Plump, red tomatoes lay blanched, skinned, and sliced on the black marble counter-top imported from Italy. The spicy-syrupy marinate in the crystal bowl grew stale with each passing hour. Mrs. K. Suhasini paced the wooden floor of her centuries-old colonial-style cottage, debating the wisdom of venturing out. For the recipe demanded raw sugar: an ingredient whose existence she was unaware of, and which consequently could not be found in her well-stocked kitchen.
To Suhasini, the dilemma was of taxing proportions: She could add regular sugar to the mix. But if she did, it would mar the authenticity of the dish. And she was learning to cook authentic Chinese after all. Shopping was an option, yes, if only it were a Wednesday.
Ever since Suhasini had moved from Manhattan to a small lakeside village in Maine for the winters, in a reverse migration strategy to avoid people and the vibrant autumn seasons, she had led a highly regimented lifestyle: Mondays for vacuuming, Tuesdays for gardening, Wednesdays for shopping for grocery, Thursdays for walking, Fridays for washing, Saturdays for exotic cooking, and Sundays for reading in her nightgown. If the leaves of her mint plants were threatened by rust on a Thursday, it would have to wait till next Tuesday for Suhasini to flame out the diseased leaves and shoots.
Besides her neighbor – a certain Mrs. Smith who only interested her till her rather eligible boy (perfect for her younger, unmarried daughter) gave up on advertising and settled for a career in mowing lawns, Suhasini knew few people. She could go over and borrow some raw sugar from her, but the Smiths were more of hamburger folks than fusion cuisine enthusiasts.
Wrung by indecision, she decided to abandon the whole project. An unexpected call from her elder, married daughter in New York, and a postman who delivered the entire Lake Street letters in her mailbox cheered her up as it gave her the excuse to go out on an unscheduled day. As she went about redistributing the letters at their designated addresses, she stopped over at the grocery store and bought herself some raw sugar, enough to last her a lifetime.
While the marinate acquainted itself with the tender tomato petals in the bowl, Suhasini dropped the salmon fillets – lightly dusted with sea salt and raw sugar – into a pan of smoking butter. The sizzling oil and the crackling water drops drowned the anchor’s voice drifting down the hallway from the drawing room.
In her home, television was a passive companion. Though it didn’t replace the ticklish laughter of her grand-kids and the constant concerned nagging of her daughters and the aloof economics page-reading dim sum with wine-for-breakfast fits of her late husband, it did fill the vacuum of her thoughts with new ideas, images, and news from back home. Words like “Diplomat”, “Sex”, and “Murder” pierced through the web of modern art hung on the wood-paneled walls, the embroidered, velvet sofas and club chairs, and the stacks of newspapers, magazines, and novels that lined the hallway, and blended into a sensational headline over the cooking range.
Deplorable, she conceded to herself. In her time, national leaders were like gods; they didn’t have sex lives or carnal desires.
She found herself in the hallway. It was colder here. The warmth from the furnace escaped through the cottage’s creaking crevices. The hallway was like a local library, stacked with all the New York and LA titles she could lay her hands on. To her these papers, unlike the credit card statements and bills, were letters from her daughters that bore tidings of their towns and them; daughters who hardly called or visited home anymore.
The news changed to a film promo. She turned swiftly, alarmed that her salmon fillets might burn, and knocked off a stack of books on the shelf at hand. She gathered a few titles off the floor and placed them back on the bookshelf, next to the novel with its jacket turned towards her. A middle-aged man — lunatic eyes, ruffled hair, a long black cloak over a turtleneck, his hands tucked securely in his denim pockets, resting his back on a red brick wall with his elbows and a heel propping him up from the textured background — stared back from the novel jacket. She could feel her breath hold for a second longer than usual.
His face still intrigued her. His eyes followed her each time she crossed the hallway, questioning her memory of a forgotten past.
He seemed vaguely familiar. Maybe he had been one of those genteel guests that lurked around in those of the rich, by the rich, for the rich parties that her late husband used to frequent so often. One of those intense fellows that glued themselves to the art deco walls like an abstract fresco or a surveillance device, and just like a fly on the wall (albeit with a platter in hand that overflowed with all the dishes on display at the table) observed the human circus unfold before them. But he didn’t seem like a man who would nod in greeting and shy away from conversation. His eyes; something about them reminded her of pop music and drum beats; of wet grass and gregarious laughter; of Kafka lost in Afghanistan without his dreams.
