A30. …that’s all that love could buy

She was sitting in a coffee shop with a book on gender inequality in her hand. A layer of dust had left its mark on the white hardcover of the book. The edges of the hardcover were slightly bent and the sides of the pages of the book looked pale yellow. Even though the book was old, she took good care of it. The book was probably dear to her; perhaps, she’d borrowed it from someone. She kept nodding her head as she intently read the content of the book.

He was sitting across the table. He was desperate for her attention. Ever since he’d entered the coffee shop with her, she didn’t utter a word except when she placed an order for a glass of water. He insisted to buy her at least a cup of coffee but she was reluctant to have anything other than a glass of water. His phone was on the table and he kept checking its screen time and again. Someone or perhaps some people were blowing his phone with tons of messages. The phone kept ringing until he switched it off on noticing that the sound of his phone’s ringtone was irritating her.

“You promised me that you’ll spend an hour with me.” There was authority in his voice. She looked at him and he said hesitantly, “You’re spending that time with your book instead.”

She placed a bookmark on a page that she was reading for 17 minutes, closed her book and neatly placed it on the table near but not too close to her glass of water. She picked up the glass, gulped down much of its content and placed it neatly on the north-east side of the book. She looked at him and smiled for the first time ever since she’d entered the coffee shop.

“Now, tell me why we’re here.”

He was unprepared for this question. He looked blank. He looked at his phone and then, again at her. “We’re here because I want to tell you how much I love you.”

“But,” she plainly said after a pause that lasted for 3-5 seconds, “you barely know me.”

He hurriedly replied, “I don’t need to know you to fall in love with you, do I?”

She giggled. “Okay. Tell me about your love for me.”

“I …” there was nervousness in his voice. He hurriedly replied, “I love you”.

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“You’ve been telling that to me from one day after you met me for the first time almost 2 weeks ago.” She removed her wallet from her leather bag and started to walk towards the counter.

He hurriedly walked towards her. “Wait!” He looked puzzled. “Where are you going?”

“I need a cup of coffee.”

“I’ll buy it for you. Sit down and allow me to be a gentleman.”

“Gentleman, this lady pays for her expenses.” There was authority in her voice and she walked up straight to the counter. She handed over some cash to the man behind the counter and placed her order.

He stood behind her and later followed her to the table as she sat down on her seat with a bill in her hand. He was about to sit down when she asked, “What is love?”

“It, it’s an emotion.” He was nervous again. “It’s the purest of all emotions …”

“Oh, is it? How do you check its purity?”

“Ah, I don’t know.”

“I’m very cynical about love. You shall never be happy with me.”

He looked at his phone again. That was an indication of his poor social skills. A waiter kept a cup of coffee on the table with a spoon, a tissue and two packets of sugar. She took a sip of coffee, tore a packet of sugar, emptied its content in her cup of coffee, stirred the spoon in the cup and then, enjoyed her coffee with delight.

She was gazing at the glass wall of the coffee shop. She was a combination of three deadly elements: elegance, fashion and style. Her wit and intellect could seduce even an asexual nerd.

He intently looked at her, “I’d rather be sad with you than be happy with someone else.”

Her chain of thoughts was unaffected by what he had just said. She was still gazing at the glass wall. She took a sip of coffee and placed the cup on the table, on the north-west side of her book. “Did you say something?”

“I …” her confident smile made him nervous. “I said that I would rather be sad with you than be happy with someone else.”

“Stranger, and yes, that’s what you’re to me: a stranger, just a stranger! With time, your love for me shall fade away just like my skin will decay with time. All that you’re attracted to today may annoy you tomorrow. Even if your love for me survives until your heart pounds for the last time, it shall not be able to stand the anger that you shall be possessed with when I will not succumb to your authority. The delusional world of your emotions cannot compete with reality. Eventually, you’ll hate me for making you unhappy. You’ll not even hesitate to cheat on me and someday, you’ll divorce me. You’ll throw me away like I’m a rotten egg.”

Under her thick skin was a layer of insecurity. She sipped the leftover coffee in her mug, collected her belongings, walked up to him and patted him on his back. “We’re done with the one hour that I promised to spend with you. Now, complete your end of the bargain; never message me again. Goodbye.”

She stepped out of the café with her head held high and got lost in the crowd. He sat there in bewilderment. He switched on his phone and looked out of the window to check if she’d gone. As his phone turned on, it kept ringing to notify of the messages that he’d received during the time for which it was switched off. He gulped down the content of her glass of water: that’s all that he could get of her; that is all that love could buy.

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