SUNDAY 7 P.M. “What are you going to wear?” Vidharbha asks. (All names have been changed.) “No idea.” Phone pressed to my ear, I stare sadly at the worn-to-death black dresses hanging in my closet. “You?” The two of us are finally doing something together after two months. We’re going to Vegas. Every year for the past four years, we’ve taken a trip together. This year, Vids told me that she didn’t know if she wanted to do the trip, so it took some convincing on my part. I am hoping that it will bring us closer again. We single women need our girlfriends. “I got this green outfit from Forever 21. And,” she giggles, “I started painting my toenails green to match …” Vids is a girly girl. Every now and then I am seized by the brief longing to be one too. The last time that happened, I asked my old pal Crafty Old Man how I could be girlier. He told me I should start wearing makeup and get a good haircut. Men! I might as well throw away the hundreds of dollars that I spend every month on Elizabeth Arden. * * * * * MONDAY 2 P.M. We are reorganizing at work. My team is being merged with another team that is run by none other than … Geekgod. The two of us are sitting around a boardroom table facing the VP of Product Management. “With this reorganization,” the VP begins, “Both of your teams need to be very …,” he pauses, “tightly coupled.” Tightly Coupled. Okay. I sneak a glance at Geekgod, who’s peering into his small silver laptop. Understandably, I’ve been stiff and awkward around him since the day of the party. He, on the other hand, has been acting as if nothing happened. Does he not remember? (He was pretty smashed.) Or did his hand just brush my butt accidentally? Even worse, could I somehow have imagined the whole thing? “Alright,” I rise, “I have to go dig up some visiting cards. I promised to give them to an interview candidate and I can’t find any.” Fifteen minutes later I am still scavenging in my desk drawer when someone says, “Hey.” I look up. Geekgod is standing in front of me, waving something. “Here,” he grins at me, “give him this.” It’s his visiting card. He has cut out his name and put mine instead. We have the same title. Despite myself, I grin back, “He seemed to be a little worried about our funding. I wonder what he’ll think when he sees this.” I suppose I am just a sucker for goofiness. * * * * * WEDNESDAY 9 P.M. “Nice cape,” I tell Geekgod. No, that’s not code for something else. He’s wearing a flowing black overcoat that resembles a cape. He bows, takes off the overcoat, and wraps it around my shoulders in a corny but cute gesture. I give him what I hope is my most charming smile. Geekgod, Office Brain, and I have just walked into Geekgod’s house, a place I am visiting for the second time. Wires cover the hardwood floor, and the TV is ginormous. We have to move Geekgod’s laptops before we can sit on the couch. “So, Vegas, huh? Do you guys like gambling?” Office Brain asks. “No, we’re actually going to a show …” I stop myself. But it’s too late. Oh shoot. Now he’s going to ask which show. “Which show?” he asks. “Uh … oh … we haven’t decided.” He raises an eyebrow. Perhaps I am being an idiot, but I am much too chicken to tell anyone that we are going to an all-male beefcake revue with the deliciously tacky name Thunder from Down Under. I may not want to be a girly girl, but my concept of femininity still involves being a Good Girl. Geekgod asks, “Hey, what time should I turn up for Cooking Sunday?” I pretend to read a magazine quickly. I know nothing of Cooking Sunday, no one has invited me. Evidently I am not the only one who blurts out things. “Around 3, I think.” Office Brain turns to me. “Would you like to come too?” No way am I accepting that pity invite. As if on cue, Geekgod gets to his feet. I look up. His T-shirt is crumpled and traces of stubble are starting to show on his jaw. He looks slightly disheveled. And impossibly irresistible. “I would love to,” I hear myself say. * * * * * THURSDAY 8 A.M. “Hello, is this Sanju?” asks a mysterious male voice with an Indian accent. “Yes, this is she.” “My name is Martin …” Ah. Some Indian call center person with a fake “American” name trying to sell me phone cards. I am getting ready to cut him off when he says, “I am calling from the Thunder from Down Under ticketing office. The