"oh, it's you. find something to sit on, i'll be with you in a min't."
"my son's diapers did a disappear. i'm sorry. you're the guy from the ad?"
"his boyfriend, actually."
"oh. right. the ad said you might want to know what eats.."
"yes. confess the darkest thing you have ever done, mrs. surya. confess your nightmare.
we're collectors, you see. it's pretty strange to other people, collecting that sort of thing, but they're quite fascinating."
"i think i can see why.. is there some sort of ceremony? drumroll? do i just get on with it?"
"there is something actually. could you please take your clothes off? it's more effective when all your body parts are visible."
"right. how is this done?"
"i'll keep asking you questions. you answer them down to the most excruciating detail you remember. okay?"
"what were you doing before you opened the door?"
"looking for my son's diapers. i scoured the bedroom and the bathroom for it, and was about to check under his crib when the bell rang. i picked up a bottle of water on the way to the door, opened the door and found you standing there."
"very good. what time did you wake up this morning?"
"once at three am to pee. and finally at seven am when i had to make breakfast. i picked up the newspaper and the milk. i noticed that the sprinklers had been turned on in the lawn outside. i supposed that my husband did that."
"mm. what made you come home last night?"
"a notion that everything must seem normal to the onlooker."
"you say it in a manner that suggests disbelief."
"well, it's probably the insecurity that exposure to cinema and primetime television creates in you."
"last evening. describe what you did after you did it. in vivid detail, if you please."
"immediately after, i rushed out into the crowd and tried to blend into the people outside. i kept hurrying to justify the pace of my heart. i asked a taxi if he would take me home. he refused. the next one said his was occupied. i turned around then, and walked in the other direction hping to find another taxi, when i had a better idea. i walked down to the bookstore nearby, bought the first book i saw. a jap author. the first page described a woman alone at a chain-cafe thing. it was pretty startling to me, i was reading that passage in a cafe identical to six others all over town. i ordered lime-soda. sweet and salty."
"what did you do before you did it?"
"i dropped my son off at his creche. i stepped into a pub for lunch. i ordered pasta and draught beer. while i was eating, i read the newspaper. i got the idea when i was staring at the paper. i smiled. when i was done with lunch, i paid up, walked out and took a taxi to the movie theatre."
"what made you do it?"
"i can't say. it was partly boredom, partly because i have been forbidden from it by those closest to me, and that i haven't spoken to them in a while now. i must say, it was mostly curiosity."
"describe the process."
"okay, so i got off the taxi and paid him. by now, i was pretty excited and very nervous. i took the escalator up five floors, walked up one. i bought the tickets on the sixth floor. i stood in the line for about ten minutes. i named the movie i wanted to be in, and asked for one ticket. this was the first time i had ever watched a movie without company. i bought a large popcorn and a large coke, settled myself down. after a couple of trailers, the movie began. it was one of those robbery movies, where the thieves are never caught and get away with a truckload of whatever it is that they have stolen. to my right was a woman in a white kurta and yellow print. my guess was that she's a journalist, since she was there alone too. to my left were a couple of kids. fresh out of school, they seemed to be. all through the movie, i studied their faces. i felt like i was violating their space. i had to do it. i analysed every reaction. positive to the negative, negative to the positive, everything. the movie broke for an intermission. i struck up a conversation with the woman. i lied, thoroughly and obviously, about everything. i was actually surprised she was talking to me through the lies. i inserted complicated situations when i could have answered simply. i felt mean, so mean, and i went on. for a full five minutes, i lied about everything.
the movie began then. for as long the movie lasted, my lies blanketed my emotion. i felt cool, like no other. when it got over, and the credits rolled out, i got up, smiled at them, and left."
"what part of it bothers you the most?"
"the lies. since that day, i have only hoped that somehow those lies would come true. i have built a universe around me, built only on those lies, with people, telephone conversations, dreams, music, sex, nightmares that is involved in that alternate life. that i have another person living inside me based on those five minutes."
"would you like to let go?"
"thank you, mrs. surya. we are done here."
"yes. please try sleeping after i leave."
she turned off the lights and switched on the airconditioner. she cuddled into her blanket and shut her eyes. as usual, sleep didn't come easy. but instead of running over the lies as she did usually, she ran the conversation over in her head. the truth. every word, every emotion, she rolled it through her memory and turned it upside down. finally, in a moment of unconsciousness, she lapsed into sleep.