In a life where this bottle points at you and me, I’d willingly walk into that closet on our right. Happily. In any other version of it, I’d recommend you don’t walk into it either. I have a bit of a crush on you, so a part of the reason is I wouldn’t want you to be walking into it with someone else, but more than that, I know for a fact that place reeks of sweat.
Now, I don’t know how well you know this mutual friend of ours, but to him, the concept of dirty v/s washed clothes is alien. ‘It’s all just clothes’ this friend is known to have remarked while pushing a pile of dirty ones in that very closet. You don’t even need the closet, you are in close proximity to our friend, pull a Hannibal, and take a whiff. God! What an inappropriate thing to say.
I must have been staring at the friend, we shared a look, and I was pulled back into the game. Not really though, I zoned out the moment that bottle spun and stopped at the only couple in this circle. They deliberately sat opposite, smiling knowingly, rubbing it off in our faces as if they needed a reason to be on top of each other. And would you believe their luck? The very first spin. I can already hear them telling this story in class tomorrow as an exemplar of their ‘soulmate-ness’
Our sweaty friend raises an eyebrow at me as if to ask, “where at?”. He does that quite a lot, making sure everyone is in and involved. Sometimes you want him to leave you alone, but other times it’s kind of sweet. That is how we came to be friends. We stood in a circle, just like this one, where everyone knew each other but not too well. And everyone was talking about some generic shit and over each other. It’s easy to get ignored in such situations. I did too. But Sweaty made sure he looked at me and nodded to acknowledge what I had said. Such a small thing but how nice, no? You can tell when he is about to do something like that; he has this noble king kind of look on his face. Like right now. I hope he doesn’t develop some savior complex or shit.
And there, he did it. He has used his noble interference to annoy. What an asshole! Why the fuck did he have to point out that the game becomes predictable if we pair up only by one spin. There is no surprise when everyone knows the people sitting opposite each other get sent to the cupboard.
“It should be two spins. Whosoever the mouth of the bottle points to is it. It’s more fun that way. We pick one person per spin,” he declares, and I immediately look at you, hoping to catch the disappointment that paints my face. There is none. It doesn’t even matter if we do two spins for a pair then.
I don’t even remember when was the last time this sunken feeling traveled down my throat to my stomach. Oh wait, I do. That race. You seem to have a way of causing that. I hadn’t noticed you parted your hair neatly today. Looks awful. And green isn’t your color, someone should let you know that. I should focus on this now that it’s pointless to be obsessing over your effortless smile. Hasn’t it been 7 minutes already or what? Those two have been in there for ages!
In preparation to ward off the awkwardness of talking properly for the first time, just in case we ended up in that closet, I even thought of the perfect story. That’s what I was doing the whole time while everyone danced. It has all the elements of the gossipy anecdote: it is about someone in this room, it involves a closet…well a washroom, close enough, it involves some racy stuff, and getting caught, so their awkwardness makes ours look like nothing! It’s genius! This is how it goes:
Two people from this room bribed the canteen guy in our school to use the canteen washroom to do it. While they were at it, about to begin to be precise, our principal walked into the canteen. He walked to wash his hands. Heard some noises but it was class hour, so no one should have been using the canteen. He knocked. Threatened to break the door, He actually got the canteen guy to break it open. The couple was trying to climb out the ventilator.
You would have followed up with another story, and if not a kiss, we could have at least broken the ice. It is pointless now. It is abundantly clear who the couple in the room is. Sweaty just announced it. When they are back, the bottle will spin again. Now, all my energy is focused on hoping it doesn’t stop at me.
Do you know those couples who are so in your face that you want to vomit? And then there are ones you wouldn’t even be able to guess are one. I constantly swing between wanting to be one or the other. At times, I feel like it’s no one’s business who I am with, and then I am like if I am with – well, the glorified version of you I have in my head – then it is every-fucking-body’s business. Or maybe, you can always tell if something is going on between two people no matter how hard they try to hide it, something just gives it away, and it is me who is bad at reading those cues. Two of my closest friends dated for a good six months, and everyone knew but me. Their reason for not telling? They were trying things out and didn’t want to make a big deal till it turned into something substantial. Fair enough, but it still hurts to be excluded and to be dumb enough to not find out.
Oh, they are back. I have been consciously trying to not look at you because I know we are caught in the game of checking if the other person is looking. We have lost track of who is looking and who is checking if the other person is looking. It’s confusing, and I don’t want to be the looker.
The bottle spins.
It is me. Who is surprised? Not me? If only I had a dollar for every time my luck abandoned me when I needed it the most.
Why would you ask Sweaty to get something to drink right before the second spin? Are your lips dry? Can I help you with that? God! I should never flirt!
The second spin is dangerously close to stopping at you, the slower it gets, the faster my heart goes. I don’t dare look up, eyes fixed on the bottle. It decides to spin just a bit more, halting at the empty space where Sweaty sat.
He yells from the kitchen, “who’s it?”
Great. Just great!
I fucking have to walk into that sweaty closet with fucking Sweaty himself.
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Prakhar Patidar is a 22-year-old post-grad from Christ University trying to make it into the professional world of stories and wrap her head around that with each passing day, the world seems more like something right out of the dystopian novels she loves to read.
Her tantrums as a kid were more often than not met with stories her mom cooked up to deal with them. That’s where she feels it all began. When she asked for a candy every night before bed, she got jaggery instead with a story of this mouse that bought it every night. One could only have a small piece, or else the mouse would run away. When she demanded to be told five stories every night before bed, her mom complied and made up stories, at least, till she hit writer’s-block. Then a tantrum for five new stories meant widened eyes and “You listen to one story and go to bed, or you sleep outside the house.”
This fascination with and love for stories has shaped all her major academic and professional choices. She is currently exploring different genres and forms with her creative writing by using “call for submissions” on various platforms as a prompt. Her most recent publications include: Rubatosis, a short story selected for WriteFluence’s anthology; Out Of My Box (2021) and Shahar (2021); an anthology she compiled for Verses Kindler Publications. You can find more of her work at I Did This With Words. [https://lookwhatididwithwords.wordpress.com/]