Her hair smelled like sandalwood and she tasted like honey, warm honey dripping from a heated table spoon over her lips and breasts; a few hot drops over her hip bones and the insides of her thighs.
I remember the sex—I’ll never forget that, but I couldn’t remember how we got into bed.
Mrs Patel briefed me over breakfast, dosa bread and red chutney and a vegetarian pulao side dish:
“Can’t you remember anything?”
“I remember the earlier bits. The police had picked up Teddy “Smirnoff” Smythe for smashing a bottle on the side of your husband’s head. Then paramedics arrived—God knows how they got here so quick—and said it wasn’t as serious as it looked, what with the blood pumping out over his eye like a fountain.”
“And what happened then?” Mrs Patel asked, leaning forward to break of a piece of dosa.
“They said might have a slight concussion. They stitched him up and took him to Groote Schuur for observation. You, faithful wife that you are, offered to close the bar early and spend the night with him. He says no. We need the money for little Rani. Every Rand helps.”
A thought struck me then: the Patels talk in Rands. I still talk in motherfucking cents.
“Anything else, Dolorez?”
“Nope. Bits and pieces, I’m afraid. Nothing of real substance.”
“Well, Dolorez, it started like this—”
Mrs Patel dipped her dosa into the chutney and took a bite. Bits of mango and chilli were stuck between the slight gap between her front teeth.
An image of the previous night’s passion flashed before my eyes: her tongue pressed tightly behind those same diamond white teeth while I worked her clit with mine. The muscles in her neck, the fingers of her one hand feeling for my mouth and her other hand rubbing those dosa-bread-brown nipples.
“—Are you listening, Dolorez?”
“Well, you were resting your elbows on the bar counter, your hair in your eyes. You said you had something to say. I said go ahead, secretly hoping you’d say you wanted to me to close the bar so that we can … you know?”
“Dolorez! If I’m comparing your language with a Mumbai taxi driver’s shit on a pavement, I’d say it’s almost on par.”
“Well, that is pretty fucking low. Please continue.”
Mrs Patel shook her Sandalwood hair, the grey streaks like smoke burning orange trough the dark brown. She smiled.
“Very well, then. Fuck. There, I’m saying it.”
“Say it again.”
“No.” She passed me the plate of pulao. “You’ll be eating now.”
“I’m not really hungry,” I said. “I’ll just have a cup of tea. My throat’s a bit dry, you know. We both must’ve lot a few litres of fluids between us last ni—”
Mrs Patel continued: “At that stage of the evening—it must’ve been close to eleven—you’d lost your bra. Don’t be asking me how or when or where. I had my hands full with those AA scumbags. I could barely keep up pouring their drinks.”
“They’re crazy. I couldn’t keep up with them.”
“Which is a good thing, Dolorez. Trust me, you wouldn’t be sitting here if you could keep up with them. I think we went through about seven bottles of tequila last night. You’d be in hospital with a tube down your throat.”
“Gross. I can tell you one thing, Missus Patel, I didn’t lose my bra. Even though I can’t remember, I’m sure I had taken it off at one stage. There are very few things that I hate more than a bra, no matter how soft and comfortable—and bloody unaffordable—the advertisements say are.”
“And just what will you be hating more than bras, Dolorez?”
“Wire. Chicken wire, barbed wire, you name it. I can’t stand the shit.”
“I don’t know. It’s just one of those things. This palooa is great. Do you cook often?”
“It’s pronounced poo-lao.”
“And yes. I cook all the time. It’s expected of me. Besides, if I didn’t cook, Ali would either die or he’ll be living off bunny chows for the rest of his life.”
“And then die,” I said.
Something strange smouldered in her almond eyes when I said that—something sinister, something wild.
I drank my tea and watched her eat. Her hair danced in the early morning sunshine and I wanted her lips on mine again. Eating. Feasting.
“Sleeping. She won’t be up for another hour or so. God has blessed me with a child who sleeps through the night. Do you believe in God, Dolorez?”
Usually I’d be out the door once someone asks me that question, but there was—and excuse me for sounding repetitive—there was something sinister in her voice.
“Not really, no. I know there’s something out there, some kind of … force or something. Sometimes I think the world is just an accident, you know? I mean if you look at molecular science and biology and so on. Then again, that could be part of ‘the accident’, the proverbial wool over the eyes. But I do believe in something. I do. And I don’t.”
Mrs Patel leaned back and reached behind the armchair. Her pink, grey and white top crept over her belly button and I swear on my husband’s grave I saw a drop of honeydew glistening where the sun highlighted the faint hairs over her tummy.
She brought out a bong and a brick of hashish wrapped in tinfoil.
“Let’s be having a smoke and then give that iBrator of yours a go again.”
“I can’t see why not.”
“Do you believe in God now, Dolorez?”
“With all my heart, Missus Patel. With all my heart.”
So. Mrs Patel.