We ran towards the nearest store. A general store which had a small sun shade that seemed to stop the rain in its tracks. We were relieved because there wasn’t another shelter to be seen around. I looked at her and smiled.
“Well. At least we’re not going to be entirely drenched.” She said with a brief glance at our state; our hair wet, our shirts redesigned by wet designs around the shoulder and back and jeans drenched knee-high.
“Ummmm…” I hesitated before making the situation awkward. Realizing my concern, she let go of my hand and started rubbing her hands, as if they needed to get any warmer.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize I was still holding on to you.” She said, defensively. It was adorable.
“I don’t let go when I start running with someone.” I said so, with just a tiny bit of mischief. I knew she’d pounce right back at the statement.
“Yeah.You don’t let go…” She looked at the wide street we’d just crossed. She moved her gaze to the thousand droplets lit by the street lamp; the rain that cleans the streets of Mumbai. I was surprised. This was unlike her. This was not how she reacted. Something was going on in that head of hers.
“Look…what happened a couple of minutes ago…”
“If you feel uncomfortable about it, we can let it go. It’s alright. It isn’t that big a deal.” Strong. Aggressive. Upfront..vulnerable. She stood there, her guard held strong.
“We kissed.” I said. I was careful enough to not let the conversation take a turn for the worse, at the same time I wanted the conversation to go somewhere.
“Yes. And neither of us is religious or ethical enough to feel guilty about it. It was just a kiss.” She said. No eye-contact. No hesitation. Her firm and stern voice playing the defensive as good as it always does.
“It was raining.” I said. It was fascinating how the words just came to me. The words that would set her free or shut her down completely. And, I was right. Her guard faltered. Her lips quivered. Her eyes fell and she stole a glimpse in my direction. She let her chin stay low. Still avoiding eye-contact. She kept staring at the little stream formed by the curb. Rains in Mumbai, often were, a justified excuse and a legitimate distraction. May it be the reason why one is late for work or the excuse one uses to take time off it. One could sit in traffic while it rains like a bitch or drive slowly-cautiously-across a blanket of green leaves in the fog to the closest hill station. The rains, as many residents of Mumbai would agree with me, is what makes you fall in love.
“Yeah, so what? It’s a bitch. Do you realize how hard it is going to be for us to get home? It’s past 8.” She was doing that thing where she shows her amazing acting skills to convince a person that what she says is actually what she is thinking.
“We kissed. It was raining.” I said it and smiled. Some people say that you can hear people smiling over the phone. That never made sense to me. But that is exactly what happened. She looked at me and instantaneously her reaction changed from frustrated and angry to shocked and embarrassed. You wouldn’t be able to tell. Maybe it was the dull, tacky bulbs hanging outside the general store or the street lamp lighting up her face, but she was red. She was blushing and she was trying really hard not to smile.
“Stop looking at me like that!” She was trying really hard to get on top of me. I knew her. She liked to show control. But this wasn’t about control. And I needed her to see it as it was. We kissed in the rains on Marine Drive at night on a fantastic day in the brilliant city that is Mumbai! I had to let her know.
“Oh My god! Sweety, stop. Breathe. Look at me. Focus.” My voice wasn’t stern. It wasn’t a command. It was more fundamental than that. It was logic. It was sense. It was basic survival. I stood there holding her by her arms and looked at her and she looked back at me…quite, anxious, flustered, shy.
“What are you…” Before she could finish her question, before she had the chance to get control, I kissed her. I can only imagine what she must have looked like when I did. I had moved my hands to her face and felt the warmth spreading through her cheeks. She leaned in closer and didn’t let go. Two things happened at the same time: a loud thunder roared in the night sky, bringing us back to our senses and we looked at each other in a way which we had never before and forever would.
“Don’t you see?” I asked her. I can only assume that my face looked utterly hideous with desperation and anxiety firing through my blood.
“Don’t you see what’s happened between us? This is why things have been weird between us. This is why we have been waiting for Monsoon. This is why we love Monsoons. This is why we love Mumbai. I couldn’t stand going away from Mumbai, because of you. You wouldn’t have had a horrible time in Goa, of all the places, if you weren’t so psychotic about my whereabouts in this messed up city. This is why we have spent everyday together since it’s started raining. This thing between us? This was always there. I’ve only met you 8 months ago and it wasn’t raining then. If we had met last monsoons then we wouldn’t have wasted so much time being together and..”
“SHUT UP!” And I did. Damn… I’d done it. I’d scared her. I was, as of that moment, the douchebag. I had only one job to do now. I had to make sure she got home safe. Hope to god I’d be able to sleep at night. Wake up the next day, do my own thing and never bother her, ever again…Or so I thought.
She leaned in closer, almost snug in my arms now,
“You talk so much.” Was what she said. To all the pompous pricks out there who think it’s not manly to feel butterflies in your stomach, let me tell you: There was a swarm, creating havoc inside me. My eyes could see better. The ringing in my head had stopped and my blood flowed with an extraordinary rush which made me feel more alive than ever before. Within moments we were smiling at each other as if it were a young child in the family room on Christmas morning.
“Sorry about that.” I said and I sure as hell was. It was she who took the liberty of ending my rants by making a weird noise or yelling at me as she had done moments before.
“You’re not going to fuck this up by talking too much about this.” She said. And that, unquestionably,was a command.
“Yes, Ma’am.” And I gave her a peck on the cheek.
“You are not going to freak out when I lose my calm. You are capable of making me look at the better things in life.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Oh! She was good. I knew what she wanted to say next because she leaned in close to my ear and whispered; “You’re going to take me away, very far away, and make me forget everything else.”
And we were eye-to-eye again. “I’m going to try my level best, sweetie.” I said.
And I bit my tongue almost instantly because I knew she wouldn’t like me to try. “Do it. No trying. Just do it. And yes, you can take help from the rains.” That was all I needed and it was all I’d ever want. After, yet another, long kiss we held hands and walked silently in the rain and basking in the glory of new found love which, most definitely was, leading to a new found story.