A Naive Casanova
by Rudy Ravindra
Table of Contents|
parts: 1-2, 3-5, 6-8
9-11 , 12-14 , 15
Poor Rahul. He’s told to get an education, get a job, get married... He’s okay with that. But everybody seems to have agendas of their own, and they’re not his. Where does he fit into all this? Doesn’t he have any say in his own life?
One thing Rahul does have going for him: he is a sweet fellow, and women love him. But there again, agendas crop up. Is he supposed to laugh or cry? Poor Rahul...
In the first few months after his divorce, Rahul felt liberated, happy to be on his own, enjoying the quietness of his small house in a middle class suburb of Kansas City. Living with Maya had been like facing an unpredictable tornado, not knowing what might happen on a given day. He endured her mercurial moods, her temper tantrums, her continuous demands on his time, energy and, most of all, his patience.
He was glad to be rid of her, glad that she was out of his life forever. Now he could go to bed on time, between nine-thirty and ten, and sleep peacefully. Maya used to exasperate him by not coming to bed until midnight. She loved to watch TV and, more often than not, simply fell asleep on the couch with the TV on.
In the middle of the night, when he didn’t see her next to him, he went to the TV room and brought her to bed. Sometimes, when she came to bed late at night, she would want to talk to him about the show she had been watching.
This particular spring evening the birds were chirping as if to greet the spectacularly bright yellow forsythia blooms and to coax the pale yellow blossoms of the diffident daffodils out of their long winter hibernation. Sitting in his favorite chair by the bay window facing his small backyard, Rahul swirled the ice cubes, sipping his favorite single malt whiskey, and thought about the medley of his past love life. He remembered the good times as well as the bad ones he had had with Maya.
* * *
With moonlight shining through the tall window, they had stood on the stairway landing and kissed; they made love in the guest bathroom, with her sitting on the edge of the vanity. He lost count of the number of times they made out in the large living room, with its cathedral ceiling and tall windows extending from floor to ceiling.
Those days, during the early years of their marriage, she rushed into his arms as soon as she returned from work. The long separation of the entire day made their coupling all the more urgent. He missed her affectionate touch and the look of love in her eyes when she drove off to work in the morning. He missed their evening tea, sitting close together on the couch, comparing notes about their day.
In the spring, with so much pollen around, she had suffered from severe allergies, sometimes with big welts and flares on her face, arms and legs. Her lips would become swollen and her eyes itchy and watery, and anti-histamines made her drowsy. On those days, she was difficult to live with. Everything bothered her, and she would say, “It’s all your fault I’m having these allergies. I didn’t have them on the east coast. You brought me to the Midwest.”
* * *
He tried to take another sip, but there was no more whiskey, only ice cubes. He debated whether to have another drink. For him, a creature of regimented habits, this was a major decision. On a weekday, he rarely had more than one shot of whiskey before dinner. With his dinner, he had a glass of red wine, which he hoped might prevent coronary heart disease. And at bedtime, another shot of single malt, neat, no soda or ice.
While he was still undecided about the unprecedented second drink, the landline interrupted his cogitations. He didn’t care for the landline; most of the time telemarketing people made a nuisance of themselves. Many times he thought of getting rid of it, but didn’t want to give out his cell number to all and sundry. He had no intention of answering the call, but when he heard the high-pitched voice of his longtime colleague and collaborator, he couldn’t ignore it.
“Hey, Rahul, You must have turned off your cell phone. I need to talk to you about our manuscript.”
“Olga, you work too hard, are you still at your lab? It’s almost six in the evening, go home, this can wait until tomorrow. You know more about the work than me. You did all the heavy lifting. I just did some routine assays.”
“Some numbers don’t add up. We need to check them together. I want to wrap it up so that I can start on my grant proposal.”
“Well, in that case, you have to come to my place. I’ve had a drink; I’d better not drive.”
“Okay. Pour me a stiff one. I’ll pick up a pizza on my way.”
Olga never ceased to amaze him. She was dedicated, sincere and hard-working, and much smarter than he. While she was passionate about research, for Rahul it was just a job that kept him comfortable. He and Olga had joined the Chemistry department as junior faculty members on the same day and from the very beginning collaborated on many projects. They had a number of joint publications in peer-reviewed journals.
From the very beginning she took charge and became the driving force behind their publications and grants. When she read an unfavorable review, she knew right away that the reviewer made up his mind without reading the entire manuscript. Most probably the reviewer was their competitor, trying his best to shoot down their work.
Her cheeks became red and her nostrils flared, and she typed out a rebuttal so strong that Rahul was afraid that this might alienate the editor, and that they might not be able to publish their work in the journal.
But she allayed his fears. “Never be timid. You and I are the underdogs in this business. Compared to some of these guys, we have been working in this field for a only short time. Naturally they hate us encroaching on their territory.”
The lingering twilight wouldn’t last too long, and it would be dark soon; the switch to daylight savings time was a couple of weeks away. He turned on the porch lights and looked out of the window. As soon as he saw her car, he went out into the driveway.
Olga handed him the pizza box, and got her handbag and laptop.
“It’s been ages since I came here.” She entered the familiar foyer, and looked at the Amalfi coast painting in the living room.
“Yes, yes. Those were the days, we used to have fun, cooking and drinking. You used to make some very tasty rissoles.”
