“hume lagta hai, you need a hair cut, arnav ji!” khushi blurted out when asr suddenly looked up while fixing his tie and caught her staring at him.
(i think… you need a hair cut, arnav ji!)
it was seven in the morning, she was still half asleep in bed. she’d heard some noise and her eyes had opened for a moment. he’d walked into the room from the adjoining dressing room just then, in a charcoal waistcoat over a light khaki shirt, black trousers, his hair still wet. he was pulling his tie around his collar, chin up, distracted air. she had no idea why but her breath had quickened.
she’d not been able to look away. and though her eyelids were heavy with sleep, she’d found it difficult to shut them. it was a strange problem.
a shard of light seemed to streak through brown irises for an instant. fine lips, with their natural asymmetry, the right corner dragging down just a little bit… gave a quick smile. a dark eyebrow went up. the knot was tugged and set in place.
“shut up, khushi!” said arnav singh raizada. his voice was husky with a note of that early morning crispness.
khushi ducked under the sheets.
her knees had started turning to water. she swallowed hard and shut her eyes tight. the butterflies in her stomach though refused to settle down.
something moved. a blast of cold air on her face. her eyes opened, startled. he was bending over her, he’d just yanked the sheet off her face.
she could smell his light musky aftershave, she could feel his breath getting warmer as he came nearer, she could see his lips open and his head turn…
and then he was kissing her on the mouth. a hard quick kiss. then a gentle slow one. then a murmuring soft barely there one.
the butterflies were setting up a storm. her breathing had almost stopped. her body was taut, all sleep forgotten.
he kissed her once more. this time on her cheek.
then he stood up quickly, flicked her nose, and turned away.
“remember, 9 o’clock, sharp!” he said, as he shrugged on his jacket and strode out of the room.
“arri! arri! bhy bhy… bhy you’j phalayings like thayt, again becomings madhumakhhi, ij eet? hello hi bye bye!” mami ji asked, her voice careening to highs at appropriate words such as “phalayings” and “ij eet”. she was dressed in her mooga mekhela.
to draw attention to her waist where she had tucked the chadar, she had worn a heavy gold kamar band. it lay in a dazzling arc around her left hip, the tiny bells along its edge jingled as manorama walked her usual sashay. that it was just about 8.30 in the morning was of course not allowed to interfere with manorama raizada’s choice of makeup, clothes or jewellery at all. she had also chosen a particularly bright pink lipstick this morning.
(hey hey, why why… why are you flying like that, again becoming a honey bee, are you? hello hi bye bye!)
she posed by her chair at the table and arched an eyebrow at khushi who was running down the steps, arms flailing and breathless, her maroon jhola with bright mirror work swinging about, her mojris almost off her feet.
“mami ji! hume nau baje tak… i have to reach the office by nine, arnav ji will be so angry if i’m late again!” khushi ran over to the table, breakfast had been served. she stuffed a poori into her mouth, grabbed a glass of lassi, tried to swallow the poori with some lassi, choked and and started coughing.
(mami ji… by nine i must…)
“dheere, bitiya, dheere!” mama ji said in his calm placid way, “i know today arnav bitwa and akas bitwa will be very busy because of the show… but have your breakfast slowly.”
(slowly, child, slowly!)
at this, manorama did a shimmy with her lips and hips simultaneously and sat down.
“aur aap, manorama, ka aap cow walk ke liye taiyaar hui gayi subah ma hi?” mama ji smiled indulgently at his overdressed wife, there was the tiniest hint of sarcasm in his tone.
(and you, manorama, are you all dressed up for the cow walk in the morning itself?)
manorama looked daggers at her husband. she would have said something but her mother in law was sitting at the head of the table.
hemangini raizada tried to hide a smile. she turned to khushi and said, “yes, khushi bitiya, finish your breakfast… payal bitiya will call chhotey and tell him you’ll be a little late.”
“nooo! nahin! nani ji!” khushi started chewing really fast and taking gulps of lassi, “i reach work late every day… he says nothing! but i know, he knows… even when he is out…! i’m sure he keeps track! that that…” khushi’s eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, several words such as laad governor, magarmach, rakshas, khadoos, chudail, jwalamukhi, shadyantri sher passed through her mind, then she weakly said, “…arnav ji!”
she couldn’t call him any of those things in front of the elders. hey devi maiyya, this man was driving her crazy.
