By Shevlin Sebastian
“Don’t break up your marriage like I did,” said Suresh Chacko, as he sipped a glass of whisky at the bar of the Regency Club in Kolkata. “In the end, you will lose everything.”
There were only two other men, one bald, with bushy black eyebrows and the other, a thin reed of a man, with black spectacles, who sat on long stools with their elbows resting on the counter. The muted lights, embedded in the false ceiling, just above the bar, looked like so many unblinking eyes, while the rest of the room was in semi-darkness. There was a mirror placed right across the wall, behind the counter, and in front were small glass shelves on which were placed bottles of whisky, rum, and vodka.
Sitting next to Suresh was Leslie Jones, the club’s swimming champion. He had the white skin of a Westerner, and his biceps rippled in the tight, red sleeveless t-shirt that he wore, with the legend, ‘I am a hero’ penciled in italic white across the chest. He had translucent blue eyes, straw-coloured hair, and red lips, all the result of his Anglo-Indian heritage.
“You are young,” Suresh continued. “You feel on top of the world, a hero, as your t-shirt says. The women are coming in droves. So why stick to one woman, right? Why stick to your wife, right? So, the idea is to screw around. One doesn’t get chances like this all the time but do you know what happens in the end?”
“No man, I don’t,” Leslie said, as he shook his head rapidly, like he was saying no. He was trying to shake off a buzz caused by too many drinks.
Suresh stared at Leslie’s flushed face in silence for a few moments. Then he said in a grave voice: “You lose everything…and I mean, EVERYTHING.”
“Like how?” Leslie asked, as he looked sideways at Suresh’s lips, which had turned grey because of excessive smoking.
“Take my life as an example,” Suresh said, “I was a young stud like you. Most of the women in the club, especially the older ones, have messed-up marriages. They are always looking out for some excitement. And there I was, in tip-top condition, because I played first division hockey and football and they all parted their legs for me…and now look, what has happened to me. Not a single one looks at me. Of course, my paunch sticks out a mile. I have a double chin. I am not physically fit at all. They have also become older and fat like me, but now, they are trying for guys like you. When you reach 38, my age, they will throw you aside. You are not going to get women all your life.”
Leslie pursed his lips in a mock grimace and yawned.
“Don’t be cock smart,” Suresh said, irritated by Leslie’s casual reaction. “I like you and that’s why I am warning you. You should listen to my life story and then, maybe, you will understand that what I am saying is the truth.”
“I didn’t mean to put you off Suresh,” Leslie said. “It’s just that I was feeling a little sleepy.”
The balding man placed a twenty-rupee note beneath his empty glass as a tip for Ali the bartender, who smiled and said, “Thank you.” The bald man nodded and the two men left silently. Only Suresh and Leslie remained in the bar. The quietness was interrupted now and then by the rattle of the Voltas air-conditioner under a window.
Suresh lit a cigarette, with a gold lighter, exhaled a stream of smoke upwards, and began: “I first met Kathy at the annual Christmas Eve dance. She had just become a member. Her parents were from Asansol and her father had come to Kolkata on a transfer and took a flat on Kimber Street. I can’t remember in which company the old man worked in. When I first saw Kathy at the dance--she was sitting at one of the many tables in the hall, with her parents--my legs turned to jelly. I am not exaggerating…she was wearing a bright red mini skirt that rode up her thighs and had the most lovely, long legs that I have ever seen. She was 18 years old, chestnut brown hair that she had casually tied with a red ribbon, smooth arms and nice, firm boobs. I was instantly attracted. I approached her for a dance. Most of the other guys—Stan, Ashley, Ben, Davis and Eugene—were also interested but they hesitated to make a move. After all, she was new to the club. I had no such problems. I just walked up to their table and said, ‘Excuse me, could I have a dance with you?’ She looked up, a half smile on her face. Since she was sitting with her parents, she didn’t know whether to say yes or no. She looked at her mother and I quickly said, ‘Madam, can I take your daughter for a dance.’ The mother, who was in her forties and looked beautiful herself, smiled at me and said, ‘Go ahead, Kathy.’ The father also nodded.
