The Dancer in Paradise
God knows I wanted to let you in.
"He's actually my uncle," you said, and I turned around at the comment. You were goodlooking, quite goodlooking, I thought, that was my first impression. Also, a smartass for venturing your opinion where none had been asked for, and I let you know that.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" I replied, steely voice in tow.
Your divine smile did the trick. And you said, "No, no you don't. And I'm sorry for butting in. It's just that I'm awfully proud of the fact that he's my uncle. Believe me, no one gets more embarassed than him, when I act this way. Awfully sorry."
Of course I had to relent to that. The entire package was there. The grin, the elfen ears, that excessively long nose that I suddenly longed to reach out and squeeze, and I grinned back, "It's quite alright. I'm sorry if I appeared rude. He's really a great author. It's a great book. You should feel proud."
I loved the way you beamed. As if you'd earned a medal from me at that very instant. Was I being mad, I thought, but then you said - "Thanks a bunch. Let me make it up to you for the interruption. Can I get you a cup of coffee at the store here?"
And, I don't know what compelled me, I said 'yes'.
It all came out. You're the great author's nephew and live in the States with him. Here down for three weeks, and you'll be in Sri Lanka for a week in between. New to Bombay. "Well then, I must show you around," I jumped up to exclaim, and simultaneously rap myself sharply inside my head for doing so.
"That would be great," you beamed, and suddenly I couldn't resist. A date was set. A ferry ride to Elephanta. It helped that I've quit my job and on a break for some time. There's so much time to kill. Elephanta will be good. And dinner afterwards.
I decided to try my luck at dinner, because you're looking so delicious: "Do you dance?"
And that's when you grin, wink at me and reply: "I'm a dance teacher."
Salsa. The twist. The hustle. Lambada. The tango. Cheek to cheek, then. And finally, lip to lip. I'm hooked.
Hurried phone calls to friends follow the next day, and advice pours forth. "He's here only for another week. Then he's going away to Sri Lanka. He's not going to call you again after that. Just enjoy the passion now. Nothing more."
A scowl on my face. Why on earth won't I believe my friends? "What if it's more? What if...?"
"It's not more," chimes in friend no 2. "They come and they go. Non resident idiots are fun to screw. Screw him and get over it. Nothing more. Don't screw yourself like this now."
Reason shines through, and fights with the heartstrings. But... "He dances divinely."
"He'll dance right out of your life," comes the reply, fast as lightning, I'm not sure from which one.
A week goes by terribly fast. Terribly. Fast. And we find ourselves on the dance floor again, talking about everything but books and uncles. "What's Sri Lanka like?" I ask, in a whimper, not really wanting to know.
"Heaven." A pause, and then - "What's Bombay like?"
I'm puzzled, and don't reply, but then he does, for me - "It's paradise. Because it has you."
He'll dance right out of your life, I think, and grin at him through a steel heart. "You're glib."
"I'm honest," he replies, and I wish he would beam now. I want him to laugh and talk nonstop the way he usually does, about dance and books and travel and other things that don't matter, anything that won't make me look at him, like this, and wish I could reach up and squeeze his nose and stroke his ears, something which I don't trust myself at all to do... Ninny, I call myself, and wonder why it took so little time, such little effort. And then, I make up my mind, and tell him, "No, you're glib."
He looks slightly pained for an instant, but then the smile comes back on his face. He grins and kisses my ear, and I shudder at his hot breath. They're playing some delicious tango tune, and he holds my waist firmly, and pulls me closer to him. I'm grateful for that, grateful that he will take me to dance with him and then to bed later, so that we can forego this silly talk which drives me crazy, so that I can forget that he's leaving for his week-long trip to Sri Lanka tomorrow and that I will probably never see him again. Jumble of thoughts destroyed thankfully by the jumble of body movements as we twirl on the dance floor, but then he whispers into my ears as the final crescendo starts... "Hold on... you'll see..."
My friends have been angels. I've been thinking of you every day. Talking about you to them, and they've been patient enough to bear me prattle on. A week-long romance. I must be going mad. Or juvenile. But it seems so important to me, and I don't know why. A week full of dance and desire, a week full of absence and wondering whether you'll come back or not. And finally, it's over. "You're glib," I tell an imaginary him, whispering, while I fold the clothes fresh from the laundromat.
There was the episode when we went to Marine Drive together for a pizza, and got stuck in the rain. "I hate the rain!" you sputtered, hiding under the store awning, while I shrieked in glee. I'm a child in the rain.
"You're crazy!" I yelled back, nose dripping water, and hugged you, getting you wet. I think you were in two minds, whether to push my wet body away or hold on, but I didn't give you a chance. "And I'm demented!"
You started laughing now, and grabbed me in, away from the torrents now, "Are you always going to be this mad?"
I nodded my head vigorously: "Getting second thoughts?"
And you pecked my cheek, even as I tugged on your nose, "Not even if I tried!"
Bombay rains make me decidedly mad, I've decided, more than a week later, as I fold clothes on the bed. Friends are right, and lovers rarely are. Screw them, don't let them screw your head: the cardinal rule of a fling, and I.. and I flung it out of the window. I hate Sri Lanka now. I'm never going to go there, I decide, like a child.
The doorbell rings, and it must be friends 1 and 2 with the pizza. Pizza and sobby love stories for a rainy evening, that's my life. Thank god my new job begins from tomorrow.
And there you are. Dishevelled. Smiling. A big nose and elfen ears. Smiling. "I'm back... and it's Paradise again."
I stand there at the door, looking at you. Red bags and black jacket, dripping wet in the rain. I step back, and walk over to the stereo and switch on the CD which I haven't removed in a week's time. "Just in time for a dance," I smile, as your hands encircle my waist.