The novel was a gift from her younger daughter who loved romances and had, to her mother’s chagrin, taken well to the life of promiscuity.
“He’s a dish, Ma,” she was whispering to her. “Kind of like middle-aged James Dean, don’t you think?”
“Why don’t you start seeing other people, Ma? It’s been fifteen years since dad . . . you’re still beautiful.”
“You know Ma, sometimes you make me wonder whether my failed relationships have anything to do with your one guy for life concept. Did you ever have a crush on a guy before dad married you? Ever!”
Did I, ever? She wondered aloud.
She had little time for romance spurred by spontaneity. Characters like hers, devoid of conflicts, posed little challenge and thus were of little interest to authors who swore by the dramatic arc. For the feelings that twisted the hearts of young girls in a champagne romance, that made their legs wobble and knees weak, and swoon — albeit belatedly — into the arms of their beloved, had yet to stir her soul. But it wasn’t her time to think of a life different from the one she had lead for as long as she could remember — comfortable and lonely.
Thick, pungent fumes descended from the kitchen. She leaped over the scattered books to rescue her lunch from a certain disaster. Her efforts only worsened the arthritis in her joints. She scraped the pan with a wooden spatula to no avail. The fish was charred beyond recognition. She dumped the contents along with the pan into the dustbin and leaned heavily on the marble tabletop; her fingernails dug into the rubber glue that affixed the marble slab to the spotless sink.
She wanted to go home.
Jaideep Sarkar, JD to his fans and Jai to his erstwhile students, could have lived anywhere in the world. He had the inheritance, the envious book deals and royalty statements, as well as the will. His city-fatigued lungs chose for him instead.
He had lived in a two-bedroom apartment above the grocery store for the better half of a decade. The large bay windows that ran parallel to the Victorian-style university building and park, and a small lake filled with imaginary minnows and mermaids gave him a sense of his many childhood homes.
Had he stepped out of his apartment for even half a day, he would have run into all the Lake Street residents including the seasonal visitors and possibly Mrs. K. Suhasini as well. Instead he typed away furiously at the keys of his granddad’s 1920s typewriter with alphabets painted in gold. The only person he saw on a daily basis, the only person who knew he lived there besides the postman, was the housekeeper: a plump man with shifty eyes and court jester mannerisms who took care of all his household chores for double the rent. JD never acknowledged his presence. He would stare out of the window at the cloudy sky, extracting horse races, hanging gardens, sand storms, and flower ladies from the evolving shapes as the housekeeper vacuumed around him or cooked him food or did his laundry.
For two weeks now, he had failed to type beyond the title: The Year for Love by Jaideep Sarkar. Today was no different. He sipped black coffee without sugar or cream and scratched his stubble and head. He made a mental note for a shave and a bath. He pulled down coffee table books from the bookcase and sifted through his favorite novels in search for an image or phrase that would jump-start his creativity. He reminded himself to reorder Memoirs of Anna Dostoevsky a copy of which he had lost to numerous bouts of sleeplessness. He wheeled his arms, rotated his neck in clockwise direction, cracked his knuckles and smelled his armpits and socks. As soon as the housekeeper got over his cold, he would change out of his pajamas and the blue flannel bathrobe.
He tinkered with the heater, fixed himself a sandwich, and went over to the window. The belt of his bathrobe rustled behind him like a viper. The bathroom slippers flip-flopped with each languid step.
Tiny crystal lattices had formed at the window corners. He fogged the glass with his stale breath and scrolled 1971 across it with his long, dandruff-lined fingernail.
1971. India fucked Pakistan. Jim Morrison fucked his fans. And he fucked his muse.
Those were the hippie-hangover days. The music scene was explosive. For the first time since consciousness, he found himself on his own, among people of his own age group. Everybody was zonked out. Making out in the field as others swayed and bounced to the beats of soft rock and pop music.
He saw her then, a girl of nineteen or twenty. A white orchid: pure and naive. Her oceanic blue eyes sparkled against her thick, black hair: a silken shawl for her bare olive-toned shoulders that turned into the dancing mane of a wild stallion running through a field of hay. The anklets turned inside-out when she threw up her hands in the air; the thin strand of silver caught her mouth every time she jumped with the drum beats. The coy smile . . . as if daring him to come closer and sweep her into his arms . . . those lips that defied the world and its accepted norms…
Harriet, the pumpkin chariot, his sister used to sing. Harriet was the name by which he called out to her, on those endless nights when not a single coherent line would type itself on the blank sheet.
