Naivety and Prudence, A Diptych Teenage Fantasy: Vol II
Updated: Sep 25
PART 2 of 2 : Prudence.
"I've got some colour back, she thinks so, too
I laugh like me again, she laughs like you"
"Oye! Boyfriend!" a shrill cry of amusement tore through the cool humid air of the evening. He froze in his tracks, almost not breathing, sweat breaking on his forehead. I could not gather what had happened. He kept staring ahead, zoned out. His hands grew cold.
"Is anything wrong?" I asked. We stood there, in the middle of the concrete pavement. My left hand still in his hand, I held his arm with my other hand and asked again. The click of shoes against the pavement got louder steadily and stopped just behind us. Perfume, a faint sweet smell of vanilla.
"Look who we found!" the same voice chuckled, a fine tinge of sarcasm laced with the statement. We turned around only to counter his half-baked nightmare. It was her. With her, there stood a tall bearded man; his shaved head harbouring a small ‘paper airplane-trail’ tattoo that crawled down the right side of his face, only to draw more attention to the single gold earring on his right ear. The man's kind warm eyes squinted through his round framed glasses as he smiled wide and extended his hand towards the pale anxious figure standing beside me; him. I realized this kind man had completely missed out the sarcasm in her voice. He smiled nervously and took the man’s hand. The man greeted him with a gentle hand shake. As soon as the bearded gentleman turned and greeted me, she glared at me. Disgust in her eyes spoke louder than her voice.
I had not met the woman in person before, but with the tiny sum of knowledge, that I had mined out of him (almost like excavating diamonds from a mining site), the description of this goddess figure standing before us did justice to her enigma. He couldn't speak nor could I. I continued staring at them not knowing what else could be done. She looked at me head to toe, scrunching her nose but was cut off by the man beside her. “Hey, that’s rude,” he blurted out, nudging her gently. She rolled her eyes at me and focused on her past lover standing before her.
"Oh, look you have got yourself a girlfriend," she continued a sly grin growing on her face.
"Yes, I... I have, that shouldn't be any of your concerns," he cut through, closing his eyes and exhaling an exasperated sigh. He spoke with his teeth together trying to control his fear and anger.
"Aww, look, our little boyfriend has found someone that can make him feel more like a man," she remarked in a low sympathetic voice and giggled. As soon as she completed her statement, the man beside her grew pale. His eyes widened in disbelief. His warm smile had vanished into a gasp. He turned to look at her. Sheer horror had struck the man. He had not expected the coincidental light banter to take such an ugly turn. By then he had turned around and had started dragging her away by the shoulder. He looked over his shoulder and bellowed an apology to the best of his ability. He took long fast strides almost breaking into a half run. "What a loser, asshole!", I could hear her mutter as they walked away. "She isn't even pretty, shame… " she continued, almost holding back her spit. Her pitchy voice drifted away getting fainter. I did not know what to feel. As they moved away she pulled out all the gifts from her side bag, he had once given her, the gifts, he had once made her , and threw them on the road one by one. The man tried his best to stop her, but only succeeded in his failed attempts.
I knew this was going to hurt with a different intensity later, but at that moment I felt numb, yet it felt like somebody had twisted my guts and had made a sailor's knot out of them. I turned to look at him. His eyes had grown glassy, a horrified gasp plastered on his pale face. He looked down, and took a deep breath raving his hand through his curls; eyes closed, trying to take in and understand what had happened a few moments earlier. He sighed, his jaw still clenched. He looked up at me trying to force a weak smile on. A vein on the side of his head had gotten visible from the apparent stress. He looked down again, unable to maintain eye contact.
“I am very ashamed that you had to face that , I... I am very sorry, you had to go through that, it’s all my fault, all my fault…” he croaked, his voice heavy. “Hey its okay, no biggie-” I tried to comfort him but got cut off by the loud rumbling of the clouds. The sky had darkened into a mosaic of spruce and azure and the clouds seemed as heavy hearted as heart broken lovers. No mercy today, it was going to rain. As soon as I had acknowledged the thought, it started off with a light drizzle.
“Let me drop you off to your place, please don't turn me down...” he said gently, still guilt-ridden. As we strode faster the downpour intensified. It started pouring as we struggled to cross the road and run to my rented apartment.
We ended up drenched at my doorstep. Although we knew the roads to each other's places very well, we had never got inside of each other's apartments. He insisted on leaving; by the time we had reached there was no means that he could leave in such raging rains; it had started raining cats and dogs.
