“Are you free to talk?” I hear a familiar voice from the other side of the phone.
“Yes I am, always for you,” I have this flirtatious tone in my voice whenever she calls me. She is not offended. On the contrary, if she couldn’t sense that ticklish voice of mine she grows curious and prodding. “Are you alright? Is something bothering you?” she would ask.
It is better to maintain flirtatiousness in the voice than to let her ask too many questions. She speaks a few things including the usual staple of gossip doing rounds in the art scene. With my journalistic instincts alert I listen to her talk. She has not yet come to the point, I feel.
Though she calls me once in a while today’s preamble has given her guards away. She wants to talk something particular but she seems to have lost courage. She continues beating around the bush for some or time.
“The other day I felt a different vibe from you,” she says. I think of it. When was it, really? “Day before.. during the opening of X’ exhibition.” Yes, I remember meeting her there with a glass of beer in her right hand and in her left another lady too young to be her mother and too old to be her sister. She must have been obviously in her early sixties.
I think hard. Couple of beer inside me I should have made some loose talks. Did I make any unwarranted moves towards her?
“No, no...,” she asserts. “You were not high but you were asking me something which I would definitely love to do with you but now circumstances do not allow me to take that step. I feel scared. But I have something to tell you,” she stops abruptly and waits for me to be curious.
I am curious but I do not want to show it. “Out with it dear,” I tell her and add to her pause.
We could hear each other breathing heavily into the phone; those good old days of landline phones.
“May be Lena would love to do it,” she says diplomatically.
“Lena, who?” I ask.
“The lady who was with me at the opening,” she goes silent again.
“Really?” Now I become really curious. “But she is pretty old..”
“I never thought old women of her age wanted it.”
“You know nothing about women,” she sounds assertive and matter of fact.
I am game for it. The days are like that; wild and blind. Discretion is the last thing when the field is open and poaching is not banned. Everyone is drunk in power and richness; not just men, women too. At times they are too arrogant to have a decent conversation.
Here is someone who would like to have a few hours fling with me.
“What do you say?” she asks.
I do not think twice. I say, yes.
“She will call you and arrange everything. Do not goof it up,” she warns and then hangs up.
As expected she calls. She is hesitant initially. From her quivering voice I feel her age; definitely it is added by her overwhelming emotional state.
The pivotal ‘Ws’ are asked: when and where? ‘Why’ could be avoided for I know why. ‘How’, perhaps both of us are experienced enough to find out an answer to that question.
Lena, the good old lady hatches a plan; she is an artist. She would like to discuss her works with me. She would rent out a hotel room in a posh area in the city. I just go there, check in and wait. She gives me date and time.
On the stipulated day I wear my favorite black T-shirt and black jeans. I ride my motorbike and reach the hotel. From the parking I emerge a bit exhausted but I put a brave face and encounter the receptionists. One of the bell boys takes me to the room. The room is empty.
I sit on the cot and take a good look at the room. It is a very spacious one; too spacious for clandestine meetings. The air-conditioner buzzes to make the room cooler than the hot clime out there which I see through the parted curtain. The familiar city sprawls down there and I feel a bit like a thief who is about to commit a crime.
I turn away from the large glass window, pulling the curtains back its place, bringing the remoteness and nowhere-ness of all hotel rooms anywhere in the world back into the room. On the one side there is a large mirror and I take a good look at myself.
What do I see there? A young man in black jeans and T-shirt, looking like a pint size bouncer at a bar door or am I looking like a gigolo who is called to a room to fulfill an old woman’s desire?
I try to shirk off that feeling. I keep telling myself that I am here on my own volition and as much as she wants it I too want it. It is a mutual deal; no exploitation of any kind. The discussion on her works of art is an alibi.
I hear a knock at the door. I open it. Lo, she is there. Lena, the good old lady, with a roll of papers and a portfolio in her hands all smiling.
“May I come in,” she affects modesty playfully.
“Yes, please,” I sound quite earnest and serious.
“When did you come?” she asks.
“A few minutes back,” I answer.
“I saw you coming in,” she says. I shiver. “I was there at my apartment across this place waiting for you to come in,” she says by way of explaining.
I look at her. She is in a designer black dress. I just notice that with her another spirit also has come into the room; the fragrance of Paris. She has drenched herself in some expensive perfume.
We spend a few seconds looking at each other, exchanging awkward smiles, knowing well that everything is a charade meant to end up in a physical intercourse.
“Shall we have some beer?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say.
She opens the mini bar and takes out two large beer bottles. I am astonished. Normally, the hotels keep pint size beer bottles in the mini-bar. The large ones look odd inside the small refrigerator. I notice four more beer bottles stacked inside.
“I asked the hotel guys to put it there,” she dispels my confusion.
I look at her. Inside the thick glass I could see her ageing eyes, the wrinkles around them, the hanging cheeks, weak jaw bones and the loose muscles around the neck.
She tries to speak something about her works but soon sensing the futility of it, we guzzle the beer in silence.
After some time she puts her right hand on my shoulder and draws me closer to her.
I could feel myself going small. I soon regain my composure. I drink beer one glass after another as her hands run all over me.
Once high enough to act I embrace her. I feel her old and weak frame inside my arms. An apparently big woman feels very small as she stands close to my body.
I reclaim her from a bundle of clothes.
The semi darkness of the room emphasizes the fairness of her chiseled body. Her body is wrinkle free and the skin smooth and unblemished. She seems to be doing some exercise or yoga to keep her body in perfect shape.
I move back and look at her. She looks odd with a very old head with wrinkles and all fitted on a sculpted marble body.
I set out my sails into the ocean of our combined desires.
Under my weight she takes a different form. She transforms herself into an agile athlete. We do the race together. And soon I am a spent horse.
She goes to the washroom and comes back with a roll of paper napkins in her hand.
“It’s been since long. She just cannot stop oozing,” while wiping between her legs she says and she shows me the napkins soggy with her fluids.
Looking at her act I feel like having her once again. I turn her around.
With each push she splays herself like a flying squirrel under me. Her perfectly shaped back was presenting me with some Michelangelo moments.
“I never thought men could go for a second so soon,” she lights up two cigarettes and says while handing one over to me.
“Depends,” I prefer brevity at that moment.
We clean up and dress up. She orders some snacks. We sit, eat and chat.
“I will stay here tonight,” she tells me.
“I can’t go back today itself. It is just across.”
“But I have to.”
At the other side of the bed I see the unattended roll of papers and portfolio of works.
“Never mind,” she says.
It is time to go. I get up. She walks up to the door and gives me a hug and a little kiss on my cheeks.
I feel that more like a mother’s than a horny woman’s.
(Image. Painting by Edward Hopper)