It was a usual morning for Natasha. She snoozed the alarm ten times. Finally woke up with a jerk, realizing she would be late for a meeting, again. Scanned her messages, mails and the news notifications. Concluded again the end of the world was tonight. Brushed her teeth. Looked at the mirror and cursed her genes. Wiped all the tap surfaces dry. Had a bath. Wiped all the tap surfaces dry again. Cursed her genes. Pulled up her jeans and judged the tire tubes in the waist area. Judged the bulging paunch. Decided to finally use the gym membership. Zoomed in on her dark circles. Cursed her genes and went on to the kitchen.
By default she walked to the shelf and got out the almost full, five month old corn-flakes box. Began to open the box. Contemplated the end of the world again. Went to the fridge and got out the leftover aloo parathas. She put them in the microwave for heating as she prepared a cup of masala chai, guilting over every half spoon of sugar she added. Which she added four.
She finished her breakfast scrolling through the ultra happy and colorful posts on facebook. Tanvi had posted her Switzerland honeymoon pictures. Sona had posted yet another meme of her toddler learning something new. Bansi seemed to have gotten a Mercedes. Preeti had gotten some women in technology award. Avni had shared a newspaper clipping of her latest interview for her NGO. Seema’s photoshoot was out with the name of yet another OTT show tagged. Radhika had posted her 100th day of the fat to fit journey, with a video of 10 pull-ups. 10 fucking pull-ups. Radhika!
With that she gulped down the last bite of the scrumptious ghee sprinkled aloo paratha, looked at the watch, looked at the drizzle outside, heard the honking and realized it was yet another jam day. She contemplated not washing the vessels for once, let her mind win again, spent ten minutes scrubbing away in the sink and finally stepped out of the house after having checked all the switches and windows three times.
She shut the door, glanced at the watch again, cursed and pressed the lift button. The doors opened. Someone was there. Tall. Fair. Handsome. No tiffin. Probability of being single – high.
She stepped in, made eye contact, nodded as the lift doors shut.
Now, lifts are awkward spaces. Specially when you’re single. Because lifts are also great opportunities to meet people? Elevator pitches got their names right.
But Natasha decided to observe her shoes. And so did the guy. But Natasha was not observing her shoes. Her eyes stopped at the blue badge dangling from the neck of the cute guy.
Abhiskey Shetty. Intel. Senior hardware engineer.
Hm… Would he notice? Was it a good time to bring up that they worked at the same place? Could she ask for a ride? No….no no no. That would be a total no.
And suddenly there was a jerk. The lift shuddered. There was a screeching sound and the lift came to a sudden halt. In a very bollywoody coincidence, Natasha lost her balance and was about to fall as a very strong grip held her up.
Their eyes met again. She smiled. He smiled.
She blabbered. Because she had to. Because her mind and tongue and voice-box had a bad marriage and they never agreed on anything.
“This is all your fault”
“What”? Abhishek looked confused. Startled. In the times of me too, he was actually more scared of being stuck in a lift with a female alone.
“Thyssenkrupp lifts use Intel processors. You designed it. Your fault” – She winked and laughed and a lot of kicking and cursing happened between the mind and the voicebox and tongue.
“Uh..huh” Abhishek smiled. Realization dawning in his eyes as he got the not so funny joke.
“I’m an analog engineer” he said after a full 15 seconds.
Not that bright. Natasha thought. But who cares. Natasha thought again.
“Ah hence you’re slow” the voice box was doing it’s thing again.
Abhishek’s smile widened as he realized he was talking to a fellow hardware engineer now.
“You’re funny” – he managed to say.
“Oh.. I’m flattered. I would have liked hot, cool, pretty or dashing. But on a Monday, I’ll take what I get. Natasha by the way. I think we are headed to the same hell hole” – Natasha went on for a full 15 seconds as the lift didn’t move.
“Are we?” Abhishek said as he wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead. Is there a phone number we can call for lift emergencies? I moved in only yesterday.
Ah…he used “I” – Natasha thought. Definitely single. She had two proofs now. No tiffin and use of I. The world might not be ending just yet.
“Oh you did? That sucks. This is a terrible first experience. Usually, the building decides to show it’s charm after three to four days”
Abhishek stared at Natasha. Now scared that he was stuck in a lift with a maniac. Maybe a serial killer? The sweat started building up.
Natasha could sense his fear. She took her phone out and dialled a number. “Bhaiya. 306 se Natasha. Lift atak gaya wapas. Office late ho rha hai. Kuch karo. Jaldi”
Abhishek was still staring at her as she put the phone down. “Office late ho rha hai?” He repeated. “Is that your biggest fear right now?” he seemed surprised.
“Oh.. that’s not a fear. I think I’m more afraid of going to office. But that’s the only thing he’d understand. Watchmen don’t understand fear. Atleast I hope they don’t. Do they?”- Natasha seriously wished her mother had taught her more restraint. She was blabbering. She didn’t mind blabbering in front of strangers. That’s how she got her darkness out. Through humor in unknown crowds. But this was a prospective groom. A part of her perennially overworked neural network had already stored pictures of their wedding.
The lift jerked. The screeching noise began, the lights turned back on, the lift began slowly descending and the doors opened.
Natasha and Abhishek’s shirts were drenched in sweat. They stood their ready to get out, as a bunch of women who seemed hassled and flustered and angry, stared at them as if they were physically responsible for getting the lift stuck.
A permutation combination of angry and scared looks got exchanged as Natasha and Abhishek got out and the flustered women got in.
“Abhishek” – he extended his hand turning to Natasha. “You’re insane. You know that right”
A tiny bunch of naked cupids started dj-ing in Natasha’s crowded head as she shook his hand. “I could get you fired for labelling me insane. You know that right?” She paused.
“Natasha” she smiled. Turning red involuntarily.