An ordinary life by Anusha Srinivasan


He thinks she burst into his life – that way, it sounds as though he had almost no choice in the matter. He liked that she was confident and not the least bit self-conscious. She spoke to him however often she wanted to, she barged into his room and did not blink even if he was wearing yesterday’s banian and lungi. She told him he had a compelling personality and he need not ever worry about being short. She investigated his balding head and stated his hair was only falling, not greying. He liked that she thought herself ordinary, and yet liked herself. He wondered why he felt the need to constantly better himself, as though to make up for something he was lacking – but she declared he was extraordinary.

He was secretly delighted when she decided to accompany him on his midnight walks. He usually thought of those as a communion with his Camel Crush Cigarettes. He would ask her to speak slowly, and not tell her he enjoyed watching the words tumble out of her, especially the look of frustration that sometimes crossed her face when her mouth would not work as fast as her mind. He antagonized her just so he could hear her talk – she could be counted on to have an opinion on everything ranging from the Kardashians to the RSS.

He sighed in resignation when she (re)stocked his kitchen and gave him his first bottle of cooking oil. He used to think he loathed being taken care of, but he began doubting that. He watched her repair a dal he made. He marked that lunch with her as one of the more memorable meals of his life.

He wondered when he started to think of her as beautiful. Surely not in the beginning, even though he loved that laugh of hers – the one that threatened to engulf her and bubbled out of her long after she announced she was going to keep a sober face. He thought of the time he saw her under the yellow strains of the streetlight – her torso stretched over a longer-than-necessary bone formation, ending in hips that betrayed her ancestry, her face that glowed in the moonlight when she was happy, her sharp nose that glistened sometimes and her eyes shaped liked fish, her graceful neck that should have reminded him of a flamingo, but instead reminded him of a mantis.

He remembered the day she lay on his chest, and asked him to sing to her. In that moment, she was the girl he adored. The thing pricking his eyes refused to go away. She always slept as though she had a fever: her limbs restless, her mind in overdrive. She would rub her legs against each other, attempt to bring the blanket around and under her feet, while simultaneously wanting to cover her ears. He would wake up feeling a little cold, the hair on his arms standing up, the bumps on his skin not allowing him to return to his slumber. Even if he turned just a little bit, maybe six degrees, her eyes would open. On many nights, these eyes would stare at him, as though accusing him of having woken her up. Her irritation at him would be followed by her guilt at this irritation.

He tried hard, tried his best to tiptoe. He had always been good at walking on his toes. How did he manage that? A man, solid in every sense, being graceful. She watched him tiptoe to the bathroom, and back into bed. She felt him reaching out for the bottle of water she kept on her side, the sound of his one long and unhurried swallow. Other nights, she watched him tiptoe to the kitchen, he was often hungry. She heard him open the refrigerator, and then the low hum of the microwave as he heated the milk, careful to turn off the oven before it beeped, signalling the end of two minutes. She heard him rummaging through the cabinets.

She enjoyed putting things away, in boxes, in draws, stacked neatly, arranged in perpendicular and parallel ways, grouped in a scheme that would require a key to decipher – or you could ask her. She was the kind who left post-it notes so that you found what you were looking for, without disturbing the order of things.

She turned on her side to face him as he returned, sometimes the sight of her open eyes in that moment made him think of a scene from a horror movie. He sat there for a beat, and then put his head down on her outstretched arm. He liked the small smile that appeared on her lips. He waited for her to drift back to sleep. Sometimes she talked, or murmured, or read. Though he could never understand that – how does one read in their sleep? Do the words appear to her in the dream? She told him they do, line after line, paragraphs with phrases and pauses, with descriptions and dialogue. She had other dreams, bad ones mostly. She liked to narrate them to him in the mornings, making up some of the details that the night’s sleep had blurred. Her dreams were not terribly imaginative, they were mostly about what was happening to her, everyday events, blended with her fears. She never failed to wake up during the climax. Real life would have to reveal the ending.

When she asked him if he slept well, he only said yes. He did not tell her that he watched her for many minutes, till the minutes become hours.

Anusha is an environmental engineer. She spends her free time reading, writing, watching movies, writing about movies (and other related activities). She blogs at