“This place is fancy! You can afford this?”
“Yeah. Well, yeah. It’s just coffee. I can afford ridiculously expensive coffee for two. Just don’t ask for a three-course meal at some place ritzy!”
She looked at me with a mixture of boiling anger and disappointment. The disappointment was already there. It was there right from the time I told her who I was. I preferred her frightened expression when she saw me first to that constant disappointment.
“Is the mocchha good? Whoa, 200 rupees for a cup! Forget it.”
“It’s pronounced mocha. It’s nice. I’ll have tea. I like the Japanese Silver Needle. Very relaxing.”
Uh, oh. I know I shouldn’t have corrected her. I hate it when people correct me. I should have remembered that. Here comes the stinging sarcasm.
“Since when do I like tea? And why do you need to relax? You haven’t done anything exciting.”
“How did you guess? And you like tea from the time you went to college. Doesn’t mean you stopped liking coffee though.”
Ha ha, two can play at this game of biting-remark exchange.
She looked away, drew a small breath and made an effort to be nice. Gosh, I thought, I haven’t really changed much.
“I’ll have the mocha then. Can I have a biscuit with it?”
“Which biscuit do you want?”
“Oh, there are just too many options! You decide.”
“Ah, Amrita, you know I, we, hate deciding on menus.”
“Oh, whatever’s cheap then. And edible.”
I called the barista over to us. He must have thought we were sisters, probably identical twins. I must remind her that we should not address each other with our real names. No, real name.
After we’d ordered, I couldn’t help smiling at her. Unbelievably, she smiled back.
“Wow, that’s a first.”
“Oh, sorry I smiled at you.”
“Hey, it’s time you actually started using that word when you really are sorry.”
“Have you brought me here only to lecture me? I get enough of that at home and school, thank you. I thought adult me would be more fun than that.”
“You liar, you never thought of your adult me!”
“Yes, I did!”
“Uh, I would have remembered?”
“Oh, you didn’t…”
“Hey, hey! We’re not here to fight. There’s something important I need to tell you.”
“What? Do you have cancer? Don’t tell me I’ve cancer! I’m too young!”
“Was that a compliment? You’ve been telling me I look old from the moment we met.”
“I thought you said we shouldn’t be bickering. I don’t have cancer, right?”
“Or anything else major?”
“No. Uh, yeah. No, no.”
“What? What is that supposed to mean?”
“You have a conglomeration of everything our parents have so yeah, major collectively but each of them are minor, when compared to real, proper illnesses.”
“Great. I still haven’t stopped talking like that. And I always thought I would be way more sophisticated by age twenty-six.”
“Amrita, I am sorry. I am sorry to have disappointed you. I am sorry to have dragged you all this way. It’s just that I met The Doctor, and all I could think of was coming to you.”
“Seriously? You got a time machine that looks like a phone box…”
“Police box, and all you could think of was coming back to me? Couldn’t you go somewhere else? Some place more exciting and important instead of our terrace?”
“I don’t live there anymore. Actually, I wanted to go to when John and Paul meet each other at a fete in the fifties but The Doctor said meeting you would be less catastrophic.”
“John and Paul? The Pope? Have I become Catholic?”
“No, The Beatles. They are like your religion in the future.”
“I like them. I’m just more into grunge now.”
“I know. It will pass.”
“Into what? Old people’s music? Peace and Love?”
“Yeah, more early Beatles actually. But, it’s a variety really. You like some musicians from all decades, and even all time.”
She gave me the most emphatic expression of surprise till now, even bigger than when she first saw me and thought I was her doppelganger. She dropped the oatmeal cookie she had been nibbling away. I picked it and held it up to her mouth. I felt bad for the poor creature and what I was doing to her. She could have my cookie too. That would make her happy. I hope she believes that in future she is that selfless. Even though, I am not.
“Okay, so confusing musical tastes aside, what else? What generally happens to me?”
“Uh, you get your masters, you study in some really good places…”
“I know that will happen.”
“Don’t be so confident Amrita. Actually, I think we should come up with aliases. We look like identical twins, but we can’t have the same name.”
“Oh, I don’t care. You be Amrita. I’ll be Lizzy.”
“Ah, right! So, I don’t grow out of Pride and Prejudice surely?”
“Nope. Taste in literature expands, but you still stay loyal to your faves.”
“May I ask you something?”
“Are you, do you, have someone you can potentially be with for the rest of your life?”
The moment I was waiting for. Time for me to have some fun. I made a serious face and asked her,
“What makes you think I’m not married?”
Her reaction topped the musical aggravation of a few moments ago.
“I’m married? What? When? How? To whom? Do I have kids? Oh God! Just tell me he’s nice. He’s nice and caring. And an artist of some sort.”
My sixteen-year-old self gave me the laugh of the year. I never thought I would write that sentence.
“Oh. I should have known better. Of course you aren’t married. Of course.”
“Of course Amr, uh, Lizzy. I’m not married.”
She raised her right eyebrow again. I’m gonna have to ask her to do that less.
“Do you have someone?’
“Met the love of your life yet?”
“No, not yet.”
Her disappointment had nicely settled down now. Nothing I tell her could surprise her anymore.
“So, what do I have in ten years time besides better clothes?”
“You think I have better clothes?”
“Yeah, you look pretty. Way prettier than me.”
“I am you, Lizzy. I could come back and get you some nice clothes.”
“No, thanks. And thank you for the coffee. I should be going back. I have a Chemistry test tomorrow.”
“Oh, those again! You know, I still dream about Chem lab sometimes.”
She got up. She clearly wanted to leave.
I called her back.
“Lizzy, will you please sit down? I won’t be long.”
She did. I knew her curiosity was greater than her disappointment. Her curiosity will always be greater than everything else.
“I want to tell you something.”
She finally looked at me intently. I had forgotten her ability to be patient. I miss that about her.
“I want you to be kinder to yourself.”
“I know it is a tough time and you are grieving and life is just too busy and hard and nothing is going your way but…”
“Woman! Break up your sentences please! I can’t believe I am a better speaker at sixteen than at twenty-six.”
“You are better in every way at sixteen.”
She didn’t say a word.
“Remember that. Remember every bit of it. Don’t let anyone or anything make you think otherwise. Do that, so that when you come to me, you will like me more than you do now.”
“I like you.”
“Don’t lie. Please don’t. Please don’t try to please people in order to make them feel better. Be truthful in your emotions. It will save you from a lot of misery.”
I was tearing up, and I know that would concern her. I decided to be the adult now and drew back.
“C’mon, let’s go. The Doctor must be waiting. The TARDIS must be fixed by now. And you have to study.”
She held my hand and hugged me. I’m gonna miss how easily she showed affection. She said,
“One last thing.”
“Will I be a writer? Or a singer? Do I make films?”
I smiled and told her,
“You’re getting there, kid. Slowly but surely.”