Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A bar, a girl and vodka...

Only fools know what fools know.
                                                El Stupendo, Musings

I sloshed the vodka around my half empty glass, welcoming the sensation of the imbalance it caused as it reacted to my movements. I stared at the clear liquid hoping that I could somehow lose myself in its depths. It was wishful thinking on my part. There is nothing here that can save me now. Not even the haze of alcohol.

I raised my eyes and met her gaze. Gentle brown eyes tinged in sorrow stared back at me. There is a question there, I know but I acted as if I did not see it. I smiled weakly. She smiled back, dropping her gaze.  

She knows…

It made it all the more painful. I swallowed my drink, the warm liquid burning my throat as it raced downwards.

“You will not marry.” She said.

 It was a statement. She refilled my glass, her slender hands barely hiding the tremors that she was trying hard to mask. For a moment, I was sorely tempted to reach out and just clasp them in mine but the same dogged part of my mind that stayed my tongue held my hand at bay. 

“I’m not meant for marriage.” I answered.

She fumbled with the pitcher between us as she cradled her own glass. My eyes settled on her drink: It was her first, she did not even take a sip. I felt her eyes on me but I could not muster the courage to meet them.

“You know me” I chuckled, not meaning it. “I don’t think I am fit to be a husband to anyone much less be a father.”

She laughed. It was a forced laugh tinged with sadness and unspoken angst. She dropped her gaze and slowly raised her glass to her lips. When she put it down, it was empty.

“You  have a job, a good mind, values…” she joked. “ A woman would be lucky to have you…”

“No house, no savings…” I stammered, regretting the words as soon as they came out.I bit my lip.

A brief silence fell across the table, drowning even the band up on the stage. I returned my gaze to her. Her eyes spoke volumes but once more I chose to ignore the plea that showed there.

She broke the gaze, then she laughed.

“Ever the pragmatist, eh?” she ribbed. “There’s more to life than houses, you know?”

I smiled wanly. “You know my reasons…”

True, I am a pragmatist. I believe in the old maxim that the man should provide for his family. There must be a roof and a stable life before one can make the big commitment. Anything less would be a betrayal to one’s future family. An idiotic notion to others, but painfully real for me. 

She stared at me, probing, I know, for a hint that I was lying but ever the expert, I hid my true feelings. She finally smiled in resignation, and my heart grew cold as I finally realized that I had accomplished what I have been planning all along. She had finally given up on me. I know it now and the finality of it made my knees weak. But I did not show it.

I drained my glass and she refilled it again. She raised hers. I mustered the strength to raise mine though for a moment, I faltered. Then the liquid raced down my throat once more. But this time, there was no heat, just a hollowness that sealed the end.

“We’re getting married this December.” She said, smiling weakly. “I said yes after all his efforts, and probably because of my parent’s nags...”

“The big 3 -0.” I quipped hating myself as I said it.

“The unofficial deadline for single women.” She laughed.

“He is a good man…” I held her eyes for a moment but she dropped her gaze. 

“Yes…a good man.” She fixed an errant strand of hair that made its way across her face. My heart hammered in my ears but my mind held fast. I hated myself.

“It means that I probably would have to stop meeting guy friends to avoid words.” She said it in jest but I knew what it truly meant. The end of a dance, an awkward dance that was never acknowledged between us. It was the door closing on a book and I am letting it close without resistance.

“The inevitable curse of marriage - “

“When the hubby comes all male friends get the boot.” She finished laughing

“Especially single male friends.” I joined the laughter, a cruel irony which we both knew but did not acknowledge.

The laughter died out and an awkward silence descended upon us.

Finally, she stood up.

“I should go, it’s late” she said.

I gazed into her face, now draped by the shadows cast from the bar. I wished to see her eyes but I did not budge from my seat.

“Would you like me to take you home?” I ended up asking. Stupid, stupid…

She looked at me in a moment of indecision but with a small shrug of her shoulders, she straightened and flashed me a smile.

“I’ll manage.” She awkwardly thrust her hand towards me. I stared at her stretched hand, knowing what it all meant. My body moved on its own accord and I clasped hers and shook it.

And then she turned away without a word. I watched her as she gingerly picked her way across the bar. She did not turn back but I could see the shaking of her shoulders and as she disappeared outside, I realized that I was a fool for letting her go. And I hated myself for not mustering the courage to go after her.

“Tissue sir?”

“Wha – “ I looked up to see a waiter looking at me offering a wad of tissue paper.

And I realized that like her, I was also crying.


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