Even before he was smitten with the image of her resplendent face, he had been in the business of capturing images of people and places. His dad was a diplomat and though they traveled all over the world, only a few things changed for him: the color of the curtains, wallpaper patterns, rooftops of neighboring houses, trees that lined the avenues, mom’s hairstyle, dad’s shirt collars, staff’s accent, and the seasons that brought different ailments with them.
He was a sick boy. Confined to bed for most part of his youth, he was home schooled by his mother and played scrabble with his sister for entertainment. Soon she had her own friends to plan tea-parties with and came to his room only upon mother’s insistence.
His favorite place in the world was his window seat. He could read there for hours together. His back hurt afterwards but he would never let a soul know that lest they forbade him from sitting there. At the window, he got a bird’s eye view of the street and the people who walked beneath his windowsill. He studied their body language, the way they dressed, walked, talked, and reacted to people they knew and to strangers they didn’t.
He began writing stories about these strangers and the lives he imagined they lived. The characters that populated his stories were his friends and acquaintances. Their lively banter, delirious ramblings, and adventurous tales kept him awake at night. A round of scrabble with his sister held no interest for him anymore. His need for human interaction retreated behind the veil of his imagined worlds.
When he saw her, fluttering like the sail on a luxury yacht, when he fucked her, unraveling the mystery of girl scouts and playboys, he knew the only way to sustain this dream was to write. For he was a young boy with few redeeming virtues and a night like that could only happen to him once in a lifetime.
Times were different then. Indian chicks preferred geeks over high school studs for husbands. Besides, it wasn’t everyday he ran into a girl who was so drunk that she mistook him for a regular Paul Newman and not some weirdo who substituted foreplay for pre-match motivational speech.
He wrote romances, one after the other, each featuring her as the rebellious, independent girl with a zest for life and an undying love for adventure. His father retired and his family settled down in Delhi. He stayed behind to avoid their arguments pro marriage. Though he had filled out the frame that offset his overhanging cheeks, and had grown into a what-a-twenty-something girl in the Victorian era would call fetching, to him he was still the boy with a pale complexion and a weak constitution, uneasy in the company of women, unworthy of their flirtatious advances.
His mom called him up often. Told him how proud she was. She’s a feminist. But his dad still wondered where he went wrong. How could bedtime readings of Crime and Punishment and Brother Karamazov give way to Lover boy and Dreams of a Nymphomaniac?
The clock tower struck twelve. He wiped the steam off the glass with the back of his hand. He put on a cloak over his bathrobe and a muffler around his neck and went out for a walk.
He cut through the park where love stories unfolded by the litter, spooling over the grass and park benches and behind trees, in grotesque to neo-realist style. A couple shared French embrace by the stairs; the girl’s eyes were shut tight, all senses drawn towards relishing the touch of his fingers exploring the bare skin beneath her shirt. A nymph-like girl with golden locks sprang through the still waters of the ornate fountain, like a strand of hair caught in the light. A pistachio-haired boy dropped a bunch of wildflowers on a girl’s lap.
So many images, but not a single frame compelled him to rush back to his typewriter, to begin a new relationship with his muse.
He walked fast. His hands fused into fists inside his cloak pockets. His breath was hurried; it left a train of white smoke along the lakeside. He scampered through the bushes, sloshed through the wet soil, unaware of somebody running towards him with a weapon in hand. He winced with pain; blood oozed from his forehead. He fell to the ground, his hands, quick out of his pocket, shielded his face from further blows.
“Who are you?” the voice shrieked. It was a woman. An old woman. Streaks of gray hair had come loose over her drooping eyes and lips. Her cream-colored silk sari had a broad maroon border with mango patterns embroidered in gold.
“Why are you here?”
Her legs, along with the lower half of her sari, disappeared into swamp pants, wet from recent outing in the lake. The suspenders plopped off her shoulders. He stared down the length of the fishing rod as if it was a rifle barrel. The bait was still on the hook, dangling before his eyes like an orange blob.
“Get out or I’ll call the police.”
“Please don’t hook me,” he said as he slid back to propel himself off the wet ground.
Suhasini was not amused. She saw crime and cop shows and knew very well what people in America were capable of.
“Do you have a gun on you?”