“Please get in, you're going to catch a cold if you leave now,” I insisted. He nodded and very carefully removed his wet shoes and socks, careful enough to not to wet the cheap plastic doormat. I closed the door behind him and switched on the lights. “Wait here, let me get you a towel” I said. I went to the farthest corner of my one room apartment, where the bed was and pulled out an unused towel along with my own towel, from the tiny shelf under the bed. While I walked to him still drenched, I wondered, almost embarrassed, about what he might be thinking about the tiny place. It was just a large room with a bathroom. The kitchen consisting of a microwave oven, an induction plate and a mini fridge huddled up in a corner. The bed pushed up against the wall and a window adjacent to it, that overlooked the cityscape. “There is the bathroom,” I said in a low voice, pointing towards the narrow wooden door straight across the room, handing him the towel.
“You get changed first-”, he protested, but I cut in with “No, you go first let me arrange for some clothes for you. Now go!” “You don't have to-” he quarreled. “No I have to. Now go” I pushed him towards the bathroom. As he closed the bathroom door behind him, the towel dangling on his shoulder, I searched for my brother's clothes for him to wear. I could hear the echoes of the water running. Since it had only been a few months that my brother had left the apartment and I moved in after, he had forgotten some of his clothes here. I pulled out a fresh t-shirt and pair of pyjamas, from the same shelf under my bed. I knocked on the bathroom door.
“Hey, I have some clothes for you,” I said a bit loudly, so that he could hear me over the sound of the gushing water.
I handed him the clothes from the narrow slit that had formed as he opened the door a little. I returned to the tiny shelf under my bed, and kneeling down, I fished for something comfortable. I pulled out my oversized t-shirt and striped socks. As he came out, I stood up and took the wet towel and clothes from him. “Please make yourself comfortable,” I said as I put the wet clothes on the wire tied across the tiny shaded balcony that stood proudly opposite to my bed. “Please, now get changed, otherwise it's you who is going to catch a bad cold,” he said, his voice a bit heavy, as if trying to stifle sobs. I turned around, only to meet his glassy, reddening eyes. He still stood there at the foot of my bed and tried to smile as he met my eyes. He took a long sniff trying to control a runny nose. I strode towards him and put my hand on his temple to check for fever. No, it did not feel like fever.
“You don't have fever, yet…” I drifted off.
“No biggie, now go freshen up,” he pressed.
“Yeah,” I said and headed towards the bathroom.
As I entered the bathroom it clicked, most probably he was crying. A dull heartache took over. Pity? Not really, a different kind of heartache, the kind of heartache that makes you nauseous, that makes you want to leave the whole matter alone yet painfully enough you had been involved too heavily to leave, something that slowly swallows you like a mud pit.
I got out of the bathroom and saw him sitting at the foot of my bed on the floor, facing the balcony. His knees pressed against his chest and him staring outside. Something felt wrong, heavy. I walked to him and sat beside him. He looked at me and tried to smile.
”Hey, you okay?” I whispered as softly as I could.
“Yeah” he nodded.
“Maybe opening up a little will help feel better, wanna share?” I asked.
“Maybe some other day” he mumbled carefully, not to sound rude.
“Okay, no problem” I said smiling at him, and he replied with a weak smile. We sat there for some time silently, taking in each other's light comfortable presence.
“I am really very sorry you had to face all that, I... I don't know, I am just…” he whispered, exasperated, half scared, his eyebrows furrowed, eyes pleading.
“You still trust a man, that was called an asshole by another woman?” he whispered, and rubbed his exhaustion laden eyes. His damp ruffled hairs fell over his temple.
“Yeah, why wouldn't I?! love you, I know you” I replied calmly, fighting the urge to hug him tightly. He sighed at my reply almost not trusting himself.
“And I think assholes are kind of important. Just imagine what would have happened if the human body did not have a butthole?” I continued with my horrible sense of humour. Strangely enough I had succeeded in amusing him. He looked at me and smiled wide eyed, amused at my absurd joke, a pathetic effort at being witty. By the time I had finished embarrassing myself, he had broken into a full fit of laughter. Looking at him laugh like that, I couldn't help but giggle at the sight of innocent joy that an absurd joke had provided.
“Hungry?" I asked.
“Yeah... kind of " he nodded, a bit hesitant, calming down from the laughter session.
“Me too, instant noodles will do?” I asked, embarrassed. I did not have anything else that could qualify as satiating food, at my place.
“Would be wonderful,” he said. I smiled and stood up to boil the noodles.
