[fiction] Outside The Trial Rooms

“Come on, get up! We’re going shopping,” my wife declared.

“Umm, huh? What?” I somehow managed.

“Come on,” she continued, pulling the bed covers off me. “I just talked to Yesha; we’ve been invited to a cocktail dinner tonight.”

“So?” I asked, trying to make sense of my suddenly hazy world.

“So? What do you mean so?” She asked. She didn’t have a proper dress and we had to go buy one, I was told.

“What do you mean by proper dress?” I asked, wide awake now and at my argumentative best. “You already have a hundred dresses, why don’t you just wear one of those?”

This time she said ‘huh?’ I could sense the irritation in her voice and got up quietly. If she said she said she needed a new dress, she needed a new dress. Who was I to question such a simple fact? I went into the bathroom to freshen up. When I came out, the bed was made and a pair of denims and a t-shirt was laid out for me to wear. It was then that I noticed that she was already dressed and ready to go. Well, I thought, this was a first: my wife dressed and ready before me. Under her stern stare, I got dressed myself and out we went, headed to the nearest shopping mall.

The Gallops Mall is in the outskirts of Ahmedabad; home to the likes of Lewis, Lee, Mango, and many others. A biggie store, Lifestyle occupies two floors of the Gallops Mall and has more shopping space than I have ever wanted to go through. My wife of course, can’t get enough of it. We don’t get Victoria’s Secret out here, she often complains. Ironically, for once, I too have the same complain.

So, in we went inside Lifestyle and up we went to the Ladies Western Wear section on the first floor. This is where the ladies turn into cats on a hot tin roof: jumping from one section to another. My wife’s earnestly looking at a red top of some kind (please don’t ask me to explain what kind, I wouldn’t know its kind anyway) when she suddenly notices a black skirt a little far away. The red top is discarded ruthlessly and the black skirt is swiped up as if it’s the last black skirt in the world. But wait, she frowns; the black skirt isn’t really as good as it seemed from a distance. It is dumped with the same intensity with which it was picked up. Then from the corner of her eye, she noticed something to her left. It was a blue corset that brought a big smile on her face. She held it front of her and strutted around a mirror. The blue corset went into the shopping basket, to be tried on later. Soon, a pile of clothes were added to the overflowing shopping basket. And where was I all this while? Who do you think was holding the shopping basket!

And thus, less than an hour after I was safely cuddled up in bed, I found myself standing outside the trail rooms of a clothing store. However, apparently, I wasn’t alone. An elderly gentleman of about 50 was hanging around as well. A young stud, probably in his late teens, was playing with his mobile phone. And another guy of about my age completed our little group of idlers. Young Stud glanced at me, the new entrant, and went back to whatever he was doing on his mobile. (I often wonder how people used to pass time before mobile phones became such a common commodity. I still wonder.) Guy-my-age seemed preoccupied with something; he looked the most irritated of us all. And Uncle looked the most uncomfortable. I wondered why Uncle looked so ill at ease; he must have had years of experience doing this: waiting outside a trial room!

Young Stud’s girlfriend was the first to emerge out of the trial rooms. And business suddenly picked up. Young Stud’s girlfriend was a sexy Young Babe who had come shopping for mini skirts… woo-hoo! Guy-my-age had all of sudden regained all the interest in life, I was trying to act nonchalant while trying to attempt quick glances and Uncle looked more ill at ease than ever before. Young Babe, with never-ending legs, was displaying a denim mini skirt to her boyfriend. She stood facing him first (which incidentally was facing us as well), then turned around for a view from behind. With her back to us, she turned her face around and asked Young Stud, “What do you think?” Awesome is what I thought. “Is allright,” is what he said. He didn’t approve of the skirt, that seemed dumb to me, but a part of my devilish mind started to like his decision. Young Stud didn’t like this skirt that meant she would have to try on more, meaning we would get a few more shows. Yippee! But quite often, happiness is short lived. I hadn’t even finished my thoughts when Young Babe said, “So I guess we’ll go with that red one I tried earlier.”

Thankfully, Uncle’s Aunty wasn’t trying out any mini skirts. She didn’t even come out to show Uncle what she was trying on. From the bundle of clothes she discarded, it looked like she didn’t get what she sought. Business returned to normal with just Guy-my-age and I left outside the trial rooms. He nodded at me; I acknowledged his nod with a smile. “Hi, I am Vishal,” he introduced himself. “Hi Vishal, Saurin here,” I said. So Vishal and I started talking. Where do you live? What do you do? And other such basics were exchanged. Vishal happened to be a website designer. We, the two creatives, found common ground and the conversation flowed. I was quite surprised at how easily Vishal talked to a stranger. I had never been able to open up so easily to someone I didn’t know and Vishal’s conversational abilities impressed me.

Meanwhile, my wife tried on a couple of dresses and had come out to show me how they looked. She was taking her time but for once, I didn’t mind. I had someone to talk to and wasn’t getting bored. After a few minutes, I noticed that so far no one had ventured out of the trial rooms to ask Vishal for his opinion. His wife or girlfriend seemed to be deciding things by herself and seemed to be taking a lot of time at that. I was about to ask him about his partner when my wife came out with cute black number on.

“How does it look?” she asked.

“It’s lovely,” I replied. And it really was. It was a short black off-shoulder dress, one the very firsts that I really really liked.

“Which one do you like more?” she asked. “This one or the burgundy one?”

“The burgundy one… you mean the one with the gold belt?”

“Yes, isn’t that nice too?”

“Yeah, that’s a nice dress as well. But somehow, I like this black one more.”

“Oh!” she said and turned towards a mirror. She checked out the dress again, I am sure for the zillionth time. First from the left, then from the right (wouldn’t that look the same?), then from the back and once again, from the front.

“I like the burgundy one more,” she declared.

“I like this one,” I declared.

“We’ll buy the burgundy one,” came her final declaration.

We? It was her decision and somehow, I was made party to it. I wondered why I was even asked which dress I liked in the first place.

My wife went back in and I was joined again by Vishal. “So,” he said, “you guys must be leaving now.”

“Yeah, thankfully,” I replied.

“Can we exchange numbers?” he asked.

I was a bit taken aback; had never exchanged numbers with a guy at a shopping mall. But I didn’t want to sound rude so I passed on my mobile phone number to him.

“By the way, where’s your wife or girlfriend?” I asked. “She’s been in the trial rooms for long. Aren’t you concerned?”

“Oh, I am not here with anyone,” Vishal replied.

“Then?”

“Well, actually, I was here to shop for myself and then I saw you…”

I couldn’t make sense of that. “So?” I asked him.

“So, I came to talk to you.”

Again, couldn’t make sense of that either. “Why?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know how to tell you,” Vishal stammered. “I think I have fallen in love with you.”

“Huh? What?” Had I heard right, I wondered. Was he really saying what he was saying?

“Hey, you wife’s here,” he said, beckoning towards the trial rooms. “I’ll leave now. But do call me, or I’ll call you. Would like to go out with you sometime.”

I still couldn’t believe my ears. I kept looking at Vishal walking away from me. I think my mouth was wide open and my face must have been frozen in a state of shock.

My wife was now standing beside me. “What happened to you?” she asked. “You don’t have to be upset because we are not buying the dress you liked.”

“Oh, it’s not that,” I said, finally coming out of the jolt that had hit me.  “I’ve just been hit on!”

“What!” Now she seemed to be stunned.

“Yeah,” I said, laughing. “I have been hit on for the first time in my life, and that too by a guy!”

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