After dinner, as Emil resigned himself to his baser needs in the toilet, Sania was busy playing house, doing the dishes, breaking a fair few in the process, and blaming the cheap soap for it. Someone rang at the front door. Emil assumed it was the building supervisor again. He shouted out to Sania, “Sweetie, can you get that please?”
“Do not talk to people while you are in the washroom, Emil. It is not polite; or cultured.”
‘But I said please.’ He thought. He heard the door being opened. Three seconds of silence. Then he heard Sania’s shrill voice summoning him to the door. The water-tank had run dry and Emil exited the toilet feeling very British.
“What is this? This?” Sania demanded, pointing at something ominous in the dark. Emil squinted into the dark to see better. Then the mystery guest stepped forward into the light and Emil knew his night had just taken a downward spiral he was not going to be able to rescue it from.
It was Inora, with an agitated Marco hanging under her left shoulder, feverishly trying to reach and scratch the tote-bag dangling from her right shoulder. Failing to do so, he consoled himself by gnawing on her bushy hair instead. “Hi Emil.” She waved; rearranged Marco under her shoulder. Marco mewed loudly; angrily. “More carrots for you. Your eyesight sucks.”
“Well?” Sania asked.
“That is a cat, Sania. You feed them fish.” Emil said but he knew that was not the answer Sania was looking for. In any case, he reasoned, he had to say something and what he said sounded as good as anything else that he could think of. There were other things in Emil’s head that he could have said and for the longest second he had considered going with the fourth option since ending his statement with a question might have distracted Sania. But he chose not to.
“Were you two in the middle of something? Dude, I asked. You said it was ok if I dropped by tonight.” Inora said, stepped inside, “I would have come later tonight if I knew you would be here…Oh, food!” and that was that. She walked towards the table, picked up a piece of garlic bread and began chewing.
Sania was stuck in a loop, “Well?”
In return, Emil fared no better, “Bread.”
Now this was not one of those moments that couples find themselves telepathically linked, having conversations with their eyes and finishing each other’s sentences. No, this was definitely not one of those moments. It was, in fact, the very opposite of such moments. This was a moment of total disconnect. Of Sania from Emil and of Emil from his brain.
“Why…is…she…here?” Sania asked, pronouncing every word carefully because that is what people do when they are angry. They enunciate. Or perhaps she too had to go to the toilet. Emil wondered if there was something off with the beef-chops. “Bread…no, I mean, yes, she texted me in the afternoon, I thought she was you and…”
“You thought she was me?”
“Well, I was in a meeting, you see. And Masum bhai was talking about a banana and…”
“You thought she was me?” she asked again.
“I was in a meeting and you had texted me just before so…”
“YOU THOUGHT SHE WAS ME?” Sania asked again and finally the rhetoric-nature of the question dawned on Emil. He was not expected to offer an answer! Just to be sure, he gave it another shot, “I was really busy, Sania, and didn’t have the time to…”
“YOU THOUGHT SHE WAS ME?”
Yep, Emil knew he had it pinned down now. So he hung his head down, looked repentant, and waited for Sania to say something. She took the longest pause. Inora used this time to finish up the first piece of garlic bread and moved onto the second, “Really thick bread,” she muttered, “I prefer them fluffier.” Marco was on the table top, scavenging through the leftovers.
“Now I see! Now I see what has been going on all this while behind my back! Now I see!”
“No, no. Not at all. No.” Emil said, realizing that the repeating-bug was catching on and tried a different approach to diffuse the situation, “Ok, ok, look, I think we all need to take a deep breath and calmly assess the situation before we overreact and say things we do not mean to say. Now I realize this is a very stressful situation for us, having just eaten and all…”
“I do not want you to call me, ever again! I never want to hear from you. Never!” she said, threw something hard in Emil’s direction and then realized that her hands were actually empty, did a loud yelpy shouty thingy, turned around and stormed out. The clickity-clack of her high-heels could be heard for a minute as she ran down the stairs.
“Bye Sania; it was nice meeting you.” Inora yelled behind her, “She’s a feisty on, is she not?”
Emil closed the door, took a deep breath and turned around, “What do you want?”
“Dude, I texted. You said it was fine.”
“So I did.”
“Were you guys having a date-night or something? You should take her out on date-nights, you know? Women do not like to get fed and intimate in the same room. I will let you in on a secret: it’s the smell.”
