Saturday, 27 January 2018

part 4 : Look Closer (Arsh)


Shilpa watched the professor as he pointed to a diagram of the brain and explained the paths of numerous neurotransmitters in the brain. Everything was going in from one ear and out the other. She couldn't pay attention. Her presence in the class was just physical, not mental. Only one thought had occupied her mind. She still couldn't believe what had happened the night before. Even the night didn't pass peacefully. She was tossing and turning like crazy in her sleep. When she woke up she was sprawled on the whole bed, her blanket on the floor and her sheets were coming off the mattress. She let out a sigh and she placed her head in her hands and looked down at her notebook which had no writing in it at all. She figured she would get them later from one of her classmates. A few minutes passed before she heard people shuffling in their bags and getting up to leave. Shilpa looked up and realized that class was over. She quickly grabbed her bags and left the room, making her way to the food court on campus.

She bought a snack and found herself a table outside overlooking a field where some guys were playing football. Just as she tore open the bag of chips, her phone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out to find a message from Armaan. Are you in class right now? She placed the bag on the table and answered back. No, have my break right now. She pressed send and switched the phone for the bag of chips. Leaning back in her chair she watched the football game going on in front of her as she munched her chips. A minute later, her phone vibrated in regular intervals on the table. She picked it up and looked at who was calling. Armaan. She hadn't talked to him since last night. She held her finger over the answer button. She hesitated a few seconds before she took a deep breath and answered. "Hello?"



"Shilpa, we need to talk." Armaan's urgent voice rung in her ear. "When will you be free?" "I have one more class that ends at 3:30. Do you want to meet around 4?" Shilpa questioned back. "That's perfect. My last class ends at 3. We'll meet up at Cuppa Coffee?" "see you then." Shilpa moved the phone away from her ear and looked at the time after she ended the call. Her eyes widened as she realized that she had five minutes before her class would start. Gathering her things, she rushed to the classroom.

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 Shilpa pulled into a parking spot and got out of her car. Locking the door she began to walk to the cafe entrance. As she neared it, she noticed Armaan inside playing around on his phone.



Armaan looked up when he heard the door open. He was disappointed that it wasn't Shilpa. His eyes wandered to outside the doors. He saw her approaching the door, walking up the steps. He immediately held the door open until she came to it. "Hey." He greeted her with a smile. "Hey Armaan." She gave him a side hug and walked in. "Do you want anything?" Shilpa shook her head no, but stood by him while he waited in line to order. "I'll take a caffe mocha, no sugar, no cream, extra dry, with half skim, half full milk and 2 shots espresso." Shilpa saw the face of the person behind the counter; obviously this guy was a new worker. He looked utterly shocked at the order Armaan had just made. "Sir, can you repeat that?" I let out a giggle at his dazed face. Armaan couldn't help but smile either, he repeated his order expect much slower. They moved to the side waiting for the employee to finish making it.



Once he received his cup, Shilpa and Armaan found an empty table near the window and sat down. "So what'd you want to talk about?" Shilpa asked even though she very well knew what they needed to discuss. "Last night. I know you're probably mad at me after what happened. But..." He was cut off by Shilpa, "I'm not mad at you, Armaan. You tried your best to make her understand. Your mom is a stubborn one." Shilpa laughed slightly. "I am, however, all over the place in my mind." She admitted. "Like, I can't think straight at all. I don't even know what my professors were saying in class today." She leaned back in the seat exasperated. Armaan smiled a little but then it was gone as he remembered he had played a part in causing this state of hers. Shilpa noticed his change in expression and immediately knew what he was thinking. "Armaan, don't you dare think it's your fault." His lips curled up when he heard her, "You know me so well." Shilpa returned the smile, "We just need to keep trying to tell Aunty, she'll listen and believe us eventually." Shilpa reached over and squeezed his hand giving him a reassuring nod.