“today he said, i must be there at nine sharp…!” khushi exclaimed and kept eating and talking.
payal watched her sister, her head shaking gently, a little smile on her lips. it was good that khushi was eating her breakfast even if she hadn’t stopped talking. both these activities were highly important to khushi. she was clearly very happy, and wanted to go to arnav ji as soon as possible. payal started putting butter on a hot toast, she could see her mother in law had finished her first one and was still looking quite miffed at what her father in law had said.
op appeared almost magically as he often tended to. his warm, ugly face was wreathed in smiles.
“babua peed on me!” his eyes shone as he reported the news and then disappeared kitchen ward.
mami ji’s face underwent an extreme transformation instantly.
“oh my clebhers boyj, my darlings mupphinwa, my kings… anjali bitiya wills nebhers by saydwa agains!” she said in a rush, the sweetest of smile on her lips, her eyes sparkled.
(oh my clever boy, my darling muffin, my king… anjali will never be sad again!)
adil, anjali’s son was almost four months old now. he was a chubby little fellow who smiled all the time. everyone adored him, of course. anjali sang him songs at night, her voice floated over the poolside. khushi had seen arnav ji smile to himself at times when he sat out there. watching him happy always made her stomach knot. she left him alone at such moments.
khushi grinned at payal, their nephew was the cutest thing ever and between them they called him balu jaan. balu, short for balushahi. after all, his favourite aunts, his mamis, were daughters of lucknow’s most well know sweet maker and who didn’t know his balushahis.
suddenly khushi hiccuped, her eyes widened to large circles, she shrieked, “kya! five minutes to nine!”
then she was flying out of her chair and down the hall before anyone could stop her. when she saw lakshmi ji at the door, she shouted “lakshmi ji, please pray for me… hum aate hain!” at the goat and she was gone.
(lakshmi ji, please pray for me… i’ll be back!)
“hooonh! phalayings!” manorama muttered and took a delicate bite of her well buttered toast.
“ah!” asr said, looking up as khushi walked into his office, “okay, aman, get it done! i’ll be back in about an hour!”
he got up and walked around his desk briskly. aman, who had been sitting across the desk, going over the details of the show once more, got to his feet too.
“let’s go!” asr said to his wife, who stood there looking flustered. he caught hold of her hand and started pulling her along, moving swiftly, going down the spiral staircase that led from his office to the lower floor.
“hu–um kahan jaa rahe hain, arnav ji!” khushi asked sounding confused. where was he taking her? and what was the rush?
(where are we going, arnav ji!)
asr didn’t bother to reply. he kept walking fast, his steps long, his slim trouser legs wrapping around his ankle, not getting any tie to fall with its smooth crease, his hand grasping hers. khushi was having a tough time keeping the mojris on her feet.
“lavanya!” he stopped in front of lavanya’s office for a second, “don’t forget to send the car for naho an hour earlier, she wants to go somewhere before coming to the airport!”
“don’t worry, asr… i won’t forget!” lavanya said, giving khushi a big grin. before khushi could say anything though, asr had started walking off again, her trailing behind him.
“here! what are we doing here, arnav ji?” khushi was mystified.
“we’ve come to eat golgappa!” asr said curtly, unfastening her seat belt and getting out of his suv. he was going around the car to her side, when khushi opened the door and jumped out…
“yeh aap kya kah rahe hai! golgappe!” she almost shrieked.
(what are you saying! golgappa!)
“shut up, khushi! i have no time today… now shall we go!” asr came toward her as she backed away. something made her want to run. her jhola bag hit a hard object… it was the bonnet of the car. khushi stopped, she couldn’t go back any farther, he was approaching still, closing the distance between them. her eyes had a trace of fear, her breathing had become rapid, asymmetrical.
a strange look passed over asr’s face. all the muscles seemed to relax. he stopped in front of her and bent down slowly, his eyes had a softness in them she noticed… his lips were on hers and he was kissing her slowly. his hands caressed her sides, then held her hips and pulled her close, his tongue nudged against her teeth. khushi wished her knees were made of something solid, like that car’s bonnet maybe. arnav ji… she let her hands slide around his hips and opened her mouth, her eyelids felt heavy. a lick of fire came out of nowhere and and made the soles of her feet go searing hot. a mojri slipped off.
light played on the red. the red was deep, almost scarlet. around it glittered facets in a dark shade… like night.
khushi stared speechless at what lay before her. she couldn’t speak. arnav ji’s hand in hers felt reassuring, maybe she could breathe, nothing would happen.
the necklace was about an inch wide, it was set with oval shaped rubies and black diamonds in rose gold. the rubies sparkled right across it, whimsical touches of black diamonds here and there, a sheen of gold in between. but everything was really in those red stones… the rubies. they were magnificent. bharathi prakash had just taken the necklace out of its case and laid it on a bed of white satin.
