By Neel Anil Panicker

Taken aback is an understatement.
Harleen was in absolute hellish shock.
None…I stress, NO ONE…not one living soul in this world, in her entire over four decades of life on Planet Earth had ever said that to her.
That whole night she couldn’t sleep a wink. Peace was a million miles away.
She tossed and turned, getting up and emptying umpteen glasses of water as her otherwise sharp mind tried to come to terms with what he had said.

It was an exercise in utter futility

By morning she was exactly where she were the previous evening___dangling in netherworld, absolutely at her wit’s end.
An otherwise bold, strong and independent minded woman who was now an apology of her earlier self—confused, more than wee bit agitated, her mind a cauldron of mixed feelings.

A sense of surrealism had enveloped her like a black shroud, shitting out all light, both literally  and figuratively.

That evening she chose to go to the park, albeit a tad earlier than her regular time.

She shambled towards the corner bench, her feet unsteady.
Sitting down she went over and over again the happenings of the previous evening.

She had just sat down after her daily 30 minute daily walking routine around the four corners of the colony residential park.
No, she wasn’t a fast walker.
No, she didn’t believe in the dictum_the quicker you eat, the better it is for your body’s metabolism.
A tad tired, she had just put her feet down.
A cool breeze wafter in from behind her.

She turned around just in time to see a man sit on the bench beside hers.

It was Asmit.
She knew him.
In passing.
Had seen earlier too.
The two had even exchanged pleasantries.
Nothing more.
Just a regular, very formal exchange.
Nothing more.

Harleen had opened her phone screen, looking for her favourite Ed Sheeran number.

That was when he spoke.
“I find you sexually very attractive”.

A what? The words died in her throat.
She gulped.

What did he just say? Did he just say that?
Did this guy whom she hardly knew, who she didn’t know, with whom she had exchanged no more than 4 to 5 words at the most…did this man tell her this…I FIND YOU SEXUALLY VERY ATTRACTIVE?
Dod he really?
Without any preamble?
Did he say these earthshaking words, these words of pure sacrilege to her, to Harleen, a mature, strong, capable woman with a mind of her own?


“Yes, I did so”.
The same voice, a rich timbre, pure baritone once again smashed into her eardrums.
Harleen looked up.
There he was…the near unknown stranger of the previous evening.
There he was, smiling that mischievous utterly bewitching of his, his charcoal black eyes, twinkling in the after glow of the moonlight, boring into hers, as if trying to pass on a secret message between two beating hearts.
As Harleen looked on, this time roo absolutely befuddled and lost, the voice continued, “Yes, it’s true…I am sexually attached to you and would like to take this ro the next level”.

And with he was gone.
As quietly as he had come.
A calm before the storm.
Or, was it the storm itself?

Harleen had no clue whatsoever.
No fig of an idea.
She simply, for the second consecutive evening sat there, at the bench, alone, her mind a daze, her thoughts a maze, a cauldron of levitating emotions pondering, wondering whether all that had happened to her in the past 24 hours were true, or was she living in some magical land, or worse, rambling in a perpetual state of hallucination.

#neelanilpanicker #flash #fiction #shortstory #life #love

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