“What? No,” he said as he tried to get on his feet.
“Easy mister. Keep your hands to your sides. Don’t try to do anything funny.”
“I’m not armed.” Was she supposed to believe him? Was the word gullible pasted to her face? She noticed the cut on his forehead. It had stopped bleeding but he may need a tetanus shot. She had some in the house. If he wasn’t dangerous, she might even offer to jab him with the needle.
“Un-un,” she said and poked him in his ribs with the fishing rod. “Don’t. Do you have any identification on you?”
“I was out on a walk.”
“You’re trespassing, sir. This is private property.”
“I didn’t know. Sorry.”
He shoved back his hair and stroked the cut with his dirty fingers.
“I know you,” she said, lowering her guard. “You’re that writer.”
“You know me?”
She nodded her head.
“I didn’t know I had such an elderly fan base.”
“There are a lot of old women out there Mr.…”
“Mr. Sarkar. You shouldn’t neglect such a potential market for your crap.”
She was pleased when he flinched; it temporarily wiped the smirk off his face.
“If you don’t mind now, I’d like to get off the crap I’m on right now.”
She gripped his cloak by the shoulder and pulled him up with the strength of a farmer woman.
“Let me fix the cut for you,” she said.
“It’s all right.”
She marched forth without an answer, stopping midway to collect the catch splashing in the bucket. She took off her swamp pants at the porch and left it to dry in the sun.
He had followed her back to the house. She watched him as he wiped the mud off his bathroom slippers. She noted his unkempt state, his lousy attire, his bloated smell, and drew a pocketbook analysis of his Freudian windows.
“You’re in luck,” she said as she emerged from the bathroom. “There’s just one left.”
He was standing by the drawing room window, looking out at the lake.
He turned towards her; his iris caught the sun and glowed like amber. This newly discovered softness to his raw features made her conscious of her femininity for the second time in the day.
His eyebrows forged a ridge as she dabbed the cut with a spirited swab, wiped clean his forehead of dust, and concealed the cut with a band-aid.
“Why don’t you stay for lunch? I’ll be cooking fish.” Again.
“I have already imposed on your hospitality.”
“Nonsense! I insist.”
In the kitchen, she scaled the fishes and cleaned their intestines in the sink. Her hands trembled as she marked slits across their scrubbed bodies. It had been years since she had cooked for a man, heard his gluttonous laughs and burps. He was a strange man, she thought. He won’t let go off his cloak and now he’s dancing all over the showpieces, dusting them with his cloak. She could hear him straighten the flower vases and the photo frames.
“Are these your daughters?”
“Yes. One’s married and is a doctor. She lives in New York. And the other’s an actress. Don’t know where she is and don’t remember which films she’s in either.” There. That should end his nosing around.
Once again, she set a frying pan bathed in coconut oil on the gas. To it she added a generous heap of finely sliced shallots, a bunch of slit hot green chilies, and a handful of curry leaves. As the aroma of the sautéing onions perforated through the earthy fragrance of the curling curry leaves, Suhasini found herself traveling back in space and time to the days when her father’s name was her identity and a small island off the coast of Kerala her home.
She could almost taste the roasting poppy seeds in the noon air. The rides on the rice barges, a swim in the canal; a walk through the wild lilies, a climb up the mango tree’s drooping branch.
Fishing for trout on a cool cloudless day, wading through flood waters that bought silt and crabs to her doorsteps. Bunking school to cycle down to the seashore; listening to the waves crashing on the boulders. If she listened hard enough, she could hear her father’s footsteps on the porch, her mother’s evening prayers, and the approaching rains.
Rains that bled, rains that healed; with monsoons the year round, she didn’t know that winters were meant to be snowy and slippery. She could remember it all — so clearly, so dispassionately — that it seemed it had happened just yesterday.
And like yesterday, she could smell the burning stench of hookahs emerging from the local gambler’s club down the street. The smell grew stronger till she nearly choked on her memories. With urgency, she recollected her senses, fiercely scrubbed the non-stick pan’s bottom, and added the curry fish marinated in salt and turmeric to the semi-cooked, semi-burnt base. The memory of her childhood home — its warmth and softness albeit minimalist decor — quickly faded into the detached elegance of her cottage.
She wiped the sweat off her brows and sent thankful prayers to God for not burning another lunch and saving her from certain humiliation.
“Need help,” he asked from the hallway.
