Forged, unwilling friendships.
You’re at a party.
Your seniors got promoted. I hear the hint of alcohol in your voice. There’s music. You’ve eaten, and you’ve asked someone the score. You have calculated the Fantasy League points your players have got and will go back to the guest house and check if they’ve increased. The music isn’t something too loud but you don’t mind it. You never mind most things, even if you wouldn’t do them yourself. You’re dressed in a light shirt and trousers and you’re worried your hair will catch attention. “It grows up,” you’d told me, when I asked you to not cut it. You’re mixing with the men in your confusing Hindi and you’ve come to terms with the agreeable company you keep. The scotch isn’t the finest like your GM’s party had, but it’s a week you’ve decided to enjoy anyway. You are still talking more than your alcohol.
A few hundred miles away, I’m curled in my bed. Ready to hear your voice put me to sleep instead of your arms for yet another night. Filling in the distance with words that we share to bring us closer.
I dial the number you usually answer. It rings. And rings. And rings some more. And falls silent. I remember that you must be at the party.
But you had the phone. Why aren’t you answering? Is something wrong?
I try the number you asked me to call. It follows pattern and falls silent with the same result. No you. A pit forms in my gut.
What if he’s passed out? Or had an accident on the way to his room? Is anyone looking after him?
I try the first number again. It rings. The seventh time, the ring sounds different and my spirits soar and crash, as the ringing continues. It ends. And sighs with me.
It’s like the wind has been knocked out of me. I curl in more, cradling my now-alive tummy that has abandoned hope. I shut my eyes tight, opening them for the 3 seconds I need to leave a message on your IM.
I close my eyes. Alcohol – 1, Radha –
You call. I almost choke.
Among other things like what time you will call and if I should stay up, you say it. “I love you,” you say. Reassuring, fond, firm, alcohol-induced because you never say it otherwise, even if you feel it. I am overwhelmed. In tears. Choking.
Do you know what that does to me? Your grip on my heart has tightened at 11.45 pm.
You kiss into the phone, and say you’ll call. I nod my understanding.
And for the sake of those three words and bringing them to your lips so I can exhilerate in that moment of your attention and love, I shake hands with alcohol.