By SHAN ANWAR
My life has become a cliche. I'm down here at the front of my office building, having a smoke with assorted temps, secretaries, delivery boys, college interns, career salesman and the odd power that be. It's cold as hell, in the way New York can be on the first day of Spring, with the thermometer reading 60. Of course, I don't have my jacket on since I don't want my boss, lovely piss-ant that she is, to know I'm going outside to satisfy my unsavory, unpromotable urge for sweet sweet sweet tobacco. So I've got to go through this whole production of clutching my stomach, an emphatic groan thrown in for good measure, letting everyone in the immediate vicinity of my cubicle know that Nate must heed the call of nature. Nadir, that is, but it's such a pain in the ass to correct all the mispronunciations.
"No, its NAA-dir."
Anyway, I'm eyeing this brown chick who I've seen on the commute. She's short, vaguely cute, hair that's as black as night; I mean black, boy, as in the absence of all color. That drives me crazy. I'm thinking South Indian, but she could be Guyanese. I notice her brand. Newport. Definitely an islander. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window of this decrepit Civic hatchback, with, obviously, Jersey plates. Hair's a bit rough, and I could probably use a shave, but I've got on this outrageously expensive shirt from the A/X that makes up for any other visual short-comings. It better. I'm still paying for it.
|"Anyway, I'm eyeing this brown chick who I've seen on the commute. She's short, vaguely cute, hair that's as black as night; I mean black, boy, as in the absence of all color. That drives me crazy."
So it's decided, then. I'm going to use the lines I got from the Rolling Stone article about "speed seduction."
|I'm going to use the lines I got from the Rolling Stone article about "speed seduction."
"Hi, I'm Nate. I've seen you on the train. Do you work here?"
"Yeah. Priya, research associate with XYZ."
Ah, yes, research. All the menial, hard-labor, back-breaking, all-around shitty office duties that liberal arts grads with a GPA under 3 are sentenced to for the rest of their working lives.
"Cool enough. That must be great. I bet you love the work."
"Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, it's really fulfilling. Yeah, but I'll probably be promoted soon, but, yeah, I still love it."
Man, I must be really desperate for some action to give this chick the time of day. But it has been a tough patch. The desi party scene is getting old fast, what with the invasion of the Tommy Hilfiger gang and brown preppies from the 'burbs with abuji's Lexus. Put the two together, and you get fights, especially since you could probably find better
male-female ratios at a monastery.
|"Man, I must be really desperate for some action to give this chick the time of day. But it has been a tough patch."
And then, thanks to King Rudolpho I, even the old hangs, BOOM, of the dancing on the table waitresses, have been made kosher, packaged for public consumption, bastardized, bastard.
Thankfully, I wrap up the engaging conversation with Priya before my last puff. Mission accomplished, I have a number, and am riding up the elevator to my work-a-day kingdom. It's a small closet, our elevator, and there's this horrible stench coming from the extremely well-endowed woman next to me. It's quite overwhelming, and her heavy breathing adds to the volume of foul aroma. Subtle bastard that I am, I pull out the small bottle of Acqua di Gio, that I always keep handy for just such an occasion, and spray spray spray away. Rather than appreciate the best scent she'll ever get this side of a McDonald's counter, she shoots me this dirty look, voracious, I'm sure, mouth agape.
* * *
The guy in the cube next to me has just come back from the little boy's room. I know he snuck some Jack Daniels in there. I'd love to do the same, but I refuse to become part of yet another cliche. But, try as I might, I am fated to lose the battle.
Case in point:
I try to get a drink of water, but the usual suspects are around the bottle passing out the usual gossip. Mysterious intrigue, high social drama, brilliant comedy -- all in the guise of mundane office politics. I try, as usual, to ignore the updates, which is easy since I've already been labeled "snooty," for my refusal to join the comrades in after-work drinks.
This time, though, my ears perk up.
"That Indian in accounting broke up with her man."
Now, she's Pakistani, but I am way too interested in the matter at
hand to educate these ladies on the minutae of south Asian geography.
