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  • Abhijit Haldar

A Few Cigarette Breaks


Today was complicated.

The chai was perfect. The weather was not. The cigarette was the same as always. I was there. She was not. Complicated. And saddening. “Ma’am isn’t coming today?,” the tapriwala almost made two cups. I had to specify the number one with my index finger. “I don’t think so.”

“Okay.” She broke up over text. She needed space. And I needed a reason.

I almost fell asleep during the lecture when her text arrived. Ah finally, I thought. She didn’t do a wake up call today. No missed calls. I guessed it must be PMS. Thus I left her a ‘good morning, heading to class. See you at evening’. So I spent half the day waiting for a reply. We recently switched to Instagram for texting because WhatsApp was getting boring and it was easy to send crazy filtered stories on the gram. She turned off her last seen today. Okay fear, I thought. Peculiar. She never did this before. I sent a follow up text. ‘What’s up with the last seen?’ I waited for the lecture to get over as it was lunch break next, and I would sit all cozy at the cafe with something to eat. I was hungry. I didn’t have breakfast. ‘Listen, we needa talk.’ I was seeing this sort of text after a few years. The fruit juice almost slipped from my hands. But then, I just hoped for the best. ‘Yes say.’

‘I think we need to stop…’ This was getting too real like those cliched scenes I have seen a zillionth time and read a hundred times over. I knew what was next. It was a moment when I should’ve been kind of devastated but all I could think of were those romcoms and YA novels. And cursed myself for having written a few that are rusting on the cloud. I was planning to show them to her. ‘What?’

‘We need to take a break.’ was what I was guessing. I was right.

‘What? Why?’

‘I need space. Trust me.’ I trust her. But not that. Why would she need space all of a sudden? We were clicking. We had chemistry. I wished I never knew what ‘I need space’ really meant, but the internet has fucked us all over. ‘Where is this coming from all of a sudden?’

‘I just need space yaar. I’m not in a good place rn.’

‘Mentally, you mean?’

‘Yes.’

‘Come on. You know we decided we’re gonna face this together. That we’re gonna help each other move on from our last relationships.’

‘Yes. But I don’t think it works this way.’

I said fuck it to the phone, the lunch, the remaining lectures, and got straight on a rickshaw to the tapri. My head was doing a thousand somersaults and I needed to take a few cigarette breaks all at once. Glorifying how I felt that particular moment would just make it like every other literary piece. So just skipping that.

I got up to ask for my fifth shot of chai. “Are you alright today, sir? You came early.” The tapriwala’s concern was legit. I was chugging chai at 3. “Yes, just have a headache. Put some more elaichi, bhaiya.”

So I spent the next three hours arguing with my girlfriend, no, ex, about how she was wrong and that she didn’t need to do this and all the facts I could pull off, then drinking ice tea in the middle to cool down my burning stomach and then using the shitty public toilet a few times over. Also, my back hurt.

6 was the usual time when we would join for chai and sutta. Only today, she wasn’t there and I was drinking all the chai in the world and smoking too many cigarettes. And hoped that next day, everything would be fine.

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© 2020 by Abhijit Haldar