“Jeannie?”

Ibrahim Waheed “Ogaru”

The room was dark, but not totally silent. He opened the door a bit more and heard the gentle snoring that came from the general direction of the bed on the far side. Someone was definitely having a good night’s sleep. He had to be as silent as possible. He felt like a cat burglar, a thief in the dead of night, an unwelcome intruder.

The conundrum was that it was his bedroom, though not a place of rest. A designated place of respite, it normally did nothing to unwind him. It was just like one just more compulsory pit stop on a circular Grand Prix race track. At the end of a day cycle, he would pull in, nominally shut down his work engines, and wait it out for maybe seven hours and be theoretically ready for the tarmac again. The difference between him in his bedroom and a Formula One car in the pit was that the car would usually get a once-over and a change of tires while nothing changed for him.

The origin of the snore in the darkened room was an amazing person. She watched a lot of popular Star Plus soaps on cable television, but chose not to emulate the sweety-sweety, sari-clad, improbably idealized representations of the patni who would wait for her husband to get home no matter what the clock said. She would have liked to be a dynamic career woman, but had yet to completely make up her mind on what career to follow. She breathed, ate, drank and otherwise lived a lifestyle that she herself had carved out for her, obligatorily funded by her husband. The latter observations being digression or even a transgression, nothing but the snore should matter at this point in our narrative.

Thus the door of the designated bedroom was opened, the good side of the bed felt around for, and the tired body of the aforesaid man duly deposited on it with perhaps a little less decorum than would have been proper in an episode of Yeh Dunya, Yeh Rishta. As if the man had no worries, troubles or tribulations at all in this world, he was soon in deep sleep.

As the man slept, the man’s eyes remained firmly closed. And yet, a faint replication of his eyelids, almost ghostly, suddenly opened. They looked around the room as if they saw everything in it despite the darkness. Then, something most amazing happened. The man’s whole body seemed to develop its own ghostly copy, a copy in near-transparent smoke blue, which slowly sat up.

“Jeannie!” The apparition whispered into the darkness. “You there, Jeannie?”

“Over here, dear!” The answer came from outside the bedroom, from the general direction of the kitchen area right next to the living room. It, too, sounded like a whisper though it carried.

The apparition on the bed got and walked over to the living room where a similar apparition sat at the dining table waiting. The latter had long hair, perhaps blonde if the hazy smoke blue it came in could be called that. She had a beautiful smile of welcome on her face.

“Had a good day out there, dear?” She asked him as he approached the table. “Anything interesting? I had a rough day today. There was this client that wanted his hearings advanced. And the courts are tied up, he knows.”

“Not really.” Said the man, “That nurse I told you about complained again about the same thing today. Apart from that, everything was more of the same. Routine, you know. Have you eaten? I am hungry as that place that I should not mention according to you-know-who. Shall we warm up the pizza we stashed away last night?”

The man and the woman, in proper see-through smoky blue apparition form of course, sat there at the table for a reasonable amount of time, talking about their days and sharing a warmed-up pizza. As the pizza disappeared where good pizzas should, and as their conversation changed towards more intimate subjects, they looked more into each other’s eyes and smiled at each other more often. They did not seem to notice that it had started to rain outside. They did not react to the small drop in ambient temperature.

Inside the room, the sleeping man had a small smile on his face. It was lost and completely useless in the darkness. Perhaps he felt the slight change in the temperature, despite the buffering effect of the air-conditioned. He rolled over in his sleep, moving closer to his sleeping wife in the process.

“Jeannie, I love you….” He said in his sleep.

It took a flick of the light switch, a couple of not-so-gentle pokes in his side, and a sharp voice full of indignant accusation to bring him back to the world of the wakeful. He said in a thick voice, “Wha…what..what?”

A lot of unanswerable questions were thrown at the man about that person called Jeannie. No plausible answers came from him, mostly because he really did not know anyone by that name. His ignorance, however, was not acceptable to his wife. Thus fueled, the dispute rapidly escalated into something that would have provided good copy, full of sound and fury and melodrama, for a conscientious scriptwriter. Fortunately, a person of the latter description was not around to get it all down on paper.

And, of course, there was no one at the dinner table to intervene. or even intercede on anyone’s behalf. There was no one there to flee at the noise of the commotion. No one had sat at that table for hours.

The room was not dark any longer. It was certainly not silent any more. No one was going to enjoy a good night’s sleep there that night. The man tried to be as silent as possible and failed horribly. He felt like a cat burglar, a thief in the dead of night, an unwelcome intruder into a confused world he knew nothing about but perhaps needed to escape from. Perhaps even into the world of that very Jeannie he knew nothing about.

“Jeannie?” He said in a muted whisper. No human ear heard him say the name or the tone of inquisitive invitation in his voice.

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