"Really? That gorgeous Russian guy who picked her up after the
"Honey, where have you been? Now it's...it was...this fine brother, a partner at Sachs."
I have a thing for Sana. I can trace it to the first day in my work-a-day kingdom, when I had to give her my social security number. She's not too pale, like most Paki chicks I know, but just the right shade of brown, with these lips that always seem to be pouting. That drives me crazy. As an added bonus, I know she's really into Hanif Kureishi because I saw her reading the screenplay for "London Kills Me," which most people, have never heard of...not even the cats who actually read "The Black Album."
|"A group portrait of her old boyfriends would probably make a good ad for the United Colors of Benetton."
I haven't said anything to her, though, which is usually not my style. I know she stays away from desi guys. She'll go with any other ethnicity, boy. A group portrait of her old boyfriends would probably make a good ad for the United Colors of Benetton. No desis need apply, though. Besides which, my only real conversation with her was an attempt
to justify charging the firm for my New Yorker subscription
An opportunity has now presented itself, however, and I am not one to sit idly by. I slip into the little boy's room to get a look. I consider, briefly, a quick shave. My mind races, as it is wont to do, to tonight, when Sana and I will be on the plush leather sofa in my, not to sound humble, lavish apartment, my arms around her holding her hands, her head nuzzled against my chin. We'll both be exhausted, a bit tipsy, after an evening of general debauchery at System. "My Beautiful Laundrette" will find its way into the VCR, and we'll watch the last scene with Daniel Day-Lewis over and over again. Maxwell, boy, Urban Hang Suite, playing softly magical on the deck.
|"My mind races, as it is wont to do, to tonight, when Sana and I will be on the plush leather sofa in my, not to sound humble, lavish apartment, my arms around her holding her hands, her head nuzzled against my chin."
I could really get into this.
* * *
"Hi Sana." The door to her office is open, so I walk on in.
I get a quick glance, then she returns her attention to the desk.
"Right, NAA-dir. How's the New Yorker?"
I see I've made an impression. "Oh, its great. In fact, theres a story by Hanif Kureishi in the last issue."
"Kureishi. He wrote 'London Kills Me.'"
"Right. Disgusting work."
Most guys would give up their delusions of grandeur at this point. Not me, boy.
"So anyway, there's this desi party tonight at System. DJ Ladla, ladies free, open bar, you know, the whole nine."
"Right. So?" She's yet to look up at me.
"Would you care to join me?"
It's probably just me, but, I swear, she's stifling a smile.
No, wait, she is making no attempt whatsoever to cover her
"Sorry, but I don't do the desi thing."
"Oh. How bout a movie, then. Have you seen 'Titanic' yet." Smart
"Look, NADE-ir, you seem nice, but I dont think so.
"Well, first of all, I'm not nice. C'mon yaar, give it a chance. You don't even know me. I mean, it's not as if you're attached at the moment..." Nate, Nate, Nate. What am I going to do with you?
"Don't know you? Don't know you?" Her voice is rising, ever so slightly, with every word, but she's calm, so I know she's been through this before. I'm starting to look around to make sure no one else is privy to this encounter. "Sure I know you. You're this conceited Indian--"
"--whatever, who thinks he's Allah's gift to women. You probably heard I broke up with Simon from those got-nothing-better-to-do skanks around the water bottle--"
Now she's looking right at me. I never noticed how gorgeous her
"--and you figured, 'Hey. I've got on this Armani shirt I can't afford. Shes tried the rest, now shes gotta try the best.' So, you come in here, after looking at your face on any reflective surface in the office, and try to drop me a line. That's fairly accurate, wouldn't you say, Nutter?"
There's nothing in the Rolling Stone article about this. I take a
deep breath, plotting my escape with a tiny modicum of self-respect. "Cool enough. I'll see you later."
Back at the throne of my work-a-day kingdom. I dial the digits
Priya wrote on my hand. "Yeah, wow, so System, yeah? I've heard good things about that place. Yeah, but I'll be at work late tonight. Yeah, they would never
get any work done here without me..."
I put her on speaker, lean over to the cubicle next to mine and ask the comrade for a shot of Jack.