“So Kathy and I started dancing. She was at that age when she was ready to fall in love. And on that Christmas Eve, because I was the only one who approached her, she fell in love with me. Although, as you can see, I am not conventionally handsome. I have dark skin, a snub nose, but at that time, I had muscular shoulders, a V-shaped upper body and a slim waist.”
“Blowing your trumpet, Suresh?” Leslie said, with a smirk.
“Yeah, it’s been gathering dust for years. And you don’t need to blow yours, since I am already doing it for you.”
Leslie burst out laughing and tapped Suresh on his back, showing his appreciation for his repartee.
“That night I felt very smart,” Suresh continued. “I was doing pretty well also. I was working in my pop’s furniture business and had a flat in Sunny Park. I had a car, membership in the Regency and I was getting married pussy regularly…what more could a young man want, except maybe, to fall in love with a beautiful, tall chick with smooth Amul butter legs.”
“Utterly butterly delicious,” Leslie said and grinned.
The ever-smiling Ahmed said, “Please Sahibs, finish your drinks. The bar is about to close.”
“Ahmed Bhai,” Suresh said, as he put two fingers inside his shirt pocket and took out a hundred-rupee note in a smooth movement. “Leave us alone for some time. I am telling this young man the story of my life.”
“This is a fucked up place,” Leslie said in an undertone. “Why do they have to close a bar, of all things, at midnight?”
They watched Ahmed, the peaked white cap on his head, carefully fold the currency note and put it in the front pocket of his uniform. He smiled his thanks and turned to place some Old Monk bottles on a shelf.
“Anyway, as I was saying, Kathy and I became steady dates. Frankly speaking, I couldn’t believe my luck. I mean, to think that this beautiful girl had fallen for me. We courted for a year and decided to get married. I am a Malayali and my parents wanted their only child to have an arranged marriage with a rich Mallu chick from Kerala and get a fat dowry.
“On the other hand, Kathy’s parents had no objections. They knew that there were not too many successful Anglo-Indian guys around, so they felt that their daughter would have a better life with me. As for me, I wanted Kathy since I was not a hardcore Malayali. I was born and brought up in Cal. I can hardly speak Malayalam, let alone, read and write. I felt more in tune with Kathy and the other chicks in Cal.
“Anyway, to cut a long story short, I finally managed to persuade my parents although they had been vehemently opposed at first.
“Kathy and I got married in Christ the King church in Park Circus. We went for our honeymoon to Gangtok. It was a fantastic time. Enjoying the beauty of Nature and doing non-stop humping. She was a good woman: good in bed, good off it, kind, considerate and sharing. I was very happy. I had plenty of money. The business was doing well. We went to the best restaurants and discos. I bought her the best clothes, and she furnished my flat, which my father had gifted to me, in style and elegance. In short, it was a good life but then, like all greedy people, I wanted more from life.
“Sometimes when I came to the bar while Kathy was sitting outside on the lawn and talking to her friends, I would meet the women whom I had sex before my marriage. As soon as they saw me, they smiled and whispered, “Hey Suresh, I miss you. I want you inside me.” And so on and so forth. In a way, your affairs before your marriage come to tempt you all the time. For example, there was Shona, always ready, her marriage in a mess, secretly hating my happiness. Whenever I met her, she would say, ‘Suresh, how about one for old time’s sake?’
In the beginning, I resisted. I wanted very much to be faithful. When I look back now, I realised that I should have become a member of another club. Then, there would not have been such obvious invitations. Anyway, things went along fine, till Kathy became pregnant. For quite a while, we could not have sex because the doctor said so. And you know how horny we Mallus are. Always wanting to screw. Must be due to the coconut oil we put on our heads.”
Leslie laughed and said, “Yea, yeah, I agree. All South Indians are horny, especially the women.”
Suresh smiled and continued, “It was during the pregnancy that I spent an afternoon with Shona. I was feeling a little frustrated and it didn’t help that Kathy did not like to give blowjobs. And Shona had been so relentless in pursuing me. One night at the bar, she told me that her husband was out of town, the servant had gone to her village and she was ‘fucking bored’ out of her mind. So I went and had sex with her. I thought that one session would not make much of a difference but I was wrong. Because, once you start you cannot stop. It was the beginning of the end of our marriage. Whenever the urge arose, I went to Shona. And that went on till Kathy gave birth to a boy.