"In fact, let me cook, do you have some milk?" he asked as he stood up behind me. I froze, I had already embarrassed myself, I did not want any more embarrassment for that day. I opened my mouth to protest, but before I could say anything he insisted, "No! No ifs and buts, let me cook for you, that's the least I could do, for taking me in, please." I couldn't turn him down. I knew he did well with cooking. Once he had even cooked me some chicken and I couldn't deny the fact that it was delicious. I showed him the stone topped, wooden cupboard over which the microwave oven and the induction plate were kept. All the snacks, dry groceries and the utensils were kept there. He sat me at the edge of my bed and went on to cook. I watched him get the milk and the eggs out of the mini fridge, put the water to boil on the induction plate and search for some other ingredients he felt suitable. I couldn't help but smile, I grew in love with this man a bit more that day. As time passed by, the beautiful smell of food diffused in the cool air of my tiny apartment.
"That smells like paradise," I giggled, as he walked slowly towards me, with two bowls of noodles in his hands.
"Only for my angel," he winked and smirked, slouching down on the floor, at the feet of my bed.
"Gosh, that’s awfully cheesy," I laughed at the cringe-comment.
"Just like the noodles," he added in with a little giggle as he devoured his bowl of food. I laughed and started with my share. And indeed it was delicious. I did not know what he did to the instant noodles but it was something worth all the embarrassment I had called upon myself, even something worth more than that. And with that, I wanted him to stay, I wanted him to spend the night with me, talking, laughing, making inside jokes like that. Hence I went on to embarrass myself a bit more; the cherry on top.
"Can I request you something?" I asked. He nodded, taking the last bite from his bowl.
"Yup, fire away,” he said looking up at me, an innocent smile stretching on his face.
"Would you… would you... mind... staying over today?" I squeaked with my eyes closed, not wanting to see his reaction, knowing that was too much to ask for. As I opened my eyes I saw his smile widen and turn into a heartfelt laugh.
"I would love to," he chuckled. I smiled as wide as I could. I couldn't really control myself from smiling foolishly. I took the bowl from him and together we did the dishes. By the time we were done with the chores, it was late. The rainy evening had started to merge with the darker shade of the day.
I sat there, silent and still, staring outside the little window at the edge of my bed. The city seemed to be lazily busy. The room was dark, the rainy evening had embraced it with its cool damp arms. Although I had put the most comfortable of my clothes on; my oversized t-shirt and wool socks, I felt the light breeze brushing my bare thighs. Chills ran through my body. I had a hard time accepting that what he had with her was love, and what he had with me was love too. That is the truth, love comes along, somehow, anyhow. I kept thinking about how everything had come down together to this particular moment where I was having him by my side. He sat there leaning on the wall adjacent to the window against which my small bed was, cross-legged, just like me. I could feel his warm caring eyes on me. I could feel him grinning.
I loved how he made me feel. Warm and comfortable; above all, accepted.
I wanted to do something, that would make him laugh; something that would make him giggle like a child. I was sure after the lightest Ted-talk I gave him, we could do with a bit of more fun. A wonderful thought crossed my mind.
I turned to him rather too quickly, and blinked. I couldn't help but smile ear to ear. It is something about the person you love, that they do look a lot more beautiful than they might think they are. Curly hairs, warm eyes, shy smile. I did love this person... in a quite shameless manner, I might add. I couldn't stop staring at him, but I had to stop to get going with my idea. I looked down, tucked my damp hair behind my ears and looked up at him again .
"Let's do something," I whispered trying to hide my excitement yet almost letting a tiny giggle out. He seemed a bit confused, yet trying to keep up with my whims, he nodded in approval, his grin stretching into a smile. A smile laced with thin vines of sadness around it. His smile made me want to see him asleep beside me every morning, happy, innocent and carefree. Peace. A bit of peace. I could not help but think that, you could not un-love someone once you start loving them, until you hate them, but you do not want to hate them. So, you let it fade, with time, and over the course, over the journey you change yourself, the love that you had just stays as a distant memory. As I touched his face, I couldn't stop thinking how badly I wanted to love him, I had a knot forming in my throat wanting to love him... keep him safe closer. However cheesy it may sound I wanted to heal away all the pain, he had endured.
"Close your eyes then," I said, excitement all over me. With every bit of bravery I had in my bones, I took his hands in mine like praying together hand in hand. His fingertips had hardened from strumming for so long. "Stay still okay?" I whispered, trying my best to make him feel comfortable. He nodded smiling like a kid. His hair fell on his face, covering his forehead. I let go off his hands and crawled closer to him and sat down. I cupped his face with both of my hands and gazed at him, bathing in his presence. I ran my thumbs along the contours of his cheeks, grazing my fingertips along his cheekbones. I closed my eyes, loving every bit of the feeling.
“I love this beautiful person," I thought to myself.
Written and illustrated by Tripti Biswas