On my birthday he gave me a grotesque shiny silver bag. I was looking forward to receiving his gift, dreaming he would get me something I really wanted (like that new book of poetry – hell, I’d even said, in his earshot, that I really wanted it) or something that I didn’t even know I wanted (like, I don’t know, diamond earrings or something). And when I saw the big colourfully-wrapped box, my heart sank just a little with disappointment – it was obvious the box didn’t contain a book or jewellery. I carefully unwrapped the box (and wished he’d had the good taste to use handmade paper – or at least something subdued, without balloons or ‘Happy Birthday’ on it). And there it was, the shiny monstrosity. I held it up to hide my face (I guess he imagined I was kissing it) until I could manage a smile. He was beaming at what he imagined to be my happiness. All through lunch, I kept telling myself that it wasn’t that bad: after all, I did need a new bag (as he had already reminded me) and metallic was in. Yet when he praised himself for the third time on making a clever purchase, I couldn’t stop myself from saying politely, “You know I don’t usually like shiny stuff.”
“I know. You wear drab colours like an old woman. That’s why I got this for you. It’ll make you look younger and …er… vibrant.”
I stayed quiet after that. Later, I tried to persuade myself that he meant well, that I had known already that our tastes didn’t exactly match. Maybe I’d like the bag better after I’d used it. I’d take it to the nightclub tomorrow: that was exactly the right setting for it.He was late again, and by the time we got there the others were seated around a table. I had worn a simple black top and jeans, so as not to clash with the bag. It was too big to set on the table: I held it in my lap, clutching it with one hand so it wouldn’t fall off, glad that no one else could see it.
Another woman had a silver bag: but hers was dull, not shiny, and small. It looked expensive, unlike mine, which looked even more in the coloured lights like it had been picked off the street. Another girl had a bright red bag: but it looked youthful and fashionable: mine would have been more suitable for a middle-aged lady at a wedding.'
He asked me to dance. If I took the bag with me it would be shine even more under the dancing lights, and invite attention: if I left it on my chair, one of my friends would definitely pick it up and comment on it. I refused.
I didn’t drink: I was afraid it would loosen my tongue and make me say something disparaging about the bag to him, and hurt him. My pensive attitude didn’t escape comment. He joked that I wasn’t being much more serious or boring than usual.
It was my own birthday party. And I had expected to have fun.
After he dropped me home, I opened the bag and turned it upside down to empty it of all my belongings. Then I threw it into the dustbin. “What a waste,” I thought to myself. But I didn’t dare give it to the maid. He knew her from his frequent visits: what if he ever saw her carry it?
But what if he asked me later why I wasn’t using it? I could tell him that I was saving it for special occasions. That would serve for some time, but not forever.
I would dump him. Let’s face it, there was little in common between us anyway. I wouldn’t have to go to loud movies and boring parties, wear make-up or Indian clothes. I could lounge in my pajamas all weekend, reading books and listening to music. I would never have to laugh at another of his jokes.
There was no point in waiting till morning. I called him right away.(This was written as a writing exercise for Caferati. The moderator had posted a picture of a silver bag and the challenge was to weave a story around it.)