“When Mark was born, Kathy changed some more. She became engrossed in Mark. She stopped paying me the complete attention I was used to. I cannot blame her because to look after a baby is a 24-hour job, but she seemed obsessed.
“When I returned from the office, feeling tired and depressed, she just smiled, gave me a cup of tea and sat with the baby. It was just Mark, Mark, Mark all the time. She did not seem interested in sex any more. She had put on a lot of weight, especially around her stomach and bum, and seemed to have lost interest in maintaining her figure. It pissed me off. I would say, ‘Kathy, do something about your appearance. How can you allow yourself to go fat like this?’ And she would reply, ‘Yes, yes, I must start some exercises’ and then she would look at Mark and tweak his cheeks and forget what I had just said.
“I was getting angry. So I would take a shower, dress up and go to the club. ‘Fuck it,’ I thought, ‘if Kathy didn’t want to talk to me, I had lots of other women who were interested in me. After all, I was wealthy and, from time immemorial, women have always been turned on by money and power.
“On hot afternoons, I would take off from the office on Shakespeare Sarani and go to Shona’s place in Ballygunge Circular Road. As she grew older, and began losing her looks, because of too many late nights and too much drinking, she is becoming desperate to fix up some young stud. But it is getting more and more difficult. Age, after all, catches up with everyone. Anyway, it was during this time that I met Rosalie for the first time. I don’t know whether you know Rosalie. She’s an Anglo-Indian who works as a secretary in Brooke Bond and is about ten years younger than me.”
Leslie narrowed his eyes, stared hard at the mirror, and shook his head. “No, the name does not ring a bell,” he said.
“Maybe, her boobs will,” Suresh said, as he stubbed his cigarette hard into the steel ashtray, “she had the biggest knockers this side of the Suez Canal.”
“Does she play basketball? Brown hair, tanned legs, very short skirts,” Leslie asked.
“That’s the one. You’ve got good eyes, stud. You’ll go a long way,” Suresh said in a half sarcastic tone. “Now she had just ended her first marriage with a disc jockey and was footloose and fancy-free. We met and she took me to her flat on Elliot Road. And what a session we had…she was a panther in bed. She was wild but she was also very cunning. In return for all the sex, she made me spend money on clothes, perfumes, jewellery, shoes, handbags, sexy, foreign lingerie…she wanted everything. She was also a little crazy. She would tell me suddenly, when we were having sex, ‘Suresh, I want you to marry me. I am a much better wife. I give you so much of pleasure. I deserve a better deal.’ There used to be a mad look in her eyes when she said this and it used to frighten the hell out of me.
“I may be a rake but the one thing that I always made clear before I did anything with a woman, was that I would not leave Kathy. Most women accepted the situation since they were married themselves. But Rosalie was unpredictable…you know how women can behave once their emotions are churned up.
“Guess what Leslie, as I mention the word Rosalie, I am getting a hard on. What a chick she was. Her micro mini skirts, the high heels, the deep cleavage…anyway, when I returned home, Kathy would be fast asleep, one arm around the baby. Life went on. She continued to dote on Mark and we talked less and less. But I still loved her. There was something beautiful about her character, so we did not have any fights. We just drifted away from each other.”
“Ahmad is sleeping,” Leslie said, pointing at the barman, who was resting his head on his arms on the counter, at one side, the cap still in place. They could hear a snore, which sounded like the wheeze of an asthmatic, occur at regular intervals.
“Poor fellow,” Suresh said, as he picked up his glass. “Must have had a long night. Come on, let’s go and sit in the lawn. I have to finish this story. What’s the time anyway?”
“It’s 12.30,” Leslie said.
“Do you want another drink?” Suresh asked.
“No man, my head is reeling,” Leslie replied as they stepped off the stools and went outside, to the lawn at the back of the club. Suresh walked heavily, his black leather shoes making a flapping sound on the cement floor while Leslie seemed to glide, in his thick white Adidas sneakers. They sat down on plastic chairs placed haphazardly across the lawn. The light from the clubhouse lit up one side and they decided to sit there, so that they could see each other. Otherwise, it was dark all around. After the coolness of the bar, the air was muggy.
