Relationships. They come in two flavors. Bitter and Sweet. Somehow Andrew’s lot was filled with bitter ones. But then, relationship is like a mirror. It just reflects what you are. May be Andrew was a bitter person. He was a product (or rather by-product) of standard 21st century failed marriage. When Andrew’s parents separated, his mother got his custody. Though Andrew’s mother hated her marriage, she loved Andrew beyond anything. There was a strong bond between Andrew and her. May be that was why she died of lung cancer when he was ten. After that Andrew lived with his self-made, billionaire father Scott Nash. Many supermodels loved Scott Nash. All his three wives hated him. Forbes and Time loved Scott Nash. Andrew hated him. Somehow hating came naturally to Andrew. He hated his father for divorcing his mother. He hated God for taking away his mother from him. He hated his two stepmothers for trying to be his mother and above all he hated Mina, his ex-wife.
Generally marriages are built on foundation of love. Andrew’s was different. His marriage grew from the seed of hatred.
During college, Andrew had only one friend, Mark. Mark was tall and handsome and his skin had just the perfect tan. But he was not a smug as almost all of his type tend to be. Mark was sensitive and caring. He connected with people easily.
And then, there was Nancy. Tall, elegant and no need to mention, breathtakingly beautiful. Andrew loved Nancy. It was love at first sight. But when it came to saying ‘I love you’ Andrew’s tongue froze. In fact when it came to saying anything to Nancy, everything about Andrew froze. Words left him in desert and his knees trembled. Mark knew this.
“Hey man, if you love her, then go and talk to her,” Mark would say.
“You know me, Mark. I can’t. I just can’t. What if she says no? Even worse, what if she just looks at me and rolls her eyes like who is this looser and walks away.”
“No she will not.”
“Yes, she will.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Look at me Mark? Why will somebody love me?”
“You are just fine Andrew. A little under confident, that’s all. And you ask, why will somebody love you? Come on man, you are the adventure sports champ,” Mark would say to boost Andrew’s confidence.
“Yes, but I am not captain of the university football team like you and that’s only what girls seem to care about,” Andrew’s standard reply.
One day when Mark and Andrew were sitting on a bench in the University Park. Nancy and her friends passed by and Andrew just kept gaping at her. But she was too busy talking with her friends to notice Andrew. Mark vigorously shook Andrew up. Andrew blushed. Mark shook his head and said, “Now I must do something or someday some lad will marry her and you will go mad. I know where she goes to learn Tango. You and I are going to join the same class.”
“But Mark I hate dancing.”
“You want her or not?”
“Then you listen to me and do just as I say.”
So they joined the dance institute. There Andrew met Mina. She was Nancy’s friend. Mina was exact antithesis of Nancy. Nancy was tall and slender. Mina was petite and plump. Nancy was candid and outspoken. Mina was shy and reserved. Nancy had dark eyes. Mina’s eyes were green. Big green eyes with dark pupils at the center. The pupils were encircled with light shades of green gradually blending into deeper shades of green around the edges. Rays of light green shot from the pupils on the iris. Like a corona round the dark pupil. They radiated certain clam warmth towards observer.
Mark used all his charm and when Mark decided, no girl could resist him. In the matter of minutes, they got friends with Nancy and Mina. The four of them started to go out together. In many ways Mina was like Andrew. She also didn’t like dancing much. They would start out dancing in pairs, Mina and Mark, Nancy and Andrew. But in the end it would end up as Nancy and Mark dancing, while Mina and Andrew sitting at tables, quietly sipping their drinks.
One day, Mark and Nancy came to Andrew’s apartment. They looked a bit nervous. Not talking as usual. Just beating about the bush. Andrew sensed something was not quite right. So he asked, “Hey what’s with you guys? Why are you so tense? Is there any problem?”
Nancy and Mark looked at each other. Nancy said, “Well Andrew, I want to tell you something.”
“Look Andrew, we are together for quite a time now. But I think we, you and I are not compatible with each other. It’s me doing all the talking, you just listen. You see, we are sooooo different. Now look at Mark and me. We are sooooo alike. We just compliment each other in every way. Sooooo…”
“So…” she didn’t say anything further. She just kept rolling at the ring on her left hand. That was when Andrew noticed Mark was wearing similar ring. He was devastated. “No! You didn’t …” Andrew exclaimed.
“Yes buddy,” Said Mark timidly. “Look you must understand…”
“No. I don’t want to understand.” Andrew shouted. He felt lava spring inside him. I was shaking wildly. He could have killed Mark right there. He tramped to the door and swung it wide open. They took the cue and went out hurriedly. Andrew slammed the door behind them.
For next seven days Andrew shut himself completely from the world. He just sat there in his apartment, drinking liters of wine and shading buckets of tears. When he was not drinking or crying, he was throwing things around. The apartment had become a filthy mess. Rotten half eaten sandwiches laid here and there.
Then one evening, when he was lying on the sofa, half sleeping and half conscious, he heard somebody rapping at the door.
“Andrew, I know you are in there. Open the door now or I am going to break it.”
It was Mina. Andrew had never heard her sounding so resolute. Andrew didn’t know how but he believed that she was capable of doing anything that day. He stood up. Every thing was spinning. It looked as though he was looking through a misty windshield. He staggered to the door and opened it.
“Whaaaaaat?” Andrew asked in slurred voice. He was barely able to keep his eyes open.
Mina just looked at him for two-three seconds, then pushed him aside and walked into the apartment. Suddenly her nostrils twitched. She waved her hand in front of her nose trying to clear the air.
