It was pretty good weather for an otherwise sweltering January, as they lay perched on the rooftop balcony overlooking the suburbs.
"You smoke?", she asked pointing the pack at him. Toying momentarily with the idea of changing his entire personality to fit in (as he often does), he finally resigned to a quiet "no, thanks". He hoped it didn't come out as some sort of value judgement, but she had moved on to flicking the Bic lighter and trying to keep the flame alive, paying no attention to the drama in his head. She took two drags as the embers matched the colour of the setting sun.
"Don't you feel like we've fallen short?", she asked as the street below slowly filled up with the occupants of their office building leaving for their homes.
"I guess we have. I guess this isn't what our parents had in mind."
She took a look at her toes as she took another drag, and silence descended on them. He didn't really mind silences, but he also didn't have a rapport with her yet.
"No plans to hop on a boat?"
"Not at least until I'm done with college, no. And even then, I quite like it here."
"Ah yes, the comfortable prison of the familiar and the known", he thought—and wisely kept to himself.
"And you? Big shot computer man? Can't you earn way more over there?"
He could, he said. Maybe next year. It's the lie he told all his relatives, being as much a prisoner as she was.
For a chance meeting that happened because of a dare, this evening was going pretty well, he thought.
* * *
"Machang you always give talk but you never. follow. through. Always close. Always no cigar."
"Don't harass him, he's clearly still not over you know who."
"What nonsense men, I'm perfectly over her"
"Come on, I'm not 15 any more no?"
"If you ask her out I will quit ciggies for a month."
"Pinky promise. See? I'm not hung up about how adult I am."
* * *
It was honestly the weirdest couple of minutes of his life. A diehard introvert who was just short of wearing "INFP" in bold lettering on his t-shirt every day (and that too for fear of attracting too much attention—much preferring monochromatic clothes), he barged into her office and asked if it was the meeting room, knowing fully well from his 2 years working in this building that it wasn't. She said that it wasn't, and in her usual cheery and helpful manner assisted him to find his 'intended' destination on the other side of the floor. He thanked her and they exchanged names. Three days later, and a couple of 'totally unexpected' moments bumping into each other on elevators and stairwells, they were on this rooftop sharing tobacco smoke.
"They should have Google Calendars for the meeting rooms."
"Oh yeah, that would sort a lot of the messes out", he replied, and he knew what the next line was going to be.
"You guys would block out most of it anyway".
He looked apologetic, and then they both laughed.
"They should also maybe add floor maps so people don't get lost...". Her lips were curling into a mischievous smile, and her deep brown eyes glistened.
"Ye... yeah they should."
"I mean, three days ago I saw a man I've seen use the second floor meeting room at least half a dozen times suddenly lose his bearings and walk into an office on the other side of the building." She was pointedly avoiding your gaze.
She took another drag, and smoke escaped her smiling teeth as she looked over the coconut tree tops turning orange red with the sun.
"You really sure you don't want a smoke?"
I just finished reading 'Chats with the Dead' and it was incredible and I need a Jaki in my life. 😭