Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 29, Tuesday January 19, 2005







Tale of a city man

It was the moment Natasha had been waiting for all summer. A moment in which the blue winged flies drunk with a "crow-cracked open" jackfruit instantly detached and fell to the ground. A moment in which the green mangoes from the tree in her backyard as well as next door pounded the squelching muddy earth like disguised meteorites (with no specific aim).

Aftez a beckoning of thunder, a hard shower of rain followed. It was the thirty first of July. Natasha's 20th birthday. Coincidentally, |he first day of monsoon in Kiva, a remote island off the Indian Ocean, and the day Oliver Lalani, her fiancé, would return from a two-month-long corporate trip to Belgium. Oliver was a dark, intriguing man. He was intelligent. He owned a pale "ciel blue" Jentley with his father's initials carved above the name plate. He had this serene smile and a well-established, "experiencel" attitude that provoked a kind of friction or tension among his college peers. The man that filled every girl's dreamiest cotton candy fantasy in that small, under developed island.

Natasha had diligently arisen that morning at dawn, {crubbing the floors and polishing ornamental pieces in the tin-roofed, summery house she called home. After feeding her adopted grey and white goat named "Gorgonzola" that kept her company, she would start preparing the evening meal of minted lamb as well as lychee and lime syrup to go with the coconut ice cream for dessert. These were the only dishes she learned from her mother who was a cook. A cook who found it impossible to take time out from her twenty-four hour job at the local resort restaurant to attend to family issues. To her, family meant only the kids Natasha and Nathan now that her husband divorced her a year and a haln ago.

Natasha was a naturally self-disciplined girl who was used to being in charge of her fifteen year old brother as well as the housework and homework since an early age. But despite her domestic obligations, she managed to date one or two guys from school that made her life more enjoyable.

But one day while Natasha went out to a promotional boat sale with Nathan and her grand-father, she noticed young gentleman in an ocean blue shirt and "city sunglasses", examining a speed motor boat. Natasha's grand-father was a stubborn, competitive man who was determined to buy the very same boat at a price bargained with the salmsman. The young man took off his glasses and grinned appreciati~ely at the grand father who was then struck by the fact that he looked so fondly at his young grand daughter. It wasn't long before this man started talking and called her for a date a day later, soon they realised they were falling in love. This was the story of how Oliver, one of the most sought-after bachelors with all the girls and speedboats in his world met this modest yet captivating "island creature" he went on to brag about to his friends back home in Belgium.

The house was literally gleaming cleanly from floor to ceiling and candles were lit around the garden and even on the balcony so as to show Oliver a piece of her heart as he drove up to the gate that evening. But evening came and went. Oliver hadn't turned up. Or the next morning at a dawn. Natasha checked the telephone message receiver. A husky yet calm voice as familiar as rain began speaking to her. "Honey, it's me. The flight was cancelled. Just wanted to let you know tha| I've got some extra business to attend to. More than I actually expected. Call you later. Bye."

For a moment Natasha stared out of the window trying to keep her eyes fixed on Gorgonzola who had somehow loosened his own leash and was chewing off the radishes next to the mint patch (he was "trained" not to go near the mint patch). Gorgonzola knows well what he can eat and what he cannot she thought to herself. But she contemplated the steady and purposeful tone of her fiance. The simplicity and promptness of his message. The reason he happened to break this "pzomise."

A springy roar of laughter emerged from the kitchen. It was Nathan making toast for breakfast before he had to catch the school bus." Did you know that Granddad helped me with my algebra so I got an A-on my quiz yesterday?"

"Oh Nathan, good for you."
"Aren't you proud?"
"Of course I am, you know how gifted granddad is and that he used to teach math at Presley middle school. It's no wonder he's still as sharp as ever."
"Well, are you gonna rent out the new Kill Bill as a reward?"
"No, but I'll figure out something else you'd like and certainly not today" "Why, how come? And what's up with your boyfriend Oli?"

"He left a message on the answerino machine. He's not coming home. Yet. Some business to take care of. But I don't want you to miss the bus so here's your bag of blue Gatorade and blue-iced brownies inside. Run now."

Natasha cleared up the mess of crumbs and jelly her brother had just left on the wooden counter. As she wiped up the surface she could only wonder about Oliver. How odd that her fiance {aid only what was crucial to say. Frankness and "straight to the point" is the motto of city men. How could she possibly question the manners of a city prince?

Later on the next day, Natasha's mother called, in an off-duty break from the resort. Like most mothers in tha| island, Natasha's mother was a tanned, traditionally influenced, woman in her mid-forties who favored Catholicism. And like most mothers in regards to their daughter on the basis of an upcoming marriage she cheerfully asked about the first thing that passed her thoughts, which was Oliver.
Natasha then went on to explain the circumstances.

