Sitting on a platform outside the cafe Gerard listened to a couple of girls just off from the orgasmic and exhaustive feat of shopping, their blabbing going well with the tea. Lost in the depths of his wonderful drink, he heard “Why did I buy this at all!” the girl sitting next to him exclaimed. Gerry, ‘Glad you discovered that’ rejoined internally and thinking of the profound stupidity of the utterance, Why the darn buy something you don’t need– perhaps don’t even, even want!’.

The other, in a yellow top and jeans and fancy sandals, went on to console her “Oh it’s good. It really is…”

‘That one looks bad. I’ll be abused, outcast for this, but she looks abominable.’ But everyone is beautiful. No, really!

And they kept on chatting their shopping, convincing each other the wisdom of their prudence and taste, about all they’d bought and what use, if there was any, they’d put that. The yellow beauty said, “O look! That heart– poor guy didn’t even notice…”

On the edge of the busy bustling road a few feet away, where stood the greedy, impatient, honking traffic waiting the lights, swayed a red heart-shaped balloon, looking lovely bathing the lights and the night air, but alas, a heart astray. The balloon-man looked at it with a mix of a revulsion, anger and an inward pity and with helplessness.

“…His loss of 10 Rs.” continues the girl, ‘Loss of 10 Rs, and how’d she come to that? ‘She know nothing of profit-margin? But he did lose a sale. Whatever…’ While having done her due by feeling so deeply for the poor man, she continued her blabber, and he his sipping: ‘…Either way, that aint ten-rupee loss, a lost sale, yes.’

The next thing she said exhibited what a flop she was at reading Marathi literature, “I couldn’t read the book! It was 10th standard! My aunt was laughing… she asks me ”What did you do? You scored 82!”…” To which the other, ‘This one looks a lot better. Well, only relatively.‘–Gerard chanced a side-look– said, “I crammed the whole goddam thing and scored” ‘Sod them! They all cram even language papers! And why’re the girls much better at rote-shit…’ He then remembered his Sanskrit of which he personally could never get the hang and consequently was no better at it than the yellow-top at Marathi, ‘But I didn’t cram. Cheated, that too sparingly, might have times one, twain, but not crammed. Couldn’t. Can’t!’ And he left the thread there.

Now that the talk was pretty insightful, giving him a window into their fascinating lives, and their clandestine affairs, he was deliberate with the tea, then, havering on some taxi, their conveyance to arrive, the second one said “Tell him the cafe!” to the other on the phone with the driver, with whom the call was a waste, for she neither could describe her exact location, nor could get what he blabbed, which was supposed to be the car’s registration. “He blabbed somthing aid–won…God knows what!” said the girl after cutting the call. ‘I think I can guess that accent…’ “He doesn’t know the cafe! Ch**ya…” she subdued the expletive’s last syllable, for Gerard’s presence. Different men would take that differently– Gerard simply at that moment was indifferent to it. A girl smoking disturbed him more, the other day he’d seen such one woman–and once hardened nobody cares anyway–so does a guy smoking, but more a girl, there he was particular. For all that, it was his umpteenth emptied cup and he proceeded for another inside. When back there, the two girls had disappeared into the crowd on the road, perhaps the “moron who didn’t know the cafe” had come and was driving the girls back. Once again alone, he watched the traffic– he wondered what so many people gained traversing miles to and fro everyday, yes they earned, yes it was bread, but what did they gain after all was in the obscurity of darkness to him yet and along with that perhaps Gerard’s vision was skewed. Yet, he sipped the drink as if nectar meantime another passed, making characteristic music out rubbing rubbers of the balloons. And then came other three girls and he moved aside; two could sit, and the first one told one of them to sit, who did, close to him; he’d had no shot of gallantry presently to get up and leave for the third, besides the cup would soon empty anyway. The girls then started talking with what they ate and drank, which he was much less interested in now.

At long last he was up, kicked off his motorcycle, remembered the bet the girls placed on the lifetime of the heart astray and started for the way. For a rush and confusion for the lights, he was late to notice the balloon coming in front of his tyre; in sharp and fast sequence the thing drifted, and having lost control Gerard in moments was under his bike, cursing bitterly and grinning all the same, “Wretched hearts!” He uttered the first words in an hour perhaps. People picked him up and the bike; only mild bruises and a clot over the shin befell. Gathering himself up, he gripped harder the handle and turned faster than before, shot up and was lost in the traffic ahead.


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