Sunday, May 23, 2010

Singles needn't starve on Valentine's!

Another story on the same lines as this and this, but with different protagonists. Perhaps better, perhaps worse, but definitely the last of this kind :P ...

All of a sudden, he found himself alone with her. Their mutual friend had deserted them somewhat abruptly. She, that is, the mutual friend, had looked at the time and was alarmed that she might be late for her dinner-date. It was 14th of February after all and she was quite a popular person. Unlike him. With these thoughts running through his head, he turned to her-- the one who was still there. They weren't exactly strangers, but hadn't known each other for the time needed to be called friends either. He looked at her, half expecting her to disappear in an instant as well. On the contrary, she smiled at him and asked, "I'm hungry, want to get something to eat?"

Though she had moved to this city a few weeks ago, she still wasn't completely at ease. Change is a complex thing. The transition from new to routine happens suddenly but imperceptibly. Anyway, right then, she was also being assailed by the hunger pangs. As she asked him the question, she looked around. They were in some unfamiliar part of the city-centre, unfamiliar to her at least. "Err, yeah okay," he stammered. They resumed walking. She assumed he knew where they were going. She considered specifying what kind of food she preferred and ask his choice as well. But she didn't have to.

"You don't eat at those kinds of places, do you?" he asked, pointing out the Burger King up ahead. They had just turned into a main street. Being February, it was a cold and dark evening, shops were closing and many people were scurrying home, or elsewhere. The apparent melancholy had no effect on him. Instead, walking along with her, he was slipping into a buoyant mood. "I try not to, too greasy, you want to?" she asked. "No, no! Just kidding, though I do eat at such places sometimes," he admitted. "Yeah, you don't have to worry about the fat," she reminded him. "And you would rather prefer some rice with lemon instead?" he attempted to tease her. "Definitely," she declared with a grin. He beamed, wanted to continue the talk, but nothing worth-while occurred to him. Suddenly, it did. "What about some Chinese?"

Is it a random suggestion or did he actually remember, she wondered. The answer was obvious when she looked at him. She replied in the affirmative, just to confirm. With that resolved, she expected them to change direction, or walk somewhere decidedly. But they seemed to continue rambling along. "It might be hard to find a decent place anywhere today," he remarked. "Uh oh," she mumbled though she thought of saying, Well, we can at least try!

She didn't seem pleased with his forecast, so he hoped they find a restaurant soon. He was the local among the two. He was supposed to know where to take her, but he wasn't sure. He recollected only that there were a few restaurants up ahead. And soon enough, they chanced upon one. "What about this," she asked. "Have never been here, haven't heard either," was all that he could say. They went in, only to be faced with a long flight of stairs and a longer queue of people waiting. With not even a pretence of hope there, they left immediately. He stepped outside and turned around, just in time to see her walking out of the door as well. The light might have played a part, or maybe the mood created by the ambience inside, he was struck by her looks. Of course he had considered her pretty and even hot, ever since he first saw her, but this time it was something more. That angular face with the heart-warming smile was enhanced by the playful curly hair; some of those dark brown curls were flirting with the forehead. He stood there, rooted for a few seconds, just staring at her. Or was it minutes?

That restaurant did look nice and well decked up, thinking so, she strode ahead with renewed purpose, wanting to find another one. But where was he? Not finding him next to her, she turned around, only to catch him hurrying up to her. She almost asked what had held him up. But the sparkle in his eye distracted her, or was it his glasses? She couldn't say. "There will be a few more ahead," he said reassuringly. But soon, his eyes were looking at something beyond her. Wondering what was so attractive there, she turned around and found an Italian restaurant with no visible waiting customers. With tacit consent, they entered. It looked quite romantic, all the tables were set up for two, with soft lit candles on them, populated by gently conversing couples. The crystal was glittering too. However, the somewhat Italian looking waiter who approached them, turned them away as soon as he learnt they didn't have any reservation. Perhaps it was time to reconcile to the fact that they won't be able to eat at any decent restaurant, she wondered. "These Valentine's day specials! Crazy eh? Every place seemed fully booked," he said, interrupting her thoughts. "Yeah and no one cares about poor single people like us," she complained too. Encouraged, he went on, "And they also pay such exorbitant prices for the same kind of food as any other day, this day is such a fad!" "Hmm," was all that she said in response. She didn't find Valentine's day annoying, at least not as annoying he was making it out to be.

