That afternoon, I had some task out of home. So I entered the bathroom quite early in the morning to have a shower. I shaved, and slowly undressed myself to enter the tub. I took a long time to take bath, imagining many pleasurable things, and as I did, I was not spared by faces that were familiar to me.
“How long are you taking? The phone has rung two or three times.”
“You could have said I was having a shower.”
“That won’t believe. What can I do?”
“Whose call was that?”
“They won’t tell their names. They just say— Bhauji, I am speaking.”
“Didn’t you recognize from the voice?”
“Oh, what a talkative man you are. Come straight. Aren’t you done yet?”
“OK; I am coming/”
I opened the bathroom door and came out. I went straight into the dining room and sat on the table. Meena was busy peeling potatoes.
“You want tea or coffee?” said Meena, as soon as she saw me.
“I want hot milk.”
“How much you joke! Do you think you are still young like before?”
“Why talk of the past things? Things were different before; they have changed now, haven’t they? You look more youthful these days.”
“You talk of none but youthful maids. Strange that you still need them so much. You should have sometimes talked about your busy schedules.”
“Do my schedules stop me? Aren’t you busy too? Like me, why are you too interested in being young?” I said to Meena, by way of kidding. “Beware, lest someone should lift and carry you away.”
“Will you stay quiet if anyone takes me away?”
I stared straight at Meena’s face. She continued to smile. I also reciprocated with a gentle smile.
“I will go out and return soon. Do I need to bring anything when I come?” I said, standing from my place.
“For me, nothing is tastier than the mince the black boars from Dharan.”
“I must see where they see the stiff mince.”
“You don’t need to look for stiff mince. I only want to laugh when I remember the goat mince.”
“Someone told me we find horse mince imported from abroad.”
“We find the mince of our choice at every street in Thamel. You got me? If you wait for an hour, you find it hot, just grilled and served. You can find the brand of your choice: soft if you want, and hard, if you opt for that. You also get mince of mild hardness.”
“What is the type you like the most?”
No sooner had I said this with a smile, Meena pranced at me with a frown and said, “Like yours. Got it?”
I went out without answering to that. I had hardly reached out of the threshold when Meena yelled from window: “Bring some hard cheese from Thamel when you come back.”
“Of anything you find.” Waving her hand to me, she said, “Do not delay.”
Ghyanu came in with a cup of coffee in her hand. Keeping the cup on the table with a smile, she said, “What shall I prepare for lunch?”
“Meena had called last night, hadn’t she? Why didn’t you inform me then?”
“Yes, she had called. It was around 1 o’clock at night,” Gyanu said, smiling.
“Why are you laughing? What’s wrong? Did she suspect that I was here?”
“She knew after I told her,” Gyanu said.
“You could have kept it secret.”
“Meena has become so lecherous these days,” said Gyanu, by way of kidding. “She calls me, saying she’s alone. Unable to decide what I should do, I said Sister Shova had just turned up. Then she said I would better stay back, and put down the receiving, chiding me.
“I had heard of her marriage before I came here,” Shova said.
“She marries so often. Before one or two months have elapsed, she leaves one and picks another,” Gyanu says.
“Who is she with at the moment?”
“She has caught a young man, and has kept him at her own home. He is such a nice man, you know, though he is rather skinny. He has a graceful face,” Gyanu says.
“Shouldn’t you have told me everything last night?”
“I had peeped in. You were standing before the mirror, and changing your clothes.”
“Shameless woman! How could you see that? So you saw me naked, didn’t you?”
“I also saw you shaking it with both your hands. When I also felt like stroking, I rushed back to my room. This made me forgot of Meena’s phone call altogether,” Gyanu said.
“I even thought I should call you, but I didn’t, thinking you were asleep. I wanted to put the lights off and stay all naked. I was sleeping soundly after a peg of alcohol when my eyes feel on the house across the lane.”
Before Shobha had said anything more, Gyanu interrupted: “Did you see it clearly?”
The phone rang in the meantime.
“Gyanu, go and receive it. Maybe it is for you,” Shobha said, staring at Gyanu’s face.
“It can also be yours. Maybe the dogs knew of your coming.”
