I picture a pair of sniggering men in hairnets. It is me again, with my “one butter naan, chicken butter masala (one piece), special request: leg piece, please.” I try not to overthink. American TV is very different from Indian TV. I still require subtitles—my eyeballs accustomed to the up and down dance. This is my third time watching Ted Mosby throw a three-day party for Robin Scherbatsky while Barney Stinson makes fun of him. I know how the episode ends—they will kiss but the writing is designed for us to pity Ted not getting his ‘purple giraffe’. And I know how my order will end—a large leg piece with an extra helping of pity gravy. That is the thing about pity: it is unsolicited, forced down our unwilling throats by those determined to serve it—anarchists, thriving on pain, pitying because they perceive their lives as wins against the backdrop of our visibly pathetic ones, laughing behind our backs. I mean, it is one thing to stand alone at the fast-food centre in the heart of the city and get a steaming plate of momo dumplings or an egg roll to go, or to stand alone at the fuchka stall beside the church and wolf down thirty of those bad boys with extra lime, finishing off with a dollop of tamarind water in a Sal leaf bowl—I was practically invisible, invincible, until a goddamn virus robbed me of all the fucks I never gave about hygiene. I cannot fathom sitting alone in a restaurant with a horde of costumed men breathing down my neck, pitying the lone eater, wondering how fast I will empty the table for a group of noisy jobless rich brats who would order five times more and tip a little too generously. Home deliveries were the only solution. Dinner for two drowned many ugly things for a moment, pretending to fill a legion of bottomless pits. Dinner for one was inevitable. Laugh tracks do not make me laugh. Lilypad just wants to fuck but her Marshmallow is furious the NYC party people were using his constitutional law book as a beer coaster. I have four shelves and a desk full of law books. They have been sitting for months eating dust, nesting spiders, and catching cobwebs. Indifferent now. Or exhausted, I cannot tell. It is part of a sickness that spread from a stained corner of my soul. I do not remember how the stain came to be; I just know it is still there. Lurking. Multiplying like cancer. Stealing serotonin until I become a shell of flesh, bones, and complimentary blood. Until I become stale and succumb to the extra helping of pity gravy, forgoing my original plan to refrigerate and stir paneer in it on Sunday.
Tejaswinee Roychowdhury is a Pushcart-nominated writer and poet from West Bengal, India. Her prose has been/is scheduled to be published in Muse India, Taco Bell Quarterly, San Antonio Review, Misery Tourism, Twin Pies, and more. Tejaswinee is the Founding Editor of The Hooghly Review and a lawyer. Twitter: @TejaswineeRC