The Set Up
So a good friend of mine at work introduced us. It was brief, partly out of politeness to my friend. And yes, there was some chemistry but then again, that was both of us being nice and then possibly discovering that we aren’t completely lacking in personality. We were clearly lacking in interest. Therefore, we were set up on a date. We both were smiling and the ‘mutual friend’ was ecstatic. You know, the ‘mutual friend’ sometimes feels like that Amway salesperson trying to get you on as a leg or arm or branch or whatever they call it now days. They just seem to be so much happier than you when this ‘set up’ happens and you are, invariably, left a little confused and hoping for the best.
So I got there a little early. No specific reason. Google informed me that it would take longer. Apple and Uber did not agree with Google. They had a bit of a tiff because Apple refused to open Google Maps, Uber refused to understand how to get to this quaint little cafe in a quaint part of Bangalore. All in all, technology wasn’t in the mood for love. But the human in it all, my cab driver, knew where to go. Got me there like the ‘mutual friend’ had already paid him a bonus or something. Additional bonus for getting me there on time. Terms and Conditions Apply.
I liked the cafe, the moment I realised there was alcohol which technically nullified its claim as a cafe. I could smell my cologne. I never had in the past. A part of me was clearly trying tonight. I did not much care for that part of me. Well, the ‘mutual friend’ had impressed upon me the need to be presentable so I had even managed to trim the ruffled beard. Problem being, now she would know I was trying. It was messy when we met. Damn the ‘mutual friend’!
She walked in. I did one of those double take thingys. She looked stunning. I had never seen her like this before. It was like I was meeting her for the first time again. It was a bit of a shock but then I thought it was all meant to be a part of this evening. An interesting start.
She told me to act like complete strangers. Like we had never met before and never ever had a conversation. That surely wasn’t going to be tough tonight considering the way she looked. And mental note to stop harping about the way she looked because that isn’t the point of the story. But then again, she was a vision of.. Ok i’m done. To matters of substance. I began to speak about work, the lesser known facts about what I did. About my pet peeves, the more annoying ones for the bystander and eventually landed upon my dreams. At this point she gave me a wise frown. Whatever a ‘wise frown’ is. But I rattled on. It felt right and so did the Pork preparation with Potatoes. Both were dipped in heaven and served on a platter of love. Super cheesy and super not interested in describing how the food was really made and the nuances that must be observed. Not that guy and surely not that night.
She did that thing then. The part where she goes deep into your eyes as if pre-empting the next words out of your mouth. I love when women do that. She wasn’t politely laughing or listening anymore. She was a part of my stories of the mountains and my need to find myself a life in it. We then were on Google finding the perfect places to get lost in. She even found me a teaching gig in Shillong which could go with the nomadic life I wanted to lead. In between some good old Margarita, she began drawing a little house by the lake. She felt I would like that. Her cocktails began to smell like her at this point. Fruity and strong. Also, that was the point in the night the DJ begins to pick up the pace and the decibels. And somehow you don’t find yourself complaining. Love love love the wasabi and prawns she said at some point. Now the conversation became alcohol fuelled. Not mundane though. I liked that. At this point she decided to not sit across but to come and sit next to me. I had never seen her up close. I have always believed that when a girl comes up close, close enough that you can see the wrinkles, the uncertainty in her eyes and the true size of her forehead, is when you have a real shot of understanding how beautiful she really is. She was at that magical distance. And that’s when the DJ decided to go Bollywood on us.
You know that moment when you are on a date and the DJ starts playing Bollywood and you want to be going down on the dance floor, but you are hesitant because she may judge you and more significantly, reveal to you that she hates Bollywood. Also, do you know where that exact moment happens, but just that she is pulling you on to the floor mouthing the lyrics. Not quietly into your ears, coz that ain’t Bollywood, but loud enough that the bouncers get confused. You know when they say, soulmates, it doesn’t take that much.
So now we were dancing, faster, madder and we kind of knew this about each other. Our love to dance, though I must point out we both are terrible at it, made us one that night. Felt like every one on the floor was looking at us and going, ‘man, I wish I was them’. But then it didn’t matter. We danced and then she pointed to the door where we stood and did this welcome dance for everyone who walked in. It was weird but it was strangely liberating. Liberating, you ask? Well you know how you every once in a while do something so silly and pointless that for a few moments it makes you forget your inhibitions, your comfort zone and all the baggage that comes with it. It’s that thing, but with her, it felt like that thing on steroids. She wanted dessert now. So we split the bill. She insisted. It was a date, not a business meeting she said. I liked that. She made something like splitting a bill feel personal.
We ran out to men and women barely being able to walk on the pavements. And we continued to run for some reason. She with her heels. How did she do that? Random awe moment in the making. Moving on. She loved salted caramel. I adored salted caramel. And together we made many sounds we made later that night over this aforementioned salted caramel dessert. She kept licking her spoon and looked at me in dismay when we were done. She then put the spoon down and started talking about her recent trip to Pakistan. She spoke about the beauty of Lahore and how it moved her that a city this close to the heart of India, was still so far away, so distant and villainously associated in our minds. She cringed when she spoke of the absolute normalcy in the reception she got there from the people because it made her wonder why things couldn’t just be normal. She didn’t mull over this for too long as I had brought her another bowl of dessert. She switched topics, rather ironically, to her obsession of running. We spoke of trails, shoes, warm ups, running apps, not keeping a routine, hating routines, loving to be able to keep that routine, early morning vs late night. She couldn’t understand how I ran in the dark. We spoke of how couples must always operate in an environment where they don’t have to share bathrooms. Her favourite song from the Dewarists was Zeb and Haniya’s, mine was Kabir Cafe’s. She was on my earphones listening to the song. I looked at her and I think in my vacant drunk situation began to smile like a silly child. She saw it, did not keep quiet about it and teased me till we walked out. We stood outside the dessert place. Pulled out our phones in the same instant and booked our respective Ubers. Her’s was a minute away, mine ten minutes. We cracked jokes about our funniest Uber stories. I did an impromptu imitation of Drake from Hotline Bling because YouTube was refusing to work. Once I was done, she told me she had seen the video. She laughed, I didn’t join in though. But I think I did that silly smile thing again.
Her cab was there. She walked towards it. Then walked back to me, pulled the phone out of my hand, went to my Uber app and cancelled my cab. It was possibly the most romantic thing a girl had ever done.
I held her hand and walked to her cab. It helped that I knew she didn’t live too far because I couldn’t wait to be in her arms.
My ‘mutual friend’ wasn’t going to remain a friend anymore..