Suresh tried to press his glass into Leslie’s hand but he said, “No Suresh, I can’t take another drop. I won’t be able to make it home.”
“You are not going home,” Suresh said, with a mocking smile. “Isn’t that true?”
“Where do you think I can go at this time of the night?”
“You are going to Sharon’s place on Shamshul Huda Road.”
For a few moments Leslie was silent, his hands gripping the two ends of the chair, and he gazed at Suresh, who stared right back.
“You are a smart cookie,” Leslie finally said, as he leaned forward and gave a mock fisticuff to Suresh’s shoulders.
“I am an old hand at this game, Leslie” Suresh said, smiling, “I know who is screwing whom and where.”
“The Regency’s Sherlock Holmes,” Leslie said, in a faintly sarcastic tone.
“I can tell from a glance whether two people are just acquaintances or had sex with each other. It is there in the body language, in the way they look at each other. As far as you and Sharon are concerned, it was just an intuition. She looked at you in a very intimate way a few days ago in the bar. I happen to see that look and I knew that you were having sex with her.”
“Wow,” Leslie said.
“Sharon does not want to be seen with you in public,” Suresh continued. “After all, her husband died in that motorbike accident only two months ago. But she doesn’t want to waste a year mourning for somebody. Let’s face it, nobody is indispensable. Women will love you, if you are in front of them. But if you die, it is simply a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ This happens to good husbands also. These are the plain facts of life.”
“You should have been a professor, Suresh,” Leslie said, laughing a little.
“I haven’t finished, Leslie. Sharon is now looking out for a young and experienced guy and she has settled on you. Although I don’t know whether the scene is temporary or permanent. It is too early to say. But since you are also married, things have to be done in secret. She is also aware that people will look at her with contempt if she openly has a scene with you. Things are not as cool as it is in America. But Sharon needs sex. So you go to her place at night, have sex, then dinner and go home. Am I right pardner?”
“Just wrong about the dinner part. I have the sex and then go home and have dinner,” Leslie said.
Suresh lit another cigarette, leaned back in his chair, and said, “I am sorry Leslie, there are no secrets in this world. The truth comes out sooner or later. Today, only I know about your scene but tomorrow, the whole club will come to know. Rest assured, I am not going to open my mouth. But Leslie, remember, no secrets.”
He blew smoke upwards and added, “Listen to me and avoid the mistakes that I have made.”
“That’s why I am here, Matador,” he said. “You are a straight talking guy and I like that.”
Suresh slapped away some mosquitoes from his face and grinned. “I like that, calling me a matador although I was more like a bull in a china shop.
“Anyway, carrying on with my story, I was having this mad scene with Rosalie and Kathy did not know about it. Things were cool. But then one night, everything changed. At 1 a.m., the doorbell rang and Kathy went and opened the door. A drunk Rosalie said, ‘Where is my husband?’ I heard Kathy reply, ‘I think you have come to the wrong house. There is nobody here, except my husband Suresh.’ ‘You stupid fool,’ Rosalie said, her voice slurring like crazy, ‘that bastard is also my husband since I am also screwing him. You can ask him that. And let me tell you that I screw better than you. That’s why he always come to me.’
“Kathy could not take it any more. She came and called me. I got up with a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew then and there that the bitch was going to ruin my marriage. I went into the living room and Rosalie was sitting on the sofa, one leg on the knee of the other, the pink skirt riding all the way up and I could see her pink panty. She looked at me and said, ‘Hi lover. I missed you. Your wife does not seem to know that you are screwing me on the sly. She is shocked out of her mind. So honey, how can you be so secretive about it? Isn’t it time that you told your wife everything. I mean, this necklace, this dress, and even this panty—you bought them for me.’
“I turned around and Kathy was standing near the door in her white nightie and she was staring at Rosalie with a mixture of fascination and fear. She said in a cold, angry voice, ‘Please leave the house. I will not tolerate anybody talking to my husband like this.’ Rosalie laughed and then she said, ‘Fuck you bitch.’ That made me see red. I slapped her and said, ‘Stop making a nuisance of yourself. Now go away.’ Rosalie replied, ‘I won’t leave. You have to drop me home.’ Kathy suddenly said, in a firm voice, ‘Suresh, take her home.’ I pinched Rosalie’s arm fiercely and she giggled. I went to the bedroom and put on my jeans and t-shirt. Then we went down the stairs, Rosalie leaning on me and whispering in my ears, ‘You want the best of both worlds. But I only want you. I don’t want to share you with anybody, you horny Mallu.”