“asr, i hope you like it… i got as many burmese rubies as i could get on such short notice. six months is just not enough time as you know. all the stones are natural… untreated. otherwise, it just doesn’t have the look… that… that preciousness. khushi my dear, it will look stunning on you… and with your ring!” bharathi had beamed and spoken all the while as she’d gone about arranging things and getting the necklace out. khushi sat there looking more and more bemused.
arnav ji had brought her here once, which is why she had been so surprised when they had stopped in front of the beautiful house. then he said all that about golgappe! rakshas, magarmach… she could feel a smile though as the thoughts flitted across.
he had bought her her dark red ruby ring, her engagement ring, from this jewellery shop that didn’t look like a shop at all. khushi remembered that day suddenly, how she had hated him… yes, really! how he’d said he liked the ring… then he’d slipped it onto her finger. later in the car going back… “bas, khushi!” khushi stopped her thoughts instantly. her cheeks began to flame. she felt arnav ji’s grip on her hand grow tighter. she turned and looked at him, her expression tremulous.
his jawline was what she saw first. it was hard, angular, unyielding. the stubble across his cheek, his chin, up to his high cheek bones was perfectly even. her eyes moved farther up, he glanced at her just then, a brilliant heat in his eyes. she breathed in sharply.
he had ordered this six months ago? for her?
there must be some mistake. why would arnav ji…
“like it?” she heard him ask in a curt, specific way.
she nodded, then she struggled to find her voice.
“kisske liye?” she asked in a whisper. bharathi ji was surely mistaken, this must be for…
(it’s for whom?)
“mere liye,” asr deadpanned and picked up the necklace. bharathi walked away, khushi wondered why. and would arnav ji now wear the necklace!
she stared at him, eyes beginning to say too many things. asr stood up. khushi breathed in deeply… there must be some mistake.
something cold touched khushi’s neck. she shivered. she felt the necklace settle against her skin, it seemed so sure of itself, knowing exactly where to sit. arnav ji’s fingers were at the back of her neck, he was fixing the clasp. a tear reached her eyelid from where exactly she didn’t know. then it fell down her cheek.
her jwalamukhi. her arnav ji…
“here, khushi, take a look,” bharathi had just placed a mirror before her on the cabinet top.
she lifted her eyelids and there she was in the mirror, the skein of red glowing around her neck… her tears refracted the light rays, the shimmer of stones merged and become a continuous flow. of red… blood… she looked straight into arnav ji’s eyes. he was looking at her in the mirror.
he gave a funny tight smile. she saw his hand lift, brown long steady fingers… his index finger brushed away her tears.
“bharathi… it’s just what i had in mind, ” he murmured, looking at the older lady. she was elegant in a pair of loose white slacks and a dove grey silk shirt today, her hair was cut short now and perfectly blow dried.
bharathi smiled, pleased, it was always good to know what the customer really wanted… she had spent almost thirty five years in the business figuring that out.
“asr, i had a feeling, you might want these as well… so i…” bharathi held out a little box. inside lay two earrings. each had a square ruby around which were sprinkled tiny black diamonds, a small fall of diamonds dangled from each one.
asr frowned and perused them, he said nothing. khushi saw little crow’s feet appear at the corner of his eyes.
“thanks, bharathi… great touch!” he shot a smile at her. bharathi motioned to a young assistant to pack the jewellery.
khushi watched the proceedings, still unable to say anything.
she reached back to take off her necklace. her necklace… she felt her heart leap. this was hers.
hands which were slightly calloused, rough in places, stopped her fingers.
she looked at him in the mirror again. he was standing right behind her. she could see the length of his neck from this angle, he swallowed… then he said, “don’t take it off!”
her eyes widened… he was walking away already.
khushi licked her lips, a little breathless. they were driving back.
