Words by Megha R Sharma
Photo by MEGAN CARTER (@by.megan.carter or @megan_carterrr)
Maya stared at her laptop screen for the longest time in a while. She had been hungry for a while now. No wonder her brain wasn’t working.
“Oof, why do we have to eat for our stupid brain to function?” Maya wondered out loud. She looked out of the window, she didn’t want to get out off her couch, she was comfortable.
She sighed loudly and got herself off the couch and into the shower. A quick shower, and Maya changed into something comfortable. She grabbed her wallet, cell phone, and umbrella, and left her house in hopes of eating a good ramen. Maya saw the time on her cellphone, it was almost midnight. The small ramen shop usually closed around midnight, she knew she had to run if she wanted to eat. The owner knew Maya very well. He knew she survived off his ramen when she was in the zone with her work. At times, he even waited for her to come to his ramen shop.
“Natsuo!” Maya shouted when she entered the ramen shop. “Ah Maya, I was wondering when you were going to come.” Natsuo was your typical lover boy. He had been in love with Maya since the day she stepped into his shop. She had this different mysterious aura to herself. If she was the darkness, he was the sunshine.
“Oh, I thought if I stared at my laptop more, any idea would strike,” Maya said smiling. Natsuo was just happy to see Maya there in front of him. He went in to tell the chef Maya’s usual order. “What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee?” Maya just shook her head and asked for a glass of water.
Maya looked into her pocket for her cell phone and kept it on the table. Natsuo saw her doing the same and subtly excused himself into the kitchen. There was a text from ‘Nate’ on her cellphone from an hour back.
-Did you eat anything?
-I am at the ramen shop. Will have ramen and go home.
Maya smirked at the last text and took a sip of her water.
Maya loved Nate, but there were days when she despised him. His ego, his cockiness, his unromantic self, his pride. There were days when she couldn’t decide whether to love him or to never see his face again, and often she decided the latter.
“Here you go, your usual,” Natsuo said, handing Maya her favourite ramen. He made sure that Maya’s ramen was healthy, he snuck some vegetables which she didn't like. “I have a question for you,” Natsuo asked, wondering while Maya was busy indulging herself in her all-so-delicious ramen. “Is this your dinner?” Maya couldn't help but be surprised by his question. How did he know? Maya had here and there mentioned in their older conversations that his ramen was a midnight snack for her. “Don't even try to lie, Maya, I know this is your dinner. But is this your dinner every day?” She was again speechless. “Oh god, Maya. Please eat your meals on time.” Natsuo was worried and disappointed at the same time.
“Natsuo, you know how it is. I have a deadline, just a month. My editor will kill me if I don’t give him the first rough draft of my book next month. I don't want to be the type of writer who is just able to write one good book and every other piece of her work sucks.” Maya couldn't help but let self-doubt take over her. Natsuo just wanted to cup her cheeks and reassure her that she was good and that it was just her self-doubt talking.
“Maya, how about I pop by every day with your dinner? I take dinner breaks as well, I can come by your place with our dinner. How does that sound?”
Maya nodded in affirmation, but she didn’t want to be a burden on him. He stopped taking money for ramen a long time ago too. Natsuo was just happy with the fact that she agreed to it. He wants to spend all his time with her but never has the courage to ask her out for coffee. Also, the fact that she had a boyfriend didn't help.
Maya hurriedly finished her ramen, took her things, and left for her home.
Natsuo saw her leave and just wanted to follow her and tell her everything that he had been hiding from her, but he feared he would lose his friend too.
There was a knock at Maya’s door, and there he was, looking all-so-adorable with ramen in his hand. Natsuo was serious when he said he didn't mind coming along with food for her. Maya sighed and let him in. She looked different, with her hair messed up, wearing her glasses and an old t-shirt of her boyfriends’.
“Just ignore the mess, and the plates are in the kitchen, if you can't find any clean plates don't blame me.”
Natsuo saw her kitchen and pitied her. It was an absolute mess, it seemed like a storm had happened in here and upturned everything. He sighed and kept food on the table and began cleaning her kitchen. Maya was engrossed in her writing and little did she know Natsuo cleaned her kitchen and her room as well. She needed it, she needed someone to take care of her. She doesn't remember when the last time she had a good shower was.
“Maya, get up, get in the shower and please don't shower just for the sake of it. Clean your body, it will help you write well.” Maya ignored him, or more like his words couldn't reach her ears. Finally, the cord struck her, and she was able to write just like she used to before. The words just flew out from within her.
“Maya, can you hear me?” Natsuo said with his tone a bit harsher and louder.
Maya was out of her trance and gave Natsuo a weird look. “Shower! Now!”
Maya got in her shower, scrubbing all her dirt away and thinking about Natsuo. It was weird how she was thinking about him and not her boyfriend. Not once did her boyfriend check up on her. This had never happened before, but as they were in a long-distance relationship she let it go. He could be busy with something, maybe he had meetings back to back today. Maybe he had to meet his friends today, maybe he went out with his family. After thinking about all this, her mind was back to Natsuo. She had known Natsuo for just the past three months, and before she knew it they had got close. At times, she shared her deepest darkest thoughts with him.
Maya got out of the shower and had a look around her apartment. Natsuo had cleaned her entire apartment and even burned a few scented candles. She didn't know how to feel, whether she should be thankful to him, shout at him for doing so much for her, or just let it be and enjoy this new profound attention she was receiving.
“Now can we have our most awaited dinner?” Natsuo asked with his puppy eyes. Maya couldn't help but think of how she wanted to kiss him. She realized what thought had popped into her head and shook it. She already had a boyfriend, and moreover, she didn't want to ruin their friendship. She nodded and they both sat at her small dining table eating and talking about everything and anything.
“Natsuo, I want to thank you. If I am able to complete this book in the stipulated time it's all because of you. Thank you for feeding me your delicious ramen every night. More than my parents, my friends and my boyfriend, you were the one who was beside me in all of this.” Natsuo just smiled. “I don't want your thank you, Maya, all I need is the first official copy of your book with your autograph.”Maya was happy, after a long time she was just plain happy. She got up and took their bowls to wash them. Sometimes it is just takeout food and good company that makes you feel happy. Maya had been to fancy restaurants and big parties, but nothing compares to this ramen and Natsuo’s company.
In all this, a part of her wished it was her boyfriend instead of Natsuo. Maya checked her cellphone and a text left her whole world shattered.
-Maya, I don't know how to say this. I wanted to do it face-to-face rather than over a text, but I can't do this anymore. I am sorry, and I hope you find happiness and complete your book. Please don't call or try to reach out to me. It’s done now, nothing can save us.
It’s not like they didn't have problems between them, but nothing that made the text from him believable. What should she do? He clearly said to not contact him, but should she leave it just like that? Years of relationship over in just a text?
“This is awkward, but my boyfriend just broke up with me over text. Do you mind staying for a little while longer?” Maya told Natsuo with teary eyes. His expression changed from fun to concerned. He nodded and Maya went and laid on his lap. His fingers caressed her hair till she fell asleep.
Nothing was said, just Maya and her sadness wrapped around the arms of Natsuo.
Slowly and subtly Natsuo took out his burner cell phone from his pocket.
-Good. You will get your ramen in the morning.
Natsuo went ahead and deleted all the texts too.
Especially the one which started with ‘Maya, I don't know how to say this.’