“We could perhaps shoo away the stray dogs, but it’s the horses that bother us more. I had hardly reached here when I got a phone call from Delhi.” Shova said this with a smile, and added, “Don’t know what the horses are like, here.”
“They are not inferior,” said Gyanu, laughing. “Keep watching; you will see them soon.”
“Oh, I had almost forgotten the lanky one,” said Shobha, laughing. “He had come to stay here for a couple of days one year ago. When I was in Delhi, I heard he killed himself by shooting a bullet through the head. He happened to kill a girl with his nightlong tortures. It’s hard to believe.”
“Some four or five days ago,” said Gyanu, apparently trying to clear her thought, “two girls had come looking for you. They said they had to meet at any cost. I told them you had left the place long back, but they wouldn’t believe. When they said they would stay here for a couple of days, I was almost terrified.”
“Did they stay?”
“Would I allow? When I yelled asking them to leave, one of them wrote this in a letter, and gave it to me, asking me to hand it over to Shobha. The other one glared at me and said you didn’t care to meet him though they had come from such a far place. She said, she would drag and hurl me away, if had been on her side.”
“That’s how they are,” said Shobha nonchalantly, and asked where I had kept that piece of paper.
“It’s there under your bed.”
“What did they say before leaving?” Shobha asked, smiling.
“One of them said she would see us. She left, saying she would return with Sister Shobha. The other one came close to me, said her friend was rather unruly. Then she pushed her hand into my breasts and stroked them. Then she licked my lips with her tongue. She stoked the whole of my breasts with her hand and said they were so soft. She left me speechless.”
“I think they didn’t suck your tongue, did they?”
“I didn’t open my mouth. She tried a lot. Yet she played with her hand as much as she wanted. Oh, how gripping her hands were; they won’t let me go. She left me only after her friend started yelling from without. Do you what she said before leaving?” said Gyanu with a smile, staring at Shobha’s face.
“I think you know that. How would I know? Was I there with you?”
“I don’t mean that. Just sharing. She said she liked my brazier.”
When the sound of a bell someone was ringing from outside started wafting in the wind, Gyanu stopped talking and went to address the door. Outside, she saw Meena and a man standing.
“Oh, it’s Sister Meena,” she shouted in a loud voice. She hugged Meena tightly and said, “Let’s go in. Sister Shobha is alone inside.”
Meena and the man coming with him entered the drawing room. Gyanu closed the main door and joined them. She requested both to sit down. Leaving the man back in the drawing room, Meena went out.
“Shobha, where you are hiding?” Meena entered Shobha’s room shouting.
Gyanu stayed back in the drawing room, looking at the man therein. Both were silent, though.
“I think I have seen your somewhere,” said the man, smiling.
“You are Bharat, aren’t you?” said Gyanu, trying to tease him. “It seems you have become quite serious.”
Shobha and Meena also came in, laughing. As soon as he saw Shobha, Bharat stood up from his seat and greeted. Shobha looked at Bharat’s face and smiled.
“He is my new friend,” said Meena, introducing the man. “We got close in the past two months.”
“I’m Shobha,” said Shobha, smiling. “I and Meena are… I don’t know what to say…old fiends…like nail and finger. We cannot do without each other. We cannot stay separated.”
“Can’t tell if it is Meena or Bharat who needs to be separated,” said Gyanu, staring at everyone. “Sister Shobha is in a predicament.”
“Meena, you can have your lunch here, can’t you?” Shobha said.
“We could,” she said, staring at Bharat, “but Bharat has been invited somewhere. Bharat, what shall we do?”
“You can lunch here and go. Can’t you come to receive Meena in the evening? If not, we’ll drop here,” Shobha said.
“Do what is convenient,” said Bharat, staring at their faces.
“Gyanu, make the meals ready,” Shobha says.
“What shall we cook?” Gyanu asks.
“Cook whatever you want, but I will cook the fish I brought yesterday myself,” says Shobha, joking. “It’s a wonderful fish; quite tasty.”
“Do you remember an old man showing us his fish, when we had been out to buy fish one day, last year? I almost found it difficult to stand up,” says Meena, laughing. “If these days, his fish come to my memory whenever I remember the old man,” she adds.
