Patrick surveyed the pale walls, a copper coloured lattice framework of tiny bells on the door, that had tinkled when they walked in, he stared at the few pictures he had clipped on a thread criss-crossing the wall behind him, the laundered clothes lay in a terrible heap upon the table, and the faint smell of detergent hung about in the air, geometrical patterns on cushions, blue, green, pink, red were geometrically strewn. A neat row of few books was arranged on a cupboard cut into the wall behind him and he placed ‘Behind The Beautiful Forevers’ there, its fresh blue and yellow spine standing out against the browning ones. He lit another cigarette and Patrick noticed a stainless steel shallow bowl by the window serving as an ash-try; I had a glass one that broke on a windy day owing its placement by the window, he mentioned. Pop went the cap of the beer bottle he had purchased on their way back dramatically ending the eerie silence settling in the room! Patrick only wondered if beer could intoxicate someone and peered at his manoeuvres through the thickening haze of smoke suspecting any signs of light-headedness he may betray. He seemed perfectly alright or was Patrick intoxicated and saw things that weren’t? He knew that he was fidgeting, unsure, uncertain, confounded about being there. He disappeared and reappeared with his laptop and ushering him close showed him the many pictures describing each person, each event but Patrick was aware that while he lay engrossed in the pictures he stared motionless at him. Suddenly stopping he switched over to music and a song that Patrick was listening to for the first time flooded the room, echoing between wall to wall, the haunting voice of the singer, the soul-stirring guitar notes, the light monotonous drum beats, soft piano keys formed the backdrop and poetic lyrics that Patrick would swear by one day. ‘Fade into you. Strange that you never knew’. Music had always affected him and the uncanny situation sweetly troubled Patrick heightening to a crescendo when he abruptly switched off the lights to switch on the tiny blue lights in one corner of the room embellished above the window sill that Patrick had missed noticing in his initial survey. Twinkling like dim stars against a jet black sky, the sheen of the blue light covered the entire room. The song ended and began another one. ‘If I lie here, would you lie with me and just forget the world?’ He looked at him; the twinkling light alternately lit up his face with a brilliant blue and he noticed his lips curving into a smile that was and yet was not. The world seemed to narrow down to that moment, there was music but silence, his heart beat like a loud drum and Patrick wanted to run away but he sat idle like a statue unable to understand the thoughts rushing through his head. I should get going, he blurted out, It is late. Such a moment-killer, he exclaimed, and kissed his forehead. His warm breath, the smell of perfume, the smell of beer, the dangerous proximity of another human being, it made Patrick feverish. And before he knew, he removed his glasses, stared into and through his eyes and kissed his lips. The strangest of all emotions reverberated through Patrick, swaying him, rocking him, happiness, tranquillity, trepidation surged through his veins. It felt right yet wrong. He opened his tightly shut eyes and found him smiling and it was a smile by all means. Everything ceased to matter, all emotions dwindled and only happiness surfaced, the warm embrace, nimble fingers on his neck; Patrick was transfixed, waves of joy crashed over him pushing him into depths of a surreal reality. An abrupt pinprick of a thought ended the hypnotism, he woke up from the slumber into a state of being shipwrecked, happiness felt terribly wrong. I have to leave, he demanded, It is getting really late. He was surprised at the sudden change that had taken over Patrick. If only Patrick could muster the courage to tell him! The smile had faded and he was angry, flustered. His phone rang and Patrick could make out from the conversation that it was an unpleasant situation at home. Troubled, he beseeched Patrick to stay over promising not to impose himself upon him! I don’t wish to be alone tonight, things aren’t right at home. Patrick knew he meant well but couldn’t bring himself to stay back. His mind was troubled and he had to be back lest the ghost of the thought morph into an ominous reality. Promising to meet him the next day, Patrick hastily rushed down the narrow stairwell that led to his apartment. He walked him back frustrated, belittled. Street-lights shining without lustre cast shadows of the two men on the tarred road. Patrick watched the two shadows, the dull penumbra mingling with the dust of the street, mingling with the faint orange glow of the lights until it was only his shadow.