“I didn’t reply. There was no point. The whole thing was ruined. As we sat in the car, all I could see in front of my face was the picture of my dear wife, horrified by the act of betrayal that I had done. I understand one thing now: a woman will forgive a man all the sins of the world except the sin of infidelity. You sleep with another woman and if your wife comes to know about it, it is the end of the marriage. If she continues to live with you, it is no longer the same. The sense of complete trust is lost. Anyway, I am fast-forwarding the story.
“So I took Rosalie home and had to carry her up the steps, since she refused to walk. I deposited her on the bed and was about to leave, when she grabbed my crotch. She began stroking me and within seconds, I could feel an intense pleasure go through me. She took out my cock and put it inside her mouth. I screwed her and went back home. Kathy was sleeping and I quietly slipped into bed and went off to sleep, my body smelling of Rosalie. It was the beginning of the end.
“We didn’t have any big fights. She just told me, with tears in her eyes, ‘Suresh I trusted you and you betrayed me. This is your child Mark and I love him very much.’”
“‘Perhaps that was the problem,’ I said. ‘You concentrated on him so much, that you forgot about me. Maybe, that’s why I started to stray.’ Kathy looked surprised and said, ‘You should have told me. I didn’t know.’ But the damage was done. We seemed to be on an irreversible path, like two cars with no brakes, on a collision course. Soon, she heard about all the other screws…somebody in the club filled her up on my exploits. Women can be such bitchy gossips. So Kathy and I just drifted away from each other.
“I continued to screw Rosalie. Then Kathy got herself a job as a secretary. Around this time, we were lucky to get an old and trustworthy maidservant, Kamala, who began to look after Mark. I maintained my late nights. Soon, Kathy started an affair with her boss and did not hide it from me. One day, when he called I picked up the phone and abused him like mad. Kathy stood near the door, heard what I said and after I put down the phone, she said, ‘Suresh, I want a divorce. I cannot live with you anymore. I don’t think this is a good atmosphere for Mark.’”
“‘He is my son also,’” I said.
“‘If Mark is your son,’ Kathy said, ‘then how come you don’t play with him? How come you have not carried him in your arms at all?’ That was true. I didn’t like my son. I lost my wife because of him. Now I felt a terrible anger against my wife and there arose a desire in me to humiliate her. It came to such a stage that sometimes, I would bring Rosalie and Shona home and we would have an orgy on the carpet.
“Kathy did not say anything. She hired a lawyer and started legal proceedings. Meanwhile, I was sinking. I was drinking like crazy and spending money on these whores. Kathy moved out and began staying in a flat on New Park Street. She broke off from her boss and began going around with a tennis coach of the Saturday Club, Richard Francis. He thought he was the best coach on Planet Earth. Do you know him?”
“I have heard of him but I don’t know him personally,” Leslie replied, as he also slapped away some whining mosquitoes.
“It was an on and off affair. You have to have the skin of a rhino to tolerate that loud-mouthed asshole. Meanwhile, the divorce came through. Kathy got custody of Mark and I was given visitation rights, once a week.
“Kathy was back to her beautiful old self. Slim, tall, with those beautiful long legs. Sometimes, when I saw her at the club, during New Year’s Eve dances, she looked ravishing. And I would feel a terrible pain. To think that this gorgeous woman had once been my wife and I threw it all away, in an utterly senseless manner. Kathy finally married Richard and they moved off to Malaysia, where he got a job as a coach in a five-star hotel. Mark went with them. Later, I heard from her friends that she just wanted to get out of Kolkata and all the malicious gossip. She also didn’t want to see me. Richard used to give me dagger looks. I couldn’t understand why since Kathy belonged to him now. So what was he angry about? So, that, in a nutshell, has been my life.
