It must have been around 10 p.m. Goa streets were buzzing with locals and tourists and locals with tourists. Everyone was with someone and I was. I picked up half of rum and 3 pints and trotted back to my room.
My room was a small walk from the main street, in a cottage right at the end of a thin quiet lane. The owners, a couple, John and Maria rented out their guest room for cheap, I had booked myself for a month. To write. The room had a separate entrance from behind the cottage. In it a bed, writing-table, a window, attached marble tiled washroom, no mirror.
A decent couple. They din’t bother much but their dog insistently barked when he heard me open the gates until I had reached my room and shut the door behind. The couple would know I am back. When I left my room and walked out the gates, the couple would know. Damn dog.
In the morning, John or Maria would leave a pot of tea outside the door and once in a while Maria would send across food, she cooked. Nice lady, she cooked well. Stout and active, she worked round the day running errands and her two young daughters. John was short and petite, looked quite older than Maria. He lazed on his hammock with his fenny bottle but he took good care of the trees that held him all day.
I made myself a drink and spread across on the bed. I could hear the wind dashing against the tree leaves outside, making a fluttering sound and then it would stop and the flutter would return as if the wind was moving in circles.
I heard the door knock. Maria was standing at the door and she reeked of booze.
“You need anything?” Her droopy eyes checked me out from head to moccasins.
“Can you spare me a drink? John is out with his friends and I am having trouble sleeping”
She walked in. She owned the place. I poured her a drink while she looked at my open luggage.
“So, are you really a writer?”
I made myself a drink.
“Thing is, I’ve never seen you writing”
“I am thinking” I replied
“Oh, what are you thinking?” She had a startled look, don’t fool with me kinds.
“Nothing” I said
Maria was wearing a yellow cotton night-gown printed with pink flowers and green strokes of disconnected branches, no leaves.
“You like this room?” she asked
“Yes, for a month its fine, I guess”
“I made out once in this room” Her eyes flirting with the bed. “But it’s been 6 years, we haven’t”
She held my hand and pulled me. I fell on the bed.
“Do you like me?”
“Yes Maria, you’re a good person” I sat up.
She burst out laughing. “Have you ever written about a woman’s heart?” She swayed the whiskey glass before her face. Not a drop, dropped out.
“I write about booze and sex” I took a sip and stayed.
“Will you make love to me?”
I had nothing to say.
“If I looked 20 years younger, would you?”
“I don’t know Maria”
“Your readers might like a making out story of a young writer and a middle-aged woman?”
“No one really reads me”
She smirked “Just like me, no one reads me anymore”
She gave me a hard look and started. I was too baffled to react, unsure what to do or say, just gave in. She worked on me, her eyes pressed shut I kept looking at her face wondering if her mind was here or someplace else.
When done, she moved away swiftly, sat on the chair, far from me and the bed. Her fingers ran through her ruffled hair. She tied them up neat.
I wanted to hear the fluttering of the leaves outside, but the wind seemed had long gone.
“I should be going now”
“Good night, Maria”
A tear dropped from the corner of my eye, I ain’t sure till this day, why. I picked my boxers lying on the floor, helped myself.
John was standing at the door. He was drunk, pretty drunk but he stood there looking right at me.
“Did Maria come here?”
“Yeah, she just left”
“Are you planning to stay here long?”
“No, John. In fact…”
“I know and I don’t care” John said sternly “but you better leave”
John muttered something and he head back to his cottage but stopped short. He turned and came straight up, punched my face. John, poor John was shivering.
“You got a drink on you?” John asked
I fixed him a drink.
“Are you really a writer? I mean, I’ve never seen you writing. Forget writing, you don’t even have a pen or a book on you”.
My laptop on standby had traveled miles into the galaxy. Who’d like to be around me at this moment?
John was fuming. He paced towards me. I thought he’ll hit me again.
“I gave 23 years of my life to build this family” His face an inch close, he spat on me.
“Look what I’ve got? She doesn’t even let me touch her. I never asked. I thought she needed some time off”
John looked away. His head fell.
“What can I do but drink helplessly before the man who just screwed my wife but I love my woman; I do, for my family, for my young daughters. What else have I got?”
John emptied the glass and threw it with all his strength but the damn glass didn’t break. That made him cry. He dropped on the bed. His hands held his face and the tears made their way out from between his fingers.
He jerked his head, tried getting back on his feet but John was wasted.
I packed my bags, stepped out of the room, quietly shut the door so not to wake John up but the dog…
34 thoughts on “Maria”
Arjun, you ARE Albert Camus’ The Outsider! You are Meursault.
