Sunday, April 3, 2011



And so Vik did end up bringing Ananya back to his place that night.  We had all taken bets about whether she’d be down to go home with him.  The final vote was 3-2 in favor of Vik being able to pull it off.  The dissenters thought that, judging by her somewhat reserved friends, she wouldn’t have the confidence to part ways with them.
But we had put on quite a show in the hour or so leading up to Vik approaching the girl.  We began with a couple dirty martinis.  And after we had downed those, it was clear we were having more fun than anyone else in that joint.  There was no secret to this.  We simply happened to be outstanding at making fun of one another. We also ordered drinks that required a bit of a discerning taste.  Well, perhaps not really, but for some reason, drinking mojitos and vodka gimlets can do a lot for the way a guy is perceived when standing amongst so many others desiring the same thing: attention from attractive girls. Once the alcohol began to bring us back to our first year out of college - when we used to get in stupid fights and close out dingy bars - we started with the shots.  We made allies with the White boys facilmente by inviting them to partake in a slamming a Sambuca shot.  There wasn’t really any Machiavellian motive here.  We had fun getting others to have fun and we did so regardless of whether there were girls to impress.  And we were cool about it.  It was always a trip getting the dorky trader types to try something other than their gin and tonic.  After one or two Sambucas, Aastin (a.k.a. MCA) would affectionately mess up the guy’s hair and encourage him to lose the glasses.  “Your vision is already blurry, isn’t it? Come on, get rid of these for a couple hours.” he’d chide.
There was a group of three girls a couple of tables away.  Our age.  Dressed impeccably, but not as if they were trying to be on Sex and the City.  (It’s a difficult balance to strike in New York, where critiques over fashion sense are even more cruel than restaurant reviews.)  Somewhere during the crescendo of drinking, Vik had trained his gaze one of the girls.  Eye contact was made and a smile or two was exchanged.  When Vik warned us not to look all at once, we did the exact opposite, of course.  She was a hottie.  She wore whatever couture dress she was wearing rather casually, without any bullshit fanfare.  She sported a cool broach which looked Indian.   Her (yes, silky) dark brown hair fell delicately on her shoulders and was accented by pencil-straight bangs – if one saw her from behind they might mistake her for a Japanese girl.  “O.K. I’m going in.  Who’s my wingman?”  We all, in unison, said “Jahan.” 

Jahan was designated wingman because he had a mystical charisma that made it impossible for people to dislike him.  He was engaging without trying to be, and had an uncanny ability to bring forth more information from a group of girls than anyone I’d ever seen.  Girls clearly knew he was the wingman, but nevertheless fell easy victim to his sincere disposition and clear, deep voice.  The secret it seemed, is that Jahan was a master of being able to get a group of girls to feel better about themselves and their bond with one another.  This renaissance of goodwill allowed his friend to have a much higher chance of having a positive encounter with a girl because the entire energy of the group was cleansed of jealously or petty ill-will. 
And so, Vik’s conversation with Ananya was fluid, unforced, and as natural as possible under the circumstances.  Here were two people that truly desired to know the other better.  Beneath this desire, of course, was that basal urge to embrace the other in a hot, naked, steamy mess.
It wasn’t long before Vik headed back to his place with his hand, gracefully around Ananya’s waist.  He was more than a gentleman, and I knew when the two were deliberating about where to go next, it went something like this:
“Um, so, what do you feel like doing?  I mean, we could go somewhere for another drink, or, I don’t know if you’re hungry.  We could grab a slice.”
“No, it’s O.K.  We’ve been out since, like 9.”
“O.K., so do you want me to drop you off at your place?  Or, I mean – and it’s totally cool if you don’t want to – but we could hang out at my place for a bit.”
“Yeah, that sounds good, because I actually live in Princeton.”
“Oh, O.K., so let’s just do that then.”
“Do what?”
“Head over to my place – I mean, if that’s still cool with you.”
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
“O.K. Cool.  I guess I’ll hail a taxi then.”

