These two letters lit up her screen as her cell phone screen illuminated due to the arrival of a text message. The number of the sender was unknown. Samina glanced at her phone and decided to ignore the text.
A few minutes later, her mobile vibrated again, it was the same unknown number this time the sms contained a cheesy romantic verse about fate and love. Since she had nothing else to do, she decided to have some fun with the person texting her. She texted him back: ‘what’s the use of fate, love and friendship; when a lack of credit prevents two people from realising their destiny?’
‘If a little credit is all that’s required for us to realise our destiny -then you got it.’
Samina’s cell buzzed again the contents of the text startled her a little, it was a message from the cellular network informing her that Rs.500 had been allocated to her in the form of prepaid balance.
‘There you go dear, 500 credit. Now let’s realise our destiny!’
‘R u sure u haven’t put one zero too many?’
‘What difference does one zero make?’
‘Well it can make a millionaire a billionaire’
‘Isn’t dat 3 zeros? :P’
‘U know what I mean?’
‘ok. Ok. I got a question, how hot is it right now?’
‘I don’t know- you tell me’
‘Hot enough to break da ice; I’m Salman by the way. What do you call yourself besides beautiful?’
‘How do u know that I’m not some random guy pretending to be a girl?’
‘You’re not a guy, I’m pretty sure of that.’
‘How do u know 4 sure?’
‘The first text u sent me shows that u’re not a girl’
‘Ok fine, but I’m not one of those girls into those weird frandships sending u stupid pix and stuff’
‘I give u my word; I will be the perfect gentleman. The male friend u never had; but please don’t make me ur brother.’
‘why? I told u that I’m not into those kinds of frandship’
‘Neither am I, but I don’t want to close that door forever. There is a chance, no matter how small, that this budding friendship might one day blossom into a relationship, not the stupid childish friendship, but a real, mature adult relationship.’
Samina was intrigued by the last text. It showed maturity beyond what she had encountered from the immature guys in her college and school. Now that she had commenced university, she noted that most of her friends were either engaged or involved with someone. She felt a little left out, this led to her longing for a male companion to fulfil some emotional needs that did not seem to go away after endless conversations with friends and cousins.
She did not dare broach the subject with her parents; both were strict creatures with a mentality about male female relations that would have fitted in perfectly with any social setting before the First World War. They believed in no unsupervised interactions between boys and girls, this was a major hindrance in Samina’s social life. Consequently, she attended virtually none of the social events at her college as they were co-ed.
Keeping in view all of this, she decided that currently her best way of pursuing any sort of relationship with a boy would be through her cell phone. She could do this without any major repercussions. She replied:
‘Alright, I’ll keep that window open- for now. But no funny stuff, any stupid demands from ur side I’m blocking ur no. we clear? I’m Sam btw’
‘Ok Sam, we’re clear. What’s ur Facebook id? I want to ad u’
‘Let’s first see how this goes.. .’
A few months had passed since the events mentioned above. Trying to stay as guarded as possible, she disclosed minimum personal details to keep her id secret. Salman was also not the pushy type and didn’t probe as much for personal details; he was more interested in her personality.
Samina started feeling growing more affectionate of her mobile friend and told him so. One day she texted him:
‘U knw, I’m glad that I put u in da friendzone and not the bhai zone.’
‘I think you might be getting out from there soon enough.’
Half an hour later Salman replied
‘Y did u take so long to reply?’
‘I ran into a problem..’
‘I had to explain to my family why I was shouting, jumping and dancing all of a sudden.’
Samina smiled as she replied:
‘What did u tell them?’
‘First, I deleted ur msgs, then I changed your contact name to Irshad Generator frm Sam’
‘but what did u tell them?’
‘I won a bet with my friend. Don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone about us. Have u?’
‘No, I can’t begin to explain the problems I will face.’
‘Same here. Don’t worry, u’ll be my dirty little secret! 😛 U don’t have to explain anything to me, I know, I have a sister too. I would never allow her to talk to some random strange guy.’
‘Yet here you are texting away. How hypocritical!’
‘You’re right, I will stop texting u.’
Samina felt a pang of guilt and very selfish as she replied to the text.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘U fell 4 it. I would never stop texting u. Y would I drive away the one bright spot in my life?’
Samina’s affection for Salman grew even more after this, she now had a desire to meet the person who had gently been pulling at the strings of her heart. She didn’t raise this with Salman and fortunately for her, he finally mustered enough courage to ask here for a meeting. They had been in touch for almost 11 months now, Samina’s shyness, had stopped her from exchanging picture with him. After weeks of persuasion on Salman’s part she finally relented and agreed to meet him.
She couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but she felt that something was off. They agreed to meet a local fast food place and share a meal. Salman kept pressing her for pictures, but Samina refused saying that she wanted his reaction to be genuine the first time that they met.
After days of careful planning and calculation, Samina made an hour long window in which to meet Salman. A class would have to be skipped, but it would be worth it.
They arranged to meet at Hyder’s fast food restaurant, it was a private place, the time was odd- after lunch hence, and the chances of them either of them bumping into any acquaintances was remote. On the agreed date, before she left the house, Samina stuffed a burqa with a ninja style face veil in her bag. She smiled at the irony of her situation- the need to conceal her identity, she had previously sneered at girls who hid behind burqas when on dates and now she was about to do the same thing herself.
Her heart was racing, her breath quickened as she made her way inside the dimly lit restaurant. The glass was tinted limiting the effect of the bright sun outside, the lights inside were also dim giving the place a gloomy look or dark romantic setting depending on how you looked at it. The place was deserted save for a chubby balding man sitting alone in the dining area. Samina felt annoyed at being the first one to arrive, she had repeatedly instructed Salman to arrive early as she had a limited window in which to meet him.
She sat at the mahogany booth at the end of the dining area. The waiter started to approach her, she mouthed a ‘no’, when he didn’t stop walking, then she remembered that her face was covered, she shook her head and told him that she was waiting for somebody. She surveyed the dining area, contemplating how she would eat without staining the veil cover on her mouth. She texted Salman ‘Where r u?’
She heard a text message tone right after she sent the text. The dining wall was still occupied by two customers- Samina and the chubby balding man. A thought occurred to Samina but she put it out of her head, it was just coincidence. She heard tapping of a mobile keypad, which sounded pretty loud in the silent dining hall where the only sound was the low purr of the air conditioner. As soon as the typing ceased, her cell phone vibrated, announcing the arrival of a text.
‘At the restaurant as promised’
‘R u sure?’ Samina asked as she glanced at the chubby guy as he was texting again. She had a sinking feeling in a gut. It was just another coincidence, she thought. Again there was a brief sound of a mobile keypad being used, and as soon as it ceased, her screen showed an incoming message.
‘Prove it, describe ur surroundings’
Again the chubby guy’s cell phone rang; he looked around briefly and then started typing out his text.
‘The dining hall is dimly lit, it almost empty except me and another girl sitting at the far end of the area.’
Again as soon as the typing ceased the text message arrived, the contents of this particular message confirmed Samina’s worst fear. Her heart sank, she started crying silently, her tears staining the black veil, a loud sniffle from her prompted Salman to look up from the table, and he turned out to be the middle aged administrative assistant at her university. Samina got up and quickly walked out from the restaurant before Salman could figure out what happened. As soon as she reached outside the restaurant, she texted him:
‘Sorry, can’t make it today. Some other time maybe.’ She contemplated including a sad face emoticon but decided against it. She wanted her final text to Salman to be as impersonal as possible. Her heart had been broken, she was devastated, she wished with all her heart that all the evils of the world would ascend from hell and kill the bald moron who had broken her heart.
She wiped her eyes as she heard loud swearing coming from inside the restaurant. Her mobile rang, it was Salman, in all their months’ texting, and they had never heard each other’s voice. She ignored the call. She leaned against the wall opposite Hyder’s restaurant and watched mayhem unfold. More screaming ensued, a chair flew outside the restaurant and landed on the sidewalk, Salman had broken the glass door with a chair. He was then dragged out by the collar by two waiters, shattered glass covered the sidewalk and asphalt as he was dragged kicking and screaming and thrown on the road.
His rage had not been supressed, he was still shouting, cursing and his face had a dangerous reddish tinge to it. The waiters were also enraged now, and the two who had dragged him out started beating him. Samina could not see clearly but heard the cries of pain as the waiters repeatedly kicked Salman in the ribs.
A crowd had started to gather to witness this encounter; a few even took some jabs at the scorned Romeo. Samina stood watching Salman being thrashed senseless for almost fifteen minutes. As the mob dispersed, Samina left as well, satisfied that justice had been done.
She quietly made her way home, she thanked her lucky stars she had found out what Salman was before she did something that she would regret, and she also regretted the fact that she had been deceived.
When she entered her home, she heard laughter coming from the TV room. She stood at the doorway of the TV room and saw the clip of Salman being kicked in the ribs being played on a loop and the headline read
“Angry Romeo breaks restaurant when date didn’t show up.”
“Come sit Samina, look at this! How stupid can some people be?” Samina’s father gestured her to the sofa next to him.
Samina pushed the black cloth hanging from her bag inside her bag as she zipped it again. She sat down on the sofa seat smiled and said “Yes, very stupid!”