“Your relationship has become so demoralized by distrust that it is better severed than patched up.”  




“Yes. It is much better you two split instead of living in perpetual suspicion like this. Why live a lie?”  


“How can you say this? You are a marriage counselor – you’re supposed to save marriages, not break them.”  


“But then what can I do if you don’t change your attitude?” I said in desperation, “you have to learn to trust your wife; just stop being jealous, suspicious, possessive. Mutual trust is important in a marriage, especially a long distance marriage like yours.”  


I looked at the man sitting in front of me. He was incredibly handsome; mid thirties, maybe forty, well groomed, sharp features accentuated by a smart neatly trimmed beard, clean brown eyes, he looked strong and confident, and his outward appearance betrayed no sign of what was going on inside him. And he looked at me longingly, in a lingering sort of way that women secretly want men to look at them.  


I blushed, felt good, but quickly composed myself. In such vulnerable situations anything could happen and I had to be careful, so I said to him in a firm dispassionate tone, “I think you better go now. It’s time for your flight.”  


“It’s delayed.”  


“You’re sure?”  


“Of course I’m sure! I’m the bloody pilot – the commander of the aircraft. I’ve to report after an hour.”  


“I’ll leave? It’s almost check-in time.”  


“No! No! Please stay. There’s still two hours for your flight to
London. I’ll get you checked-in. There’s something I want to tell you,” he pleaded, “I’ll order some more coffee.”


The airport restaurant was deserted at this late hour and wore a dark, eerie look, with just a few people huddled in muted whispers.  


“I want to thank you for giving me this special appointment – agreeing to meet me here at such short notice,” he said.  


“It’s okay. It was quite convenient for both of us. A quick inconspicuous rendezvous enroute, catching our flights. It’s a nice quiet discreet place, this airport restaurant.”  


He paused for a moment, then spoke guiltily, “I did something terrible today.”  




“I stole my wife’s cell-phone.”  


“Stole? Your wife’s mobile?  


“Yes. Just before I left. I took it from her purse. She was fast asleep.”  


“This is too much! Stealing your wife’s mobile. That was the most despicable thing to do. I don’t think we should talk any more. You need some serious help,” I said, gulped down my coffee and started to get up.  


“No! No! Please listen. It’s those telltale SMS messages!”  


“SMS messages?”  


“From ‘Teddy Bear’!”  


“Teddy Bear?”  


“Someone she knows. She’s saved his number. She keeps getting these SMSs, which she erases immediately. This evening when she was bathing while I was getting ready to leave for the airport, her cell-phone was lying on the bed, an SMS came from ‘Teddy Bear’: “I am yearning for you. SPST.”  


“SPST? What’s that?” I asked.  


“I don’t know. I called the number. A male voice said: ‘Hi Sugar!’ Just imagine, he calls her ‘Sugar’. I hung up in disgust immediately. Then during dinner she kept getting calls and SMSs – must be the same chap: ‘Teddy Bear’.”  


“Your wife spoke to him?”  


“No. She looked at the number and cut it off. Four or five times. Then she switched her mobile to silent and put in her purse.”  


“You asked her who it was.”  




“You should have. It may have been a colleague, a friend. That’s your problem – you keep imagining things and have stopped communicating with her. Ask her next time and I’m sure everything will clear up.”  


“No! No! I am sure she is having an affair with this ‘Teddy Bear’ chap. Had it not been for the last minute delay in my flight, I wouldn’t have been home at that time.” he said. And then suddenly he broke down, tears pouring down his cheeks, his voice uncontrollable, he cried, “The moment I take off, she starts cheating on me.”  


It was a bizarre sight. A tough looking man totally shattered, weeping inconsolably.  


“Please,” I said, “control yourself. And you better not fly in this state.”  


“I think you’re right,” he said recovering his composure, “I’m in no mood to fly.” He took out a cell-phone from his shirt pocket, dialed the standby pilot and a few other numbers and told them he was unwell.  


He kept the mobile phone on the table.  


“This cell-phone? Your wife’s?” I asked.  




“She’ll be missing it.”  


“No. She’ll be fast asleep. I’ll go back and put it in her purse.” He got up and said, “I’ll freshen up in the washroom and come. And then I’ll check you in for your
London flight.”


I looked at the cell-phone on the table, at first hesitant; then curiosity took charge of me and I picked it up. Hurriedly I clicked on ‘names’, pressed ‘T’, quickly found ‘Teddy Bear’ and called. A few rings and I instantly recognized my husband’s voice at the other end, “Hey Sugar, where are you? Why aren’t you answering? Did you get my SMS –  SPST – Same Place Same Time. Why did you give me a blank call?…..”   


I couldn’t believe this. My dear own husband – ‘Teddy Bear’. Right under my nose. It was unimaginable, incredulous. And suddenly, like a pack of cards, my ‘secure’ world had come tumbling down.  


I cannot begin to describe the emotions that overwhelmed me at that moment, but I’ll tell you what I did.  


I put the cell-phone in my purse, walked briskly to the check-in counter without looking back, and I am on my way to
London to present my research paper on ‘The efficacy of counseling in the alleviation of marital discord’ at the International Conference of Counselors.


And till I return, let everyone here stew in suspense.  





VIKRAM KARVE Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve  




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