Once Vik got past this part, he usually regained his bearings.  I think the lawyer in him simply required full disclosure or he would feel somehow at risk for being disbarred. 
Surprisingly, things between Vik and Ananya lasted beyond just this one night.   
“So, what’s the deal with Princeton?  Does she have some phat pad down there that justifies being so far from work?” I asked during one such conversation.
“No, I’m not really sure.  Her place is nothing special, but she does have a yard.  I’m beginning to think it’s because of her dog.”
“Wait. What do you mean?  She commutes to Princeton into the city every day so that she can have a dog?”
“That’s what I’m saying, dude.  It’s like, she loves that dog.”
“Don’t most dog owners love their dog?”
“No, no.  You don’t understand.  That thing can do whatever it wants.  If it’s taking up the couch, we’re relegated to the bean bag.”
“Bean bag? And don’t use big words like relegated, O.K.?”
“Yeah, the damn bean bag is supposed to be for the dog, but it ends up being where we sit.”
“Interesting.  So the dog takes up the whole fucking couch?  What the hell kind of dog is it?
“It’s a Great Dane and it’s freakin’ big for a Great Dane.”
“Great Dane?  So, what does that mean?”
“It means this dog is about 150lbs.”
“Holy fucking shit! Are you serious?!?  That’s how much I weigh.”
“Yeah!  And the bastard slobbers all over me, so I keep having to go to the bathroom to wash that shit off.”
“What does Ananya say?”
“She thinks it’s hilarious.”
“Damn, homey.  I’m pretty good with the relationship advice, but I’m stumped here.  Looks like you’ve got a little competition and that competition is edging you out.”
“That’s exactly what’s going on.  I think I’m gonna carefully bring up these issues and hopefully she’ll understand.”
“I can’t see why she wouldn’t.  Maybe she just isn’t really aware of the dynamic here.”
“Yeah, well, I think she sees it, but she doesn’t think there’s anything odd about it.  O.K., bro.  We just pulled into the station.  I’ll give you a ring tomorrow.”
“Looking forward to the next episode.  Late.”
That night, Vik and Ananya held each other close on the bean bag as they sipped red wine and watched an Audrey Tatou film (Vik’s choice).  Somewhere between the protagonist walking the streets of Paris at dawn and dreaming of herself as Coco Chanel, Vik and Ananya began to kiss with anachronistic passion.  As Ananya began to moan softly between long, satiating lipped embraces, Rufus began to stir.  And as Vik untied Ananya’s halter top and gently squeezed her breasts, the Dane guffawed and threw himself upon the carpet.  Vik did his damndest to ignore this distraction, but instead of closing his eyes, he kept one eye trained on the restless beast.
I heard about the unusual dynamic the next day when Vik came over to watch the Nadal match.  I don’t recall exactly how the conversation went, but for the most part I was replying, “Are you fucking serious?”  Once I had absorbed the exact nature of the Dane’s perturbation, all I could offer was the obvious: “Well, I guess you’ve just gotta hook up in her room and make sure you lock the door behind you.”  Vik agreed that this was the only way to survive the subversion by Rufus.

