bit of it, is there going to be a sequel? Koshy . Thanks for letting me read, happy to be given the opportunity.
Kushal Poddar said…
An excellent piece of literature where poetry blurs into fiction.
Glenda Higgins said…
Ontario, Canada:
a very interesting voice you have in your writing. I'm so used to using "quotes" in dialogue, etc. that i found this kind of enlightening. thanks for sharing.