Fifty feet ahead of me, a couple also walks the same road. The guy is a middle-aged hag who looks desperate in his loins more than his heart. The girl happily chirps along. Love must be blind, I think.
He touches her bum and presses it. She jerks his hand off, they both giggle.
‘Why am I following them again?’ I ask myself. ‘Because there’s something about them you like’, someone replies. I turn back again and look at the now receding view of the market. Some people are still there, smoking cheap cigarettes and staining the walls red with beetle-nut spit.
No one gives a damn.
I continue stalking, following the couple through the alleyways. I somehow thrive amidst such nuisances. Observing people is my forte, an acquired taste which I have nurtured since the days I was thrown into a world I never liked, and over the years it has become a crazy addiction. So even when I am in the middle of pandemonium, I soak in the myriad possibilities that each individual represents.
He senses something and looks back. I am petrified. My feet freeze, I can’t run and hide behind something. He walks back, his piercing eyes straight at me. She comes too, sheathed behind his oversized tee, giggling like a prankster.
“What’s your problem?” He asks. I fumble, “I…” Fuck, he’s going to beat me to a pulp.
He scrutinises me top to bottom.
“Leave him, Jaanu. He’s probably never seen a girl!” she chuckles.
“I know him and his kind.” He spits on the road, “Always after the meat!” Something inside me laughs at the plausibility of such a need, but I can’t throw it off at the moment.
“Lost your way?” she asks me. I gather the strength to nod. Her eyes are sharp, I notice, as is her grip on his hands.
“Let’s go na,” she insists. He is still standing in front of me, huffing like a buffalo, his liquor-tainted ardour on the brink of a meltdown. I can barely look into his eyes. With one tug she sweeps him from me. He doesn’t want to go, but the revealing salwar whispers things to him that only they can understand. The beating can wait. “Get out from here,” he pushes me before retreating, I take a few steps back.
The man lays there, not even a strand of clothing on his body, holding the girl by his hairy arms. She sits on top of him, giggling as ever, ready to drop her last guard.
I need to be safer, I tell myself. I trace their steps back, at a distance at which they can’t see me. But I can somehow sense both of them, the smell of sweat and beetle-nut and naked flesh – the sound of voluptuous laughter and ravenous gurgles. Like a zealot I follow the signs and make my way through the labyrinthine alleys. A little kid plays on the dirt road, her mother washes the leftovers of their late meal, and the father lies down on the cot. They all see me as if I don’t matter. I scamper across.
Finally my search leads me to the devil’s den, a pigeon-hole at the end of the slum, by the putrid remains of the canal. There’s no vantage point here, and the darkness inside the room is cavernous save for the tiny slit of light which finds its way through a hole in the tin roof.
I place myself behind the cardboard boxes, and slowly eke out a little hole.
‘Isn’t that a little desperate?’ The voice returns, ‘I mean, look at you!’
I shake my head.
The hole allows a beam of light to fall on the makeshift bed, and fills the room with a pallid glow. The man lays there, not even a strand of clothing on his body, holding the girl by his hairy arms. She sits on top of him, giggling as ever, ready to drop her last guard.
Do I need to see this?
“Do you love me?” She asks. “Yes,” he replies, impatiently, and tries to tug her top. She refuses, “No”, she says, “Do you love me like the others?”
His restlessness is apparent. He jerks her hands from her dress, and bursts it open. Her white bra shines in whatever light reflects from it. I can imagine the hunger in his eyes.
“Come on, stop talking now,” he says. She sits there, doing nothing, as if teasing him.
“You love me like others or am I special?”
“You’re special, baby. The others – they were timepass,” he replies.
“Now now, enough of it. Let me show you how the king makes love.”
I squirm. My hands become stiff. If only I had him near me again. She chuckles, and repositions herself properly. I question my judgment again, thinking about why I came here in the first place. At times my observation has its follies.
He wants to say something, but she puts a finger on his lips. “Shhh,” she says, “let me show you how I love.”
With a neat little sweep, she slits his throat with a blade. I don’t understand what happened till I see him wriggle, and a line of blood emerging from the hairline wound. Her smile changes into a devilish moan, then to wicked ecstatic noises. He tries to get up, but she sits on his chest. Whatever life he has left leaves him after a while, as his legs slowly come down to a halt.
“Fuck me,” she laughs, and slaps him hard. He can’t respond. Not in this lifetime.
I continue to look on as she cleans herself neatly. At times she looks at the dead body, and I can see a faint smile in her eyes. Then she disappears for a moment. I don’t realise there’s another room inside till she comes out again.
She’s wearing a pair of jeans and a black tee. From her bag, she takes out a pair of specs and neatly puts them on. Dress, perfume, appearance – the alibi is complete, I think.
I continue to follow her till the alleys end in a busy road. She stands there, near the taxi stand, as if nothing happened, nonchalantly buying a chewing gum.
“Hey,” I say. She turns around; I see momentary shock in her eyes which quickly gets covered by something else I don’t fully understand.
“You again,” she says, and chuckles, “Haven’t had enough yet?”
“I… I’m like you,” I fumble.
“I’m different!” I tell her. That was awkward – the voice tells me.
“Me too,” she continues her giggling, “We all are!”
I grin, “So how about a cup of coffee?”
“I don’t mind,” she says, “But a cold one. This weather is killing me.”
“So how was it?” I ask her, and try to smile. “Fun,” she replies, and winks at me “Doing things you love to do is always fun.”
I grin again. I think I’ve found my soulmate.