Walking ahead, they came across a vendor selling flowers on the side. They both were observing him and also looking at the flowers as they moved closer to the shack like stall. He latched onto another conversation starter, “Flowers are also a big business on this day, right?” “Yeah and I think I will end up eating some of them if we don’t find any food soon!” she replied. They halted right in front of the stall and gazed at the colourful scented display. She started off soon enough and he tried to keep up. But his looks lingered on the stall. His thoughts were racing, Damn! I should have bought some flowers for her! What was I thinking? In fact, why wasn't I thinking! He contemplated turning around and getting some. But then he feared it would be too deliberate. Perhaps even awkward? Send unintentionally strong signals? It would certainly be incongruous with his on going projection of being a guy who is not the ‘mushy-romantic’ types. While the debate raged on, they were moving farther and farther away from the stall. He wished that time would stand still for a moment and permit him the leisure to decide. Alas, he felt they were too far away now and he could only rue the missed opportunity. He vehemently and silently cursed his absence of mind. It’s no easy task to be all normal and attentive with the girl and, at the same time, come up with ideas and make these instantaneous decisions, he complained in his thoughts, justifying his inaction.

They tried a few more restaurants, mostly Chinese, as they went along. From every one of them, they were quickly thrown out, not literally of course, politely rather, intermingled with some pity sometimes. Finally they found one which seemed to have vacant tables. As they entered, they were greeted by a gust of perfume. The restaurant was going for some kind of a pink decor, everything was pink, various hues of pink. She was sure she even noticed a few pink heart-shaped balloons floating around! An overly grinning waitress came up to them and offered to show them to a table. He looked hesitant. Detecting some uneasiness in him, she asked, "Do you want to eat here?" "Err, can we go somewhere else?" he asked, in almost a pleading tone. She wasn't sure why but they left the restaurant anyway. Once outside, he took a deep breath and explained, "The scents were just too strong in there, almost suffocating!" She laughed and approved the observation, "It was a bit too tacky." "There should be some more on the street ahead," he told her. They continued their search. Meanwhile, she mentally replayed the incident, particularly his discomfort in there. It was amusing. But it also made him more real, and endearing. She barely knew anything about him, apart from what her friend had told her. From her, she had gathered that he was the nice guy types, but would he make interesting company? She hadn't managed to learn much about him on the few occasions they met previously either. Today might be different, she felt.

They were now onto a busy road with a few cars and even a couple of buses passing by. There were a lot more people on the street as well-- mostly couples. He wondered whether they did the right thing by leaving the previous restaurant. This quest for food was just taking too long. He glanced at her, maybe for the millionth time that evening. The cold had made the tip of her nose reddish, reminding him of Christmas and making her look cute at the same time. He tried to remember if he was ever out with anyone prettier than her in vain. They were walking along silently. He had to say something. He always found sustained periods of silence, absence of a continuing conversation, awkward, especially when with a girl. To remedy the situation, he began, "So, did you do anything special on previous few Valentine's?" She paused to think. He was surprised at himself, pleased too, for having veered the conversation towards her and her life rather than general inanity. "I don't know, nothing special last year, before that also, mostly at home," she answered before adding, "And you?" "Nothing spectacular with me either, generally stayed at home like a good sulking single," he answered with a sheepish grin. She smiled and continued, "Yeah, it's not a good day if one is single, like us." He agreed, "All these couply people make us singles feel awkward!" After a few paces, he resumed, "In fact, this might be the first occasion that I am having dinner outside on this day!" She laughed and then reminded him, "But only if we do manage to find some place!"

