It can’t wait any longer. Not even another spin. I have to know. You can see it on Sweaty’s face that he is anticipating something. The good-doer nobility has washed off of his face. He was waiting for this moment. Was this the point of this whole party? No, it can’t be. It sprang out of the phone call we had. He couldn’t have been planning this. But look at the excitement in his eyes. It’s like a child is about to be handed the ice cream he threw a screaming fit for.
“Sweaty, you have to tell me who you planned this game for.” “Don’t worry, it’s not for your athlete,” he says, not looking at me.What is happening? This smugness doesn’t suit Sweaty. It’s almost making me uncomfortable. And was I that obvious? I have two options now: I can just shut up and accept my defeat, or I can ignore the fact that Sweaty knows and probe further. Fuck it. He already knows. What’s there to ignore?
“Fine. You know mine, now tell me yours… and then do tell me how? ”, I trace back all the treading along the creep line I have done in the past two hours. There has been a stealing of looks. Smiles have been exchanged. It has to be the helpless stealing of looks that gave it away. Can Sweaty tell if it’s a two-way street? I hope he noticed something, because while I hope it is, I really can’t tell. Should I not be able to? God! With these things, isn’t there something unspoken going on that gives it away?
Sweaty nudges me and then looks somewhere between our friend and her cousin. I knew it! This cousin is the vibe compromiser Sweaty called about but, from what it seems like, grew fond of. I wondered why he hasn’t posted a complaint about this stranger. Well, not a complete stranger. This has happened before. Our friend has had to drag this cousin to our other hangouts as well. Downsides: a joint family. It happened at Sweaty’s birthday party. It happened when we all went to the movies two months back. At this point, we should just start inviting the cousin. And Sweaty had to sit beside her cousin. Our friend, the cousin, Sweaty, and I-B12,13,14, and 15. I remember him cribbing about that in the interval. Loud breathing was the issue. By now, you know a fair amount about Sweaty. Anything can be an issue. But who knows? He might have gotten past that. He must have. What else is this game for?
The bottle has been spun again. by you. Can’t you tell Sweaty and I are in the middle of something? You don’t have to be into me, but God you could respect a conversation happening via whispers and nudges. But it was a swift spin, I must say. The bottle slows and drags to somewhere between the friend and the cousin, halting at our friend. I immediately turned to look at Sweaty. Poor guy. Twice, his luck didn’t favour him.
Sweaty, however, looks like a person trying to hide a smile, thanking his luck in his heart. Okay, This is too much to process. And I have been fooled by my own friends again. How long has this been cooking? I have been right there and here and always around all the time and still missed it! It’s a good thing this is a monologue, all restricted to my head. I am not making a great impression right now, and you don’t need to know about it. I grab onto Sweaty’s arm demanding an explanation, but Sweaty is already in the process of getting up-too eager to be in the godforsaken cupboard. I am angry that I have been left out of this—whatever this is—but it is too sweet to be too angry. Look at our friend; he’s almost hopping away to the cupboard. The cousin wasn’t ready for this. It shows on the face. Who knows, this will put a stop to the cousin’s butting in every time we hang out. or will put a stop to us hanging out altogether. What is this unwanted bitch telling us at home? No, no, no time to worry about that. Our friend wouldn’t have taken the risk of it all if the cousin couldn’t be trusted.
I have to say though, this is awkward. The two people who link everyone sitting in this circle are in the closet. I have nothing to say. Do you? The cousin barely ever says anything. The couple isn’t interested in anyone else. The colony friend and the classmate are engaged in a conversation of their own. I can see you looking around in a bid to break the awkward ice. Our eyes meet again. Finally.
“Where’s the washroom?”, you ask. Really? All I can do is point you to the door with a periodic table chart on it.
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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/]