“arnav ji!” khushi started…
“hmm? ” he sounded completely absent minded.
khushi had wanted to thank him, but suddenly it all got to her. nine sharp… golgappa… for me… really! and how dare he buy her such an expensive thing without even saying anything to her… who did he think he was…
“arnav singh raizada!” he was looking straight ahead as he brusquely said the words.
“huh!” khushi looked at him, puzzled.
“you just asked, who does this laad governor think he is!” he countered evenly. the car slowed down, then stopped.
asr unfastened his seat belt and turned toward khushi.
“aap kaise hume…” khushi blurted rounding on him, her agitation growing.
(how can you…)
his hand went up and touched her cheek. the gentlest stroke followed. khushi felt tears rush to her eyes again.
“shh!” his breath was on her cheek, then his lips… “don’t cry… i… can’t bear to see you cry…” he pulled her toward him. he would always remember her eyes filled with tears, dark and accusing and scared… that very first time he saw her.
she felt her hand go of its own volition to his cheek and her fingers wanting to be grazed by that stubble of his. their bodies began to intertwine almost involuntarily. neither noticed they were right on humayun road, surrounded by fairly heavy traffic. it was eleven in the morning.
he nuzzled her neck, kissing her behind her left ear. she heard him moan softly. she drew him against her, forgetting her indignation.
he suddenly sat up straight and started the engine.
she knew his day was packed, they were flying to lucknow at four o’clock. the show was to start at eight. she didn’t say anything. she touched her necklace with unsteady fingers and kept quiet for a change.
though not for long.
“what! where are you going, arnav ji!” she yelled as asr swung sharply to the right and drove into the gates of the taj mansingh.
he didn’t bother to reply. instead he braked as he came up to the porch, got out, flung the keys at the waiting valet and holding khushi’s hand raced up the stairs two at a time, to the reception.
khushi glanced around the room. it was a suite actually, they were in the sitting room with its deep sofas covered in pale salmon velvet and chairs with ornate backs and finishes in burnt gold. she remembered he had brought her to a room like this once… that afternoon… she smiled and stepped inside. but today he had so much work…
she turned to tell him that but he just picked her up in his arms and started walking toward the bedroom. khushi stared, there was a look on his face.
he lowered her onto the bed and threw off his jacket. soon his waist coat was on the couch by the large bed, then his tie… swift movement of precise long fingers and his shirt was off. khushi gasped.
arnav singh raizada unbuckled his belt and pulled it out, throwing it carelessly on the table by the couch, then he went to her and pulled her up holding both her hands in one of his. without seeking permission or fumbling, he twisted her around, his hands came up and caught hold of her breasts, cupping them, squeezing slightly. he bent and bit her neck lightly before kissing her… lingering there, his lips caressing the crook of her neck.
she could feel the heat emanating from his skin right behind her. he fell back on the bed with her on top of him… she lay there on her back. his hands moved over her stomach, her abdomen, farther down. she caught them as they reached her thigh. she realised her whole body was shaking now, she began to draw his hands to where she wanted him to touch her. she was drowning, she couldn’t think straight, her body was arching, she wanted to…
“make love to me, khushi!” asr said, saying out loud the words that were about to form in her heart.
it had all happened so quickly. she had no idea why they were here… but at this moment, it really didn’t matter.
she rolled off him and started to open the buttons of her kurta at the back. he lay their leaning on his elbow, an indulgent smile sending his mouth on a steep irresistible climb on one side, the left side… khushi reached and touched his lips. his grin widened, he cocked an eyebrow.
he was opening the dori of her kurta and he was tugging it gently, taking it off… her churidar was gone next and he had caught her back in his arms. he pulled off the covers from the bed and tumbled onto the white sheets with her in his arms. the hair on his chest was damp.
her hands went to the waist band of his trousers. she felt him shift, she heard him groan. when she reached up to take off her necklace, he stopped her again. he didn’t want to talk, he didn’t want to play, he just wanted to feel her skin on his, he wanted to feel her body quickening against his, thrusting, writhing… he wanted to feel her hunger for him.
she was on top of him now, her eyes slightly glazed, her body moving in a hypnotic rhythm. her hair had opened out, it fell all around her, silken auburn tresses. he could see the rubies against her pale firm skin. she moved losing her balance once in a way, falling forward… he held her in his arms… they kissed, he bit her lips, he felt her every response to his little touches.
the pristine white sheets got crumpled, two of the large fluffy pillows found their way to the floor, husky whispers and ragged breath played in the silence of the room.
she tried not to scream. he told her no one would hear. just him. then he pulled her even closer and smiled.
when they woke up, they realised they must had slept off… it was one o clock already.
