Falling in love is something I just don’t do. I have seen you all, babbling, mindless, fools – looking for yourself in the other, claiming that she or he is The One! The One? What does that mean – The One? Are you saying that Love is a number, an entrance examination where if you conscientiously study hard enough you will get The One? It sounds foolish and pointless to me, and that’s why I will remain blissfully unattached…
Oh yes, I forgot to introduce you. That’s my colleague…friend, whatever, Gloria. Nice if you like the type. Blonde, 5ft 10, blue eyes, nice warm smile. Some would say that she’s attractive, she’s a Marilyn Monroe. I would laugh at them. Marilyn Monroe? Well! I only said that one time…and I was drunk! It was my birthday after all. Really, you are making too much of a deal about this. Once and for all she is not, I repeat NOT my type.
I do admit though that I have been hanging around the coffee shop quite a bit and no it’s not because she sits there working. I like the coffee and she’s intelligent, it’s nice to have a girl that one can have a decent conversation with. No ‘I love yous’ and nauseating kisses down the phone for hours – like other couples – it really makes me sick. With me and Gloria, sorry, with Gloria and myself, it’s different – adult-like. We discuss movies – she’s a Tarantino fan – and she’s smart, though she never shows it off, she’ll just throw away a line here and there and then bam – you know – this is a girl who knows her stuff.
So everything is going great but suddenly something’s gone wrong. Six foot wrong! This green-eyed Goliath came into our, whoops, her life. He is alright if you like six-foot green-eyed men I suppose. I don’t! He is nauseating. All that stuff about working with slum children; going to night school; wanting to make a difference – a real difference – blah, blah, blah. I laughed and cringed for him at the same time because I have to tell you – guys hit on Gloria all the time – she gives them ‘The Stare’.
Let me stop you right here and tell you something. You do not want, EVER, to receive ‘The Stare’ from Gloria. Why? Because imagine, imagine the most beautiful girl in the world and that you really like her – like her in ways that scare you but in a way that makes you feel good too – imagine all that, and then imagine The Stare. It’s frightening and good at the same time. Well, not good for the others, of course, but good for me. Because you may not believe it but I, yes, I’m starting to find my way to the coffee shop more often, I am actually coming early to see her walk down the road, to see that beautiful hair fly across her face and her smile – a tiny smile that vanishes almost too soon. It’s as if she’s afraid to be happy.
I can understand that, I am afraid too, afraid of being that babbling idiot that I have often seen you being. Oh yes, you are. I have seen you. Hunting Papa, for a woman that is Mama when you know that there never can be. Mama was and remains the Marilyn Monroe of your life and a good thing too. I love you, I know you love me too and I don’t want anyone else to share that love. Isn’t it terrible? Aren’t I a bad, awful person?
You don’t have to understand that…Yes, I am. I know it. But there’s something you don’t understand. When Mama died, I was afraid, afraid of losing you, losing people I love and that’s why I don’t love. It’s better this way, it really is. That way people don’t get taken away, people remain the way I want them – perfect, unchanging and mine.
I’ve managed fine this way; I have a routine which I call the ‘Fadeout.’ Every time I start feeling funny about a woman, I ‘ghost’ her. Here’s how it works, I actually work to a checklist. Mobile number has gone! Texts – deleted! Clothes of hers – donated to the nearest charity shop. Conversation – well usually when she finds out that I have donated her best clothes to a charity foundation – there isn’t much of a conversation. I do have a few things thrown at me from time to time, but I keep safe, cool and unhurt. I am always one step ahead, dodging Life’s bullets and remaining in control. Indian Superman!!!
But things are changing and I don’t like it. You are shaking your head but contrary to what you may think, I am not a bad person. I love conversations and intelligent people. I love hanging around bars, pubs, inhaling the toxins of life. The freshly ground out cigarette butts, the spilt drinks over the pool table, my friends- all of us – laughing idiotically over God knows what is my life. I have the best friends in the world, the best college, the best Father, the best…
But something’s changed. I don’t know why I do it to myself, Papa. I go to the coffee shop every day as usual and she smiles, but I know that smile, have perfected it many times on people who I want to vanish from my world. Her smile is ironically wider now as if she is trying to overcompensate, trying harder to show that she is listening to what I am saying when I know she is not. A blind idiot could read the signs, Papa! The tapping of her foot, the constant checking of her watch, the ghostly grins -that means everything and nothing, the muffled excuses and I know, know it each time…
I don’t even have to turn around, Papa. I always jump up with an exuberance that startles me and shakes the six-foot green-eyed goblin’s hand as if I want to crush it, which I do – I really do – and wave them away heartily. Her eyes do look into mine and I look away because I am scared of what she will see and what I am becoming – a pathetic wreck. I am also scared of something worse – pity. The last thing I want from Gloria and you is the pity. But yes, let me say it – I don’t want to be a good friend, I don’t want to act the way friends do, I don’t want to be in control, I am in love with her and I want her, want her, to fall in love with Meee….
