When she first appeared before him it was like he knew her for ages. The racial, age, cultural and status barriers did not prevent him from having an instant liking for her. She was a retired stripper. She was still pretty with light blue eyes and an angelic face. But her body now reflected the marks of 3 childbirths. She was living with Mondo, her third husband. Mondo was an immigrant construction worker from Mexico. She had a year old kid from Mondo named Jayden. She was not fat but her form was slowly losing its shape. Her kids from previous marriage stayed with her mother. A small but happy family, he thought till he came to know about Valerie.
Valerie was a runaway. She was 20 and she could not come to terms with the restrictions that were put on her by her parents. Her parents were too orthodox for her liking. As every freethinking American she longed to be independent. But she did not have the money. That was when she met the Mondo family. They bonded. Valerie brought a whiff of fresh air into the equation. It was almost 2 months after Ravi met Angelita that he came to know of Valerie. It did shock his Indian sensibility. If it were in real life he would have fainted. Maybe even cut all relationships with her. But this was a dream. He could afford to be bold. He could be what he wanted, or so he thought.
He had heard of bisexuality. And as far as he knew, these were all influences of the free market culture. He never thought what the market has to do with sexuality. Nor did he concede that a freethinking human mind is capable of far more deviant behavior than he could ever imagine. He was culturally programmed to think straight. To be confirming to the norms of the society.
But in the dream the idea did not repulse him like it would have had in real life. He was intrigued infact. He read about it. Much was beyond his comprehension. He came to know of things which he knew never existed. He realized that the human mind is far more contrived than what was taught to him. It was then that he saw the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona and read the life story of Woody Allen. He hated Woody Allen and thought his acts were shameful. Though he was not too impressed he became aware of the greys that existed in the society.
But his dream was still pleasant. His friendship with Angelita was becoming more and more strong. He yearned to sleep just to know her better. They spoke of childhood and bitter memories both had about their child hoods. He was molested by his maid when he was three and she was molested by her dad when she was six; Two far different counties, cultures and societies but similar experiences. That drew them closer. He listened with awe as she narrated the story of how she became a stripper. He had never seen a stripper. In all probability he would never see one. He did not care. For the first time he empathized with women engaged in flesh trade. But this was not a bad as that. Atleast she held her pride. He wanted to kill every guy in the group that gang raped her when she was 16. He just wished she would have a better life now. He knew of Diablo Cody and her rise from being stripper to an Academy celebrated scriptwriter. Even if she would not see success in professional life he wished atleast that she would have a smooth family life.
But most things in life would not be the way you want it to be. The much-celebrated three-way friendship broke up. Angelita thought that Valerie is her toy. She always thought Valerie was in her home because she loved her, and when she found out that Valerie tried to seduce Mondo when she was not around, she lost her temper. She wanted Valerie out of their home. She was further infuriated when Mondo took Valerie’s side regarding the entire episode. Ravi could not understand why she was so angry. He could not find a huge deal of difference in a physical relationship with knowledge of a partner or behind her back. For him infidelity has a straight definition sleeping with anyone other than one’s partner amounted to it. However he was aware that he could not straightjacket this in to his societal norms. This was the US and he tried to console himself that “anything could happen there”. He has always wanted to go to the United States because he had heard of casual relationships – enjoyment with out commitment. But somehow now he was not too sure he wanted to be part of this chaos that challenged his sensibilities.
He was reminded of a line from the narrator in Vicky Christina Barcelona “Meanwhile, as predicted, without Cristina, the relationship between Juan Antonio and Maria Elena had gone back to its old destructiveness.” But Juan Antonio and Maria Elena were artists. Artists are insane or so do they say in India. But Mondo and Angelita were no artists. But still the relationship started breaking up. So it was no longer the small happy family that Ravi hoped to see forever. He thought this was more like a Bollywood movie. The vamp and moved in and destroyed a home. But in the usual Indian context none of these people would qualify to be the protagonist. Everyone as in real life has antagonistic characters. People have their failures and are not virtue personified like an onscreen protagonist.
Ravi still thought it could turn out to be better. He certainly hoped so. He did not think too highly of the Black man Angelita moved in with. He looked like a rogue to him. The pest control did not help Angelita’s fortunes either. They asked her to move out of her house because of a mould infestation. . Her mother did not want to look after her children either. The guy was not earning much either. It was strange Ravi did not even know his name. It was as if he was too insignificant. Ravi wanted to be of help but there was nothing much he could do than to wish well.
What does a woman lose when she is on road with four kids with no one to turn to? Angelita finally took that way which she had avoided for over a decade. Ravi’s sleep was a nightmare. He could not bear too see the slump in Angelita’s Life. But yesterday’s was the worse nightmare of them all. She had solicited a new client. Ravi knew from the beginning was something was wrong. He was aware of the knife in the guy’s pocket. And he did not like the narrow dark alleys through which they walked.
“Dub, dub” the knock on the door woke him up at that moment. He was sweating heavily. He could hear his heart pounding louder than the milkman knocking on his door. He wanted to know what happened to Angelita. But he did not dare going back to sleep.
His day passed with his mundane routines. As the sun set and light gave way to darkness Ravi felt a fear swell in him. He thought he would go mad. He did not want to think about what would have happened to Angelita.
Ravi was in his living room. He did not want to go to sleep. He flipped through the channels. The channels were dishing out titillating songs that are associated with the midnight hour. He did not even know when he slept off.
He woke up. A dreamless sleep, he yawned and tried to remember and visualize. He could not gather anything other than hues of purple and red. It was not strange he had had such nights before. But he was still curious what happened to Angelita.
Days passed and a month. She did not come back to his dreams. He tried to console himself that his negative vibes about the man she walked into the darkness with was just a figment of his imagination. He wished she was hail and hearty and living happily with her kids. He wanted to dream of Mondo and wished he would come back for the sake of his son Jayden. And she would not have to sell herself anymore.
Another month passed. There was no news of Mondo. But that night Valerie came to his dreams. He just thought it proper to wish her. She was warm and was happy to see Ravi. Ravi exchanged the usual pleasantries. The friend of a friend is a friend. It was strange that Ravi did not share the same anger that Angelita had for Valerie. He was still stuck in days of their friendship. Somewhere he too wished he could be friends with both of them, he almost wanted to be Mondo, though he would never accept it in open.
Ravi: Do you know anything about Angelita
Valerie: You don’t know?
Valerie: It was in the papers
Ravi: I don’t get American newspapers here
Valerie: She was raped and killed by a client
Ravi: A client?
Valerie: Yeah some guy she went out with
Valerie: He robbed her raped her and stabbed her. And she died bleeding in the dark Alley
Ravi: Are you not sad
Valerie: I don’t know. I think I never really liked her. I wanted a place to stay. I was young and wanted to experiment. I was shocked but now I am over it
Ravi: Oh ok
Valerie: Ravi, Can we be friends? I always wanted to ask you. I thought she would blame me for stealing you too.
Ravi: Errr I don’t know.
Ravi woke up. He was blank. He was in no mood for anything. But his life beckoned. He could not take a leave. He could not risk losing his job. His boss would never care for someone who died in his dream. As it is they did not care for anything, these multinational corporations. They were nothing more that chop shops that sliced a part of human intelligence and sold it in markets undercutting rates prevalent there.
Another boring day passed at work. Ravi yearned to sleep. He had a date with Valerie. Angelita was just a small pain somewhere at the back of his mind.