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Creamy Delights

That night, we ate boiled rice, steamed vegetables and butter chicken under the warm, orange glow of a solar bulb. 

“This is really good,” I said between mouthfuls. 

“Not too hot?”

“Just hot enough.”

“What would you be doing right now if you were at home?” Nazir asked.  

“Probably catching a show over dinner,” I said. The TV was the third leg in my wobbly marriage. It kept us from having to acknowledge that besides bickering, Mundia and I had nothing left to talk about. “You?” 

“Same as this, except maybe I’d be reading.” 

It was not hard to picture this. Nazir moved with ease in the kitchen, and did not self-congratulate the way that men often do when they complete a task deemed to be the preserve of women. He did not expect me to do the dishes even though I offered, as was the polite thing to do in that situation. Instead, he set about brewing a kettle of hot toddy whilst doing the dishes. It was a nighttime routine of his to ward off the cold, he said. Instead of whiskey, he used black rum — it was better at summoning sleep — lime, honey and black tea in place of ginger tea. It was delicious! Especially because a cold wind was sweeping by, causing the house to creak and pop as it rearranged itself in the cold. 

“That happens sometimes, when the mountain starts breathing,” he said. 

I smiled, realising then that his odd turns of phrase had a tenderness to them. Like what a father might tell a child to convince them that the magical tooth fairy exists. It was obvious that he would make a good father, strange that he hadn’t already. 

“What about you? Why aren’t you seeing anyone?”

“Work. Location…”

“There are apps for that these days.” 

“I’m not on the apps.” 

“Why not?” 

“Because I don’t support the commercialization of people’s need to connect. Capitalism has gone too far.”

“Oh okay, so you’re single because you’re woke,” I teased. It was impossible not to when he answered questions like that, but inside, I was thrilled. Not only because it was stimulating but also because it demonstrated awareness and a fully developed self. 

His capacity for introspection continuously informed his identity, so that he showed up authentically and invited me to do so too. It wasn’t simply an invitation either, he consciously created a space that allowed for me to do so. It was my assessment that he made decisions from this foundation, mindful of his agency. Unlike Mundia, who was content to have life happen to him, having no agency over his life would be unthinkable to him. 

Consequently, he was not the type to blame others for his misfortune, self-generated or otherwise. He would neither use me as a crutch nor scapegoat me. The mere thought of this soothed a deep ache that had been with me for so long that I couldn’t remember a time when it didn’t hurt. 

“Woke-shaming, wooow. Sheeple in the house!” he announced as if to a gallery.

“So now you’re sheeple-shaming me,” I said and we had a good long laugh. 

“Wokeism is not the culprit here, believe it or not. It’s more a general disinterest in dating on my part. Even with logistics and other practicalities aside, I’ve just never had good luck with relationships.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I said. 

He was not only attractive to the discerning eye, but also smart, and a good listener, which made him great company. During the time I had known him, he did not tire of the rigours of connecting with me deeply. I kept waiting for him to sigh, exhausted, or let his end of the conversation lag to signal that he was zoning out. On the contrary, he seemed energised, as though he had been starved of filling conversation himself. 

“You find it hard to believe that genuine connections come few and far between?” He gazed at me pointedly. 

“Okay, when you put it that way…”


An understanding that he considered this a genuine connection passed between us and the air took on a charged quality. 

“Do you want another?” he asked, gesturing at my glass. This was the part of the night where I was supposed to say no, that I should probably get back, having an early morning and such. But that felt like throwing the ice cream cone away after having only licked off the sprinkles on top. More creamy delights awaited, and it felt counter-intuitive, even perverse to deprive myself of them. I said yes to the hot toddy and tacitly agreed to stay the night. 

Later, Mundia would grill me about this night and I would answer him perfunctorily, not wanting to soil my memory of it by disembowelling it for my jealous spouse to pick and prod at. Did you even think of me? He would spit at me accusingly, an effort directed towards extracting guilt, shame and remorse — mainly shame. I would say yes without offering context, remembering that the truest thought I had had was that of imploding my life with him so severely that nothing salvageable would remain of it.

It strikes me now that I was always going to do it; the path for it was set. In truth, I think I had made the decision long before I went there. As soon as we made plans to meet, or perhaps even earlier. When I decided I would come back with the birdbath, or when I declined Mundia’s call in favour of breakfast with Naz, or when I allowed him to fix my car. Maybe it was even as soon as we met, when I tried to imagine him out of uniform or when he wrapped his long fingers around my palm and introduced himself as Nazir Khan. Sure, I could’ve resisted, but what reason did I have to? 

The end of the world itself could not have convinced me otherwise. Furthermore, Nazir had not made any overtures, and had suggested that he would be taking his cues from me. It was a style I was unaccustomed to, and I can admit now that I took his unhurried manner for guilelessness  — a terrible miscalculation. I did not see him coming! He was not indifferent; rather, he had rightly assessed that pursuit was not the way with me. I was not a deer to be stalked behind long blades of grass. I was an owl that would perch on his gloved hand if he stretched it out and waited. 

A few minutes past nine o’clock, we had the idea to watch a movie in bed — something to put us to sleep. We’d both been at work all day… There was rum involved… At best we had one hour of wakefulness, we reasoned. 

“Romcom, biopic or sci-fi?” Nazir asked.

“What sort of person uses biopic in normal conversation?” I gasped. “Nazir! Are you secretly a film snob?” 

“What? Stop!” He tossed a pillow at me. He was rarely ever so playful — thoughtfulness was actually his resting state —but then I didn’t know him quite as well back then. Had I, I might’ve known that he would follow that up with a kiss.


What more to say of it? 

Seismic is how I would describe it, psychedelic, even. My skin was not my skin; it was a dark garden sprouting shoots of pleasure. My pulse was not a pulse, it was the pounding of a monsoon rain sending rivers rushing through my veins. The ache, low in my belly, was a hot spring burning delightfully like salve on a sore muscle, and the butterflies in my stomach were instead geysers sending a warm mist up my chest cavity. My release was that of a quaking volcano, strong, all consuming and not unlike that of Mt. Vesuvius the day of Pompeii’s destruction. 

It was what I imagined the journey through a wormhole would be like. Once that dimension was open and accessible to me, I couldn’t tell how I had ever lived without it. How could I ever go back? 


To be continued…