“I’m Lakshya and my work has taken me all over the world. Once, when I went to Japan, I was informed merely two hours before I had to leave for the airport. Germany was no different. I didn’t even know about Italy until the last possible second so I just grabbed everything I could, got into a cab, and bought a bag from the Duty-Free itself. Anyway, I’m back in India for a bit, but I’ll be going back to the US in a month or two because I’m settled there.
As for WHY I am here, I’m here to look at pig butts, I research pig butts. Well actually, the butt is merely a part of what I research, what I really try to understand is the anatomical similarity between pig colons and human colons as part of cancer research.”
Everyone in the circle stared at Lakshya, confused at how the meeting had reached this place. An old man spoke up, “Hi, um, Lakshya?”
“We meant why you’re here in this AA meeting, not as much why you’re in India…”
“Oh…right! Yes, of course, how stupid of me to have forgotten. I’m here because my sister thinks I have a bit of a drinking problem, and she made me come here as a condition for staying with her. I don’t really have a problem. I can pass this tube-thingy onto someone else if they want to share their story.”
Richa shut the door to her car with a much louder thud than was…necessary. It was ridiculous how stubborn her brother could be. She had to apologize to her friend Darshana about the AA meeting, she had really pulled some strings to get that arranged.
She made her way into the kitchen with the grocery bags. Big Bazaar had started charging more for the bags, so now she was going to have to carry these ones with her every time.
She saw her brother lounging on the sofa, can of beer out on the table like a big fuck you to everything she had tried to set up as conditions. She picked up the can and stormed into the kitchen. “Hey! I was just having one I promise I wasn’t going to have more.”
“Listen, I’ve told you over and over again, this is not going to work. Either you start taking AA more seriously or stay at a hotel. That’s it. It’s this or that, no in-betweens, no ‘just one beer’, none of that crap. I am absolutely sick and tired of finding you drinking the second you have a free moment to spare.”
“But Richa, I genuinely just bought one beer only. Check the fridge, there are no more cans in there.”
The fridge didn’t have any more beer but had a bottle of Merlot with a ribbon and a name tag with her name on it. She closed the door to find her brother grinning like a buffoon.
“Now check that can, not a sip has been drunk yet. I bought it just to piss you off. It’s flat because I’ve been waiting for two hours for you to come home. I promised I’ll not drink while I’m here. That wine’s for you though, nothing a good red can’t do to get the edge off.”
Richa hated this. It’s honestly too much to deal with the embarrassment that her brother caused her as it is, he had to be a dick about when he wasn’t fucking up either. Her father had been very careful to make sure she always was a step ahead of her brother because he kept tripping like a baby that had learnt to walk yesterday. And yet here she was, getting caught up in his deception like a circus monkey.
“So listen, is my bicycle still around somewhere?” Lakshya asked.
“Why do you care about that old thing? It’s been gathering dust for years.”
“Yeah but I’m really feeling like biking sometime soon. Might as well take it out for a spin after I get it all fixed up.”
“Sure, just make sure you clean it up well, or you’ll have to wash the rusty prints off your pants for days.”
The entirety of the Sunday was spent fixing the cycle up and making it look non-rusty, for the sake of Lakshya’s pants. This meant a whole repaint of the cycle, and of course, Lakshya chose hot pink for his cycle, matching two of his sweatshirts and one very loud shirt he had once worn to a college fest. Monday evening he took it out for a spin and returned having scraped his knee all bad. Tuesday he spent nursing himself back to health while Richa was at work. Wednesday, a helmet, knee and elbow guards were purchased. Thursday, out of nowhere, Lakshya got a gel seat he purchased on the way back from his evening ride.