The bus ride seemed forever. Patrick knew he had to tell him the next day. He made a mental note of how he would begin, silently rehearsing the phrases, imagining his reaction. He stopped and recollected the evening that had been, smiling to himself, worrying, wondering. He barely slept that night, staring at the greenish light of his phone through sleepy eyes, reading his messages over and over again. I should get him something tomorrow, he pondered between snatches of sleep and wakefulness.
Sunday morning! Was it all a dream, was yesterday real? Patrick hurriedly reached for his phone. It was all real-the walk, the meet, the conversation, the kiss. He smiled to himself and suddenly grew morose supposing a terrible outcome at his revelation. Wishing away all thoughts, he rushed through his chores, choosing carefully what to wear, shaving off the tuft of beard he had always kept under his lower lip; he had mentioned he would look better without it. It was not difficult choosing a gift-a crystal ashtray and a steel one. Patrick still has the bill of the two ashtrays he bought for him, a crude reminder of what was the happiest weekend of his life and also the saddest. Reaching his place was not easy; with the three parallel lanes that seemed so alike Patrick ventured out on the wrong one. Frantic calls, turn left, turn right, do you see a building named so and so, do you see the field, turn around, walk ahead, and there he was on the balcony of his apartment amused and annoyed but smiling, in a pale pink tee and navy blue shorts. How does he manage to look charming yet, Patrick wondered with amazement. He had suggested lunch outside but decided against it and chose to cook. So it was, peeling, washing, debating over spices, aroma of cardamom and cinnamon filling the kitchen, cumin seeds crackling in hot oil, green shrivelling skin of chillies, orange red tomatoes sprinkled with the yellow of turmeric, not a culinary delight but Patrick was delighted. He marvelled how could a single person be the source of bountiful happiness; his remarks albeit tempered with sarcasm were amusing still. Patrick was not a teenager yet he felt like one, like a mesmerized kid gaga over a superhero, like a school girl hopelessly infatuated by an actor, dreaming of things that weren’t. He had to tell him no matter how ghastly seemed the consequences. It could be otherwise he thought to himself but he could not bring himself to say. Not just yet, in a while I will, he told himself. The slanting rays of the afternoon sunlight filtered through the green foliage outside and made charming patterns on the wall, on the floor. Patrick realised that he had forgotten ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and mistakenly picked up ‘The Idiot’. He laughed at Patricks annoyance. You are completely mesmerized by me, he smirked. I have my copy of ‘Disgrace’ which I have been reading simultaneously, Patrick triumphantly mentioned, and don’t be under the impression that I came here to finish the unfinished last night, he finished. He only laughed, his laughter resounded through the warmth of the room to die into an eerie silence and he busied himself into his laptop while Patrick flipped the pages to find the book-mark and resumed his unfinished read. It was a lazy afternoon by all means. They sporadically looked into each other and looked away. Suddenly snatching away his book and slamming it shut, he pulled Patrick close, kissed him, his nape, ran his fingers over his arms, his collar bone; the warmth of his lips, his breath tickled him, Patrick resisted but his hypnotic glance made him powerless. He asked for a kiss and all Patrick could bring himself to was a hurried peck on his cheek, he sighed and laughed and gently removed his tee while Patrick kept resisting every move. Don’t worry I won’t go beyond, he laughed and kissed his shoulder. Patrick knew it had to stop and taking his chance moved away, got into his tee and rose to leave. He couldn’t understand what had taken over Patrick. Irritated he only stared at him; the sudden eerie silence said it all and gloomily they walked down the stairwell, into the warm evening of the narrow street. Stopping suddenly, he asked him to go on. This was it thought Patrick and sealed it with a handshake never turning back, misty eyed, unsure if he stood there watching him merge into the slow gathering evening crowd.
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