“That’s what Meena is like. She always burst out laughing. On top of that, she is quite fond of fish. She need soft, boneless fish,” says Shobha, and laughs.
“What a shameless man he was! How his thing was moving as it dangled.”
“And the old woman shake it though they act of pooh-poohing it,” says Gyanu, kidding.
“But he happened to hide it quickly if he saw that mad woman. She pelted stones at him. She picked fish from her tin and hurled them at him,” says Shobha, staring at Gyanu. “We’ll be wasting the entire day if we started talking on such issues,” she adds.
“Gyanu, do we have beer in the fridge?” says Meena, staring at Bharat. “Can you have a little? I want it so badly.”
“We have as much as we want,” says Gyanu, laughing. “Come; let’s go to the balcony upstairs and drink. Make some mince into pickle. We already have some prawn and cheese.”
Bharat stands up staring at Meena’s face.
Perhaps she understand certain things, Shobha stares at Bharat and says, “If she can’t return today, maybe we can give you a call, can’t we?”
“There is nothing very urgent. We have told lies twice. He is the father of my ex-girlfriend. He loves me so much; considers me like his own child. I cannot say no whenever he says anything,” Bharat says.
“You may go and come back. We will stay back, drinking.”
Bharat leaves. All three of them move to the balcony upstairs. After they have sat around a round table, Gyanu says, “Shall I bring?”
“Can’t we drink wine?” says Shobha, stroking Meena on her cheeks. “How lovely your cheeks are!”
Gyanu leaves the balcony laughing.
“Gyanu would not let me touch her cheeks. Once I happened to bite them in a drunken fit. Oh, how big they looked next morning, having swollen up! There were clear teeth-marks there. Oh, how ashamed I was of myself,” said Shobha, teasing. “Won’t Bharat suck them and enjoy some day?”
“So you have started flirting even more after you visited Delhi,” says Meena, laughing. “The one you left is even more unruly; he won’t let go of her even for a second. If he meets us when drunk, it’s possible he will leave us dead in bed.”
“I left him because he was a bit too much. Oh, do not mention his love; that was unfathomable. But what could I do if my body could not withstand him? If he could spend a night easily with two or three, what option did I have but leave him? I do love him; I remember his face so often. Whenever he came to grab me while drunk, I had no option but to bend down and cry.”
Gyanu returns with snacks. When everything has been arrayed on the table, she goes in once again. When he returns with wine, beer and drinks, and decants them in glasses.
“What would you drink?” Gyanu asks, smiling.
“What would you offer? Tell is yourself,” says Meena, jesting. “It’s liquid that we shall have. I doesn’t matter whose we drink, does it?”
“Bharat didn’t come back,” says Shobha, looking at Gyanu.
“The day slips off once he goes to Prakash’s,” says Gyanu, laughing.
“But you couldn’t make it dark,” says Shobha, looking at Meena. “It’s not good, Meena. The most suitable one for you was that man. You may leave Bharat. You will remember my words when it is too late.”
“What shall I serve?” says Gyanu, lifting the bottles. “Serve whichever you like,” says Shobha, laughing.
“Red Label for all three of us,” Shobha says.
Gyanu served Red Label in three glasses.
After the glassed have been arrayed close by, Meena says, “I want some water.”
“I need a horse,” Shobha says.
“I’ll drink it neat,” Gyanu says. For unknown reason, she goes way from the balcony running and enters their living room.
“She perhaps forgot to shut down the gas or the oven. Else she wouldn’t run like that,” Shobha says.
“Shobha, do you know one thing?” Meena says with curiosity.
“Some has made Gyanu pregnant,” Meena says.
“She often flirted with the old man living in my neighborhood. Or, could it be Bharat as well?”
Gyanu goes in, making her face graceful.
“Oh, it’s Bharat coming back.”
“So you are drinking Red Laden at broad daylight? Gyanu, also serve me some Red Label,” says Bharat, entering the room with a smile.
[Translation of Lohani’s “Kasko Bhanne Khai”. Translated by Kishan Karki]