I am in the mood for a movie. What’s releasing today?" asked Hari.

“Is it Friday already?" answered Mani with an anxious face.

“Mhmm," Hari nodded and continued, “what is your favourite movie?"

No one was allowed inside. It was a makeshift shed that used to be a motor house before. I yelled, I cried, I laughed, I slept many days alone inside.

“I have mostly seen Tamil movies, maybe one or two. But, I remember this one, the day my favourite Madhavi teacher took us all to Hosur and we watched the movie ‘Titanic’. I could not understand many of the dialogues; still it was grand, magnificent and beautiful. The royal ship, grandeur, beautiful people, romance and above everything else, the message of hope. I ate popcorn for the first time in my life, the smell of hot butter and spice; soft and crispy, it melted like salt in my mouth. So many memories," reminisced Mani.

“You are a romantic, aren’t you?" mocked Hari.

Hari continued, “for me, I always loved Superhero movies, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America; all of them were invincible with special powers to defeat rogues and criminals. Perhaps I found strength and courage from all of them to persist and brave the monster who abused me. They were my heroes; you know like the ‘Batcave’ of ‘Batman’ I made a small hideout, just for myself in my garden. No one was allowed inside. It was a makeshift shed that used to be a motor house before. I yelled, I cried, I laughed, I slept many days alone inside," Hari paused for a moment.

Mani gently caressed his back to comfort him.

Hari continued, “my cave was my world, my refuge, where I could be whoever I wanted, do whatever I wanted. Fight without fear and destroy HIM, my uncle, atleast in my head. It was also my safe pod where I could explore my fascinations about sexuality; fantasize without being judged. Or just do nothing without being questioned." Hari’s ruminations were interrupted by a phone call.

“Kanna, Hari, dad here," Hari’s face lit up on hearing his dad’s voice.

“Advance greetings for your birthday Kanna. I have bought something for you that you will just love. So we will see you on Sunday. We will be driving down in the morning. Anju is also in Bangalore now, so she will also join us. Make yourself free, okay?" Hari’s dad spoke non-stop.

“Awesome, come, come," replied Hari looking away from Mani’s gaze.

Hari’s put down his mobile phone on the table, “it was dad," he had a sheepish smile.

“Why do you smirk like a clown?" Mani asked sternly, “I guessed that they would be coming here on your birthday anyways. Good!" Mani sounded disappointed.

“So should I tell them not to come?" Hari asked. His tone echoed his irritation.

“See, I hate to be the jealous kind, but is it unreasonable to expect to spend my boyfriend’s birthday with just him? I hate myself speaking like this. Damn," Mani said.

Hari clenched his teeth but did not reply.

***

Charu:
Hello,
It’s funny; actually weird sending this message to someone who is a ghost. Male ghost, I am sure. Girls are not capable of such awful things. Perhaps they are, I don’t know. But you are for sure a man when you took a photo of my chest. Boys are more bothered about boobs than girls.
Why are you doing this to me? What do you get by making me go through these nightmarish experiences? Do you have any idea the level of paranoia that I underwent? I thought I’d rather die than live in fear and anxiety. And the worst part is no one believes me. Everyone thinks I am making this up, that I am delusional, playing a victim to seek attention. Man if I find you I will clobber you to death.
Why me? Why me? Do I know you? Have I done something wrong to you? Please, please forgive me. Please don’t do this anymore. I really beg you. Please. I am tired.

Charu paused briefly. She replied to a message that she had received earlier from the stalker. She kept staring at the laptop computer screen with her knees pulled to her chest and arms around.

Why should I beg you? You are a coward. If you have something against me, be a man! Come confront me face to face. Maybe I might even change my mind. You are a sadist psycho.

She sprang up from the chair and pranced out of the room. The evening was breezy with an eerie calm. Her anger was very evident with the heavy breathing. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t play these games. I am freaking out remembering that night," she spoke to herself. She took small steps back towards the laptop computer, looking downwards at the floor while gently biting her lips at the same time.

“What the fuck? Holy crap. The bastard responded. Shit, shit, shit. What do I do now," she spoke aloud and continued to respond to her stalker.

Charu:
“So you are not a ghost. You do exist.
Why are you doing this? Have I done anything to hurt you?

She paused briefly for a response. There was no response coming forth.

But how did you get my picture? And the picture of your penis is not flattering, actually sad. I felt sorry for you. You possibly have poor self-esteem that makes you do all this.
A friend mentioned that you could be someone who has a crush on me. Is that why you are doing this? Dude, then you have miserably failed already. By intimidating me you just bring out the worst in me.
But if you wanted to scare the shit out of me, then bravo!! You have won. Congratulations! Will you now give up? I failed. I am sorry. Are you happy and contended now? Does that boost your wounded ego?"

“I don’t even know why I am being apologetic," she spoke to herself and looked away from the screen.

“Ways of men have always surprised me. Why are you guys so selfish and vindictive when it comes to girls? Whatever you are upset about, could be something that I did, perhaps life could have been simpler if you had just asked me my side of the story.
Always, every one of you wants to possess, to control us. From birth to death we are always in the clutches of men of various shades to be passed around like if we were some lab rats.
The butcher made the eater happy. The eater made the butcher happy. But where did the lamb disappear? The poor lamb has lost its identity. From lovely lamb to meat, from mutton to food, from delectable food to faeces and from foul-smelling faeces to earth again."

She reclined back with her arms locked above her head and closed her eyes consumed in deep thought. In a minute she opened her eyes like a flash of light and got back at the computer.

But I will admit at this stage, that I have been mean to my friend Sam. He has always been nice to me. Helpful. I know he likes me, perhaps more than I wish for in a possessive way. But he does not have a bone of evil in his body. If at all, I have been the one who has been rude to him. I have upset him many times. Reprimanded him in an open forum but he has always been a gentleman. I like him too. I tried speaking to him earlier this morning but he looked preoccupied and uninterested, maybe he is still angry with me. I don't mind getting back with him.
He is really smart. I wish he would help me in this.
Hmm...
I feel my diatribe is like some verbal diarrhea, leaving a bad after taste with no result. Sigh!
Or…
I have a challenge for you. If you are man enough why don't you come and meet me tomorrow 6:30 evening at the Amethyst Cafe. Let's be adults, talk and settle this. What do you say?
I will wait for you tomorrow at the cafe.

***

Why me? Why me? Do I know you? Have I done something wrong to you? Please, please forgive me. Please don’t do this anymore. I really beg you. Please. I am tired.

Hari's father, Mr. Hegde had already packed his suitcase for the trip to Chennai on Sunday. He had been planning this trip for several months. Sunday was Hari's birthday. Mr. Hegde had bought the latest Apple Macbook Pro as his gift to Hari. Anju, his daughter had chided him for being indulgent.

"I miss him kutty," he called Anju using that nickname, "and he is a bright boy and a good computer will be useful for his studies. Anju, I have been feeling very unsettled for very long, more so after Hari left. I now get nightmares about Hari. The other day, I had dozed off in the afternoon after lunch. I saw blurry visions of a small chubby baby coming towards me. Thick dark clouds were mushrooming in the background and he seemed utterly scared. The tender baby as he approached me looked like Hari. He was crying out for me, trying to tell me something. I woke up completely drenched in fear and sweat."

"I am worried. What would he have wanted to say? I was never around for both of you. Especially after Hari, I became very busy."

“I have been a good father no? I will be shattered if something happened to him."