“red suits you,” he muttered and kissed her on her nipple, feather light soft kiss. she gave him a light whack and jumped out of bed.
“arnav ji!” she protested and ran to the bathroom. she didn’t see him lie back against the pillows and laugh.
a tall slim statuesque girl walked alone down the cat walk. warm golden fluid fabric flowed… she was wrapped in a sheath of pure mooga… nothing else. a bunch of red frangipanis dangled from each ear. her hair had been pulled right up to make a high top knot. she had no shoes on her feet, and no other ornaments.
the spotlights focused on her, the audience sat all around on chairs and sofas on the grounds of sheeshmahal. fairy lights hung from trees and over manicured bushes, there were cascades of lights on wires strung between branches of old trees. the walls were decorated with rows of incandescent bulbs. it was a full moon night. to ward off the heat, large fans blew air over curtains of khus soaked in water… their earthy fragrance mingled with the warm evening breeze.
the girl stood poised and still. she had appeared suddenly without any warning. people were caught unawares. they were still talking amongst themselves. slowly the noise died down.
there was silence.
she took a deep breath and flung out her arms. it took one a moment to realise she was throwing gold dust into the air. she smiled after she was done. then she said three words distinctly, “i am gold.”
the light on her went out, another spotlight picked up a lone figure in black at the back on the stage. it was arnav singh raizada.
“ladies and gentleman!” he said coolly walking down a few steps to the ramp, “welcome to ‘i am gold’, our celebration of mooga! i hope you enjoy the evening!”
he went up to the girl standing by herself and offered her his arm, she put her hand on his elbow. the two of them turned and walked back as the show started and the opening sequence with models in fine, swirling, almost chiffon light mooga began.
khushi sat in the front row in her mooga sari. arnav ji had given it to her soon after they managed to get the texture he was wanting to create. there was no work on it, no embellishment, only a fine row of tassels at edge of the pallu. the blouse was made of mooga too, but in another shade of gold, not its natural colour, a cluster of dark red pompoms hung from the short sleeves. she had left her hair open. he had put on the necklace for her after she was done and given her an appraising look when she had added on the earrings.
“hmm… not bad!” he had nodded, then lifted her left hand and given a curious smile as he caught sight of the ring she always wore.
“naho ji,” khushi turned to the petite japanese woman sitting next to her on the sofa, “i just wanted to say thank you… bahut bahut thank you…”
(many many thanks…)
naho ogawa, the daughter of shima’s owner, and major shareholder at the company, had called a week after they had returned to delhi. she had assured asr they would find a way to get the mooga deal back on track. her husband had tried to call it off and managed to convince her father, but naho was quite certain she would get her father to change his mind.
khushi knew arnav ji would go ahead with the project even otherwise, but there was a different fun and creative surge to it all when you knew you a demanding and different audience was waiting to see your work, wear it, feel it, taste it. like helena ji. oh how pleased she had been that helena ji had liked her jalebis… she had wanted to experiment and make something that suited her friend… or like when she had made jalebi for arnav ji without sugar.
when she had told arnav ji that, he had shaken his head, his eyes had narrowed and he’d said, “did you just compare the eclectic, fashion conscious japanese woman to an elephant, khushi?!”
when she had nodded sheepishly, understanding yes, she had done precisely that, he had again shaken his head and said, “unbelievable!”
a moment later it had struck him, “and you compared me to helena…! khushi,… but wait… this wouldn’t be the first time, would it, so why complain!” he had stalked off.
