I

t was 9 pm.

Charu was at Alex’s house and browsing through the bookshelf that was designed like a branch of a tree jutting out of a wall. The white wall accentuated the creamish brown oak wood colour of the shelf. She spent more time studying the design than looking at the books. Made in real solid wood, each branch held a series of books on a specific subject. There were lots of books on history and biographies. Charu picked up the book which had Marilyn Monroe on the cover, dressed in white slacks and a black top, curled up on her sofa, looking sideways undecided, with a book rested on her thighs, in front of a shelf of books. The book was titled “Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe."

Now sir, what’s with men? Why do they want to possess women? If all he wanted was sex, he could have just had an affair.

“Would you like some Jack Daniels?" inquired Alex who appeared from behind.

Noticing that Charu looked clueless, Alex added, “Some whiskey I meant?"

“No thank you, I don’t drink," she sounded apologetic.M

“That’s okay," and pressed the play button in the music system that looked expensive. He was dressed casually in white polo shirt, grey pants, red flip-flops and he slowly reclined on the sofa opposite to the book shelf.

“Strangers in the night exchanging glances.
Wondering in the night
what were the chances we'd be sharing love
before the night was through?"

Frank Sinatra’s throaty manly voice rose gently in the room, ably supported by a traditional jazz instrumentation.

Charu’s eyebrows arched upwards on hearing the song and the measured pace of the rendition. This was the first time she was hearing the song and she seemed to like it. She continued turning the pages for a while but turned back to have a quick look at Alex, who sat relaxed and savoured the sweet and nutty taste of the whiskey.

“Something in your eyes was so inviting.
Something in your smile was so exciting.
Something in my heart told me I must have you!"

There was another person in the room consumed by lust along with Frank Sinatra.

“Dobidobido dodododida dadadada"

Charu smiled at him.

“You are laughing at me?" Alex was curious.

“No no, the way you sang the gibberish was cute. I love the mood of the song. Who has sung this?" Charu cleverly hid her feelings.

“Frank Sinatra, heartthrob of the 50s. His voice has this amazing quality that draws you to a mood of calm intimacy and playfulness."

“Do you know something? It is so serendipitous; Sinatra was such a fan of Jack Daniels whiskey that it was rumoured that he left an instruction to have him buried with a bottle of Jack Daniels Old Number 7. And I am sipping his favourite tonight while listening to him," and smiled at Charu.

Charu googled Sinatra and landed on his Wikipedia page. While reading his bio, a message flashed on her mobile.

“Hey whats up? Where you?" an SMS from Sam.

She ignored Sam’s message and scrolled down at Sinatra’s page on her smart phone. His marriage to four women and especially fourth wife Mia Farrow somehow caught her attention.

“In 1966 he got hitched to a young actress called Mia Farrow. She was 21 at the time and he was 51," she read aloud and her irritation was clearly visible.

“And further he demanded that she quit films. She went for a divorce. Serves him right!"

“Now sir, what’s with men? Why do they want to possess women? If all he wanted was sex, he could have just had an affair. Why does he want to marry a lady much younger to him in the first place and control her as if she was some pet animal? Is he trying to prove to the world that his libido was intact and could fire at will?" she was angry.

“Maybe it wasn’t firing, so he had to prove to the world with a trophy wife," Alex laughed.

When a person loves another to fill a void, then the relationship is doomed for failure. It is born out of fear, insecurity and low self-esteem.

“Sir, I am serious!" she was getting into her zone when the mobile rang, and she disconnected the call.

“Aarghh," she was now very irritated.

“Take it easy Charu, is someone bothering you?" Alex tried to calm her down.

“No no, I am fine sir," Charu brushed aside his concern.

“Listen to this sir," taking the book on Marilyn Munroe closer to her eyes, “She writes in her diary,"

“On the stage—I will
not be punished for it
or be whipped
or be threatened
or not be loved
or sent to hell to burn with bad people
feeling that I am also bad.
or be afraid of my [genitals] being
or ashamed
exposed known and seen—
so what
or ashamed of my
sensitive feelings"

“She lived a very lonely and miserable life, and there was always a man who broke her heart and more importantly, trust."

“Let me ask you a question," Alex wanted to confront her.

“Marilyn played with enough men in her life. She even two-timed Jack and John Kennedy at the same time. I am not supporting men here. I am fully aware that there are lots of men who are rascals and hypocrites but at the same time I will not subscribe to generalizations that all men are the oppressors and all women are victims."