This is coming full-round circle. My initiation into reading was with Camus’ The Outsider. 9 years back.
My friend tagged me along to a book store, my first time ever. Saw the title, pulled the book, turned the cover
Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday. I don’t know…
That was it.
Thank you John!
Nicely built tension! And the last sentence that takes away the bitterness of the story. It made me smile:). You didn’t say too much, just enough for the imagination to do the work. I really enjoyed this!
I’m glad you enjoyed it and you offered me in return your beautiful piece of writing. A brilliant read!
Wow, I have read one other prose piece by you but had no idea you were such a fiction writer! It is damn good– really!
Still learning Ellen! Words come tough.
You’ve been a huge source of inspiration to me and I feel truly honored!
Well, thanks for saying such a nice thing to me but it is you, Dear Arjun. You are very gifted and I think your fiction is great. It reads smoothly, like it was effortless, belying what you say about words coming tough. Some things are born fully formed– others one must suffer labor pains for hours to get them to come out right.
Quite true 🙂
And the world must care to notice here, how with ease you infuse the writer in me.
I spent a good, long while procrastinating in Goa, with a heavy laptop and lousy intentions. I have pictures but no words to tell that story. The better story is the story between John and Maria though (vs./ that of the lackadaisical writer). The only people who really know what’s going on between John and Maria… are John and Maria of course. But you provide an excellent window into their drama, I think.
Oh, and I’m not a massive dog lover myself. That was well rendered too!
“Your heavy laptop and lousy intentions” has given me a glimpse to a life, I barely knew of. Hence, I read your posts with a curious mind.
Thank you for coming over Elettra. Good to hear your opinion, always! Let that be about dogs. Damn!
I’m old enough to have had multiple lives, I’m afraid!
A fellow just wrote to me asking whether I had any practical skills (smiles)…
Lots of smiles and a big hug!
Wow, this was amazing! So much to this.
I thought it was ironic how he stated how he worked to build the relationship for 23 years. Obviously not enough !! Love it 🙂
Wow, I curiously await your coming over and each time you touch my heart with your kind words.
and you’re so right in pointing out – Not enough.
Man’s mind is generally clogged with pride and his needs.
Drinking fuels self-pity, eventually we never see the truth.
Thank you Judy. Your comment means a lot to me.
Crime and punishment or simply the drama of life…
If you dig deep in the souls around you you will find out that each and every one of them has a drama, just like all the characters in your story… Maria, John and the story teller, they are all in pain deep inside….
I’m overwhelmed with your perception of the story. Your introspection of the characters and their state of affairs is bang on.
Thank you Ela! 🙂
Thank YOU Arjun! You are the one who wrote the great story, I just filter it through my subjective mind. 🙂
Where are the subjective minds?!. I’m going to hold onto till I find a few 😉
😀 there are few around, I’m sure of it…
I don’t know why exactly, but my first thought was this really happened to you, and then the second – this sounds like the premise of a Cameron Crowe movie 😀
Hmm…By the way, you never appreciate my vivid imagination!
Jerry Maguire or Vanilla Sky?
Of course I do! And it’s Vanilla Sky 🙂
Arjun that was a very good read!! Each time I start to read your stories, I’m hooked; you have a gift!
Peter, I take your word in earnest and I hope you know that. If you’re convinced I’ll push for a full-length fiction. No stress, answer or skip as you please.
I second the opinion– you definitely have the gift of storytelling. It even spills over into your photos.
I’d like to read anything you write Arjun. When I hear anybody talking about a book or story they’ve read that they’ve really enjoyed, they usually describe being unable to put it down and being compelled to keep on reading.
I think if people find that in your writing, you’re definitely on to something!! 🙂
Good stuff, there was no stopping once I had started reading. This is either true, which makes you brave as well as talented, baring such a personal facet of oneself, or it is the product of your imagination, which makes you a master of human interaction.
Thank you Greg. The location, names and dog bit is true. The characterization and story is pure fiction.
You are my “Guru”. I’ve picked up the art of human interaction, thanks to you and I hope aspiring authors on WP find inspiration from your writings as I have. Looking forward to your continued guidance and support.
We are learning from each other, friend. Your poetry shows where your command of the language exceeds mine. Maybe it is the exoticism of English to your ears that allows you to savor the sound of the word ombinations that native speakers take for granted. Maybe you just had good teachers.
It takes a Guru to silence his disciple otherwise infamous braggart