A few weeks went by and it seemed the lockout strategy was successful.  But while Vik and Ananya were able to sleep together in relative peace, Rufus began to act out in other ways.  One night, as Vik and Ananya were enjoying yet another sappy foreign film, Rufus began to ram the unsuspecting Vik in the flank with its giant noggin.  Apparently, a 150lb dog can generate a decent amount of force when it so desires.  Vik attempted to push the beast away, as Ananya responded with innocent, playful laughter.  While Vik really wanted to say, “Ananya, can you get this fucking slobbering behemoth off of me – for good?!?” he knew that the closeness between beast and vixen was too great to overcome.  Vik was on his own. 
Rufus, sensing the popular sentiment was on his side (i.e. Ananya’s reaction) began to wrestle with Vik.  After it was clear the Dane would accept nothing less than a direct challenge by Vik, he reluctantly obliged the beast by engaging in a passive-aggressive sparring session.  (Ananya even paused the film to spectate.)  Vik understood the level of aggression demonstrated by Rufus was not suggestive of simple play.  This was about territory and canines are perhaps the most territorial of all domesticated animals.  Vik, having been a part of the Brazilian jui-jitsu club for two years in college, was successful in staving off the Dane.  But as Vik rose to his feet to take Ananya by the hand into the bedroom, he understood that his dancing days with Rufus had just begun. 
The day after, Vik, MCA, Jehan and myself had another night out.  MCA and I were psyched because the plan, after dinner, was to meet up with Ananya and her two hot friends.  Vik texted each of us that we’d meet for dinner at 9:30pm.  He didn’t have to name the place – that, we all knew was Los Dos Tomingos.  Owing to the insatiable need for habanero enchiladas and the propensity to leave 25% tips on the part of Vik and MCA, we had become quasi-celebs at the ever-packed cantina.  As we walked in, we were greeted with stiff margaritas, genuine smiles, and soft cheek kisses by the smoking hot receptionist.  We were seated immediately and the steak nachos and ceviche arrived almost as quickly as we had ordered them.  By the time we actually looked at the menu (Jehan and myself, at least) I had started on my third margarita.  But while the atmosphere around us was festive, we had serious business to discuss.  
“So, Vik, I hear you’re dogged by some relationship troubles,” said Jehan.
“Yes.  You could definitely say that.  This fucking dog, man.  It’s ruining everything,” Vik lamented.
“O.K., so you need a strategy, bro.  You’ve gotta get this thing the hell away from you guys when you wanna hang out alone,” offered MCA.
“Yeah, but how the fuck do I do that when she lives in a one bedroom?”
“Didn’t you say she has a back yard?  Can’t the dog go hang out there?” asked MCA.
“Dude, I’ve tried so many times to play with that damn thing in the yard so that he’ll wanna stay out there, but as soon as he sees me and Ananya together, he has to come back in.  Plus – get this – Ananya doesn’t want to leave him outside after dark for safety reasons.”
“Safety reasons?  Is the dog some fucking foreign dignitary?” I asked.
“Why don’t you just shoot the damn thing?” asked MCA.  “This dude I work with from Serbia has some crazy semi-automatic rifle that he goes hunting with once a month.  I’m sure he’d knock of this dog just for sport.”
“O.K., man.  That’s not funny,” Vik scolded.
“Who said I was kidding?” MCA said with uncontrollable laughter.
“So, you’ve read all kinds of stuff on this breed of dog, right?” queried Jehan.
“Yeah, I’ve read the whole fuckin’ top ten list for Great Danes.” 
“Was there anything useful about like training it or subduing it when it gets hyper?” I asked.
“Well, yeah.  There was some stuff.  But the books said behavioral modification takes weeks.  The only thing that works right away is establishing pack order.”
“What the fuck is pack order?” we all blurted out in unison.
“O.K., so dogs in packs have to figure out who’s the leader.  And that’s called the alpha male.  One of the books I read said that if a dog isn’t following any commands, it may be necessary to establish who the alpha male is.  Right now, Rufus thinks he’s the alpha male because of all this babying Ananya’s given him since he was a pup.  He never had to compete for her attention.  And dogs are pretty smart.  They pick up on pheromones and shit so they know something sexual is going on when Ananya and I are together.”
“So…what’s the solution?” MCA asked.
“The solution, according to what I read yesterday, is that I’ve gotta wrestle with this beast and pin it on its back.  And when I pin that motherfucker on his back, I’ve gotta look him straight in the eye to let him know I have power over him.”
“You know what?  I’ve heard of this.  I was flying out to Boston one time and on the plane they showed this National Geographic special on wolves.  I think they do the same thing,” offered Jehan.
“Right.  But the question is, ‘what do I do about it?’” asked Vik.
“Well, it seems like you’ve got it figured out.  Go on and wrestle that slobbery beast until you pin him, then talk some shit and squeeze his balls.  Seriously, do exactly what that book says to do,” I suggested.