“Oh my God! This place stinks!” Mina said. Then she went into the kitchen and fixed a hot cup of coffee. Without saying a word she thrust the mug in Andrew’s hand. While he was sipping the coffee, all the rotten sandwiches went into the wastebasket. Mina carefully collected the broken pieces of the porcelain and they too went into the wastebasket.
“Now its your turn,” she said. She took Andrew to the bathroom and bathed him with warm water. Then she made the bed for him and put him to sleep.
Next day when Andrew woke up, he was in a different apartment. It was cleaned. All the furniture was moved in the right places and was arranged, as it should be. There were fresh flowers in the flowerpot. Fresh curtains hanged on the windows. Andrew lived in that apartment for two years and it never felt as lively as that.
Seven days later Mina and Andrew were married. Later that year, Andrew finished college and he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He didn’t wanted to join Sky Software because that was exactly what legendary Scott Nash wanted.
“Why don’t you become a cyborg?” Mina asked Andrew.
Cyborgs were the in-thing those days. They were fast. They were quick and they never failed. That made them perfect counter weapons against terrorists who seemed to be mushrooming everywhere. You can’t get a job. Government is responsible. And blowing some innocent heads was the solution for many young men. Cyborgs were the perfect answer to these maniacs.
“Are you nuts Mina? A cyborg? Do you know what the requirements are? They don’t ask for a man. They ask for Superman,” Andrew said.
“You are a Superman Andrew. You just need to believe a bit more in yourself. Skating, river rafting, snow boarding, bungee jumping…. Tell me an adventure sport that you don’t know.”
“Yes, but they take BQ (Behavioral Quotient) tests too.”
“You will do good in those too. You have got brains. You just need to apply it a bit more. I know Andrew you can become a cyborg. You have it in you.”
Andrew believed her. That was how Mina was. She could make him believe anything. So Andrew started preparing for the entrance test for the cyborgs, which was scheduled after three months. He got himself a physical trainer. He was obsessed with it. For the first time in his life, someone expected something of him and he was not going to let Mina down.
As scheduled, Andrew reported at the test center accordingly. The test was supposed to last four days. First three days comprised challenging physical tasks, which would reduce the candidates from 3000-plus to 30. And on the fourth day there was the BQ test. This included different tasks from solving complex mathematical puzzles, to behavioral tests in which candidates were put in different scenarios to record their responses in challenging and tricky situations.
Andrew did very well on the first three days. In fact he finished third. But on the fourth day, it all went wrong. Andrew’s BQ turned out to be 148. The minimum qualifying score required was 150. He was disqualified.
Reason: propensity to solve matters by use of unnecessary violence.
Andrew went home wrecked. There he was standing in front of the apartment door for whole fifteen minutes. Trying to summon courage to put the key in the lock and turn it. The thought of facing Mina like that was unbearable.
‘What will she think of me?’
At last somehow he opened the door and went in. He was astounded by what he saw there. There was a big Cake in the middle of the room with ‘Congratulations’ written on it and behind it were standing three figures. Mina, Nancy and Mark. All of them wearing long golden pointed clown caps. Andrew said nothing. He just slumped on the sofa.
‘What are they doing here? They must knew that I would fail. They are just here to humiliate me. Hey looser, you are good for nothing. ’
“Andrew darling, what happened?” Mina came to him and tried to put her palm on his shoulder. Andrew jerked it away and yelled, “Don’t touch me, you bitch. You knew from the start that I would fail. That’s why you talked me into it. You just wanted to humiliate me in front of them.”
Mina was astonished. “No Andrew. No. I just wanted to reconcile…” And she started to cry. Nancy went to her and tried to cajole her. Mark said, “Andrew we were here to celebrate your suc…”
“Shut up, you scumbag. I know you damn well. You leave my house now or I will cut your throat and drink from it.”
Mark and Nancy left the apartment without saying a word further. Mina ran to the bedroom and slammed the door shut. For three days they didn’t say a word to each other. On the third day, Andrew received an email from the Academy saying that from his performance at the cyborg entrance test, they found him eligible to become a fighter pilot. And if he was ready, they were happy to take him. The silence in the house was unbearable and may be just to escape from it Andrew packed the bags and left the house without saying a word to Mina.
The air force academy was the best thing that ever happened to Andrew. He loved flying. To be free and to be high up in the sky, away from the world in which he was so unwanted. But during first two days he was burning like hell because of the guilt. On the third day it was unbearable. He knew he was not fair with Mina. Poor girl just wanted to reconcile the differences between Mark and him. But he hated Mark so deeply; not for marring Nancy but for betraying his trust and that to in such a way that Andrew was not able to trust anybody again. He emailed Mina immediately and told her where he was and asked for her forgiveness. Just as Mina received the email, she immediately asked for a video-conference. She was sobbing. The skin below her eyes was puffy. She was rubbing of tears from her cheeks with her palms. But with those tears there was also a pleasant smile on her face.
“Honey, my sweety pie, I am sorry. I am really sorry.” Andrew said.
“Andrew, you don’t need to say sorry to me darling. I forgave you a long time ago. I was so concerned about you. But now you are fine and that means everything to me.”
After that day, the training was sheer joy and yet Andrew wanted to finish it early. On the last day of his training Andrew was flying in his fighter jet. Feeling the speed. Feeling the clouds zooming behind. Feeling the thrill and excitement. Excitement of flying was there but there was a greater excitement yet. Tomorrow he will be with Mina. Tomorrow he will be with his Sweety Pie. ‘Oh, I love this,’ Andrew thought. But happiness and Andrew never traveled together for a long time. Happiness always walked out on Andrew in the middle. And this time also it was going to end soon.
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