Oh, that big, fat, white monstrosity! That ugly, bloated mass of foam and springs. It could be the lost art of Leonardo Da Vinci or Raphael or Caravaggio, the way she goes on and on about it. Posting reviews on sites in the middle of the night. Snapping arty, tasteful photos of them for all her friends to enjoy slash envy on Twitter, Facebook, and whatnot. Posing like friends, like long-lost lovers, like a mother dotting on her favorite child.
You may notice that I, her dear beloved husband of two years, is nowhere in the frame. She has disowned me for her new love … this l-shaped mass of fabric that commands attention from all corners of the room, lounging regally, like Uncle Benny, drunk and woozy in his three-piece pinstripe suit and a sharp bow-tie, that happy, stupid, glazed look on his face.
There’s no escaping this thing.
Now where do I watch the television from? I ask, stepping away from her white fluff of wonder, that beached white whale, before I do it some bodily harm.
And she says sweetly, that soft glow in her eyes and that slight crinkling of her mouth to one side, like she’s chewing on the inside of her lower lip, enjoying this way too much for my own comfort: just leave your shoes, slippers by the door, Rohit, and wash your feet, wipe them dry, and keep them off, and don’t eat or drink or sleep or work or – well – sit on it and it’ll be just fine.
And there’s the footstool, of course. And the floor.
What about my friends? I ask. I can’t very well ask them to take a shower each time they turn up for a game over the weekend! It’s cricket season for god’s sake.
To this, she tuts. That soft look turns into a hard stare, eyes all squeezed, like thin slits, like the lit space beneath a closed door.
I sigh. Well, alright, I say. We can sit out on the patio and chat. Chug cool beer and stuff. And get the stats on the phone or catch a live stream or a glimpse through the doors or something. Or go to a pub – that hard stare – or not. We’ll figure it out. Yeah.
This is bullshit, of course. The reception is bad here. Can’t even catch a bar sometimes. And there’s no good pub for miles in sight.
Vikram’s or Siddhanth’s place is out of the question. For who wants screaming brats cramping their style with cartoons and baby talk? And their “better halves” are no better either. They don’t seem to grasp the concept of game night and insist on hanging around. Unlike Priya, who has her own arty-farty must-attend dos every Saturday and can’t wait to get away.
I could just spill some juice on the couch. Who’d know? It was an accident, Priya, I’d say if caught. I tripped, that’s life, shit happens. Sometimes juice spills and stains a white couch.
Vikram and Siddhanth take to the idea. They egg me on each day at work. We move from beetroot to pomegranate to kanji (her favorite). Drinks easily available around the house so that their spilling would raise no suspicion. And yet leave a stain so lasting that no one could remove without ruining the look. But then I remember the wine spill on her jacket, and what she did to her “best friend” at the time, and drop the idea.
And so, after a long work week, we end up spending much of the Saturday evening smacking flies on our necks, loosening the shirts sticking to our backs, and listening to the crickets and each other whine on and on. About this and that, office and home, that new girl in accounting and their kids’ cavity woes.
We nurse are hot faces with the chilled beer cans, crib some more about work, life, traffic, growing old, and sigh at the moon, too wrung out and hot, too old really to howl at it like carefree young fools. The television inside shouts updates at us now and then, like ice cubes flung through the sweltering mid-June air, and we gobble them up like dying men on the desert sighting water after days of scorching sand dunes. We are not boring people, I think. We just lead boring, dull, miserable lives.
The thought is too much to bear. Here I was “living the life” and it turns out I am like any other chap, looking to distract himself from the inevitable dullness of the living, the inescapable truth of life — its universal end.
I look around at the two sappy souls sponging off each other’s misery, startled at my own insights, and a queasy feeling overcomes me. One thing I don’t do, or want to do, is deep.
This is not why I got into corporate law, moved to a big city, married a fiercely independent woman, and bought into the whole India Inc. dream — big bucks all the way.
I don’t want to know what these poor sods are thinking or feeling! Or what makes them tick. I am not a talk show host, now am I? I do enough soul searching at work, thank you very much. What I do need is my living room, my television, my god-damned life without these “existentialism dilemmas” back.
I swear that couch is ruining my life.
Let’s have a kid, I tell Priya. And it’s her turn to look alarmed. What for? she says. Why?
Why not? I say. Now’s a time as good as any. All our friends have one or two, like puppies. And what else is there, really?
She stops mid-fluffing the goose-down pillows, that incredulous look on her face. Like I have gone raving mad, talking about kids and having them.
It seems insane, I know, but I know what I am doing.
It’s an educated bluff.
She hasn’t left me with much choice really. If an armchair will throw off the place’s Feng Shui, a plastic cover is too tacky for her taste, and a bedroom/patio television is a “no way that’s ever going to happen,” then this is the only way.
That couch has to go.
Let’s face it, I say, pressing on. We are not getting any younger, your clock, my count, that sort of a thing. She cringes at that, but I rally on. We don’t want our kids to mistake us for grandparents, I say, now do we? And your parents keep pestering us anyways. I say one kid to silence them all.
Of course, I add hurriedly, we’ll have to change the way we live ’round here entirely. Child-proof everything. Get rid of all the poky, pointy furniture, and things that can get soiled easily. Like that couch, I say. That would have to go.
She hates kids, I know that. They are nothing but trouble to her. A whole lot of effort for nothing, she’d once said. So the way I see it, it could go down two ways. First: she says yes, which is highly unlikely, based on the reasoning above. But even if she was to, and that’s a big if, it may take me a year to get rid of the couch. Or it may go quicker, if we decide to adopt. Second, she says no, as I expect her to, and she jumps on the cue to get rid of the couch instead. Much easier to redo the interiors than change your life upside down.
Needless to say, I am mighty pleased with this plan. I can read the confusion on her face. I know how all this is going to go down and I am congratulating myself on the inside at my quick thinking, my incomparable smarts, when she says yes, abruptly, like on a whim, and I am rendered speechless.
Maybe she’s trying to call off my bluff. She had seen through my moves from the start and knew what I was going for. And so instead she has turned the tables on me and is waiting for me to back-out.
But then she hugs me tightly and my pajama sleeve gets a little moist from her tears.
And I wonder: What if this has been her plan all along? To make me think so. That she hated kids. And then, just when I get comfortable, spring that ridiculous couch on me like a trap. So that I’d no longer spend my free time before the television or with friends or both, and we could finally start planning for a family.
I examine all the conversations we’ve had over the years, now in the light of this new finding. And everything points to one thing: my wife is a scheming, two-faced genius who has been planning this moment from the day we first met.