The silence of my third tea break of the day is interrupted by a commotion at the front desk. Apparently, someone is challenging my right to five minutes’ seclusion by demanding that I see them right now. I enjoy my work as much as I enjoy my tea, but I hate it when an impatient client turns this circle of harmony into a love triangle.
Blink, blink, beep, beep goes the intercom. Back on the saucer goes the teacup. Into the room strides the client.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to happen. Usually, I page the receptionist with any standard version of the message “I don’t keep you at that desk for decoration”, and he gets moving. This is the first time that his appeal on the intercom has failed in its timing. Failed miserably. The damsel of doom is not supposed to flounce into my office five minutes before her appointment. She is supposed to be made to wait fifteen minutes before being allowed to enter, so that exactly what is going on right now does not happen.
“Thank goodness I got in here, doctor! Your telephone operator tried to tell me that you weren’t free, but I couldn’t stay in that waiting room any longer!”
He. Is. Not. A. Telephone. Operator. “Take a seat, madam,” I speak automatically. She flops onto the patient’s couch but instead of settling into it so that she faces the opposite direction, she twists around to face me.
Regular people act the way they’re supposed to. They sit the way they should for their therapy session. Your brother’s business partner’s sister-in-law—well, the less said, the better.
“I can’t believe it, Dr. Q,” she says. “You’re such an excellent therapist, just walking into your office soothes my nerves. But he’s just spoiled the place for me now. I can’t believe he’s here! I couldn’t bear seeing him in your waiting room. I just had to get out of there.”
I don’t like stories with snapshots-from-the-middle-of-the-plot epilogues. They never make any sense. “Who are you referring to?” I ask.
“I told you about him last time. Guy Z. The one I met after I left X. You know.”
“Hmm.” I rack my brains to make sense out of this alphabet soup, searching for recognisable labels. I probe for information: “Always Online or Photo Junkie?” Then I prepare myself to receive the incoming onslaught of information as the damsel (or Dod, as I personally call her) launches into the narration of her woes.
“Neither of them. They were a waste of time. I don’t know what they were even doing on a dating site. Always Online chatted with me for two weeks, went on a week’s holiday and then when he came back, he told me to remind him who I was! As for Photo Junkie, all he wanted was photo comments, he apparently hadn’t heard of the existence of photo sharing sites.
“I thought X was my type. He really had potential, but then he just had to go and display his complete lack of brain cells. He didn’t get it when I acted attractively mysterious. It’s the first rule in every book, don’t give too much about yourself away. Maintain an alluring aura of riddles and half-clues. Be elusive. But I was so gorgeously elusive that he totally missed the hint and thought I wanted to get away, so he gave me a good push to speed up the process. Deleted and blocked me from everywhere! After I spent a good month taking pictures of myself with my eyes peeking out from behind my dupatta! I can’t believe I wasted so much effort on that loser.”
“So this…X is in the waiting room?”
“No, that’s not X, that’s…well, let’s call him Zanzibar. He’s a real find, I subscribed to iLove 2.0 to find my perfect match and we got together. I sent him my mobile number, very conveniently tagged ‘AA Rabia Jaan’, so that it would always be at the top of his contacts list. He called up the owner of the person with the same mobile number as his on another network. He had to threaten him with arson and murder before he agreed to give up his number, but we finally got matching mobile numbers. I sent him an MMS of myself and he set my picture as the wallpaper on his mobile phone. Isn’t that just darling?
“The climax of our relationship was when he told me that he was driving past my neighbourhood to see me, and asked me to come out onto the balcony. My mother nearly had a heart attack when I asked her to let me drape the laundry over the terrace rail that day—I don’t even make my own tea, otherwise—but the mission was completed successfully. Just as I was rearranging Munnu’s cloth diapers for the fifth time, he drove past. The sun glinted off his sunglasses so that I couldn’t see his face properly, but he sent me a text message to ask where we’d bought the stonewashed jeans which were drying on the rail, so I knew that he could see me just fine. Wasn’t that a Romeo-and-Juliet moment!
“But something happened. He wasn’t texting me every few seconds anymore. I don’t know what happened. And now he’s here, so that means that whatever problem he has, he didn’t consider me worthy enough to confide in, so he’s going to discuss it with you!” The Dod glares at me for a moment, then a very different expression crosses her face. “Doctor…if you ask him to come in here and discuss it in front of me…you can do that, can you? I know you will. You treat me just like family.”
I treat you because you have money. “As both of you haven’t mutually agreed to come for couple therapy, I can’t guarantee anything, but—”
“Forget it. I’ll just ask him myself.” She frisks out of the room before I can say anything else. I glance in the direction of my (now cold) tea and suppress a sigh. The things one has to do to earn a living! I was better off before dating went digital.
The Dod strides back into the room. Impossibly, she is even more agitated than she was before. “He’s gone!” she shrieks dramatically. “Dr. Q, can you believe it?”
I very well can. The scene is very clear in my head. Dod and Zanzibar see each other in the waiting room. Dod flees to my office. Zanzibar exits the building. If that guy has an ounce of sense, he will be twenty miles away by now. That leaves me, a sobbing Dod and a curious receptionist leaning into the hall trying to eavesdrop.
Dr. Q Pid is the name, longtime clients is the game. I don’t run after people shooting arrows after them anymore. Sending them fishing for people in the world of bits and bytes is much more convenient. The new and improved system, sponsored by the Doc himself, the iLove two-point-oh. I sit at the edge of the lake selling equipment and listening to their woes when something goes wrong with their fishing rods. Some things work so well once you get them going that you wonder why you didn’t set them up years before.
I try to console the Dod. Have to do something to send her away thinking about something other than a broken fishing line. I have just the perfect suggestion to drive all other thoughts out of her mind. “You just need someone to talk to, right?” She nods. I consider her for a few moments before popping the proposition out of its shell. “Well, then. Why don’t you just take my number and talk to me!”
Originally published in Us Magazine, The News, on February 12, 2010.
Link to original: http://jang.com.pk/thenews/feb2010-weekly/us-12-02-2010/p22.htm#1