Sunday, September 03, 2006

Being Busy

“I am busy right now, can we talk later ?” Andy was saying to his phone. A high pitched voice protested “But I need to know if we can go to the store today. We need to buy the party favors and order the cake. These things take time” Sheila guessed it must be his wife. He cut her off mid-sentence with “I’ll call you back”. This was the first snippet of conversation that Sheila had overheard across the wafer thin wall that separated their cubicles.

Chidanandan aka Andy was the onsite liaison for the offshore testing team. Sheila saw a lot of him during the production readiness and rollout phase of the project she was managing for the client. Something about his wife’s voice caught her attention – there was a certain edginess to it. She wondered why he didn't turn down the volume of his earpiece a notch - it made her an unwitting intruder in his domesticity. It could have been embarrasing if the exchanges had not been so completely bland.

She imagined a bored housewife sitting cross legged on the couch writing birthday invitations in the finest cursive to a dozen invitees to her child’s birthday. Between cooking a four course meal each day, she watched Bollywood flicks on DVD, chatted with family in India and scoured the web for “good deals” - all of the stereotypes associated with a stay at home desi wife came to mind. Yet, something about this woman felt atypical.

Andy was suave and professional and a pleasure to work with. “Why can’t you come home for lunch ? You said you did not have any meetings in the afternoon.” her voice complained another morning. Andy said “I’ll come home early instead” and she said petulantly “Its not the same thing.”

Sheila imagined Andy walking out to the smoking porch and telling her “I’ll make it up to you when I get there. The kids will still be in school.” To which she would ask flirtatiously “How ?” and he would describe what he had in mind in a secret language that only she understood. She imagined the wife laughing a soft, throaty laugh, her body tensing with anticipation and desire - Andy coming into their status meeting flushed from the high of a love and lust - even more confident of his team's ability to deliver on schedule than usual.

She heard the phone click after he said "I have about a hundred e-mails to go through. We'll talk later. Bye" The wife did not have a chance to respond to that. Sheila wondered what she had cooked for lunch, how she might feel sitting alone at the table eating it. Maybe she would watch an afternoon sitcom on TV while she did. Then the children would be back from school and the house would not be quite as empty. How busy was Andy really was a question that Sheila grew curious about.

Later that day, she met him by the coffee machine. "Hey Andy, how's it going ? Been busy ?" she asked. "Pretty good, Sheila. We're slowly ramping down testing activities offshore. Right now the guys are only running the regression suite after any hot fixes. I needed to talk to you about rolling some testers off the team. When do you want to meet ?" Andy replied. Sheila asked him if he was working on any other testing engagements and he said he was not. That's what she had thought. It made her wonder about the fictitious hundred mails he had mentioned to his wife. Was it more important to look important than be there for her when he easily could ?

The wife called about many things. What to cook for dinner, to remind him of his dentist's appointment, to check if he had had lunch she had packed, if it was going to rain in the evening, what the oldest one's teacher had called to say, if he could pick up some groceries on the way back. Sheila noticed there was never the calls for no reason like "I called you just because" and that Andy never sought privacy to answer them. Did he not love her ? Was there another woman - he did not look the type but what does "the type" look like anyways ?

This nameless, faceless woman who was a voice on her co-worker's phone fascinated her. She wondered what might happen to this marriage if she told the wife that Andy was reading news on CNN when he told her "I have back to back meetings all afternoon and need to finish up a presentation now. Cook eggplants or green beans or whatever you like. I'll talk later"



ggop said...

Very nice post! I've often wondered what women like Andy's wife did to spend time till they were more independent.

Heartcrossings said...

ggop - Will probably write another one about what happens to Andy and his wife in a while :)