Olga looked a bit sad. “I can still make them, but no one to eat. I hate to cook just for myself.”
Rahul asked, “Why, is Paul out of town?”
“He is out, all right. I kicked him out. I should have done it long time ago. But I hoped...” She sat down, buried her face in her hands and started to cry.
Rahul said, “You know you can always talk to me. Why didn’t you tell me you were having problems?” He got her a whiskey. “Here, drink this, you’ll feel better.” He patted her shoulder.
Olga wiped her eyes and gulped down the drink. “This time he crossed the line. All these years I didn’t say a thing when he had those affairs. Now he simply quit his job, started working at J.C. Penny, of all places. He’s such a brilliant astrophysicist, so smart. Everything thrown away. He moved in with a twenty-year old bimbo. I’m not good enough anymore.” Again she buried her face in her hands, shedding more tears.
In a little while she composed herself. “Sorry, didn’t mean to bother you with my problems.”
“No, not at all. What are friends for? Come, come, get up. Let’s eat. Would you like to wash your hands?”
She went into the powder room. Rahul got busy in the dining room, placing plates, cutlery, and beer mugs. He opened the pizza box and the aroma of the super supreme pizza wafted into the room, making him suddenly realize how hungry he was. Olga came in and took a big sip of her beer, and started eating.
“So, what’s the plan? Are you going to file for a divorce?” He ate his first slice and drank some beer.
“I guess so. He’s ruined my life. Now I’m almost forty, no kids, no husband.”
They demolished the pizza, and Rahul cleared the dishes. “Shall I make some coffee, or do you want a drink?”
She said, “Please, none of your decaf for me. I don’t know how you drink that stuff, yuck. Let’s have whiskey.”
They were done with the manuscript around midnight. She got up and yawned, stretching her arms. “Thanks for your help. I’ll finalize the text tomorrow and send it off. Okay, see ya tomorrow.”
“Olga, we had a few stiff ones, do you want to sleep in the guest bedroom?”
She laughed. “Rahul, you are always so worried about everything. I’ll be fine. See you tomorrow.”
Rahul brushed his teeth and went to bed, but couldn’t sleep, probably because it was later than his usual time. He didn’t understand Paul’s behavior: what was the need to chase other women when he was married to the gorgeous Olga?
Almost ten years back, when he was setting up his computer in his new office, a tall blonde walked in. It was summertime, she wore a sleeveless diaphanous dress with no slip. He tried his best not to stare, but couldn’t help noticing the enticing curves.
She extended her hand. “Hi, I am Olga. I’ll be in the adjacent lab.”
“Yes, yes. Dr. Williams told me about you. Aren’t you from Russia?”
“No, no, no. Not Russia. I’m from Ukraine. Different country.”
He saw the irritation in her dark brown eyes, and knew he was rebuked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Her eyes softened and she smiled. “You mean you didn’t know that Ukraine and Russia are different countries?”
“Of course not. I knew the USSR broke up some time back.”
She laughed. “I’m just pulling your leg.”
* * *
Living by himself for almost a year, he tried to move on, tried to leave the bleak past behind. Being an optimist by nature, he hoped that the future might be brighter, and that the surprises it held might be the pleasant kind. These thoughts emboldened him to look for a pretty woman, in the hope that this new, yet to be found lady, might be nice to him and treat him with kindness and affection. He felt that, second time around, he might have better luck.
He didn’t care for the bar scene, with its loud music and boisterous crowds, where one went to meet women. Although he had lived in the U.S. for about fifteen years and become a naturalized citizen, most Americans still perceived him as a foreigner, possibly due to the way he spoke with an Indian accent.
He had nothing against American women; his first girlfriend had been a white woman, and he got along well with Heather, even when, at times, he found it exasperating to explain his background, his culture, and his country’s unique heterogeneity.
He felt that a woman who knew about India and its diversity might be better suited, and he wouldn’t have to start from scratch. However, the Indian women in town were either married or students much too young. Most of the single Indian women were either in New York, New Jersey, Chicago or California, and he was in Kansas, in the middle of nowhere.
But now that many couples met on-line to start a relationship, he felt emboldened to use this avenue. When he searched the Internet, he was amazed at the number of sites that especially catered to Indians. He posted his particulars on a couple of websites, saying that he was in his late thirties, a well-established professor, good-looking, divorced, no children.
* * *
He was pleasantly surprised when he received close to fifty responses. He heard from many accomplished women from different walks of life. Although the criteria to create a short list were rather arbitrary, he decided not to include physicians since he had had such a terrible experience being married to one for many years.
Maya worked, on average, about fourteen hours a day. During the beginning of their marriage, as she was not that busy; they had time to go to movies, eat out, and make love whenever an opportunity presented itself. As her practice became progressively busier, their time together diminished drastically, and those candlelight dinners and spontaneous amorous encounters were things of the past. This time around, he was determined to find a woman who did not have such a demanding job.
Many e-mails and phone calls later, some women decided that he didn’t suit their lifestyles. For others, he was the one who didn’t want to proceed further, when he knew that one candidate smoked, and another was a night owl. These kinds of small but important pieces of information helped to make a short list, and the number of women dwindled to just two.
Copyright © 2014 by Rudy Ravindra