Terminally, Incurably Yours
I had been diagnosed before. By experts. As a matter of fact, even laymen have observed the symptoms and gave similar diagnoses, so I guess it has been actually easy to spot. I had been given the diagnoses years ago, and yet, I chose to ignore them… Maybe I felt that if I didn’t acknowledge it, it would just go away. Maybe I felt that they were going to be right only if I believe them; Maybe I just didn’t want to accept the fact cos deep within, I knew it was incurable.
Yes, at some point, I’m sure I realized that it’s going to be with me for as long as I shall live. There were no drugs, no therapy, no new-age medicines, and no counseling that could even give a semblance of hope… nothing that could offer even a possibility of complete cure. That was possibly why I subconsciously decided to ignore it completely. But it’s not an easy strategy to implement. Particularly when you see people close to you suffer because of it. Sometimes you do things that throw a sense of reality right in your face, and you have no choice but to accept the fact: you have a terminal case of foot-in-mouth disease.
It has taken out many people in the past, and it continually affects people all around. ‘Open mouth, insert foot’, has been a long standing algorithm for me, ever since I asked my school teacher to excuse me from reading exercises – “I am sorry, madam, but I have a sore throat… I can’t speak out a single syllable without being subject to torture and agony. It was probably because I was up late last night, reading things and I…. Umm… Yeah, I seem to speak fine right now, don’t I? Well, it comes and goes. Sometimes, I have too… Just… Just let me get my textbook.”
And just yesterday, I landed a friend in a soup. And not the nice kind, either. We have become quite close friends, have me and … err… Let’s just call her Miss X for now; A little bit of anonymity can go a long way in maintaining safety… mine. She may not look like she can pack a punch, but well, she used to take Karate lessons, so let’s play safe.
Anyway, me and Miss X have been good friends for a while now, and keep kidding around all the time, and whenever we’ve been in need, we haven’t hesitated borrowing small amounts of money from each other… Nothing much, possibly Rs.50 or 100 here and there from time to time, a couple of dollars at the current rate of exchange. I know you’re not interested in the financials here. “Duh. If I wanted to read about finance, I’d have read the Wall Street Journal.” But bear with me, cos it has some bearing on the situation at hand. (Besides… The Wall Street Jounal? Really?)
So it was after another grueling fieldwork day for me and Miss X, and our client was gracious enough to offer us a ride to our homes before she herself left for the day. Me, being the non-chatty lone stranger, was comfortable sitting up front, but Miss X had already built up a rapport fortress with the client, and they were chatting about what I can only assume to be girl-talk as we cruised the streets. I wasn’t paying attention, but I WAS aware of some sort of chitter chatter in the background.
Miss X was nearing her stop, and she suddenly asks me…
Miss X: “Hey, Hamish, I have to catch a ride from here. Do you have a fifty I can borrow?”
Me: “Oh, let me check. Hold on. Oh, yes. Sure. Here you go.”
And yep, that was it. Good day, folks.
Psyche! Of course that’s not it. And it definitely wasn’t a good day. It would have been lovely if I had stopped there. And it could have stopped there, IF only I didn’t ignore The First Hammy Rule – “Hamish. Don’t think. Whatever you do, DO NOT think.” I should have learned my lesson long time ago, but no, I just had to think and ruin everything.
As I handed Miss X the money, I began thinking… I thought “Hey, Doesn’t she owe me something already? Or do I owe her?”. Cos trust me, I am bad with finances. At that point, I didn’t know what we owed each other, or to whom it was owed; I just knew there was something owed by some party to the other party, and I knew that Miss X would know, her being so organized and all… So I proceeded to break The Second Hammy Rule – “If you DO break The First Hammy Rule, and ughhh… think, then for the love of God, do NOT talk.”
Me: “Hey, X, don’t you already owe me some money?”
Silence. The chitter chatter or whatever stopped. The client was probably thinking “Oh… So Miss X borrows money frequently, does she? I better just keep quiet here”. But I was oblivious at the time. I was kinda puzzled at why the reply to such a simple question was taking so long.
