a short story with a happy ending
on a dark, rainy night…
[19/07, 8:21 pm] man: who’s this
[19/07, 8:23 pm] Ila: That's Shakira
[19/07, 8:23 pm] Ila: She is 2 hot
[19/07, 8:24 pm] man: Now old
[19/07, 8:24 pm] Ila: Abs are fucking stronggg
[19/07, 8:24 pm] man: Hit the wall
(man sends pic of tom cruise, vocal scientologist, and shakira, boss bitch)
[19/07, 8:25 pm] Ila: Yes, What about him
[19/07, 8:25 pm] Ila: Lol she not look old
[19/07, 8:26 pm] man: After 40 , games over
[19/07, 8:26 pm] man: Or maybe 35
[19/07, 8:27 pm] Ila: You wouldn't say that about a guy
[19/07, 8:28 pm] man: Because men age better
[19/07, 8:29 pm] Ila: Not true
[19/07, 8:29 pm] Ila: he very honestly looks like shit
[19/07, 8:30 pm] Ila: And she looks great. but that’s besides the point.
[19/07, 8:30 pm] Ila: It's a double standard that's really well known
[19/07, 8:30 pm] Ila: Casting older male actors with younger actresses as couples
[19/07, 8:30 pm] Ila: It's a really obvious double standard
[19/07, 8:32 pm] man: It's just what I feel
[19/07, 8:32 pm] man: You can have a different opinion
at this point, ila closed whatsapp. she then opened it, muted the man for a year, and switched off her phone, although not before posting on instagram about how irritated she was.
it put her in a fury to know that someone’s sexist bullshit could get under her skin—to the point that she wanted to cry angry tears and renounce heterosexuality.
she opened youtube to distract herself. an ad for flight discounts played before a video of dudes cutting various things in half. an idea made itself known. ila opened an incognito tab and searched “bangalore to delhi flight”. it wasn’t that expensive. she’d saved a considerable amount by simply not being able to spend on ubers and cafe visits.
fuck it, ila decided, and booked a round-trip. she savoured an intense rush of satisfaction as she regarded her ticket for 5 a.m. she’d reach delhi at 8, and have time to get breakfast before doing what she needed to do. ila bounded up from the sofa and practically skipped past her mildly surprised cat. she scrounged up a mini duffel bag and stuffed it with clothes and hand sanitizer. in a fever of excitement, she browsed the web until it was time to leave.
the car sounded nervous as it screeched out of the parking lot. ila swung giddily round bends, cutting through the bangalore dawn. birds screamed, but the strays stayed asleep. airport staff barely spared ila a glance as she walked briskly past baggage drop and through security. sleep came as soon as she boarded, deep and dreamless.
the pilot’s droning voice announcing baahar ka taapman woke her. she frowned. conditions weren’t ideal, but they’d do. she strolled out of T3 and booked a taxi, her eyes never leaving google maps. technology put one within range of annoying men, but it could also put annoying men…well. she smiled serenely and decided to take a nap after telling taxi bhaiya to stop at a chai stall ten minutes from the destination.
the adrak chai was excellent. ila slipped on some sunglasses and neatly sliced open a couple of half-fried eggs. raghuveer (the taxi driver) was delighted at her appetite. his effervescence osmoted in that special shared-taxi-ride way and soon she was humming along to that song about some lady’s ghunghroo.
the sedan clattered to a halt in front of a nondescript apartment complex. ila paid raghuveer, thanked him, and headed for the gate. no one seemed to doubt that she lived in the beige building with sixteen stories. in the lift, she checked her reflection. everything seemed right as she jolted to a stop at the tenth floor. she rang the doorbell at house number 1017, and an auntie in a nightie stuck her masked face out of a crack in the door. “haan? kaun?” ila adopted the manner that always worked on aunties and explained that she worked with auntie’s son. in fact, she needed to hand him an important thumb drive, and could he come out for a few minutes?
everything went very quickly after the man came out, dazed, in his batman boxers. ila led him to the terrace, taking him firmly by the arm. out of breath after fourteen sets of stairs, the man failed to gasp out the relevant questions. good. ila bound his wrists and ankles with practiced ease. she didn’t bother gagging him, since men weren’t used to screaming for help. she unzipped her duffel and heaved the helium pump to the ground. taking her time, she filled the large balloon until it scraped the top of the water tank. she secured the lip and turned to look at the man, who was lying on the concrete in the shape of a banana. he seemed puzzled. she drew her phone out of her pocket, tempted to take a picture, but played some music instead. humming, she watched the man’s face until she couldn’t anymore.
after finessing some practicalities, ila sprinted down all sixteen stories. raghuveer was downstairs like he’d said he would be. she got in, twisting her neck to take one last look. no point: the scene was utterly banal. she chatted in questionable hindi as the ancient ambassador hurtled through the city. delhi was beautiful, and so was life. she’d never felt so at home in the world.
please note that this is a work of fiction, not meant to hurt any person, dead or alive. all resemblance to existing persons or events is entirely accidental. i mean this piece to be whimsical, not malicious. rest assured that it does not express true intent.
the text conversation at the beginning did take place. i have edited it very slightly for clarity. the person in question is my friend, and i do not at all hate him or hold a grudge against him. i don’t believe in “cancelling” people and simply abandoning those who make patriarchal remarks. nor do i think i’m above making mistakes or holding an attitude of internalized misogyny. we are all learning to be better.
this story is therapeutic; it is definitely not a manifesto. think Jordan Peele’s movie Get Out, and its fantastic ending: Peele doesn’t actually want to bash racist white folks to death, nor is he encouraging others to do so. the scene is his way of expressing his frustration and helplessness with what black folks experience on the daily. if you haven’t watched it, sorry for the spoiler, and go watch it right now!