“No thanks. It’s almost done.” She wondered whether he had been a spy or a small-time detective before he took to writing. Snooping around her home like it was his.
“You have a good collection for somebody who doesn’t respect books.”
She wiped her hands on the cross-stitched apron as she peeped into the hallway. He was on his knees gathering the books spread out on the floor. “Oh, that. I spilled them over and forgot to pick them up.”
“And you certainly don’t like my work.” The smirk was back on his unshaved face.
His novel was still on display. How could she be such a moron? He must have seen it. “Actually, I was thinking of reading that novel of yours tomorrow.” She had no such plans but she rather have him gloat than come across as a Saraswati offender. Letting the books touch the ground and all. “You want some sherry?”
“Do you have scotch?”
“Am afraid not.”
She set two sherry glasses on the seldom used teak-wood dining table with two chairs and filled them to the brim with Spanish sherry. It was her only vice, courtesy her late husband. To the fish curry she added thick coconut milk and freshly cut coriander and turned off the gas.
She took out her best bone china plates from the padlocked cupboard, arranged on it whole fishes beside rice mounds, and set them next to the sherry glasses. She removed the crumpled apron and tossed it into a corner, and clasped her hands with delight. The dim sunlight through the kitchen window would have to suffice.
They ate for a while without a word exchanged. His table manners were as refined as his appearance common fringing on uncouth. He separated the flesh from the bones with the finesse of a neurosurgeon, set it on a spoonful of rice and swallowed it down with a generous gulp of sherry.
“Good food,” he said. “Haven’t had Indian since years now. My housekeeper doesn’t know how to…”
She laughed as he struggled to keep from speaking and eating at the same time.
“And your wife?”
She made a houseboat of rice and a stick man of a few bones from the fish on her plate.
“What else do you do besides cooking? You seem to have a lot of time on your hand. I assume you are quite well off.”
“Very well off indeed!” She shouldn’t have poured herself a drink. “I have my resources.”
She toyed with the diamond pendant around her neck wondering whether its glimmer reflected in her eyes too.
“Do you travel a lot?” he asked. “I would, if I had your ‘resources’?”
“I do stuff. I do gardening.”
“And what a lovely garden it is.”
“I walk around, read, go shopping, write letters to my daughters…”
He wasn’t listening. The rabbit in her kitchen garden had captured his interest.
“…to Marilyn Monroe, the President, commune with JFK, feed wild pigeons, shoot stray dogs, spy on neighbors, decode messages in rap songs, and work as an undercover FBI agent to expose you as the great Fidel Castro in disguise.”
“You don’t travel?”
“I don’t. You’re a famous romance writer; do you have a lot of girlfriends in different countries?”
“I’m in love with my muse.”
She sipped her sherry and framed her chin with her moisturized hands. “Probably it’s time for you to move on to works of more literary merit and make room for real relationships. Do away with the…cheap stuff.”
“Real? As in Pulitzer Prize-winning real or Nobel Prize-winning real?” He was flinching again. “Okay, let’s see what I can do impromptu. Here’s a man who rebels against the Czar, becomes the leader of one of the bloodiest revolutions in world history, escapes the firing squad, marries a princess in exile, and overthrows the tyrants all with a bullet still stuck in his scalp. Whom do the people look to rule them but him? He becomes the very man he was fighting to free himself from. I’m sure that sort of high-brow stuff is to your liking.”
His outburst had left his pulpy cheeks flushed. He wheezed; his nostrils flared, his mouth opened a tad to the right.
But she hadn’t added red chilies to the fish. “Are you all right?”
He tugged at his pajama neck. Water pooled at the corner of his eyes and wetted his lashes as long as a girl’s.
She flung open the kitchen window and he breathed deeply. The heaving of his chest, visible through the layers of clothing, replaced the wheezing sounds. She went back to the bathroom and got him an inhaler.
“Go ahead,” she coaxed him and patted his back like she did when her granddaughter had an attack. “It’s safe. My granddaughter too has asthma.”
The inhaler did its magic. He wiped his nose and eyes with the table napkin and smiled at her. The kitchen lit up with silvery soft light as the noon sun dipped behind the gathering clouds.
She cleared the plates off the table and brewed filter coffee instead.
He was watching her, she could sense him. His amber eyes followed her as she moved from the sink to the cabinets with the filter coffee container and steel coffee mugs. “Besides almost killing me out there, have you ever done anything outrageous or improper in your life…?” he asked. His fingers searched the air for clues to her name.