“That is not why she left.”
“No? Well, as long as you know what you did wrong.”
Inora Mehedi, Emil’s good friend, was a reporter for a local magazine, Whimsy, that reported on everything that made you raise your eyebrows, tilt your head to a side, and wonder, ‘What in the bloody hell?’ As we have seen already, she had spent most of the day reading articles and writing her own articles. She also received a call from her grandfather. In addition, she was tall-ish, had freckles on her cheeks, wild and untidy hair, and little wiggly fingers. None of that is apropos to the story.
Emil noticed Marco gnawing on a drumstick he had saved for later; one that could have been his last chicken drumstick before evacuation. He could not remember when he had had a drumstick last; made a mental note to have at least one more before evacuation.
“This garlic bread is not very good. Did you make this?”
“No, Sania did. You want something to wash that down with?”
“No, I am good. How have you been? How is work?”
“No different. You want to sit down?”
“I cannot stay for too long; in a rush. I am going away for a few days.”
“Where to this time?” I asked.
“To check on nana; he is not doing too well. I was hoping you could watch Marco for me again while I am gone. He likes it here.”
“I like having him here. How many days this time?” Emil asked, for more than one reason.
“Not more than two, perhaps three days. Not more.” She said, finishing off the last of the four garlic breads Emil was saving, sucked on her fingers to get the grease off and picked up a tissue from the table. Marco was gnawing on the same drumstick. “Compliment Sania on the food for me, will you? I am sure you never do.”
“I’ll have to remember to do that.” Emil said, making a mental note to have some more garlic bread before evacuation. ’What is a good place where I can order two sides and no main?’ “And no worries with Marco; he can stay with me.” Emil said, as Marco jumped off the table and rushed off to attack the curtains which were fluttering in the wind.
“Thanks a lot. I would need a desk-job without you.”
“So a work thing?”
“Family. I just told you. Checking up on nana.”
“Everything alright? You want me to come along?” Emil asked. Why not, he wondered. A trip would be the perfect time to break the big news to Inora. And more importantly, why just drumsticks? Why not an entire chicken and some mashed potatoes to go along with it? An entire chicken with mashed potatoes sounded better. And gravy. Lots and lots of gravy. And a trip with Inora is always fun.
“No, that is fine. He does not much like strangers. Certainly will not like a stranger-man with his granddaughter.”
“Well, I am up for it if you want company. Otherwise, you can leave Marco here; no problem.”
“Thank you so much. I will buy you some treats when I get back.”
“Aren’t you nice? We need to speak once you are back. Three days, you say?”
“Not more. We can speak now.”
“That’s ok. Come back; then we will.”
Inora picked up Marco and gave him some instructions, “Mew mew mew, Marco. Mew mew. Mew. You still have the packet of cat foods I left behind?”
“Mew, Marco. Mew mew.”
“Is he alright though? Your grandfather?” Emil asked, Inora already halfway out the door. She turned around, her tote-bag swinging wildly and colliding against the door-frame, “Not really. He is hearing voices again.”
“He called me this morning to warn me that the apocalypse was near. And asked me to be careful.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Yeah, tell me about it. I am going to drive out to his cottage and check on him; spend a night or two with him. We should have never left him out there on his own. So far away. All alone, nana is. And with his history of mental illness! What were we thinking? And I have not been visiting him as often as I ought to. Poor nana, all alone in that cottage. I tried my best to convince him to come live with me, but he just would not listen. That is no excuse though. Completely irresponsible…” Inora went babbling on and Emil took this opportunity to quickly scan the table to see if he could tempt her back inside his apartment with something else; perhaps a chicken-wing or a dinner-roll.
Oh! And onion rings. Definitely, onion rings. Emil realized that he absolutely had to have onion rings before evacuating. “Dude, come back inside.” he said.
“In a rush. See ya…”
“You have to tell me more about this. Come on in. Five minutes.”
And so, Inora walked in again and shut the door behind her.
 Other things Emil could have said as replies to Sania’s questions:
i.That is Inora, Sania. You feed her fish.
ii.That is Inora and her cat Marco, Sania. They are here for fish.
iii.That is the building supervisor, disguised as Inora and her cat, Marco, looking for fish.
iv.Do you know who Marco Polo was?