Miss X: “Yes, I remember, Hamish.”
Wha? That’s it? She’s not specifying anything else? I mean… I was asking so that I could know the amount. Why was she suddenly in the short-answer-zone? Puzzling.
Me: “Well, how much IS it?”
Miss X: “We’ll talk about that later. Ok?”
That was straight, right? Just about anybody could have seen that it meant – “Hamish. Not now. Drop the subject. Can’t you see we are with people here?”. Well, I am not ‘just about anybody’ – I’m me, which meant Miss X had to suffer further…
Me: “Ok, ok… You DO remember the amount, don’t you? Just tell me that. You’ve got it written somewhere or something…”
Miss X: “YESSS!”
Ok. Time for some closure. By this time, I saw the client’s face. Looking back, I can read the expression quite clearly – “Oh, damn. This is awkward. Clearly, these two have some money issues. I’ll just remain nonchalant and distance myself from the issue. Should I whistle? No, that may be too nonchalant. What else do I do? Quick! A pen! A pen that I can twirl around and change the subject… No? Dammit. Now what do I…”
But at the time, I wasn’t really reading any of this clearly. I saw her squirming, and after reassuring myself it wasn’t some medical complication, I understood that she was uncomfortable about this money chat I started. So I thought… maybe I should explain…
Me: “He he… You know… I am REALLY bad when it comes to keeping my finances straight. Pathetic, actually.”
Client: “Uh, uh…”
Hmm… Not much of an icebreaker. The client’s now giving me a weird stare. Quick. Something funny. What do I say? A horse and a rabbi walked into the bar? NO, you idiot. Something more appropriate with the situation…. Something about what I just said…
Me: “Yeah, really bad with finances. Why are you looking like that? No, I am not lending you money”
What??? You call that a joke? Dammit, fix it before she gets the wrong idea. You can do it… Think, THINK!! And so against my better judgment, I thought… again.
Me: “He he… You know… people find out I’m bad with finances, and they want to borrow money.”
A small smile. Phew. She understood that was a joke. Mission accomplished. Now brain closed, mouth shut. PLEASE.
Client: “Hmm… Don’t worry. I am not like those friends of yours.”
Two seconds pass. And the client’s face gives a horrified expression, and we both see that Miss X has her mouth wide open, staring incredulously…
Client (to Miss X): “Oh, God. I’m so sorry. I’m SOOO sorry. I just realized it sounds like I was talking about you. I did NOT mean that. God. I’m really sorry.”
Miss X: “Hmm… It’s… ok. Don’t worry about it.”
We had a nice quiet five minutes where I got back to my stupid vice… thinking. What happened? Why was Miss X offended just now? And why was the client able to see that immediately? And why was my spider sense tingling? Let me see. The comment in question was “Don’t worry. I am not like those friends of yours” – Oh… Ok. So she inadvertently implied that Miss X was the kind of friend who would take advantage of my poor track of finances. Ah. Ok. A guffaw. Funny, when you think about it… You could almost…. almost… Wait a minute. Didn’t I start that train of thought? What did I say? Oh, my God… Let me just think back…
And I thought back to the exchange that went before this, and with grim realization, understood that I may have painted Miss X as a mooching money-grubbing opportunist who lives on a bed of paper money that she’s accumulated over the years by taking advantage of poor ignorant dolts who can’t keep track of their finances.
Me: “Oh, my GOD! X, I just realized I may have sounded like I was talking about you too… I did NOT mean that. I’m really sorry.”
Miss X: “Forget about it. Here’s where I get off. Just forget about it, ok?”
And she got off. The foot in my mouth got the life kicked out of her. And I felt so bad. I called her up later, trying to apologize once again. She told me to just forget about it, and insisted she’s not mad about it.
I don’t know. Could it be just co-incidence that she has resumed her Karate classes?