She poured coffee from one mug to the other till a delicious froth rose to the surface.
“Why Mr. Sarkar…”
“Call me JD.”
“Why JD, this is only our first lunch.”
He accepted the cup graciously. “I wasn’t aware it was a date.”
It was her turn to flush rouge red. “Is the coffee too hot?”
She bent forward, setting aside the cup of coffee to prevent her chin from dipping into the froth. “Have you ever done something really outrageous?”
He smiled and gestured for her to move a little closer. A chill ran down her arms. She could feel the kitchen grow darker or were the deep colors of the satin drapes and the dark mahogany of the coffee table fueling her imagination.
“I once fucked a nineteen-year-old student of mine and got kicked out of the campus.”
Fucked? The usage of the F-word was strongly discouraged in her household. She wasn’t furious though. She was giggling like a schoolgirl let in on a secret that turned popular girls into open-24-hour sluts. Besides, he was a guest in her home and guests were next to God even if they were as crude and unclean as him.
“Goodness gracious me! Good thing my daughters didn’t study under you. Get it? Under you.”
“Ha-ha!” His laughter encased his salmon-pink lips in seldom exercised laugh lines. “Have you?”
“Finish your coffee.”
“Have you or haven’t you? Come-on! I’ve been so frank with you.”
“I could have got that info from any magazine.”
“Ah, but you don’t read trash.”
“Very well.” She ran her sweaty palms down the length of her sleeve-draped arms. “I think it was a music concert of sorts. New York? Sashi, my husband, and I were engaged then. So drunk…I was so drunk. I think I may have kissed a guy, a total complete stranger. I’m not even sure now…was so drunk…like in a trance…
“It may not have happened at all. I might have just imagined it. Created a sense memory for myself, so that when I grew old I would wonder why I married my husband. What would it have been like if I had stayed the night after the concert? I’m not complaining or anything. Anyways, after that, I only allow myself one glass of sherry a day.
“What’s the matter, you look pale?”
“I just remembered I have a meeting with my editor at four.” He gestured towards his bare wrist.
“Oh! I’m sorry to have delayed you,” she said.
He sipped the last drop of his coffee that had grown cold with her musings and dropped the napkin on the table. “It was a pleasure. Got to rush but I had a wonderful time today.”
Suhasini wondered whether to speak her mind or regret not doing so for the remainder of her life. If she said it aloud, it would forever be out there in the open, resonating through eternity, reminding her of her foolhardiness. On the other hand, if she remained silent, she might as well step into a coffin and bury herself six feet under as of now.
“Would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow?” She had caught him off-guard; he froze mid-air, hunched over the dining table, his behind hanging in the air, inches above the chair seat.
He seemed evasive. His hands nervously skimmed through his graying strands of hair. “I’d love to but I can’t. I am going on a publicity tour.”
Her eyes drooped further; a whistle escaped her lips. “It’s okay. I was just wondering.”
“Hey! I could come over once I return from the tour. Give me your number, I’ll call you.”
She tore a sheet of paper towel from the sink, searched for a pen, settled for a pencil, and scribbled her summer and winter residence numbers in neat, italicized Times Roman font. Just in case he returned to find her gone. She slipped the folded piece of paper into his cloak pocket and planted a gentle kiss on his cheeks.
He was gone the next second. The door left ajar in his haste.
He waved goodbye without glancing back. He walked as fast as he could till he reached the warning sign for trespassers.
“It can’t be,” he spoke aloud in disbelief. “It couldn’t be.”
For all those years she had been this young, vibrant girl in his thoughts while, like him, she had aged — gracefully and uninterestingly. She was now a mature woman who had seen life through monochrome filters. Quite different from the woman he had imagined her to be. Yet, she was nice, funny…endearing.
The collage of contrasting images shaped into a protagonist alive with raw emotions, character flaws, and internal conflicts. She propelled him towards his apartment where his faithful typewriter awaited his celebrated presence. In all the excitement, he crushed the tissue paper — on which Suhasini had so lovingly written down her name and numbers — and dashed it into the grocery store dustbin, to celebrate the joyous moment like a NBA champ on a dream run.
He could sense the first line of his next novel typing itself on the blank sheet of paper set in the typewriter as he climbed the stairs to his apartment. It read in bold black letters: To Young Harriet, with Love.