I turn around and there she is. Oh my God, there she is! I was so busy talking to you and my back was to the door…why didn’t you tell me Papa that she was, is, here.
‘I think it’s time I left you two alone.’
Papa moves away and she slides into the Velcro sofa seat opposite me and I don’t know what to say or do. She is beautiful, so beautiful that it hurts just to look at her – look at those beautiful kind eyes and perfect smile – which I know it is for me but none of is in the way I want it to be.
‘No Amit, I think it’s time you need to listen. This is something you should have heard a long time ago. I love you but…
‘Oh my God, someone please shut up the MOOD KILLER of the night! Hey CHIQUITA, I was just messing with you and Papa over there and I must say I got you both so good….Now, what’ll you have…’
The hurt is evident on her face but I cannot stop. I want to hurt her, hurt her in the way she is hurting me. I talk frenziedly, laugh raucously and try to flip her chin with my fingers which is our friendship thing, or rather was. She turns her head away and the hurt, the disappointment, the anger, finally gives way to The Stare. I have never been given THE STARE by her and it hurts in a way I never thought it would. I feel sick and breathless and then do the only sensible thing I can.
‘Papa where is he! Has he come home?’
‘No Gloria honey, he hasn’t.’
‘Have been calling every 10 minutes. He’s shut it off. Oh, Gloria, this is not how I wanted this to go…I just thought…
‘You knew! You knew all this time!’
Papa shook his head and smiled a sad smile
‘A father always knows about his children. Who hurts them, who makes them smile and most importantly – who they love. When Amit talked about you, his eyes lit up, even as he denied vehemently that you were anything but a friend. Yes, a parent always knows. I just thought if he talked to you things would be better…’
Gloria leaned forward and looked at Papa. They were sitting in the kitchen worry lines drawn across their faces. It was five in the morning and daily life was buzzing around them but neither of them had noticed or moved from their chairs. The police had come and gone but as Amit was officially an adult it would be 48 hours before they would act.
‘This will make it better Papa. Amit has closeted himself from life for a very long time. It’s time now he acted like a normal human being without your cushion, Papa, without your constant interference.
Papa looked at her hard.
‘It’s very easy to say in hindsight, honey. Amit’s mom died young and he was devastated. I picked him up, he healed but he was on a precipice. I did what a father had to do. I protected him.’
‘You call this protection, Papa! Did you never realize, never see, that the last thing Amit wanted was your protection? It was stifling! So he ran away from it by being in control, pretending everything was fine when it wasn’t. Let me tell you, Papa, Amit’s not fine, hasn’t been for a very long time. He needs to know hurt, he needs to be in relationships, he needs to know that it’s fine to be a normal human being for a change.’
Papa looked at her so hard that Gloria involuntarily backed her seat. Then suddenly he grinned, a wolfish grin that sent shivers down her spine. She stood up to go when he calmed down, held his hand over hers and nodded to the chair in a silent plea. She stared at him for a long moment and sat back down.
‘Excuse me, honey, what you said just knocked me over. Not many people have spoken that way to me, not in a long time,’ Papa said softly. ‘I can see what Amit sees in you, Gloria. You’ve got spunk and you really care for him, don’t you?’
‘I do…very, very much.’
‘Do you, could you, ever love him?’
Gloria tossed her hair back and looked at the family portrait behind Papa. In it was Papa, a white woman tightly hugging an Indian child. The child had his arms around her. Next to the family portrait was a collage hung on the wall filled with pictures of Amit and his mother doing various things. There was one thing that one immediately noticed about the woman. She had blond hair, blue eyes, and was a five foot 10. And if you looked closer, you could also see that she seemed to have more than a passing resemblance to Gloria.
‘I think you know the answer to your question Papa,’ said Gloria softly. ‘It’s not me that Amit is in love with.’