“Dude.  I just googled apha dog control on my phone and I got some pretty disturbing porn.  Wanna see?” joked MCA.
“No thanks, bro.  I’ll pass on that.  O.K., so the plan is to pin Rufus and show him who’s boss, right?”
“Right,” we answered in unison.
“O.K., so now that we’ve got that figured out.  What’s the story with Genevive and Clari?” I asked.
“O.K.  They’re both, obviously, single.  Genevive was dating this Italian dude, but they broke up a couple weeks ago because he kept secretly skyping his ex – in his underwear.  Clari is super cool.  She hasn’t been in a relationship for a while.  But she’s hardcore Catholic, so she might want to get to know someone kinda well before she’s down to hookup, I think.”
“How well is ‘kinda well?’ Like more than an hour?” I asked.
“It would be evolutionary time for you, man.  You should probably go for Genevive.”
“O.K. cool.  She had like dark brown hair and blue eyes right?
 “More like blonde hair and brown eyes.”
“Yeah, dude, that’s what I meant.”
Vik rolled his eyes and tried to stifle his laughter, but to no avail.  Just as a strategy for the rest of the night was being devised, blistering hot plates of enchiladas, mole poblano, camarones a la diablo and tacos al carbon arrived.  We all stopped talking briefly as we gorged ourselves.  The habanero sauce was so hot that I pounded my water along with Vik’s and MCA’s.  Upon leaving the restaurant I insisted that we walk 6 blocks out of our way so I could buy a slushie to cool down the heat. 
We arrived at the bar about 30 minutes late.  If Ananya minded she certainly didn’t make it appear that way.  As Vik and I went to push the adjacent table together with the table the girls’, Vik stopped me.  “Dude, now do you see what I’m talking about? Do you see her neck?”
“Yes, Vik, I see her neck.  So what?”
“Dude, she has the most beautiful neck I’ve ever seen.”
“You do realize you’re talking about her neck, right?  Not her breasts or her ass or legs – or even eyes.”
“No, for real, it’s so… graceful.”
“Vik, I’m gonna tell you this one time, and one time alone.  Get yourself together, go and barf out a few margaritas or whatever, but do not – ever again – discuss your enchantment with Ananya’s neck.  You sound like a Nature Channel mating study gone awry.  Either way, it’s not a role you want, got it?”
“I don’t care what you say, dude.  I know the truth.  But don’t worry, I won’t tell her,” he giggled.
“Or anyone else!” Stop giggling!
“O.K.! O.K.!  Let’s move this damn table.”
We had barely sat down before MCA started fucking with Ananya.  “So, Ananya, what’s goin’ on?  How’s Princeton?” 
“Princeton is fine, MCA.  I happen to like it there.”
“So, what’s the appeal.  You obviously love the City, like any of us, but you commute all the way to Princeton, like 90 minutes each way?”
“Well, as you know, MCA, I have a dog and I think it’s cruel to have a dog in the City.”
Jehan and I could tell that Vik was getting very uncomfortable because he knew MCA well enough to spot a set-up from a mile away.  But MCA had a certain charm about him that, in combination with a knock-em-dead smile allowed him to walk that fine line of fucking with someone without getting slapped or worse.
“Ah, yes.  Mr. Rufus.  I’ve heard much about this canine of great stature.  Is it true he has diplomatic status?”
Ananya laughed good-heartedly.  “No, MCA, but I do tend to spoil him.” 
“So, if you were on a sinking boat with Vik and Rufus, and you had to choose one of them to toss overboard, who would it be?”
“Nice try, MCA.  I’d let us all sink together.”
“Ooooh.  Good answer, Ananya.  Very good answer.”
Anyway,” Vik finally said, “MCA was talking about getting tickets to Thievery on the 17th.”
“Yeah, this guy at work organizes a huge fantasy football thing, so he knows a bunch of people with connections,” MCA said.
“Yeah that would be awesome!”  said Ananya.  She turned to Genevive and Clari, “Do you guys wanna go?”
“Sure!” said Clari.
“I’ll go, but only if MCA stays home,” Genevive said jokingly.  “No, no, I’m kidding, I’m in.”
“So, Ananya, back to Rufus-“
“Oh, God. I thought we were done!”
“Almost.  I just have to know if-“
“O.K.!  O.K.! That’s hilarious, MCA,” said Vik.  He squeezed MCA’s arm to let him know that he’d gone far enough.
“Ow!  No, no, it’s not bad!  I just want to you if you and Vik are in looooove?
Both Vik and Ananya blushed like they were dusted with a field’s worth of pink pollen, as this was one question they were not prepared for.  Vik now wished it had been another obnoxious question about Rufus.
Clari saved them both by asking, “So when is this concert again?”
Jehan and I looked at one another and laughed under our breath. I decided to do my part by heading to the bar and bringing back a round of drinks.
“So, did anyone see that viral video of that Ukranian chick who was so flexible that she could kick herself in the back of the head?” I asked. 
Yeah, dude! That was fuckin’ hilarious!” exclaimed Jehan with genuine enthusiasm.  Oh, wait, I can pull it up on my phone.”
What?” chimed everyone else.
“No, really.  This is the craziest shit I’ve ever seen.” Jehan passed his phone around for everyone to see the clip.  And from there, we all let Vik and Ananya just have fun without the harassment.

