He was wearing only underwear and socks, but his blanket was cold from sweat. Shaw," Gopal said, his voice pitted and rough, "some bad things have happened to me. Hold on, Mrs. The light was dim, and he had difficulty finding them. Shaw said, and they both became quiet.
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She was slightly overweight, and her nostrils appeared to be perfect circles, but her small white Reebok sneakers made Gopal see her as fleet with youth and innocence. What a pretty, good woman, he thought. From his wife he had learned that Mrs. Shaw was a guidance counselor at the high school his daughter had attended.
Gopal was a small man, with delicate high cheekbones and long eyelashes. The garage smelled of must and gasoline. He wondered if he had time to turn on the light to make his search easier. Only he had been in the house during the four months since his wife had followed his daughter out of his life, and the sound of the bell ed somehow with his dream to make him feel ridiculous. The lawn mower was in a shadowy corner with an aluminum ladder resting on it.
As he groped under and behind the couch and looked among the clothes crumpled on the floor, he worried that Mrs. Shaw would not wait and was already walking down the steps. When he first heard the doorbell, the ringing became part of a dream. He switched on the lights.
The round Formica table and the counters were dusty.
And then he realized that he had. The sun shone behind her. She was short and red-haired and wore a pink sweatshirt and gray jogging pants.
To extend their time together, Gopal walked to the refrigerator and asked her if she wanted anything to drink. The sunlight pressed through windows that were laminated with dirt. You must not feel ashamed; it's no fault of yours. Shaw beside him. The light and cold air swept in, reminding him of what he must look like. I am glad, though, that you are visiting.
Gopal wanted to put his hands on her waist and pull her toward him. It was Saturday, and Gopal was asleep on the couch. Now he feared that the gray stubble and long hair made him appear bereft. Gopal did not try kissing her again, but he was excited.
He believed that something would soon be said or done to delay Mrs. Shaw's departure, for certainly God could not leave him alone again. He pushed the lawn mower out onto the gravel driveway and jerked the cord to test the engine. Shaw's large breasts, boy's haircut, and little-girl sneakers.
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Since then Mrs. Shaw had moved five or six times, though rarely more than a few miles from where she had last lived. Shaw and Gopal had been neighbors for about two years, but Gopal had met her only three or four times in passing. But all this Gopal was willing to forget that morning, in exchange for even a minor friendship.
Shaw stood in the center of the room and looked around her. Even her nostrils suggested a frank sexuality.
The various cars that left her house late at night made him see her as dissolute. Shaw," Gopal said, standing near the phone on the kitchen wall. He also learned that she had been divorced for a decade. I'm sorry I didn't. He carefully poured gasoline into the lawn mower, wanting to appear calm, as if the two of them had already made some commitment and there was no need for nervousness.
Shaw appeared startled by this detail.
Gopal found the pants and shirt and tugged them on as he returned to open the door. The sky was bright and clear. He stepped out of the doorway. He had always been proud of his looks and had dressed well.
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Gopal's mind refused to provide a response to this. The front door opened into a vestibule, and one had a clear view from there of the living room and the couch where Gopal slept. She had bought the small mustard-colored house next to Gopal's as part of this restlessness. Although he did not dislike Mrs.
Shaw, Gopal was irritated by the peeling paint on her house and the weeds sprouting out of her broken asphalt driveway, as if by association his house were becoming shabbier. He wanted to tell her how the loneliness had made him fantasize about calling an ambulance so that he could be touched and prodded, or how for a while he had begun loitering at the Indian grocery store like the old men who have not learned English.
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The house was dark. Gopal woke confused and anxious, the state he was in most mornings. The warm sun on the back of his neck made Gopal hopeful.
Maurya," Mrs. Shaw said, looking at him and through him into the darkened house and then again at him. He looked through the peephole. This was typical of the details that could baffle him in the morning. I also have some tropical punch," he continued, opening the refrigerator door wide, as if to show he was not lying.
Not nowhe thought. To the right was the kitchen. The sky was blue dissolving into white. Her husband, a successful orthodontist, had left her. Shaw was standing sideways about a foot from the door, and appeared to be staring out over his lawn at her house. Thank you. No," Mrs. Shaw said, laughing and putting her palms flat against his chest. It must be hard. Shaw rang the bell again. After a moment she said, "I heard. He stood up and hurried to the door. He wanted to tangle her in conversation and keep her there for hours. They went to the garage.
Shaw walked across Gopal Maurya's lawn to his house.