Tanuj Solanki lives and works in Mumbai. His stories have been published in The Caravan, Out of Print, One Throne Magazine, and numerous others. His first novel will be published in 2016 by Harper Collins India.
We are in a cab and she is holding my right hand’s fingers. We are going towards the domestic airport. I’m not flying anywhere. She is flying to Delhi, which is where she lives and works. I’m just going there to drop her, as a good boyfriend. Which I am – I am a good boyfriend. It is the seventh day in June and it has already started raining in Bombay. We are talking, perfunctorily, about how these ten days of togetherness have been for us. This us business is important, almost as important as it is in the movies, which adds a lot of dark humor to the whole thing if you really ask me. But its importance doesn’t stop us from being distracted. What we are both really doing is looking outside our respective windows, mulling how tomorrow will be a Monday and whatever that is supposed to mean. Or maybe it’s just me who is thinking about Monday. I feel for my phone but it is not in my pockets. I left it at home, so I won’t be able to look at it now. There is some degree of causation between me not possessing my phone at this moment and her not looking into hers: if I had a phone and was looking into it, she would most definitely start peering into hers as well. I read somewhere that internet-on-phone spread so fast that no civilization had the time to bind its use in etiquette, which is why all the soft rules against phone-watching essentially register as whine. Anyway, the rain goes on like a well-fed fire. She makes some empty comments about how the rain is a romantic thing. I know it is not, I know that Bombay rain is not a romantic thing unless you’re writing a book about Bombay or something, but I don’t point it out because, like, what would the point of pointing it out be. I continue thinking of the looming Monday, she probably of the flight she will take in a couple of hours. I wonder if she is holding my right hand’s fingers because she’s not holding a phone. Such psychological things happen all the time. She’s actually scratching my fingers with her left thumb’s nail, which is mildly irritating. I mention to the driver that there is something wrong with my window’s glass. When he asks me what, I tell him, in a joking manner, that as I look out through the glass all the roadside buildings appear tilted to one side. She finds it funny and goes like ‘Huh-hah’ and looks at me endearingly endeared, and involuntarily scratching my fingers harder than before. As I smile back at her I cannot stop thinking that what she is doing is actually akin to thumbing down on a phone’s screen. Then she says something that is at once factual and counter-factual: ‘You make me laugh.’ I don’t really take it as a compliment, but I am sensitive enough to know that I shouldn’t also take it as just another empty gesture. I get mildly endeared and say something altogether stupid: ‘With you I know how to be a person.’ She laughs at the ambiguity of it. And I realize that I have actually replied rather horrendously and might have to repent this statement at a later date. The driver, after considering the tilted buildings comment for a while, hypothesizes that the illusion may be because of the rain. What he says is the funniest thing that I have heard the whole week but I don’t even like internally smile at it. She doesn’t even get how it is the funniest thing. How do I become a person, I’m now thinking. She will not let it go now, not the finger, not what I’ve said. ‘What do you mean?’ she says. She says this in Hindi, which can happen when she’s being romantic, but which at this moment confuses the driver into thinking that the question has been posed to him. He tries to explain how humidity may cause a distortion in images and so on, and I’m just wowed at having encountered the two funniest things in a week in such quick succession. These are funny because I didn’t see the buildings as bent; I just said so because… whatever. ‘I meant I know how to be, what to say…so on,’ I say to her in English. She smiles, and I use the soft moment to pull my hand from her hand. She doesn’t notice that. She just turns, crouches in contentment and looks outside the window like a female character from some movie. Like a female character who has just imagined the fulfillment of her, like, Desires or something. I look at the buildings now, and as I focus some of them do actually appear to me bent. This is funny too, but I suddenly feel so saddened by this private fun that my vision dissolves in the raindrops between me and the buildings. There is some crooked lightning in the bent sky.