Curls of Smoke

After sex, he slept off wrapping his arms around her. She kept still under his arm wrap, not wanting to disturb him. She slowly, turned her face to see his face. His face had a strange tranquility. It is not just in sleep. It is something that is always there. She saw his body rise and fall to the rhythm of his breathing. She found it amusing that it should be in synchronization with her own breathing and rise and fall of her chest. Or was she trying to make hers in sync with his? In any case, there is a strange rhythm in their relation. There is no denying about that. She always knew that he is different from all other men that she has been with. It was not just the age difference. However, it is also true that she has never been in a relation with anyone so young. He is 21 and she is almost 40.

She sighed and looked at the ceiling, focusing on the fan, trying to fall asleep. She knew she could not sleep when her mind is full of thoughts. She always found sex mentally stimulating. After sex, she would always get up, light up a cigarette, and chew on her thoughts. The thought of cigarette made her feel unsettled. She knew she needed one at the very moment. The men she had been with found it unnatural that she did not want to talk or cuddle after a good sex. She preferred being alone with a cigarette.

She went to the drawing room, lit a cigarette, and sat on her rocking chair. She always found it easier to think clearly through the curls of smoke. She inhaled the smoke as though it were the nectar of enlightenment.

Looking back, she knew she was always the man in every relation and it took a boy to make her feel like a woman in a relation. She had been with many men and invariably she was the one who dumped every single one. Rohit once called her a butterfly. A butterfly that flitted thorough relations, never settling down for any. She knew that she was just a fancy fly for them and nothing more.

Little did matter what they thought. She knew that many men were drawn into a relation with her, as they knew she was a free parking zone. They parked themselves when in a difficult phase or rough relation and drove themselves out guilt free, as she was always the one who called it quits. Some men were drawn to her because none of the men, she ever was with, could understand her or how her mind worked. She was not like other women. Nor was she too beautiful. Once someone tried to define what was it about her. In his attempt, he said that her beauty is her intellectual sensuality. She dismissed it with her wry enigmatic smile. She knew it was all bullshit.

She was actually someone who was feared by everyone. Men secretly feared they could never understand her or escape her charm. Women openly feared that she might seduce their men and envied her, as they never understood what drove men towards her. No one called her a slut, maybe because she was quite a known figure in the literary and arts world. She has authored three books and co-authored many. Nevertheless, she knew that they joked about her being a female spider that killed her mate after mating. Not literally, only figuratively.

She dumped all relations she ever been with because she was never involved and she knew it wouldn’t last in any case. She drew satisfaction out of the fact that she dictated the terms. She had the ball in her court.

However, things changed ever since she met him. It was an evening when she dropped to a photography exhibition by some new age photographers. Her friend had asked her to write a column about it. She was looking through the exhibits taking mental note and at times jotting down things in her little notepad. She heard a voice ask her, “What do you think about this?” She turned to see a young and good-looking face staring at her. She said, “Different and interesting” and she moved on to the next one. She felt his eyes follow her. She moved further away and concentrated on her work.

She was quite impressed with the exhibits that she lost track of time. They were about to close the place for the day, only then she realized how late it was. She got out of the place to see that it was raining heavily. She knew it is difficult to get an auto or a cab home. She waited cursing the rains. Suddenly she was aware of someone’s presence close to her. She turned to see the young man. He offered her a ride home. She couldn’t have denied it given the circumstances.

She was surprised to see that he had a bike and not a car. She couldn’t believe it. She asked him sarcastically how do to you expect to get go home in this??? He asked her calmly, “Haven’t you been in rains lately? Have you never gone on a bike ride in the rains???”. She did not want to say no. She simply said, “I haven’t done anything like that in a long time”. He smiled and said all the more a reason to do so.

Left with no other option, she hopped on the bike and he raced through the lanes against the wind and rains. To her surprise, she loved it and she held on to him tightly.

When she reached her house, she asked him to come in. She said she would get him a coffee as soon as she changed into something dry. She changed and came back to see him, sit and shiver. His arms embracing himself and teeth clattering, making a funny noise. She felt sorry for him and went to her wardrobe looking for something clean and dry. Rohit has never come back to collect his belongings. Perhaps hoping that someday she would change her mind or his belongings would make her think of him. She found a shirt and pajama. She took it to him and told him he could wear it and handed him a laundry bag to put his wet clothes. She told him that he did not have to return the clothes that she lent him. She, then, showed him the bathroom.

She finished making coffee and some toast and waited for him to come. Twenty minutes passed and yet he didn’t come out of the room. She grew anxious. What was she thinking when she let him in? Who is he? What is he? He might be a serial killer. With these thoughts, she went inside. She was surprised to see him wearing a towel and sitting in her chair browsing through her photo album, which was on the table. She was totally unprepared for something like this. She quickly told him that she had made coffee for him, which was getting cold. Saying these she turned to walk out of the room. He held her hand stopping her. She knew what was coming. She knew she could easily push him away or even slap him hard. But she did neither of those and there began their story.

She could easily push away any guy, but like what happened on that day she was unable to push him out of her life. The age difference between them bothered her a lot in the beginning, but she thought she could easily pluck him out of her life. He had a strange magnetism, which she was unable to withstand. She hopelessly surrendered. She sometimes worried whether his mother was younger than she was. What would his mother go through when she finds about her? Where would that leave her? Even if these things were taken care of, he would fall for a younger woman eventually. She reminded herself that she was not getting any younger. She suddenly realized with horror that she was threading the uncharted territory of female insecurity. Something she so happily was unaware of. She wanted him so badly in her life. Everything is perfect. Things can’t get better than this. She could see everything clearly through the curls of smoke.

She was in deep thoughts, when she heard his voice ask her, “You still awake, come to bed.” Hearing this she asked him, “Do you want a drink?” He chuckled and asked, “Can a man ever say no to sex and drinks offered by a pretty woman?”. She smiled and got up to fix the drink. He excused himself to go to the loo.

She knew that he didn’t have much of a stomach to take in alcohol. But her always said yes to alcohol. May be it was because she loved drinking and he didn’t want her to think that he was not man enough. She opened a scotch bottle reserved for special occasions. It was an eighteen years old scotch that someone once lovingly gifted her. She poured to two glasses and slipped in powdered sleeping pills. She mixed the drink so that the powder blended in well with the drink. She performed all these actions in an unhurried and definite manner. She heard him walk in to the room. She handed him one glass and sat down. He looked at her quizzically. She gave him her trademark enigmatic wry smile. He sat down opposite to her. She raised her glass and said, “To our eternal love” and he repeated after her like a schoolboy, “To our eternal love”. They finished the drink. He asked her, “Do you want another drink or can we head back to bed?” She said, “Let’s go.”

Lying beside him, she wrapped her arms around him, he in turn wrapped his arms around her, and together they embraced the journey to eternal sleep.

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