Okay, I have to stop thinking so much during a date. She’s pretty, and smart. And bored. Anu sighed. A discreet look at her watch. “Sorry, I was trying to remember if I switched off my laptop before coming. Saves energy you know.” She raised an eyebrow. Okay I’m a bad liar. “Alright, I was actually wondering whether my shirt was too bright for a first date. You’re in black.” A surprised but broad smile. Phew. I made a mental note to thank my mom later. Be yourself, she said. “It’s fine. I was wondering whether I was too…” “Sombre?” “Right!” “You’re not.” “Well it’s just that I lost a patient today. Wasn’t feeling too bright and cheery, you know?” “What kind of doctor are you?” “Surgeon.” “Wow.” “I usually don’t tell guys I barely know. It intimidates them. But you already know I killed a patient today so I can’t be too great a surgeon.” Her eyes clouded over. No more bright smile. “Heyy. I’m sure it happens…” “Yes, but it never gets easier.”
Silence. The food arrived. I watched as she cut her veggies neatly and fed herself. Clear, white teeth. “Why are you single?” Her fork froze in mid-air. Crap. “I’m sorry. I didin’t mean to pry, it just popped out of my mouth. Geez. I’m really bad at this date thing…” “No, it’s refreshing.” Wait. What? “And kind of cute.” A tiny giggle. Whaat? “But no it’s okay. My last boyfriend… he… well… it just suddenly ended.” Looking at my confused expression. “We disagreed a lot. And I needed space.” Hmm. Successful and mature but needs her space. “I’ll try to remember that.” She grinned at me. “Don’t worry, I already like you.” Never mind thanks, I’d fall at my mom’s feet later. Never trust a girl who wears black. Another one of her pearls of wisdom which suddenly came back to me. One which I’d ignore. The woman did lose a patient earlier, she had a right to be sombre. “What about you, Varun” “Huh, what about me?” “Well, why are you single?” “Uh. My wife died a few years ago. I’ve not dated much after that.” “Oh. I’m so sorry. May I ask how?” “Car accident.” Silence. Forks clattering.
The manager came to ask if we liked our food. Then the silence dragged on. “I miss her you know. But I think she’d want me to be happy.” “Yeah, ‘m sure she would.” Silence again. I cleared my throat. “You know. I don’t think I gave her much space either. Calling all the time, text messages, emails if she was away…” Oh hell why did I just say that?! I tried to cover up but before I could say anything, “That’s okay. You seem like a really nice guy.” She mumbled something about a fridge. “Sorry? Didn’t catch that.” “He took up a lot of fridge space.” Uh. Doctor’s lingo? “We lived at my place. Made a mess of my fridge. No space. Sorry. That may seem random. I’m a bit of a clean freak though.” I laughed. I found it funny, her cleaning up after a messy boyfriend and then scrubbing in and saving lives. “So am I. So you need clean space huh. My wife was messy too.” Argh, why was I bringing her up so often. “Sorry. I don’t talk about her very often…” “By all means. If you want to talk about her, you can. Doctor-patient confidentiality,” she smiled. God, what a pretty smile. Stark white against her eyes and black kurta. “Patient? Hmm so you’re going to fix me?” “I can try.” I didn’t realise we were staring into each others’ eyes till I heard the waiter clear his throat. “Ahem. Dessert?” After she ordered coffe, for me, and a massive chocolate brownie for herself (good, she wasn’t shy about eating a lot) we got back to the eye contact. And I started talking. About my wife, my job, my mother, my sister, my life… everything. Her eyes were like a drug which made me talk. Or maybe it was my latté. Either way, she seemed to like it. We paid (went dutch actually, though she insisted on paying for the entire meal) and I dropped her home.
The only time there was silence after an hour of chatting was when I drew up beside her home. “Er. So I’ll give you a call? Maybe we can do this again sometime?” Silence. “Or you give me a call. You know… if you’re interested.” “I really like you Varun. I don’t go around letting guys pay for my meal and drop me home and all that.” Phew. “So great! I’ll call you. maybe even tomorrow.” “Why don’t you come inside. See my place. Have some tea.” Whoa. My hesitance must have been visible. “Sorry. I don’t go around inviting guys home either. If you’re uncomfortable… Call me tomorrow. Or whenever. That would be nice. Good night.” She leaned over and I smelt her scent. It was subtle too. Like the rest of her. But nice. A quick peck on the check and she was gone.
I don’t know how long I sat there. It could have been an hour or a minute. I got out of the car. Walked up four flights of stairs. And knocked.
Footsteps. Then silence, And the door opened a crack. “Varun? Are you okay” “No, Anu I’m not.” She looked half-worried, half-scared. “I don’t go around barging into successful, single, female surgeons’ homes either.” She didn’t say anything. She just smiled. White teeth against a black t shirt this time.
I don’t remember walking in or her shutting the door behind me, locking us out from the rest of the world. I just remember drowning in her eyes again.
* * * *
She wasn’t there in the morning. Emergency surgery. There was a note though. And she’d signed it ‘love, Anu’. She’d said to call her later and that I should let myself out. No food in the house or the fridge, sorry, but a cup of coffee was there which I could re-heat in the microwave. I washed my face, dressed and went for my coffee. And I looked around. She really was a clean-freak. White walls, clean cut wooden furniture, white marble floor. I even looked through her books and music Jazz. And Danielle Steele amidst medical books. I laughed. She surprised me. I decided to take a look at the food she ate. Her fridge door seemed to be stuck but I pried it open. Amd I froze. I think my life may have flashed before my eyes. “Women who wear black. They’re cold, Varun. Be careful.” “He never gave me enough space… He took up a lot of fridge space.” I ran to the kitchen sink to retch my guts out. I don’t know how long I sat there. Images of the sliced up male body in her fridge kept hitting me till I realised I had to get out of there. I got up and realised I’d been sweating and shivering. My clothes were damp. I tried to breathe. But when I heard a key turn in the lock I froze. Footsteps. “Hey! I thought you’d have left by now. Just woke up? Last night must have been pretty tiring for you.” The smile again. Except this time it didn’t seem beautiful. She took her shoes off. “Surgery was great. Didn’t kill him.” She chuckled. “Sliced a man open and put him back together in no time.” I was scared to think she may practise on me next. She saw me frozen. Stiff. Staring at her black shirt. “Yeah. I like black. It suits me.” Oh God. Why were mothers always right. I was going to die.
* * * *
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Graphic copyright: Sanjana Soman
This is for Sunday scribblings.