The wine was humming in her glass, the whiskey in his. The Buddha mural seemed lulled to peace by Louis Armstrong’s voice. The swaying hips of the candle wick were spreading a sexy ecstasy around. The room smelled of lavender, too talc-ish for their taste, but certainly bearable. Why, she had his favourite perfume on, and he hers. The spring blossom on her wrist and the woody spice down his neck were creating magic together, even though apart. Hands were not held yet, but they were getting there. Almost running towards each other in slow motion, across the silken runner, but yet to sense the fingertips of the other. The conversation veered from this to that, but neither cared. It’s just talk, filling in the beautifully silent gaps they had come to enjoy over time. Comfortable gaps, which neither felt under pressure to fill. Oh, but her glass was empty again.
The waiter walked in to refill.
He, on the other hand, seemed to be taking it slow today. Perhaps since she was going too fast? It had been an hour since they occupied the corner table they often did in the past. Seemed so many years back, that first date. Her small finger tickled the side of his hand, as Neil Diamond’s voice crooned ‘Play Me’. He coloured. Straightened, expecting more knowing the woman it was coming from. There would be no stopping her, soon. He looked at the chair next to his to see if the tease had been noticed. But it hadn’t been.
The baby was busy playing with his suspenders.
He had been surprisingly occupied with this new-found fascination for parallel elastics running on his shoulders. Almost strumming them, as if trying to contribute some string music to the ‘Delirious Love’ unfolding before his eyes and now playing in the background too. Baby eyes, which were roving everywhere but where his parents’ hands were trying to meet, and legs. They never need a reason to celebrate, do they? The children of lovers are orphans. He would have thought.
As the candle wick continued to swing, they wondered how their life would be in the future. She slurred a little he smiled a lot. How would it be when he’s all grown up, no longer strapped in this tiny chair but gone dancing with better company. What they would look like and feel like, together, with peppered hair and perhaps a moon rising in the back of the head, “maybe at forty” she said.
And a whirlwind struck.
He yanked the baby out of the chair, hurriedly pushed back his and without further thought started walking briskly towards the waiter. His whiskey and a few ice cubes lay crying on the table cloth. The glass had toppled in all the rush. The baby, held below both the armpits and dangling away to go-go-glory thought it was jhoola time and shrieked with anticipation. That agitated the father in him even more. He started repeating “hold on” a 108 times, as if he was telling the beads. He tripped, did a little I’m-falling jig, steadied himself and was soon by the waiter’s side. And like a whiff, he vanished out of sight.
She sat there dumbfounded. She was not drunk, and neither was he. What was this all about? A waiter came to soak up the single malt with a wipe even as the people in the restaurant stopped looking startled and went back to staring at their plates. The candle was out, perhaps with fright! Could he be playing a joke on her? That does not seem like him. More like her, but not him. He’s too dignified to make a fumbling falling fee-fie-fo-fum-ing clown of himself. Where is he? Where’s the boy? She was just removing the serviette lazing on her lap to get up and check, when she spotted the duo behind the wooden tapestry walking back to the table. The baby looked demure, he even more. As he met her eyes and put the baby back to his throne, he shrugged his shoulders and said - “Nothing. False alarm. You have had too much to drink, you naughty girl! Let’s order dinner shall we?”
She had said “forty” and he mistook it to be “potty”. Now, who had had too much?
He smiled an embarrassed smile when he sat down and heard “forty” this time, clear and loud. She smiled at that smile, impressed at his fatherly alacrity. They laughed till the baby joined in, not knowing the reason why. But laughing. And this time his finger grazed her hand. The intermission was over. The evening continued. The baby was back to admiring his suspenders. And the Buddha on the wall seemed sleeping in peace, yet again.