In letters: To Patty. From Neha.


Dearest Patty,


I hope Colorado is treating you fine. I was going through Arthur’s pictures this morning. The place you’re staying at looks lovely. I wish I had your energy and enthusiasm for travel and new experiences. I thought of calling you last weekend, but I was tired. Then I thought of calling you last night. I was again very tired. I don’t understand the source of my exhaustion, Patty. It runs deeper than sore muscles and hollow eyes.


Illustration by Thomas Rouziére


Anyway, I wanted to tell you I’m officially meeting the man my mother has gone to great pains to set me up with. It’s appalling and humiliating—this entire situation. But I am giving it a real chance. He seems like a nice guy.


Ian, of course, thinks he is boring. Ian is a friend. I told you about him, right? I know you don’t trust lawyers, but this one is okay. So he thinks I’m “caving” and “giving into the system.” But he doesn’t get it. How could he? He has great hair, Armani shirts he wears in strict rotation, and thick watches with humongous dials that scream status and old money. And then he is a man. A privileged, white man. He can do whatever he likes. So he is not the best judge here.


Some mornings, Patty, I wake up and think hard about my life. Like a spectator, I watch my day unfold. I wake up, scroll through my phone and silently hate people who seem to have found what they were looking for. I mindlessly make my bed, drag my feet to the bathroom, shower, get dressed, and drop a bread slice into my old toaster. On good days, I cut up avocados. On average ones, it’s salted butter with some pepper. I eat it as I shove an apple, my laptop and office heels into a tote bag and slip into my commute shoes. The door never locks at once—two tries, three on some, and I’m out by 8:25 every day.


Some mornings, Patty, I wake up and think hard about my life. Like a spectator, I watch my day unfold.

I never sit on the train and blast music into my ears to avoid possible small talk with strangers. Work is more or less the same, with a few boring meetings interspersed. My coworkers like to talk about hiking, cheese boards, and the obnoxious president currently in office. On Fridays, they branch their discourse to either apple picking in the fall or some dating app I’ve never heard of. I smile and sit through it all. At six, I pick my bag and walk single-mindedly to the subway station two blocks away. It’s always crowded. There’s always a couple fighting or a child screaming. We all get in, and I stay standing even when there’s an empty seat.


When I do reach my apartment after climbing flights and flights of stairs, I throw my weight at the door to open it. I’ll get it fixed. But as I said, Patty, I am so tired. I roll the apple back inside the fridge, settle my bag on the flimsy study at the corner of my room, and order dinner. I eat it watching a revolting reality show. Mom calls right before I hit the bed. Our conversations are mundane check-ins and long silences punctuated by either a running tap or the whistle of a pressure cooker at her end. Then I sleep, listening to my white noise machine failing to counter my neighbor’s sexual exploits.


But lately, Ian has been here a lot. He barely fits in the space but wants to “hang out” and “chill”—activities he is perfectly capable of doing at his place. Every other weekend he makes a horrific attempt at perfecting his grandmother’s vegetarian pie in my kitchen. He overuses every single ingredient. Every single one of them! If he were a 1940s war-wife with a ration card, he’d simply die.


But he is just out there with everything he has, over pouring sugar and cutting up clumsy bell pepper slices with a smile. I don’t get his kind of trust in the world. He is very strange. And you know what, I have found happy people to be an unsympathetic lot. So even though we are becoming friends (it feels good to have one of those), there are definitely things he wouldn’t get even if he tried. I don’t know if friendships based on half-shared truths last. I hope they do.


Because I really have been liking him in my kitchen.


Best,

Neha

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