At The Beach
“Dislocation,” the doctor announces after examining me and an X-ray he made me take. He slowly and expertly sets it right, but still it hurts and my eyes sting. I close my eyes and wait for the pain to subside, and can hear the doctor assuring Karthik that it was minor. He also put my leg in cast to protect it and allow it to heal. “Don’t move much and you will be fine in a few weeks,” he told me with a smile. I am dismayed! A few weeks!!!
We sulk on the way back as well. He abruptly breaks the silence and snarls, “You can’t leave well enough alone! What was the need to come all the way? Why are you so hell bent on making my life miserable!” The tone is scathing.
“It was an accident! Who dislocates their bone deliberately,” I snap back sarcastically.
“Normal people don’t,” he says without letting up. “Just remember, don’t cut your nose to spite your face.”
I turn to him indignantly. “Just what are you trying to say?”
His jaw tightens and he focuses on the road, without responding.
I glare at him. Is it the same Karthik that I had married? Where was that understanding, caring man whose silences meant only to encourage me to speak!
“Don’t be upset by the raid. But you should get to know my family, right?” he had asked, guessing how I had felt.
I made a face.
We sat in silence, watching the waves, our shoulders touching. He told me about some of his earlier beach escapades with his friends.
I tried to sound as if I was enjoying, but I sounded distraught. He sensed it and looked at me. “Something bothering you?”
I said no, nothing of the sort. I wished we could move away from the topic.
“Some unpleasant memory?” he asked. I nodded. Winking, he asked, “Boyfriend broke up with you here?”
I looked at him sharply and then turned away. He apologised and said, “I was joking…sorry, it was in bad taste.”
Not bad taste. Too close to truth, I wanted to tell him. Instead, I asked him if we could leave. But of course, he had to get to the bottom of it. So he waited without getting up. “I love the beach,” he insisted.
I sat down and tried to forget. But he wouldn’t. “Won’t you tell me?” he persisted gently, putting a proprietary arm around me.
I pursed my lips, lifted my chin up and said steadily, “Saw a friend drowning, that’s all.”
I could feel the shock in his arm. “What!”
“Please let’s go,” I insisted. He got up now, realising it was no frivolous memory. We walked back slowly, he trying to prise my fingers open from the memory.
I had held on to it long. In fact, since that day Deepak drowned in front of my eyes.
Office outing to a resort nearby. Deepak was very enthusiastic. We had tacitly agreed to try our relationship without giving it a name. He hovered around me, but not obviously so that none of our colleagues knew about us. It was too early to talk about it. I was too self-conscious about it. He kept using one of my colleagues from the department – Mallika – as a decoy to reach out to me. He was with her most of the time in the bus, but Mallika was too sensible to think she was the focus of his attention. But she played along, making eyes at him.
When we reached the beach, the waiter warned us that the sea was rough.
Suddenly, we heard Mallika shouting for help. We thought she was joking and strolled casually to the seafront.
I saw Deepak’s head bobbing in the sea at a distance. He waved, and we stood stunned. Was he waving in jest? Then he went down and didn’t come up. He is playing, we all thought, though none believed it.
That was the end of the picnic. I quit, unable to keep the pain at bay.
I had never been to the beach since then. Till Karthik called me, I had never had the occasion.
We reached home. Dad had gone to Kanchipuram and was expected in an hour. I got down from the bike and mumbled a bye without looking at Karthik.
He followed me in. I tried to send him off at the door, wanting to be alone.
He didn’t reply, but as we got in and I switched the lights on, he removed his shoes and settled down, demanding dinner.
Sharing a meal at home creates an intimacy that is hard to ignore. I tried to put him off, fearing I would reveal my feelings, worrying I was being a bad hostess. Finally, something of my dilemma must have communicated to him for he said it was getting late and he should leave.
I followed him to the door. He turned around, and before I knew it, he was holding me.
I wanted to leap back, but laughing, he held me closer, nuzzling me, whispering sweet nothings. My mind fought between desire and dismay, but his warmth melted away my defences and I leaned against him.
“I should have told you about Deepak earlier, I suppose,” I murmured.
He loosened his hold a bit and raised my face to look at me. “Don’t brood about it. Was he… just a friend?”
I hung my head silently.
“How close…?” he whispered. My head snapped up, my eyes flashed.
“Will you be okay? I don’t want to leave you alone,” he said hastily.
I leaned against him, my head on his chest, my eyes closed, trying to forget Deepak, trying to find shelter in the arms of this man very much alive and warm.
Between memories of the dead and the burning kisses of the living, the latter wins hands down. After he left, my thoughts were completely preoccupied with Karthik.
I look up startled as Karthik parks the car and bends to help me out of the car. I shrink from the cold indifference on his face. No shred of concern or desire to comfort me softens the anger on his face. I pull away and he straightens up irritated, watching me struggle. Finally, I give in and let him pull me up gently. He wants to lead me to our bedroom, but I hesitate and turn to the guest room.
He orders lunch before calling up someone at work and opening his laptop – his companions when at home.
I limp to the kitchen to help when lunch comes. He snaps. “Enough! I had to miss out on a dealer meet today. I have another meeting this evening, but I don’t know how I am going to leave you alone and go. Appraisals are on, and an event is coming up! There seems to be some problem at a client’s place. I don’t think I want you to complicate this any further!” he bangs the pots as he ladles food into two plates.
My heart sinks.