I was in love with a storyteller once. No, I don’t mean a writer, like you. Your writing is magical: flowing and vibrant and insightful. But in person, you’re… well, you’re awkward and shy. Don’t get me wrong. I love you the way you are: in fact, I love you because you’re shy, I love it when you get all embarrassed when someone says they love your books: in fact, I don’t even mind much when you get all glassy-eyed sometimes when I’m talking to you and I know you’ve taken something I said and are weaving it into a story right while I’m talking to you and not really paying attention to what I’m saying any more…
She was different. She was a teller of stories.
Real life was too prosaic for her. So she would embellish it to make it more romantic, more interesting. You wouldn’t know, when talking to her, how much of what she was saying was true. Of course, I didn’t know that at first. It took me a few days to figure it out. And when I confronted her with it, it was like she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that she had done something wrong. She wouldn’t accept that she had… you know, lied. To her it was simply that she was making life more beautiful than it was… I’m still not sure if she was wrong…
I really know very little about her. I don’t know, you know, exactly how much of what she told me was true. She did talk a lot about her childhood. She said she was an orphan, that she had been brought up by an uncle and aunt who didn’t much care for her, who refused to give her an allowance even when she was in high school and who didn’t congratulate her when she did well in her exams. She said she had a friend, Raja, who got her through those days, who supported her and kept her from doing something drastic, like killing herself.
But I later heard – someone who had known her in school had told someone else…. Anyway, this friend told me that she had actually had loving parents, an older brother, a happy childhood. One bit was true, though. She had run away from home when she was eighteen.
She sometimes told me that she believed she was a changeling: exchanged by the fairies for the human child her parents had. Sometimes she said she was exchanged by the devil. It depended on her mood, really.
I came to know her because she was living with the girlfriend of one of my friends. We were at their house to pick them up for a party we were all going to. It was a New Year’s party: a kind of fancy-dress affair. The theme was fairy tales. It seemed like fate, then, the way we met. You see, I was dressed as Peter Pan, and she… No, she wasn’t Wendy, she was Tinkerbell. She wore a short green dress and white gauze wings.
I remember spending most of that night talking to her. When the party ended – just before dawn, I couldn’t find Rohit and Sia. So I drove her home. When we reached her building, instead of going in, she suggested we go out for coffee. But it was too early, we couldn’t find anything open. I just drove around and we ended up driving all the way to Lonavala.
What did we talk about? Oh, many things. She told me she was looking for new rooms because Rohit and Sia were getting married, and she couldn’t afford that place alone.
She also told me she had just lost her job. She used to work at a boutique. She said the owner was jealous of her because customers preferred to deal with her, and the last straw fell when the owner’s husband stared at her when he came in to pick up his wife one evening. I had no reason then, for not believing her – you see, she was very attractive and I could very well imagine most men staring at her… But Sia told me later that she had been fired for turning up late to work most of the time and for taking too many days off – often without notice.
Oh no, I have no idea what she did with all those days off. She was a whimsical creature, you see. She would just take off at a moment’s notice. Like that day, us driving to Lonavala. You know me, I haven’t done anything like that in the six months since I’ve known you. It’s not like me. But when I was with her… it was like I was different. It was like she was imagining me into this more interesting version of myself.