Richa had never owned a cycle. Seeing her brother take care of the cycle like it was his own baby made her uneasy. The man had a love for two-wheelers that she couldn’t explain, but then again, she had often wondered how it must’ve felt to get to ride one. It wasn’t like she didn’t know how to ride it, she learnt it secretly when her mom used to go out while they were kids. Lakshya had taught her and it was their secret to keep. But she never actually got to ride one and had forgotten about this one all this while as well. So when Friday rolled around and she got home from work a little earlier from the office, she had to ask her brother to let her borrow it.
“Hey, can I borrow your cycle for today evening?”
“What? Can I, or can I not borrow your cycle?”
“What would Ma say, Richa?”
“Oh shut up! I don’t care what that woman would say unless she assembles herself from her ashes and says it to my face.”
“That doesn’t work the same way as “rising out of her grave”. We Hindus really ruin everything, don’t we? Whatever happened to resting in -”
“I will punch you.”
“Yeah take it, geez! Just don’t get it all scratched up, the colour is very dear to me.”
She wheeled the cycle outside and gulped. It had been a while. She got the cycle back inside. “Never mind. I don’t feel like taking it out today, I’m rather tired.”
“You sure you’re not just scared?” Richa glared at her brother with a look so furious, he had to shut up.
The next morning, Richa woke up to her brother grinning over her face all dressed up in his tracksuit. “It’s time to get you back on your two wheels.”
“Ugh not now, let it be. It was stupid of me to even ask. I’ve probably forgotten how to cycle.”
Lakshya shook his head like Dad when he’d catch Lakshya inching towards his whiskey cabinet as a fresh 19-year-old, “Haven’t you heard the saying? You can never forget how to cycle the same way you never forget how to boil an egg.”
“Isn’t the saying about swimming?”
“Swimming and boiling an egg?”
“No, Cycling and -”
“Swimming with a boiled egg?”
“Okay that’s enough I’m not doing this right now, I don’t have the nerve to go out cycling right now.”
“Oh but you haven’t even tried yet.”
“No, I have chores to do, and a busy Saturday ahead of me.”
The entire day was spent with her finishing off her variable and extensive to-do list. At 6, as if on schedule, she called out to her brother to see what he wanted to have for food, hoping that he might be the one to cook today. On hearing no response, she got her phone out, only to notice now a text he had sent two hours ago about leaving to meet some friend of his and staying for the night. She took the bottle of Merlot out of the fridge and poured herself a glass. Tonight was going to be a no-cooking night, time to order in some KFC.
An hour passed as Richa reached her third glass of wine while watching an Aamir Khan movie she had loved as a child. Aamir was so cute in this one. Not that she had the hots for Aamir, he had just always struck her as the cutest Khan. She glanced over to the stairs and saw the cycle just sitting there. It was calling out to her. She was calling out to her. Richa decided firmly that the cycle was going to be a “she”. Why should only guys get to dress up in hot pink? Seemed almost unfair, with it being 2020 and whatnot.
She got up and tried to walk in a straight line towards the cycle. After being unsuccessful the first five times, she became confident in the straightness of the gait in the sixth iteration.
Confident of her ability to appear sober, Richa got onto the cycle and wheeled it outside, got on, and pushed herself forward. She struggled for balance for around a few seconds, until she started pedalling slowly. As her pace increased, she was able to control the two-wheeler a little better. She decided to cycle within the colony, to avoid getting killed in a drunk driving accident. Newspapers didn’t report as many drunk driving accidents anymore, either people had become better drivers, or maybe drunk driving wasn’t ‘news’ anymore.
Two rounds and she was basically flying. Her lungs weren’t used to this much air being required and they opened up like her brother in a new social setting. The coolness of the wind put a smile on her face that even the cutest Khan could bring forth.
This was it. This was what was going to get her freedom. With each pedal, she became more and more determined to go faster. She didn’t want this feeling to end, however, it did when she took too sharp a turn and fell into a bush outside the park. Injured, she started wheeling the cycle back to her house. Both ladies had small scratches, but for once, Richa couldn’t stop grinning. She had realised that her brother was right and that she had in fact, not forgotten how to boil an egg.
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