Walking Into a Trap
There is a power cut and my entire apartment complex is in the dark. Not surprising. Nor is it surprising that he parks the car to see me home.
We climb up to reach my floor and Karthik follows me into the house. I try to find a candle but in the nervousness, I open and reopen the same drawers unsuccessfully.
He is standing at the kitchen door.
“Look, Karthik, the weather is bad. You better be on your way,” I say, feeling trapped in my own kitchen by my own…ex-husband.
The rain has abated just a bit as we entered the block, but I can hear the winds pick up again.
“You are in a hurry to send me off? Hope I didn’t interrupt anything back there.” Sarcasm drips.
“Karthik!” How dare he! I push past him to the drawing room. The street light lights up that room. “If you are here only to insult, then you better leave. After two years of silence, why do you want us to end on a bitter note?” I bury my face in my hands.
I wipe my tears, force myself to calm down and look up. He is standing by the window, looking out, his back to me. The light falling on his face shows his weariness. I gasp involuntarily. He turns around. Now his face is in the shadows, but the bleak light falls on my face.
“Silence…yes, two years of silence…three years of silence, in fact…why do you leave that year out?”
I watch him silently.
He shakes his head slowly and says, “Things changed too quickly, suddenly…” he says. “Physically present, mentally absent…living in your own world. Never letting me in. What did you expect I would do? Wait like a saint all the time?”
My breathing quickens as I struggle for calm.
“And to think that you used Sukumar as revenge! How could you do it to Kalpana? All because I had a fling!”
Thud! My heart stops.
Fling! Karthik had a fling! I stare blankly, unable to link up the idea of a fling with the commitment-phile(?) Karthik. I couldn’t imagine him treating any woman casually. The image of Madhuri and him at the party comes to my mind.
“Fling!” I whisper.
He makes an impatient sound. “You know I was not serious about her! It was just an accident – another cyclonic day like this. Being stuck with her alone…how could you hit back with Sukumar?”
I sway. I had never seriously considered Karthik with another woman. I hear my shallow breathing and try to inhale deeply.
Yes, why else would I have let Sukumar come close? “What else did you expect!” I ask, the words coming out from me involuntarily.
“You didn’t trust me, when I said it was an accident! You, who know me best? And I told you about it myself! Shouldn’t you know it would never happen again?” he asks, his disbelief making me feel guilty, almost.
That spurs me to greater anger. “That is why it hurt more! That just telling me would absolve you.”
My imagination is working full-time now. What happened, who was it…I imagine the worst.
“But Uma and Sukumar!” he says again.
I pace restlessly, and I have only speculation to help me. I don’t know why I used Uma, but I can imagine. I say with quiet dignity, “Anyone else, and you wouldn’t have understood what I went through.”
He walks up to me, his body blocking the light completely, plunging both of us in shadow now. I move back, away from his figure. I now know why we never shared the bed. It wasn’t he keeping the distance, but I who had imposed it. If he had had another woman, I would never have forgiven him. I feel that anger again.
“Now quit pretending, and tell me what’s wrong,” he says, his voice harsh. I am thrown off balance.
“What do you mean!” I ask indignantly.
“Please, Kalpana! What are you hiding? You know there was no woman, no fling,” he says.
I am shocked.