They continued the walk-talk. Quite a few minutes went by before they came across the next restaurant. It was Chinese again. She sensed this should be it and looked at him expectantly, wondering whether he had anything to say about this one. "I have been here before, it's a nice place," he stated, "Let's see if it's possible to find a table." They went in and, this time, stayed in for some 100 minutes. Despite being forced to follow the expensive Valentine's Day special set menu, they liked the food. During the dinner, though she had no such intention, she ended up talking about her country, the government, her political beliefs and then moved onto things related more directly to her life. Yes, their conversation was mostly about her than him. She wondered a few times whether she was boring him but he kept asking her questions. She easily identified that he was trying to employ the common technique, 'make it all about her so that she finds it interesting'. She didn't mind. Perhaps, he was actually listening. He was definitely looking at her, engrossed. Being showered with attention isn't such a bad thing after all, she reminded herself. Also, in spite of all the focus on her, she managed to learn a few things about him too.

Done with the dinner and the subsequent formalities (they split the bill, he knew she wouldn't let him pay all of it), they stepped outside, into the cold street. He turned to her, wanting to say something, worried that this might be the end of their evening. But say what? She broke through into these extensive discussions within his mind, using her faintly dimpled and slightly toothy smile, and asked, "I promised to meet some people at a nearby bar now, would you like to come?"

18 comments:

Badrinath.S said...

This is how I read the story -

All of a sudden, he found himself alone with her... she... asked "I promised to meet some people at a nearby bar now, would you like to come?"

Do I have ADD? :P

Anonymous said...

nice, that was a pleasant one

Arzhentyne said...

i likes much. at least it's not an abrupt ending again. But can you please write part 2? I hate suspense x(

Also, the guy is extremely thin and has glasses - very interesting :P

thread said...

d0d0 and a chick sitting on a tree..

Dilip said...

Nice read!

Kunal said...

A very soothing read..

Reminds me of the Grisham book (Ford County Stories) that I am reading right now. A very simple story, but nevertheless an engrossing read..


Why don't you write stories more often?

Vivek said...

Good one.
I specifically loved the end. It was like watching "Before Sunrise" with less dialogues.

Sreejith said...

Like!

quick question. where were u on Feb 14th?

hellboy said...

interesting narration :) .. luks like mythalez has loads of time now :P ..

deep said...

...amazing writing (all 3 of them..)
spl the one with 24 hours of separation.. :-)

Anonymous said...

Mush pit !
When did you turn into one !!?

Lilith said...

so? did you go? what happened next..?
oh! how was he food? :)

skp said...

Yawn ! थकेले इंसान !

mythalez said...

@anonymous, thank you, may we know who you are? :P

@argentyne, :D no part-2, you know, sequels tend to be bad ;)
and yeah, the guy is interesting :P

@paccha, can dodos climb trees? :P

@Dilip, :)

@Kunal, :) very rarely I get the mood :(

@Vivek, hehe .. that is quite some comparison [should I blush? :P]

@sreejith, err, depends on which year!! :P

@hellboy, mythalez always has loads of free time :P, it's by nature ..

@deep, thanku thanku :D

@anonymous, I guess I know who you are :P

@Lilith, welcome to the blog! And I think it's written somewhere in there that the food was good :P, as about sequels, they are better left unwritten ;)

@skp, first comment with devanagari script here .. yayy! :D

Dreamcatcher said...

No part two ? :(
Sad. I liked this one a lot.
Another story then, please.

Anonymous said...

@Mythalez, I guess I know who you are too :P

Ajay said...

was getting late for something, but once started reading this, couldn't leave it unfinished - very nicely composed :)

Tejas said...

Nice read Rama.. I am pretty sure the guy in the story is thin and has glasses :D