Anindita Sarkar


We were at the underground bar of Clifton Avenue. As we sailed into our third drink the waitress definitely thought we were lovers, she greeted us with a smirk, like she knew about our little secret. The ice cubes melted in our glasses. I noticed a middle-aged couple in a booth adjacent to ours, staring at us. Did they think we were lovers too? Were they repulsed? There was no mistaking the furrows on their brows.
                I was too drunk to even think clearly. My mind was preoccupied with a curious motley of indefinable sadness, and childhood memories, my eyes were travelling unobtrusively to the eyes veering towards us, at regular intervals. He asked me if I was ready to go, with a pussy-footed politeness. Hurriedly he waved down the waitress and handed her a credit card. As we walked home I could only see flees jumping on the side-walks freely.
                When I awoke the next morning the usual fuzziness was there. I lay completely still, for a while trying to register the familiar surroundings. The pale mint walls were devoid of wall hangings, the furniture unused during the weekdays. His body lay close to mine in the room we shared during the weekends . I mourned for all the girls who had ever loved him. I sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed, reached for the packet of cigarette on the bedside table and lit up. I had solid motivation to leave the bed now and go home to my family and tick off another day of pretending to-be-in love.
                My wife and I had figured out in an inarticulate agreement that living our lives on our own terms and not encroaching our private spaces, was the best way of staying out of each other’s nerves during the two days off we had from work. We didn’t see each other until dinner, most days not even then. We all have lost ourselves into the vortex of daily existence. Sometimes when I look in the mirror I feel I have changed beyond recognition.

An Uneasy question

She was a waitress at the Waffle House and he was a regular customer. She greeted him everyday with a seductive grin as if she would happily split the bill. Standing on the adjacent booth she often noticed him staring at her over the brim of his coffee mug. Perhaps everybody in the café thought they were lovers. But they weren’t actually lovers, just two unloved strangers.
                On one evening he initiated a casual conversation. They talked and talked. She asked her lover who was not yet her lover, if he wanted to go to her place. Her voice struck him like a lusty yell of womanhood. He didn’t decline. Back in the apartment they kissed and kissed until their lips hurt. A storm shrouded the city, they held each other and hoped the storm to continue forever. Next morning they confessed about their lives. Both were married to strangers. He had a distant wife and she a lecherous husband. Nobody summoned them with love.
                He said he couldn’t leave his wife, “My kids…”. She said “We can’t keep doing this”. But they did it again under the threadbare cotton sheet. It was a snow globe world of their dreams.
                She knew morning sickness was a siren of impending disaster. She was preparing for an MFA programme where she needed to enter child-free. She apprised him of the news that evaded everybody else’s attention. “Abort it” his outraged words filled the café. That was the last sight she had of him, bundled in a coat, slamming the café door. She didn’t follow him.
                Life is hard when you don’t have a plan. Back at home, she wanted to gulp down a bottle of sleeping pills to let out her frustration and stretch flat her water-melon sized baby bump. The radio was full of static, windows rolled up. The radio sang the refrain from the Civil Rights Anthem “We shall overcome. ”


I get out of my house, sling my backpack on my shoulder and wave at Javed, he is there as usual on time. In the car, I initiate a casual conversation but end up pouring out my passive aggression and rant about my mid-life crisis. I pause at a Polaroid tucked into the rear-view mirror, a woman in her thirties proudly displays a beach-ball size baby bump and palms the taut surround of her navel.
                I ask him about the picture pointing to the Polaroid with my square-nailed finger bitten to the quick. He readies himself to confess, “The girl I proposed to, in mud-splattered boots on a rainy evening in Iran. I used to meet her under a tree after Friday prayers. I married her five years ago.”
                Javed is a man of few words. He lives alone at Bartram Avenue in his small one room apartment. Life wasn’t easy for us. But Javed works with a rhythm. During break time he wanders aimlessly in the park in front of our office. On weekends he never hangs out with us, he stays at home working on his new project, composing a new poem or building a bird house. He is a man of solitude. Occasionally he can be spotted at the cinema or the farmer’s market, all alone.
                We stop at the signal. I roll the window down and notice two middle-aged man just like us, in the car adjacent to ours, staring at us. As the signal reads green, car sirens honk behind us. I struggle to remember where we were. I continue “I never knew you were married! Do you have a kid too? Where do they live?”
                As I speak I observe his pupils dilate in his face smudged with shadows. He replies, “They lived in Tehran, in our new apartment with a good view of the city. Now it’s just twisted wires, chunks of concrete and debris from pieces of a plane’s cabin”.

Anindita Sarkar is pursuing MPhil degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She is from Kolkata,India. She is also an UGC Junior Research Fellow.
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