He flipped his hand over and held hers in his. "Wait here." He suddenly stood up. "Where are you going?" Shilpa furrowed her brows and looked up at him. "Just wait here I'll be back in two minutes." She watched him walking to the other end of the cafe and thought he was going to the restroom so she turned back around and rested her elbow on the table with her head in her hand and watched the traffic go by out the window. "Here." Armaan put his hand forward with a pastry in his hand. "A cannoli?" Shilpa looked up to him and saw him nodding. "Take it. I know you love them." A large grin appeared on her face as she took it from his hand. He sat down with his and began to eat it. "I thought you went to the restroom." Shilpa said right before she took a small bite out of the pastry. Armaan took a chunk out of his cannoli. "Armaan! Do you not know how to eat a pastry?" Armaan swallowed the amount in his mouth, "I didn't know there was a proper way to eat a pastry, Shilpa." His sarcastic remark made Shilpa narrow her eyes at him. "You're supposed to savor each bite you take! That's why when you eat something sweet you take little bites. Not monster bites like you."



She said the last part while pointing at him taking another huge bite of the cannoli. "Ughh... I don't know how your wife will deal with you when your mom gets you married." Armaan took the last piece left and chewed it up, "As far as I know, as of right now, that person is you." He teased. "Very funny, Armaan." Shilpa took another small bite out of the cannoli. "Can you eat any slower?!" Armaan became impatient. "Yes." And Shilpa began to move the cannoli took her mouth in slow motion. "I feel so bad for the guy who has to deal with you for the rest of his life! I'm your friend so I have to tolerate it." Shilpa quickened her chewing so she could answer back. "Well, I'll stick to your reasoning. As of right now, that guy is you." She sarcastically smiled back before going back to finishing the cannoli.



"You don't have any classes tomorrow, right?" Armaan questioned as they walked out of the cafe. "Right." Shilpa wiped her fingers with a napkin and then tossed it into the trashcan nearby. They began to descend down the steps. "Want to talk to Mom tomorrow then?" Shilpa shrugged, "If you want. I guess the sooner she gets this misunderstanding out of her head the better." They both pulled out their car keys. "Yea. So where you heading to now?" "Home. Need to study since I didn't pay attention in class." Shilpa began to twirl her keys on one of her fingers. "Mind if I come over?" Armaan looked at her full of hope. "Sure, you can help me study." With that they left in their respective cars and met at Shilpa's house.

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"Wait... So... dopamine is synthesized from Levodopa, right?" Shilpa asked. "Yep." Shilpa continued to scrutinize the papers in front of her as she bit her pen. "And... it gets released in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex?" "Right." Shilpa quickly wrote something down in her notes. "Now a question for you." Armaan watched her look up at him. "What is dopamine commonly associated with?" Shilpa's head fell into her hands. "I don't know." She mumbled. "Yes you do. We just went over this, Shilpa." Shilpa brought her head up and began to think hard. "Is it the reward system of the brain?" Armaan gave her a big grin. "Sure is. Told you that you knew." Armaan felt his phone vibrate in his back pocket and pulled it out to see his mom calling. "Great." He turned the phone toward Shilpa to show her who was calling. "I'll be right back." Armaan answered the phone and left the room. Shilpa continued to study her notes despite the urge to go and listen to what they were talking about.

         

"Ok, we definitely need to convince her as soon as possible." Armaan paced into the room. "What happened now?" Armaan leaned forward on the table, "She's freaking crazy, Shilpa! She's already planning the engagement!" Shilpa instantly lifted her head that was resting in her hand as she read the book and enlarged her eyes. "WHAT!?" She slammed her hands on the table. "Engagement!" Armaan yelled back at her. "Is she out of her mind?!" Shilpa stood up from her seat, still shocked by what she just heard. "Apparently!" Armaan leaned back and covered his face with his hands and muttered into them. "Okay, hang on. She can't possibly plan on having it so soon, so we still have time." Shilpa tried to calm herself with a reason. "We only have until the end of the week." "WHAT?!" Shilpa screamed. "End of the freaking week?!" Armaan stood up  alongside her and placed his hands on his hips. "You need to convince her tomorrow." Shilpa turned to him. "Me? What do you mean ME?" "She hasn't been believing me, so maybe she'll believe you." She dropped back down onto the chair, this was just too much. "I feel like I'm going to be like 10 years older just from the stress of all this."

