Wolfgang sometimes stayed up late talking to Kala these days. Well, he always stayed up late. But he used to spend that time either partying with Felix or brooding on his own, thinking about the past, thinking about his present troubles.
These days when he was up late, he often stood at the window of his apartment building and stared out the window. And as often as not he’d find at least half his consciousness drifting off to Mumbai.
It was always later in Mumbai than it was in Berlin. The middle of the night, or if he stayed up too late then the early morning. Sometimes he walked into Kala’s bedroom and found her asleep, and he sat by the side of her bed. Sometimes he followed her on her route to work in the dawn’s sunlight, through city streets that were both familiar and strange.
Last night, Wolfgang also went to talk to Kala. They sat on the couch in her parlor, and they talked about what they thought of religion. Wolfgang unsure, really, willing to believe that anyone might be right but not as willing to defend any one stance himself. Kala with her tales of Ganesha, both stories from the sacred books like the Mudgal Puran and stories of her own personal experiences. Wolfgang could respect that Ganesha and Hinduism were important to her, and he tried to understand them. He did not believe in them, at least not yet. Part of him wished he could.
So last night he stayed up late in Kala’s parlor, conversation winding one way and another, abstract matters and personal business. They leaned into each other, or at least he thought they did—it was how it felt, though he knew in real life his body was not there, so whichever of them was in Kala’s body had to be really sitting up straight. But they leaned against each other in thought, and he fell asleep, aware that when he woke up he would be back in Berlin and Kala would be gone.
Or that was what he expected.
Instead, he woke up in Mumbai, his upper body slumped over the parlor table. Kala was gone, yes—but in spirit only. Her body was still there, and he was in it, still lightly muscled and long haired and much more tanned than he was used to.
And the thing that had woke him up was a warm hand on his should, lightly shaking him. Rajan Rasal.
“Did you fall asleep here?”
Obviously, Wolfgang thought. He didn’t say it. Instead he pushed himself upright, ran a hand through his long and tangled hair, and said, “I guess I did.”
He was never sure quite what to think of Rajan. He only ever saw the man with Kala, and her perception of course colored everything. She was not completely comfortable around Rajan, so when the three of them were together Wolfgang always wanted to protect her, even though Rajan never knew he was there.
Today Kala was not there in spirit—probably she was off in Berlin sleeping in—so there was no one for Wolfgang to protect. He was left wrong-footed.
Breakfast was prepared. They had work so early in the morning, but still they ate breakfast together. Judging by Rajan’s little smiles, this was not a regular thing, so perhaps he usually left earlier or slept later. Or perhaps it was merely that the honeymoon phase had not quite worn off for him yet. Kala’s honeymoon phase had never started, a fact which made Wolfgang both happy and sad at the same time. He hated to share her, but he knew she wanted to be with Rajan at least in part, so he wished she could have some part of that happiness.
“Busy day today?” Rajan asked.
“Um, yes,” Wolfgang said. He had no idea what Kala actually had on the agenda for today. Hopefully he could get her back in her own body before he was expected to actually do anything about it.
Rajan grinned. “I too have much to do. But I was hoping I could have lunch with my lovely wife?”
Wolfgang also had no idea whether or not Kala would be busy during lunch time. He shrugged. “Perhaps you could ask me later?”
Rajan gave him an odd look but nodded, fine with it. He told Wolfgang about his own plans for the day, though sometimes conspicuously skipping over details. It was suspicious, but then Kala had already told Wolfgang Rajan often kept things from her, and that she wanted to know what he was up to. Sometime Wolfgang would have to help her with that—he found he was becoming curious too.
It was good, though, that Rajan did most of the talking. Might have annoyed Kala but Wolfgang, who had no idea how to act like her in an actual conversation, was relieved. And the breakfast was good, flatbread with a couple kinds of dip. Not what Wolfgang was used to, but he thought he would have liked it in his own body, and Kala’s body certainly did.
“You’re hungry this morning,” Rajan observed.
Oh. Maybe he was eating too fast. Wolfgang coughed and wiped his mouth. “Well, I didn’t eat enough last night.”
“I’m not criticizing you. I know you work very hard,” Rajan said. “You must take care of yourself. How did you end up falling asleep on the table? I expected you to come to bed.”
Wolfgang felt a twinge of guilt in his stomach. Kala had chosen herself to stay up rather than joining Rajan. But although Rajan smiled as he asked the question, Wolfgang could tell he was hiding a little hurt. And it wasn’t the first night Wolfgang had taken Kala away from him, or the first day. Was he creating all the problems in their relationship? No, of course not—even before they met Kala had had her doubts, she had told Wolfgang that much. But he definitely wasn’t helping either.
“I got caught up in a book,” Wolfgang said. “And then I started thinking…” He trailed off. Wouldn’t have been a convincing excuse coming from him, but Rajan laughed a little as if it was expected. Kala, after all, was more the intellectual. Strange to Rajan and strange to Wolfgang to at times, quiet and romantic. It was the sort of thing she would do.
“You must tell me about this book, then.”
“I don’t think it’s the sort of book you would like.”
Rajan reached over and trailed a hand down Wolfgang’s arm, ending by squeezing his hand. It was not the sort of touch Wolfgang was used to, coming from a man. Sure, men touched him all the time. Gang members pounded his shoulders and offered tight hugs, always with an edge of aggression or wariness. Felix embraced him, as a friend and as a comrade. And Wolfgang had fucked men sometimes, and felt touches of passion and sensuality. But Rajan’s touch for Kala was different: possessive but light and gentle, as if she were made of something fragile or easily disturbed, and yet he could not stop himself from touching her nonetheless, despite how nervous it made him. And the look on his face was a little questioning, as if he wondered whether Wolfgang would let him touch or push him away.
Wolfgang let him.
“I would like to see what my wife likes,” Rajan said quietly. “I’m sure it would be interesting.”
Me, Wolfgang didn’t say. She was up late talking to me. She found my thoughts interesting. How would you like to find that out? Would you like to join in conversation with your wife and another man, the man she really loves? Would that interest you?
He stood up. “I am no longer hungry.”
“Are we driving in together?” Rajan asked.
Did they usually?
“Just a moment,” Wolfgang said. “I still have to get changed.”
He headed straight for the bathroom and closed the door and locked it. He still hadn’t cleaned up Kala’s makeup from the night before and it was kind of a mess, but he didn’t know how she usually cleaned it. Heck, he didn’t even know how to choose what clothes she ought to wear, which ones she might think matched or didn’t. He didn’t know anything about how she lived, even though he knew her soul better than anyone else. So much of her was estranged from him still. And he did not belong here, not in her heart and not in her skin, and not at table with her husband, even talking about the most insignificant matters.
He headed over to Berlin.
His body was lying in his bed, and when he shook it, Kala woke up. She blinked for a minute and asked, “What time is it?”
“Time for you to go to work. I’ve already eaten your breakfast. Sorry.”
“Well, I have breakfast every morning.” She smiled shyly as she stumbled out of his bed, still in his body. “I had fun last night.”
He kissed her cheek. “I did too. But your husband is waiting for you.”
“My husband! Oh. