Withdrawal Syndrome – A conversation

Author’s Note: ‘Conversations’ is a series of fictional short stories comprising of conversations between the fictional ‘ME’ and a fictional ‘SHE’

SHE – Who drinks coffee at 1 in the afternoon?
ME – (grins) Well, if you walk into that coffee shop with me, you would know.!
SHE – Wow.! Instead, why don’t we walk into that FINE-DINE across the road and find out who on the freaking earth would have lunch at 1 in the afternoon..!

Was she irritated? I grew confused and kept quiet for a moment.

ME – Okay.! Tell me one thing. On a scale of 1-10, how hungry are you?
SHE – Well, I don’t know about hungry.! (pause) But if you ask me how angry I am on the scale of 1-10, I would say that the scale is about to snap now.

She was certainly irritated.

ME – Did you have coffee in the morning?
SHE – No.. I didn’t..
ME – See.. there you go..!
SHE – What?
ME – The withdrawal syndrome!
SHE – (confused) Eh?
ME – You consumed zero caffeine today.! And you have already begun to show the withdrawal syndrome..!
SHE – Look! I don’t even know if that was an attempt at humor. But I am real hungry now..!
ME – There you go.! Symptom number one – Increased Hunger
SHE – (restraining anger) Do you even realize that you are seconds away from getting yelled at?
ME – And that would be the second symptom. Irritability coupled with anger.!

I grinned, but she didn’t. My laugh died a silent death.
She stared at me for a while and began to walk away. She entered the restaurant and I followed her into it. She sat down and I picked up the menu.

ME – (surfing through the menu) Okay listen.! You want to start with some soup?
SHE – Yes..! Let us..!
ME – (confused) But they don’t have soup in here.!
SHE – (shouts) Then for god’s sake, order something that they have in here..!

The entire restaurant fell silent for a moment. I fought awkward glances from everyone in there.

ME – This has gone out of my hands.!
SHE – What?
ME – First it was caffeine withdrawal syndrome. And now you are showing ‘Soup withdrawal syndrome’.!

She didn’t respond, not with words. She grabbed the menu card from my hands and quickly glanced through the items.
Waiter arrived at our table.

SHE – Give me number 4 in the starter and number 7 in the main course. And make it spicy.!

She passed on the menu to me. I snubbed the menu card and placed my order.

ME – (to the waiter) Listen. Give me number ten in the starter and number nine in the main course.!
WAITER – (confused) But there’s no ten in the starter.!
ME – What? No ten? You got a nine in there?
WAITER – We got only eight items in the starters sir..!
ME – What’s the eighth?
WAITER – Lava chicken sir..

I think for a while.

ME – Why don’t you do one thing. Prepare Lava chicken and make it extra spicy. Make it your tenth item in the menu, name it ‘volcanic chicken’ and bring it to my table.

I grinned at the waiter and he threw an unhappy smile at me, before exiting into the kitchen. And we dived deep into 2 minutes of silence.

SHE – Okay listen.! I am sorry.! The hunger got on my nerves.! And the mood swings thanks to the cycle of my month..
ME – That’s okay.! (smiles) Thank god I stayed calm..!
SHE – (smiles) Else?
ME – Else, I would have missed an opportunity of having starter number ten, main course number nine with the lady number one.

She smiled, gently. And then, Silence…

ME – And wow.! Look at us.! I was a lunch boy and you were a coffee girl.! But today we have opposite cravings..!
SHE – (smiles) Well.. Things gotta change right?
ME – Yes..! Like the coffee that they served in your favorite coffee place.
SHE – What about it?
ME – Earlier it was a bad coffee place..
SHE – (laughs gently) And you like it now..?
ME – Na.! Now they have gone worse.! But things not good for you, that’s what we get addicted to..!

Gentle laughs exchanged. Soft Jazz in the restaurant, continues to play. Soft Jazz in the restaurant, continues to play.

SHE – (smiles) You have changed.! A lot.!
ME – How about my sense of humor? Still intact..?
SHE – It”s like my favorite coffee place. It has gone from bad to worse (laughs)
ME – Ah.! Beware.! You might pick addiction.!

We both laugh gently, yet again. Followed by, awkward silence..

ME – Anyway.. As you said, things gotta change and so should people. We are meeting after a year and I sincerely hope that I am coming across as a better person and not a different one

She didn’t speak. Me neither. Waiter arrived at our table with the orders. We slowly began to munch the starters.

SHE – What was running in your mind, when you asked us stay away from each from each other other for a year??
ME – You know I am weird, don’t you?

SHE smiled softly.

ME – Hmm… you know when you start watching movies, reading stories, you sort of begin to imagine the ‘would be happy moments’ – Scripted beautifully, executed to perfection.

I grabbed a tissue, wiped my mouth and continued.

ME – I thought an year of staying away, would induce longings and when we finally meet, it would be one of the happiest moments in our lives
SHE – (poignant smile) Did that work?
ME – You tell me..!
SHE – Well… I don’t know.! This is strange. It’s completely awkward (pause) It’s like I know you, but I don’t. And it’s this strange confusion.! If all the memories that we had together, was it real or was it figment of imagination? or a beautiful dream that I had as a kid that’s appearing blurred now?

Poignant silence…

ME – Tell me one thing?
SHE – What?
ME – Am I coming across as a stranger?

silence..

SHE – May be… yes.. (pause) I mean, I can still see the weird you.! But I think it’s me.! I think I’ve changed as a person
ME – So you no longer interested in trivial talks? weird conversations and poor humor?
SHE – I don’t know..
ME – Well.. I know..
SHE – What?
ME – It’s the withdrawal syndrome..
SHE – From coffee?
ME – From ME..

Silence..

ME – Well… I guess, you are right.! We are strangers….

I get up and made an exit from the restaurant, leaving her in pensive silence.
*****************************************************************************
After ten minutes….

ME – Are you expecting someone?

I walked into the restaurant and pointed at the chair across her table. SHE frowned in confusion, and then smiled gently.

ME – Ah. I am here in the town after an year. The town has changed, a lot. Afraid that I would be lost, I was looking for a person to have a lunch conversation with. Would you mind?

She smiled gently.

ME – I shall take that as a yes…

The waiter arrived with the bill.

ME – So lady, what will you have?
SHE – I had my lunch. I could stay until you finish yours..
ME – Oh.. Then how about some bad coffee?

Without waiting for her response, I turned to the waiter.

ME – Get us two cups of bad coffee
WAITER – Sir.. but we have only latte, espresso, cappuccino, Macchiato..
ME – Well.. Any of these would anyway make a great bad coffee.. Get us two cups..
WAITER leaves in confusion.

ME – (smiles) So..Let me start with the formal question. What do you do for living?

She held her silence, before she spoke.

SHE – Listen… I know you are trying hard. I want to smile, I want to talk to you. And as much I think about it, its making me increasingly uncomfortable and filling me with awkward feelings.. And I am certain that we can never get to being the old us..!

There was a strange sense of pain. I looked at her for a while and smiled. The jazz playlist continued to play.

ME – May be you are right.. We can never get to being the old ‘us’.. That might spoil all our beautiful memories, the happy pictures that we have in our mind (Pause) But we could try being the new ‘us’…


SHE – And what is the new ‘us’..?


ME – Two strangers.. who’ve met for the first time.. Have a long memorable weird, funny conversation. And while they converse, they also know that this would be their last ever meeting..

I smiled. There was a long silence, before the waiter arrived at our table with the orders. We picked the coffee cups and took our first sips.

SHE – So..Let me start with the formal question. What do you do for living?


                                                                                                                                                       -Chan

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Leave Me Alone – A conversation

ME – So tell me exactly.. What happened?
SHE – It fell into the pool from the first floor .
ME – I thought cats knew how to swim..
SHE – The pool was dry.. it hit the floor..
ME – (laughs) that’s a funny way to die..

SHE glared at me, through her sadness. I stopped laughing and blurted out.

ME – I mean..I am sorry for its death. I do…
SHE – That’s okay..!
ME – So are you okay now?

SHE continued to look sad.

ME – What does the silence mean? That you are not okay?
SHE – The silence means that I want to spend sometime in silence..
ME – (confused) Oh..! Does silence help?
SHE – I don’t know. I will only know if you stop asking me questions and let me be by myself. So, please .. could I get a moment alone?
ME – Yeah. You could. But when do u want it?
SHE – (irked) Now..!

