Kaushik Barua 

There’s a man on the guitar across the street and he’s out of tune; I want to shut him out but then I would have to stand up, close the window and tear myself away from these photos of you.

You’re standing with him; I can’t bring myself to say his name. You’re both laughing. You’re bent over and he’s thrown his head back but his eyes are still looking at you.

Then you’re both sharing a secret, across the room from the rest of the party. You’re far from the clandestine photographer, but he’s managed to sneak this moment into the camera. Your hands are stretched out and your fingers reach for his. They’re not touching yet, but they will.

I see you on a balcony: a low terrace running along green fields with jasmine trees. You’re holding a smile down, the photographer is in front of you and he’s probably stepping back slowly. You’re walking to your wedding. I’m in a room alone.

You look up, someone is calling out for you. The groom is late; the roast fish you insisted for the menu is burnt. It’s now char-grilled. You want to be concerned, but you’re just too thrilled about the whole damn thing. You’re coy and mischief plays on your lips (if the fish is burnt, let them eat caviar!). You’ve been waiting for this day for… how long? Your whole life? You have a great cameraman and I’m collapsing into clichés.

I’m looking at you. From halfway across the world and on a computer screen, so I’m actually looking at pixels or binary code or whatever is creating this image. But I’m still looking at you. I’m running my eyes down your entire body; I can’t make out much, why’re you wearing that loose sari? You look like a nurse in one of the photos (not the sexy kind, the motherly kind). I’m sorry, I don’t want to sound like this. You know I’m not like that, don’t you? Because I’m not one of those guys.

I want some orange juice. I want to log off and watch some football or work on my report (I’ve shifted companies, did you hear?) or try to sleep because I’ve been staring at this screen for four hours now, retracing your life (why is your whole life on your profile? Were you hoping I would spy?), thinking of where you’ve been, where you’re headed. I don’t wish you ill. I’m just shaking because it’s suddenly getting chilly on a summer midnight and I’m not ready for such changes in temperature. I’m not touching myself. That’s a disgusting thought. I don’t even know why that thought crossed my mind; it’s probably the change in temperature.

When you dance, you twist your hand in the air, snapping your wrist. Remember Goa five years ago? Our college reunion, when I saw you after years. I learnt your move too. I should have told you back then. I never did. Now you’re dancing and your guests are spinning madly around you. Why don’t you have a video in the album? He’s beaming into the camera and his grandmother has swept her frail arms around him. Is that a paunch? I still have a flat stomach. I thought I would let you know.

Sometimes he is in my dreams too. I see him sucking out the bottom of a drink, intent on the task while you look at him from across the table. I see him with one hand caressing the steering wheel while the other hand is driving up your thighs.  I see you both at home, he’s fumbling with the bra-hook and then he just tears it off. You’re stifling your moans because you’re scared the neighbours will hear. I’m at the foot of the bed. I don’t want to see you like this. I see his back thrusting up and down, his ass puckering in delight while he pushes deeper into places I can never imagine. I have something cold and hard and comforting in my hand. Your eyes are shut and his back is to me.

I should stop now.

An invitation would have been nice. I would have added some zing to the party: I could have shown your friends my tennis-serve dance move. Would that have looked goofy? Or cool in an unselfconscious way?

I don’t know what you think of me. Did you ever notice me?

There are people around you. They’re cheering both of you on: he doesn’t know the steps, but he looks cool enough to not care. I don’t want to sit on this table: this chair is too high and my back is already stiff from all the hours in office that I’ve clocked in. I think I want to lie on the floor. I should sleep but I can’t stop clicking. I know some of these faces: Meena is there and Arjun flew in all the way from Bangkok. In orange light, everyone thrusts their arms in the air but they do it so perfectly they don’t even spill their cocktails.

I’m lying on the floor. I’m done with the album. I can put my head in the crook of my arms and keep looking. I’m looking at you sideways now.

The album is done. But I can start all over again.


KaushikKaushik Barua’s latest novel No Direction Rome is a dark comedy set in Rome. He won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for his first novel Windhorse, a work of historical fiction set in the Tibetan resistance.

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Tin Trunk

One response to “SO FAR AWAY FROM ME

  1. manidipa

    Loved it. The ‘today’ is captured beautifully.

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