On August 14, Vik and Ananya decided that they would move into the city together.  With Vik starting as an analyst at Swift & Jensen, he would be working some 80 hours a week and would never see Ananya if she continued to reside in Princeton.  They rented a one-bedroom in the E. 100s, in one of the few buildings that allowed dogs of Rufus’s girth.  Vik had been secretly modeling his new collection of Canali suits in the mirror for the past five days.  He changed shirts to match with the undertones in the jackets, then chose the tie to magnify the more prominent colors - they always implied strength and power.  On his first day, Vik chose the charcoal suit with the subdued green stitched lines with a powder blue shirt and a solid navy tie.  “Damn, I look good!” he said has he pulled his toffee Ferragamos from their respective creamy cloth shoe bags.
“You do, baby!” said Ananya.

Vik went to the kitchenette and carefully prepared his coffee – making sure to tuck his tie inside his shirt.  Rufus began to stir, undoubtedly salivating for his morning trough.  He followed body heat into the kitchen and stood up resting his crusty paws on Viks lapels.  In a single motion, Vik stepped away and swatted away Rufus’s grimy claws like a giant greenish-metallic tropical fly. 
Vik!” Anaya said, quickly comforting the beast who was surely aware of the consequences of his actions before he executed them. “He was just greeting you good morning.”
Vik ignored her, as he was reviewing the names of all the partners in their heads, what they looked like, odd moles and hairstyles to help jog his memory.  Hello…two-second pause…grip firmly…I’m Vik Patel…release hand…It’s very nice to meet you.
“Aren’t you gonna take Rufus for a walk?”
“Are you kidding?  Ananya…this is a hugely important day for me.  Whatever impression I make on all the partners today is what is going to stay in their minds.  You know that on any other day I’d have no problem, but I really need to be focused now.”

That night when Vik neared the apartment, he didn’t hear Rufus shuffling around on the hardwood floor. He assumed Anaya was curled up with him watching a movie - again.  He walked in.  The bookcase had disappeared.  I thought it looked nice there.  He looked to the bedroom to see there were no skinny jeans or lacy push-up bras scattered about the floor.  And then he realized that the sofa had been lifted from the very room in which he stood.  Without putting down his work bag, he went to the kitchen and in the trash he saw several versions of a note.  But no final draft lay on the counter.

Vik stood, replaying the insignificant events of the morning.  He repeated his steps.  And repeated them again.  He pulled his cell phone from his pocket, looked at the screen for several minutes, and then turned it off.
He opened every single window in the apartment.  He threw off his jacket and tossed his work bag on top of it.  He searched in his fire-proof file cabinet for his pack of Newports and lit one.  He poured himself a 2 oz. Ketel One, 1Tb of lime juice, 1tsp of sugar, and stirred it vigorously.  He took the first sip so quickly that it trickled out the both sides of his mouth and made tiny splatters on the floor.  And then Vik stretched himself out on top of the only remaining piece of furniture in the living room: the giant red bean bag.

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