-----         

"Armaaaan" Shilpa whined while sitting in the passenger seat. "How much longer?" "Shilpa, you've been asking that for the past 20 minutes!" She groaned at the fact that she didn't get an answer. "Well, we've been driving for like 45 minutes and my butt hurts from sitting for so long! If you let me drive we would've been there already...." She muttered loud enough for Armaan to hear. "That's because I actually stay in the speed limit. You go like 50 over it!" Shilpa crossed her arms and proudly answered back, "So what? I haven't gotten caught yet." Armaan shook his head and exited the highway.

           

When they pulled up to a house, Shilpa was relieved. "Finally!" She got out of the car, stretched and then stood in front the car waiting for Armaan, who was still unbuckling himself. "Let's go." He gestured to the door. "You first. She's your mother." Armaan walked to the door and rang the doorbell. Shilpa stood behind his tall frame, peeking over his shoulder. Armaan looked over his shoulder and saw Shilpa hiding behind him. "What are you doing??" "I don't want her to bombard me like she did at the restaurant. 'My bahu, my bahu!'" She mimicked his mother. Armaan couldn't help but chuckle. He heard the door open and turned to face him mother. "Hi mom." He greeted her with a hug. Shilpa quietly thanked Armaan for not bending down to hug her. If he did, his mother would have seen her and attacked. "Mom, we need to talk to you." Confusion quickly took over her face, "We?" Armaan stepped aside to reveal Shilpa. "Hi Aunty." Shilpa softly spoke. "Come, come in both of you!" Shilpa stepped in first upon Armaan's insistence and he followed behind her shutting the door. Shilpa sat down next to his mom. Armaan, stood behind where his mom was seated, nodded at Shilpa and left the room. Shilpa could feel the stress coming back. She took a deep breath before she started.

           

"Aunty." Shilpa watched her look up at her. "Yes, beta." She looked at her earnestly. "I know you think I'm Armaan's girlfriend and your bahu, but..." She stopped and took another deep breath. "Go on beta." "But... I'm not. Armaan and I are just friends. Best of friends. Nothing more, nothing less. We tried to tell you that night at dinner but... you didn't listen to either of us." Shilpa waited for her reaction. She sat silently for quite a while.

           

Armaan's mom let out a deep sigh. "Oh... I understand Shilpa, beta. It was my fault for jumping to my own conclusion that night." She reached over and grabbed Shilpa's hand. "It's just that I want Armaan to settle down before..." She paused and saw Shilpa's questioning eyes. "Before what, Aunty?" "Last year I found out that I have cancer, pancreatic cancer to be exact. I'm sure you know the details." Shilpa's eyes widened at what she was just told. "Ever since then, I've been pestering Armaan about marriage. I don't know how much longer I have." "Aunty, why don't you just tell him?" She let a small smile appear on her lips. "I just can't. I've wanted to but when I should, the words just don't come out." Shilpa moved closer to Armaan's mother and placed and arm around her shoulder. "Aunty, you need to tell him." Shilpa leaned her head onto her shoulder, trying to comfort her. "I don't know how. I can't just walk up to him and say 'Armaan get married, I have cancer and could die any day now.'"

           

As she finished her sentence, a loud crash came from behind them. Shilpa snapped her head around and saw a broken glass on the floor with Armaan frozen to the spot behind it. His eyes were wide with shock and tears were forming. He didn't move one bit, instead just stared at his mother. "Mom..." He let out faintly. Shilpa could sense the pain in his voice and felt horrible knowing how disturbed he must be after hearing about the condition of his mother. His mother looked back at him with shock.

"Armaan beta..."

-------

Sam

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