Awkward silence.

ME – I mean.. I am confused now.. Does it mean that I should leave or would you be leaving?

She looked at me for a while, got up and began to walk away. I quickly ran behind her.

ME – Listen..
SHE – (turns around) What?
ME – Why would the cat jump into a water less pool?

SHE was visibly annoyed.

ME – See.. I was trying to understand.. Did it really think that there was water in the pool or did it accidentally slip and fall?
SHE – Na.. It had a rivalry with the cat next door. So that cat plotted a murder, pushed mine from the first floor and made it appear like a suicide.!

Awkward silence and then I break into loud laugh.

ME – You are joking right?
SHE – (restraining) What do you want?

My laugh died…

ME – I want you to smile..
SHE – I shall… I need sometime..

She began to walk away. I began to follow her. She stops, turns around.

SHE – I asked you not to follow me..
ME – (confused).. No you didn’t say that.. You just told me that you want to spend sometime in silence.. So I was following you silently..

She glared at me for a while..

SHE – Okay.. Stop following me, stop talking to me and Leave me alone..
ME – Come on.. You can’t keep adding rules..
SHE – See.. I understand that you want to see me smile.. I shall, eventually. But for now, it’s important for me to be sad for something dear that I have lost..
ME – Why is it so important? I didn’t cry for my dog when it died..
SHE – I never knew that you had a dog..
ME – Apparently we had one, when I was a kid, 4 year old. Car ran over it. But more importantly I didn’t cry..
SHE – You were a kid! Why would you cry?
ME – Well.. I had cried when I had lost my mickey mouse eraser

She looked at me for a while.

SHE – You cried over a lost eraser but not over a dead dog. Wow..! What does that tell about you?

I think for a while..

ME – I don’t know. That’s a difficult question. Don’t confuse me now. You just tell me what should I do to make you smile?
SHE – Leave me alone..
ME – I don’t think that would make you smile..

She began to walk away.

ME – Hey.. I figured out the answer..!
SHE – For what?
ME – I cried over a lot eraser but not over a dead dog. I know what it tells about me…
SHE – What?

ME – That I was a Stupid kid… and that..hmm… being stupid helps.. See I know that your cat had..
SHE – Stop calling it a cat.! It had a name..
ME – And what was it? Cat Winslet?
SHE – No. it was a male. Winnie..
ME – Winnie is a nice name. But anyway.. See.. when Winnie was alive, it made you smile right.? Now that it’s gone, you think that being sad is a way to pay respects. But I feel that Winslet..
SHE – Winnie..

ME – Yeah sorry.. I feel that Winnie would be so offended to see you forcing yourself to be sad. Winnie would be like – “come on girl. I died, you cried and I smiled. But now don’t stretch it too far. Get over it. Stop overacting”

Silence..

SHE – Was that a joke?
ME – No.. It was a beautiful philosophy. But I can come up with a joke – What would you call a cat which serves ice cream?
SHE – Sorry.. I am in no mood to listen to jokes…
ME – It’s a puzzle for god’s sake.. I will leave you alone if you answer it..

She continues to walk, briskly towards her car.

ME – Moreover the puzzle has a cat in it.. Please.. You got to respect cats.

SHE stops, looks at me.

SHE – All rite.. You are going to leave me alone if I get the answer right.

I nod and she begins to think…

SHE – cat-all-ice-is? as in catalysis..

ME – Well.. This sounds like a better answer than the one that I had in mind..
SHE – And what did you have in mind?

I smiled at her and walked towards her car. She followed me.

ME – Well.. A cat which serves ice cream is called… ( I opened the car door)…A gift that would make you smile..

I kept looking at her, with a hope that my SURPRISE GIFT would make her smile.
Her expression changed for sure. But wait.! She isn’t smiling. What’s wrong..!

I looked inside the car – The ice cream splattered all over the seat and her beautiful cushioned seat torn apart. It wasn’t a pleasant sight.
The only thing that was intact was the bow on the kitten’s head with a tiny label which read- “CAT WINSLET”.

ME – (nervous smile) I think you are right. I should leave you alone… That always helps.

And I sped away….!