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Expect no mercy

Inspired by a true story

February 2010. At 10pm, it was business as usual at a popular pub in Bandra. The Brownian motion of the crowd kept the place heaving tolerably. The early birds had cadged all the worn tables and the rest arranged themselves in higgledy-piggledy fashion around the horseshoe bar. The music was good, the beer flowed and the bouncer/manager's dark glasses reflected the mellow yellow lights.

They'd also see two guys in their late 20s standing in a nook, holding mugs of beer and politely swaying out of the way of everyone else. U and A were making desultory small talk, as meaningful conversation was almost impossible over the blaring music. It didn't matter; the cold satisfaction of every bitter sip hitting the throat was enough. Suddenly, a cheery voice hailed U. Turning around, he saw S, an old school friend, jammed amidst a bunch of others at a corner table. After the greetings and hugs, space was made for both guys, but at opposite sides of the table.

U was conversing with S and his girlfriend but his attention kept wandering to a curly haired girl in black seated opposite. As is usual at a crowded table, everyone was basically talking and listening to everyone else. It moved along briskly; what work they all did, who they were reading, music, films and old school memories. Sometime past midnight, the party broke up and the bill was settled. Everyone trooped outside for a final smoke before heading off in various directions and it was at this point that U found himself chatting with the girl in black. Her eyes twinkled mischievously, even though the red tinge around them suggested she'd been crying earlier in the evening. U said something (an inopportune horn blast from a passing car drowned out the words) but she smiled and asked U for his phone. Nonplussed, he handed it over and watched her type her name and number in and hand it back even as she said "Call me".

U was stunned. Things like this did not happen to him. He was awkward and extremely shy at most times, so he'd never ever even got a girl's number, never mind having it handed over without him even asking. He held the phone, unsure as to what he was supposed to do, even though instructions had been received. So, he smiled stupidly, waved goodbye and left.

Over the next few days, U would look at his phone, wondering if the whole thing had actually happened. He'd scroll down to her name, thumb hovering over the dial button and then put it off. He played a million scenarios in his head, starting from one where she wouldn't recognise him to one where he'd say something moronic. There didn't seem to be any upside and this was just his imagination. U wasn't sure if he could handle the highly probable mortification in real life. But something about her smile kept boomeranging and the tiniest possibility of seeing her again was ultimately too tempting. His heart hammered hard even as he counted the number of rings (he would hang up after 5). The ringing stopped. It took an enormous effort to get the words past his arid mouth. "Hi G. This is U, S's friend. We met at the pub, remember?".

"Wrong number" said the man's voice.

Song for the moment: Love in an elevator - Aerosmith 


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