timings for your show have changed. It now starts at 8 o’clock.” “Oh.” Here I am, going to all this trouble to conceal my activities even from my American colleagues and now some desi guy in India is calling me because Thunder from Down Under has outsourced its customer support. “Do you have any questions, Ma’am?” “No …” I strain to detect some hint of scandalized disapproval in his voice but there doesn’t seem to be any. So much for secrecy. * * * * * SATURDAY 8 P.M. Vids and I are sipping watery-sweet margaritas off a table that we share with five other girls. She’s wearing her new outfit, a green print with thin straps. I am wearing black. Around us, at other such tables, women talk rapidly in loud excited voices. We are the only desis in the entire room. “So,” I say, awkwardly, “what’s going on with you? You don’t tell me anything nowadays.” “Oh, nothing much.” She leans forward. “I’ve been really happy since I moved. You know, my new roommate … he’s great. We do everything together—we go grocery shopping, we’re buying furniture together, we’re almost like husband and wife, except that there is nothing like that between us, get my point? He even offered to split the cable bill because I have to get Zee TV for Mom. I am so happy to have found such a good friend. I mean, I feel better about my single status knowing that he’ll always be there for me.” “I’ll always be there for you too,” I say, a little peeved. She met this roommate two months ago and already he’s the person she can count on. And buying furniture together … The girl opposite whispers to me, “Have you come to this before?” Right then a man emerges onstage—young, good-looking, muscled, oiled. The room erupts in catcalls and cheers. “Ladies,” he begins, “Welcome to Thunder from Down Under.” As he talks, three identical young men appear behind him. Later tonight, one of these men will dance on our table while the girls, caught up in a spirit of raucous female camaraderie, scream and stretch their arms up to him as if he were a rock star. Kitschy ’80s music starts up. The show has begun. * * * * * SATURDAY 8:45 P.M. Vids and I are standing in line to get an after-the-show picture taken with the Thunder from Down Under boys. Both of us are little nervous. After all, this is a thrilling first, getting our pictures taken with a bunch of men in their tighty-whities. Alright, so we’re lame. “You know what I love about our friendship?” Vids says suddenly, “You are the one person with whom I can do these crazy things.” I am touched. I am not really a girl’s girl, I have very few girlfriends, so I inordinately cherish the ones that I do have. Every time one drifts away, I jump through hoops trying to fix the friendship, and I almost never succeed. Then I start wondering what I did, what I should have done differently, how other women maintain these friendships. “Ladies, you’re next,” one of the boys announces. We go up on stage, clutching our handbags tightly and giggling like schoolgirls. * * * * * SUNDAY 7 P.M. Back from Vegas. A group of us are doing Cooking Sunday at Office Brain’s place. Geekgod keeps typing away on his Blackberry and chuckling—he’s probably chatting with someone. I am telling the others a funny story, all the time keeping one eye on Geekgod. Maybe I can win him over with my wit. Suddenly, he excuses himself to take a phone call and vanishes up the stairs. Aarrgh. It’s a lost cause. The hot aroma of Rosemary Chicken hits my face as Office Brain opens the oven. We begin chitchatting about office goings-on. Behind me I hear Geekgod come down the stairs, but I decide to ignore him. “Did you know that Geekgod and I are now one team?” I tell Office Brain. “Yes, I plan to undermine her authority,” Geekgod jokes. I reach out to playfully punch him on the shoulder. Simultaneously, he turns to go back to the living room. And then, I am still not quite sure how—perhaps it’s him turning, or perhaps I’ve wrongly estimated his position—I miss his shoulder and hit him way, way lower down. Near his butt. “Hey!” he cries. “I am so sorry,” I mutter over and over again, red in the face. I guess we’re both even now. Sanju C. writes from San Francisco. She bases all her relationship decisions on advice from other dating columns.
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