“khushi san, there is no need to thank me…” naho had a low pretty voice, there was a little trill in her way of speaking, “i am happy to be doing this project… also going to assam was very instructive, have you been to assam, khushi san?”
khushi beamed and replied, “yes, naho ji… i love assam too!”
she hadn’t been able to go with arnav ji again, the baby came suddenly and then anyway, you can’t keep going away like that all the time.
the show drew gasps and applause from the rapt audience. an entire collection in a single material was something most design houses would balk at presenting. and for the bridal series which were considered a must, who could avoid organza and silk and velvet.
the bridal entourage appeared in swathes of mooga in different weaves, textures and colours. then came a bride in a golden gown, a bride in a gold and red saree, a bride in a short shift dress… a bride in a mekhala chadar of blood red mooga, carrying a pale gold stole… a bride walked slowly in her swirling lehenga, fine bead work all over.
the viewers were floored… there was a roar of approval as the last sequence ended.
kareena came running from somewhere and hugged khushi, “did you like my short shift wedding dress!! isn’t it lovely! the flowers in her hair and the lightest of strappy sandals… you know i love working for asr…” one more tight hug and kareena had disappeared.
salman was in his usual jeans and tee shirt, “i think kanumoni and helena are missing you!” he laughed, “anyway, mother is in delhi next week… watch out, golf talk will start again!”
khushi tried to smile. she hated lying but really there was no way she was going to learn that laad governor’s game.
asr walked up to them, the tall statuesque model on his arm. it was tsering.
khushi knew there was nothing between them, this was all work… but still.
naho beamed at them and went forward, shaking his hand, congratulating him. khushi could tell the japanese woman was not immune to her husband’s good looks. she could make out very clearly, in fact.
and what about arnav ji… he was smiling so much at the two of them. khadoos. most of the time he was frowning at her or calling her unbelievable… or snarling at her or or or… khushi’s cheeks started to go hot.
they were standing outside their room in the balcony of sheeshmahal. the stars were in full array up in the inky sky. khushi leaned against the railing gazing up, breathing in the scent of jasmine.
his eyes were on her, a thoughtfulness about him. he had never imagined he would feel the things he felt for this strange girl with her off centre plait and mercurial mind. he never ever meant to feel this way, dammit. it bothered him sometimes even now. and yet he knew he really had no choice.
he remembered how out of sorts and disoriented his life had felt after that first meeting of theirs. it all made no sense. and that made him uncomfortable.
but maybe comfortable was overrated, dammit. and even sense.
he put his arms around her from behind and laid his cheek on her head.
“talking to your parents?” he whispered.
“hmmmm…” she leaned back against him.
“like your necklace?” he asked gently, he had no idea why, but he had wanted to give her a necklace of rubies. red suited her, he could almost see her with the stones gleaming on her neck… and he just wanted her to remember this year for some reason. he had also wanted her to wear it tonight. the silly girl said “moonga”, he laughed a little.
“hmmm… why are you laughing?” khushi said.
“you were jealous…” asr asserted.
her back stiffened.
“you know, tsering is…” asr started to reason with her.
“hume pata hai tsering ji kaun aur kya hain!” khushi snapped.
(i know who and what is tsering!)
he tightened his arms around her.
“missing helena?” he asked, she though he was changing the subject.
khushi sighed… she had been missing helena ji, kanumoni ji, the tea gardens… everything. she had been longing to go back with arnav ji when he went on all those work trips… just that how could she ask, she had to be at home, look after everything, amma had never gone anywhere…
“shall we go to assam tomorrow morning?” he asked almost casually.
she shrieked and tried to turn in his arms, he didn’t loosen his hold.
“assam? haan… par dilli?” she mumbled.
(assam? yes… but delhi?)
“dilli won’t run away…” asr said with a smile beginning at the corner of his eyes.
khushi struggled and turned in his arms then and gave him a full big hug. up in the sky a cluster of stars twinkled, somewhere far away a shooting star was streaking across the sky… in little inexplicable things, in things that don’t make sense, things that are even uncomfortable maybe, sometimes forever lives.
there never was anyone like them, there most likely never will be,
here’s to the two who make you dream and let your imagination lift off and find the sky.
thank you all for reading ncofl… never on a new year. i am especially grateful for your patience, though i know there were gritted teeth moments there at times. the writer had said one week… she took three months, you really can’t trust this writer the kabooter will tell you. but still, you have come and read. i can’t ask for more. writing asr khushi is a heady crazy mad and beautiful thing. it can never be predicted though when the ideas would come “phalayings” and become a madhumakhhi in the bonnet. i am hoping to be invited to this insanity soon, in which case, i shall write another story. till then, all i can say is hum aatey hain… and gosh why are my ears ringing and i can hear a voice holler “that i love you dammit.”