You see, I’m not quite sure why I didn’t connect with you today. I think I finally met your fabled Gemini twin. This wasn't you.
I waited, as always, in the Alliance Francaise canteen. I know I reached early, but only by ten minutes. Luckily that small paper cup of Twining Earl Grey tea was piping hot and I didn’t mind paying the extra five bucks. The table was nice and clean and the weather was almost like from a beachside soap opera. The people around me kept me engaged. I had my digital camera with me but the lens continues to distort images. I like the shade of green they’ve used to paint the walls. Not exactly lime. Not olive at all. Something like a tender coconut. Better when the lights are dim but isn’t too bad in broad daylight either. You know I have never understood why the canteen uses that huge bottle of Tops tomato ketchup. I wish the bottle was a plastic one and I could just go splash a big red splotch on that pristine green wall that they wouldn’t allow me to photograph. Anyway I don’t really care about why they have one big bottle instead of multiple small ones. I like how they have so many forks and spoons. And all so clean. I like the photographs on the walls as well but I really wanted to straighten the one opposite which I was sitting today. Two French ladies caught up in a rendezvous. Really nice shoes. And didn’t look like they’ve travelled much. Just like us, inside the canteen.
I don’t know why that kid wore such baggy jeans and why that not so young and not so thin lady had to wear those tights. The kid’s mother didn’t fit in. I can’t figure out exactly why but I think it had to do with her children running around unbridled in that canteen and also her long hair and that yellow ochre salwar kameez with brass buttons all over it making it look like some kind of Tipu Sultanesque armour.
You arrived at 5:15pm I think. Just in time for the first spoonful of Macaroni with eggs and cheese. That polka dotted scarf on you was mildly alarming. We didn’t hug. I couldn’t see any traces of eyeliner accentuating those twinkling eyes and the smile faltered. Do you think it was because we didn’t meet at the metro station? It’s so much easier there to flail one’s arms and screech out inaudible affections in ultrasonic waves. There’s something so French in that canteen. But weren’t we being British?
I thought you’d like the food. We ate somewhat in silence. You looked like you were so far away. Your eyebrows went up occasionally when I read through what you’d written and commented on which of you had written it. Is that routine? Have I done that before?
Is it because of the exams? But they got over. Then what could it be?
The shoes startled me. I have never seen you wear that green. I couldn’t resist taking that photograph, sorry if it freaked you out. I know you are dreading tomorrow’s get-together. You kept asking about your hair. You left the wallet at home and the library tickets inside. But that was never really the issue, was it? That story was just for your Mom, right?
I was happy when we left the canteen. Hey did you notice how every other guy in the canteen today was either in stripes or checks? But you know what the best part was? When those cops came in. The one with the turban and the one with the specs. I wonder why they were talking to the cashier and why he kept looking at me. He looks so sullen. Doesn’t seem to like my going there.
Anyway. So when the cops came and sat with him, did you realise what song they were playing in the background? “Tera mujhse tha pehle ka naata koi.. yoon hi nahi dil lubhata koi.. jaane tu ya jaane na.. maane tu.. ya maane na”. Remember what you said? “Oh this is the older movie.” That’s when I realised more than ever that you’re somewhere else. You looked so distracted.
So like I was saying, I was glad once we came out and I realised that you too didn’t know what to do with that Turquoise Cottage picture postcard.
Hmm… and then I left my waterbottle behind and didn’t want to go back and get it. You gave me such a watery smile when I told you about it.
Once we reached Habitat Centre, things hardly improved. Oh but on the way it was funny right when we saw that huge hoarding about some LED lamp conference and I went “Omigod do you realise how important that is for us because do you realise that’s like a huge hoarding?”
And then those men in blue shirts with those black bags and nametags. By the way I hope you logged into the British Council website and applied for that job. The vanilla softy ice cream tasted funny today and much too cold. Eatopia hardly ever disappoints as far as taste is concerned. How was the strawberry? I shouldn’t have said I don’t like the taste though. Down went the mound of creamy white… splat on the floor.
Who was that guy you were talking to outside the Stein auditorium? You were almost whispering to him. Did you even know him?
Did you get a bus right away after we parted?
And where is she? What have you done to her?