It was I who had insisted that the barbecue be at Zahra’s rooftop. I had hoped for a last chance to seduce her.
Two of the girls fussed over and fumbled with the grill.
“Charcoal needs some liquid courage to catch fire,” I went up, trying not be my didactic self, “Kerosene often does the trick.” The thin girl gave me the finger and they walked off sniggering. Hmm …didn’t go as planned.
I was left with the grill.
‘Dost! You really know what you’re doing’ – Zahra came by, glued to her boyfriend’s giraffe neck, both with drinks in hand. I offhandedly tossed some skewers on the grill. Maybe, my hunter-gatherer, redeemer-of-fire, rescuer-of-damsels tough-guy act would set her loins on fire.
Her boyfriend was very fair, devoid of facial hair, slight of built …in short, he looked gay. I absolutely hated his inherited riches and fast car. The car’s what had gotten Zahra’s attention six years back. I spit on that car! No, I literally spit on that car. Quite often too. I wondered how much fairyboy knew of my designs to fuck his girlfriend. Well, every man suspected other men of such designs to some extent. I wish someone would fuck him in the ass! Early in the morning, everyday!
The food was better than I had expected. All our friends, mostly paired up, sat around the embers for a round of drinks.When I say ‘drinks’, I mean alcoholic drinks …which are illegal in Bangladesh, had to be bought from some shady Korean warehouse and smuggled in behind parents’ backs. So, we always got really pissed from three or four drinks. Plain old Value for Money.
Iman was about to get married – the first in our circle of close, childhood friends. Iman announced she was going to drain her future husband dry – she made a cock-sucking gesture. We rolled with laughter. We had another round in her honor. All the girls were reaching what parents called marriageable age. I knew Zahra would be next. And suddenly, I couldn’t stop thinking of her in the most inappropriate of ways.
But then, there wasn’t a girl on that roof that I hadn’t fantasy-fucked.
While our friends left, I stood at the doorway – like a host. It helped the transition to cleaning up together in the kitchen. A move, at some point, was going to be risky. Risky in that it could end in a social disaster or in the best revenge sex ever! (Revenge! Hah! …for what?) The boyfriend left early to drop two of the girls. It was now or never.
‘Soon there’ll be no barbecues …no us‘ I sighed.
An orphan, she cherished togetherness. She was sad that our circle of broken-family misfits and ex-addicts would soon be sliced up and scattered. We had been like families to each other. I eyed the soft folds of her breasts jiggle as she scrubbed plates. Why had I never noticed how full and generous they were?
‘I don’t ever want to lose you’ she announced quietly. Deeply. It made her seem like Gaia.
I came up behind her. Put my arms lightly on her waist and kissed the nape of her neck. The touch was deliberate – not a clumsy resting of mitts, but a firm, telling touch where her hips flared. She chuckled in a don’t-be-silly sort of way. My hand stayed …unmoved by the first, girly obstacle.
‘Dost …’ she sighed and probably thought to wait out the awkwardness.
So, it was not a ‘no’. Fairyboy was a boring lover. We had laughed about the day she dozed off in the middle of quick, furtive, evening sex before he escaped the return of her mother. Her father was long dead …oh! Why did I want her so bad all of a sudden?
‘It all feels so peaceful …so quiet’ she said. I knew she was thinking about the wedding and her harsh, uncouth mother-in-law. My right hand pushed on her hip ever so slightly while the left, pulled. She turned to me and her breath was hot on what, the English Patient taught me, was the suprasternal notch.
‘I love this house so much …oh! The memories in this house …’
She dreaded the stern, traditional household where she was to be married off to. She lit the last of my cigarettes and leaned away to exhale. I held on. Her secret smokes would end with this place. Overly-familiar male friends too.
I had stayed back.
Her mother had come in – drowsy from her pills – to ask how the barbecue went and then gone off to bed. The maid had returned with smokes; the streets, grown quiet; the moon, passed mid-sky; and we, propped up on the sofa of a darkened living room in a farewell tangle of sorts. A dull glow and music had wafted from her bedroom. She had sprayed another dash of Tommy Girl. She had shrieked with laughter over our first weed story. She had bitched about Iman’s small tits and wept over her selfishly-dead father. I had altered the decade-long rules of physical contact between us.
And then, finally, I kissed her lips. In the dark.
‘Dost …’ – she had seen it coming – my unconscionable plan to seduce my best friend, ‘nothing good can come of this’.
But I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t thinking. Not with my head at least. Her night had been about putting off a reluctant goodbye. Mine had been about lying in wait, like a crouching tiger. I was here for tonight; she, for the tomorrows.
She wept. For the years to come. Her tears were salty on my tongue. She was so pure, so true. I slid up my hands to cup her full breasts. She didn’t stop me, but turned to look at me …and I could feel the question in her eyes even in the dark. I was a thief!
For a second there, I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t love.