“When a person loves another to fill a void, then the relationship is doomed for failure. It is born out of fear, insecurity and low self-esteem. And this is common among men and women. But the way both of them handle that during and after break up may be different."

Charu stood in his line of sight and listened to him with rapt attention.

“But it is important to differentiate love and temptation," and before he could complete Charu interrupted him.

“I don’t buy this. There is nothing called love in the beginning; it is only temptation, lust or infatuation whatever you might want to call it."

“Exactly," he nodded his head till she completed her objection, “But love blossoms later when there is respect, trust and friendship. This takes time," she also nodded in agreement.

“But there are heart burns in both, because like I said before, our relationships are built on the pillars of fear and insecurity," and before he completed Charu blurted out laughing.

“I think you have had too much alcohol, philosophy is oozing from all your pores," and continued to chuckle.

Alex though irritated slightly for being interrupted, quickly joined her laughter.

Sam called again. Charu did not disconnect but allowed it to ring till he gave up. Her face quickly turned tight and rigid.

“Why are you not taking the call? Is everything okay Charu?" Alex was concerned.

“I am fine. But this Sam keeps calling me continuously," and kept staring at her phone.

“Which Sam, why does he keep calling you?" Alexs’ eye brows curved up.

Computer science first year. The guy who kept staring at me while he drove Mani to hospital," Charu tried hard to conceal her escapades with Sam.

“Hmm, yes I remember. Anyways, Isn’t it getting late for you?" Alex wondered.

“Sir, can we speak for some more time? And can I sleep here tonight? I feel very unsettled and talking to you makes me feel safe and less anxious," she requested in a low measured voice.

Alex took a sip of Jack Daniels from the glass and remained silent for a brief moment without answering her question.

“Are you afraid that your wife would not approve of me staying in your apartment?" Charu tried to rationalize his silence.

“Charu, it is not as simple as that. But let me respond to your request first. Please make yourself comfortable here. I have a spare bedroom and you can sleep here tonight," Alex was very accommodative.

“And to answer your second question, yes she would have a problem. She lives in Mumbai and she is alone there. I am alone here. I know that she would not like another woman or girl living in my apartment. I am not saying she would think I might be cheating on her. But it will affect her in some way."

“So why did you say yes?" Charu was confrontational.

Alex took a couple of seconds to respond, “Charu I am doing you a favour because you requested that you are feeling uncomfortable. There are lots of things that I do because I feel it is right and they may even upset people who love me. I can live with that."

Alex moved back to the kitchen and there was an overbearing silence that engulfed the music in the living room. Charu stood there with a book in her hands while her eyes looked down under the sofa exactly at the same place where Alex was sitting. A gentle breeze from the balcony blew her hair to the right. She adjusted her tresses towards around her right shoulder revealing her gorgeous cheekbones under a low yellow light that hung from the ceiling.

“Oh my God, I am really attracted to him. His anger completely turned me on. OMG!! May be I should leave. Gawd, don’t make me go please?" she spoke to herself.

“Charu, did you eat dinner?" Alex shouted from the kitchen, “There is rice, dal, curd and maybe bread if you are hungry. Also, I have some awesome chocolate ice cream," and popped his head out from the kitchen.

“I am okay sir, not very hungry, but will not say no to ice cream," and she smiled back.

“Sweety, are you ok?" another SMS from Sam popped on her phone.

“You know, I am reminded of a similar predicament couple of years ago," he ambled in with a plate of curd rice and handed her a bowl of ice cream. “I was in Singapore for a conference. I had just been married and I bumped into a college friend who then worked in the city. She was my junior and now had been married to a chartered accountant. We got talking over dinner and drinks. It was past midnight and she requested if she could sleep over in my room as she didn’t want to go home in that state. I thought it was reasonable and agreed to the idea. I hadn’t checked-in to my room yet and suggested that she wait up at the lobby and then I could call her up to the room."

“After I got to the room I realized that there was only one narrow bed. Not the king size. I was sloshed too and if she slept in the same bed, I was not sure if I would remain a saint," and started laughing.

“I quickly ran down with some difficulty and mentioned my inability to her, but offered to find a cab. You should see the look on her face. She was angry, but her pride masked her embarrassment. She got up, thanked me for the dinner and left. I stood there wondering if I had made the right decision."

“I am sorry to say this sir, you are such a dork," Charu said it with a straight face, and before she continued her phone rang.

It was Sam again.