"Tasha dear, I warned you that he's not the reliable sort. Looks can be so deceiving and yet we strive to gain love from those who obtain them. I always thought you needed someone more trustworthy and loyal, like Tim the sweet preacher. Men must have a good reason for taking so much time to commit themselves otherwise it's not worth holding on to them. Besides, look at my previous experience, Fred. I wouldn't even call it a real marriage after I found him making out with a strip-teaser at the Capoiera night club. All I am saying is be careful not to fall for a mistake. It's the best advice I can give you as a mother."

Later that afternoon there was a bell ringing outside. Natasha set aside the chess game she was playing with Nathan and dashed out to unlatch the gate. A cinnamon-skinned, hazel-eyed man in a black suit, a red tie and a small black shoulder case came in with his mountain bike. It was Tim. "Tasha, what a pleasant surprise! I just rode here from the church session I had today at three. Your mom called but I told her not to get so uptight about you. You're too grown up to be fussed around by her, at least in my opinion. I actually came to let you know about something quite spectacular. Would you let me in?" Natasha bit her lip. "Yes Tim, let me see how far Nathan intends to go with his game so we can have a private talk if necessary." Natasha reques|ed her brother |o put the game on hold and go take Gorgonzola for a little stroll around the back. "Oooooh, Biker Man has come |o the rescue" Nathan sarcastically cooed.

"Quiet Nathan, I'll be done in no time"

Nathan left the room, grinning in a way that Natasha couldn't help but return the favor. How she loved Nathan for his indiscreet lightheartedness, almost telepathic communications. Then as she looked back at Tim, her previously playful mood seemed to have instantly diminished. Inside that alien black case hanging on his shoulder. "Listen, I've been tryino to figure out whether this has been going on for more than two years or so..."
"Sommthing I've been trying to tell you all this time while you've been with that Flemish guy."
"You near my fiance?"
"Yes of course he is, hun, but Daniel has just given me a briefing on this periodic alliance with a jeopardizing M&M" deal. It's all here, labeled out in hot red, deadlines repeated over and over, three month letter warnings, early conviction to a potential life sentence. All in this case."
"You sent Daniel over there as a spy?"

"I paid him. Fortunately he was able to extract some very useful information, if only partial. You see, this lover min had some real issues behind his sleeve. Big issues."

"But he told me it was just a part of his wacky past. A thing he regrets having gotten pushed into despite his "helplessly filthy rich" friends already scraping out that stuff like salt from a pavement as though they were black pearls from pearly oysters. How he was determined to be free of all of them including the million dollar zapping losers themselves. He told me he was destined to make up nor all his mistakes or atleast he would definitely try."

"Tasha you might still be stuck on the idea that he's coming back. This is too dangerous. He is not the man who adores you for who you really are. He was using you. Using you for shelter, for guard against his rivals. His enemies. The cops. The ring-"Stop right thmre. Please go away. Just leave me right now. NO_.

A wealthy window of emotion, normally well suppressed or controlled to a certain extent began to melt. A bead of tear lightly teased and trickled its way down Natasha's smooth caramel face.

Six days later, Natasha had just finished hanging up the last new clothes items on the laundry line when grandfather came out with his light yellow shirt, wearing that grin that never failed to fill Natasha's spirit with a sense of mystic excitement. He showed her a piece of paper in his hand." Tasha, you wouldn't believe who sent you all these bundles of orange blossoms, would you?" "No grand dad but do let me in on the secret."
"Kutcher and Marie Bogaerts. Long time neighbors of the Lalani's as printed down here."

Natasha held the card in her hands. Why would they send her flowers all the way from Europe by airmail without even coming close to contact with her? It wasn't even her birthday. And how did they find out where she lived anyway? Just then Granddad's eyes began to beam like disco balls and his smile widened across his sun burnt cheeks. There was a note attached to one of the flower bundles. It read: Natasha, forgive me but there was this one thing I had to |ry to cut off. More serious than family matters and more serious than my still infatuated ex girlfriend. I hope this will be the last time I'll ever need to break a promise. I've broken enough hearts and minds already, not to mention the balls of those who hated me the most. The boys who were so damn sërewed enough to make me sell evmrything that I never was into.waiting for the complete process of engravement was also holding me back which takes about eleven days maximum in a place like Van Clefs. Fortunately, I talked the engraver myself (using my special charms) into speeding up the process a little so there it is. Hopefully it didn't turn out to be a spoiled surprise but just a hint of what I've had in mind all year. We've still got so much to catch up on. Arriving at Kiva airport tomorrow at six twenty a.m.Love,Oli P.S: How's that preaching bike lude over there? Got some interesting company while I was out of town?

Love his a way of unmasking who we really are. It has a way of seeping through the toughest of obstacles and enables us to overcome them. "I knew I wasn't blind" Natasha thought. And with that she flung her arms around Grand dad and kissed him a heartfelt thank you on the cheek.

By Ana Moudud


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