She sat in a rickshaw and gave the address of Rake’s shop to the driver. The shop was cluttered with leather, smelling like the hide out of some animal, a perfect burial ground. Rake almost fell off his chair. “Can I sit down?” she smiled, he nodded ascent. She looked at the belts on the hangers above his head, brief cases on the right side, and purses on the left. The floor was covered with a dusty carpet, the shop was also semi dark. He was nervous, “Were you passing by? You forgot it was my shop?” He wanted to know her pretext or excuse. She was blank “It was just recklessness; I met a dying man, who once rescued me. I can’t do a thing for him, I wanted to die. That is why I am here” He looked through her “You love this man, who is he?” Now that he knew it can’t be sexual love, he seemed mildly interested; those invisible antennae did not bristle.

Madhu saw the same creamy, lacy curtains here, like in his house. This impulsive action would absolve him, as though she had been a hoax when she said no, like the Mills and Boon heroine, why had it not occurred to her, it was too late for regrets. Isn’t it why it was called regret, an emotion felt long after the error, which could not rectify damage? She was once naked with him, she had even slapped him, a sort of license to behave at her worst was prevalent. The freedom of knowing that here was one human being whom she could never love, nor respect, liberated her. He was surrounded by dead skin, polished and shining to be sold, she hated him. She shuddered, this hate was binding. With him she felt like an enraged animal, a bitch. “He was my pediatrician, a good friend, philosopher and guide. He is dying of cancer” He felt so proud talking to a doctor, about diseases, as though he was an intellectual, she could see that.

May be he sensed the condescension in her assessing appraisal; he shifted to a topic which brought her down to his plane “I thought you were scared of me, you hated me, so why are you treating me like a friend?” “The worst is over, isn’t it? What can you do worse than what you have already done? So I figured there was really nothing to be scared of. Instead of my imaginary husband who will listen to all this and love me, I keep thinking of you, and that bloody evening, I want to stop thinking of that” He seemed enormously satisfied by this confession, there was an involuntary smile on his lips “ Then baby it makes two of us, why don’t you spill the words meant for such occasions, just tell me you love me, like a good girl, come on” She hated that smugness, he was such a fool, he never could guess what it was for her, she was merely one of his sexual encounters.

She imagined his thoughts which would run like “I slept with a virgin once, she was an actress. She looked hot, but cold bitch man; she kept on harping on that first time which happened because she was stoned. But she was smart, she would talk like a book, I swear”. She switched in to a masculine, silly, sing song voice and said all that she thought he would say. He looked aghast for a second, then he burst out laughing “ No sweetie , I would never say such things” She was cynical, he needed peer approval, he would have related each of his sexual adventure to some one or many, he needed to be treated like a stud by his friends. “God, you should have seen her boobs, they were huge man” He would want the whole crowd to strip her, just to prove how good it was. Lust was a public entertainment of the locker rooms, this man before her reveled in that. He would never be possessive of her self –respect. She made it so bloody convenient, he would not value it.

He did not know a girl who neither gave him the chase, nor yielded; he did not understand this game. Blithering idiot did not realize that it was not a game, it was life.  She felt disgusted with herself to be spending her time with him, she got up to go, he held her wrist “I even proposed to you, what else a man can do to prove a woman he loves her?” She was unable to talk, she wanted to say ‘Rape her first, ensure that you are the first, then propose’ she tried to pull off his grip feeling panicky, he let go.She was exasperated “ I hate myself when I am with you Rake, I feel like an insecure shrew, a prude, a nag. You bring out my worst; this is not at all my real self. I would be living someone else’s life if I lived with you. I don’t think sex is all that important; we are not animals to be in heat always. There is so much more to me than my cunt, any female can give you that, so why me? If that is all you appreciate in a woman” she was horrified to have used the language from Harold Robbins, she hated him.