“Meanwhile, Rosalie got married to one of the African football players who play in our first division league but even now, when her hubby goes out of town for some tournament, we have sex for old time’s sake. Shona’s husband divorced her but she walks around with such a desperate look on her face that people have started calling her ‘Hungry Eyes’. And as for me, I am living with a young Anglo girl. Life goes on…but I’ll tell you something.
“I’ll do anything to get my wife and kid back. I know this is wishful thinking because we are divorced and she is married to somebody else. She is never going to come back. My greed to have more sex resulted in me losing everything. I lost what was most important to me. There is a constant ache in my heart. I don’t keep good health at all. If only I had another chance…”
Suresh became silent. Leslie also did not say anything. They were lost in their own thoughts. A dog barked far away, a haunting, mournful sound.
Finally, Leslie pointed the dial of his watch towards the lights of the club and looked at the time.
“It’s time for me to go Suresh,” Leslie said. “Thanks for the advice.”
“Sharon’s getting impatient, isn’t it?” Suresh said, in a sarcastic tone.
Leslie did not say anything, as he sat poised at the edge of the chair, about to get up.
“Look Leslie, I told you my story as a sort of warning, because I like you. I don’t want you to go down the path that I have gone and lose everything. But isn’t it a fact that your marriage is cracking up?”
“It is,” Leslie admitted.
“I think Caroline knows that you are sleeping around and you don’t seem to care. What happened? You had courted each other for so many years. Then how come, within a couple of years, the whole thing has collapsed?”
Leslie cracked a knuckle, which sounded like a bone being broken, and said, “I have no idea what went wrong. Women behave differently before and after marriage. When I was courting her, Caroline was sweet and cute. But after marriage, all her negative qualities--her jealousy, her selfishness, her career obsession--came to the fore. And let’s face it, she is a flirt who likes to party every night.
“I heard stories from the other guys about the shameless way she flirts in the office and even here at the Regency, when I am not present. That pissed me off. I found that I liked her less and less. It was nice before marriage but when we started living together, it was no longer nice. And these married women have shown so much interest in me. I couldn’t resist and started screwing around. Caroline, on some days, would say no to sex with me because she was in an off mood. What’s the use of a wife if she doesn’t give you sex? I think our marriage is heading for the rocks.”
“Is Caroline sleeping around?” Suresh asked.
“I don’t know maan. Nor do I care. I am not bothered. She has a lot of girlfriends with whom she spends the weekends. I have no idea what she does. Maybe, she’s a lesbian or a bi. Sometimes, she comes back home from office on Monday evenings and tells me that has spent the weekend with her friend Annette. Women can be so secretive.”
Leslie stood up and said, “Suresh, don’t mind, it’s 1.30 and I have to go. I really enjoyed listening to you. Thanks.”
Suresh reached up and shook Leslie’s hand. Then he watched him jog across the lawn, up the five steps, and into the hall. After a while, Suresh heard the sound of Leslie’s motorbike starting and the staccato sounds rising and falling, as the bike moved further and further away from the club.
Suresh picked up the empty glass from the grass and went back to the bar. Ahmed was still sleeping. He placed the glass on the counter, went to the telephone at one corner and dialled his home.
“Hi,” Caroline said, picking up the phone on the second ring, “where have you been?”
“Sorry darling, what are you doing?” Suresh said.
“Watching MTV and drinking whisky. I am going mad waiting for you.”
“I was talking to Leslie,” Suresh said, in a whisper, as he didn’t want Ali to hear anything, “I was trying to advise him to lead a straight life.”
“Fuck him,” Caroline said, anger in her voice. “he’s an asshole. Didn’t I tell you that he is sleeping with Sharon? She told me that. Just imagine! Her husband Arthur is barely in his grave and she has started screwing around. And Leslie thinks I don’t know about his scene, the fool…of course, it is another story that I once did a threesome with both of them. Now hurry up and get your ass up here. I miss you darling.”
“I miss you too, where’s Annette?” Suresh asked.
“She is sleeping. She’s having her periods and is not in the mood. I am feeling horny, lover. You know I don’t enjoy masturbating any more. So hurry up. ”
“Okay baby,” Suresh said, smiling, “just give me fifteen minutes and I’ll be home.”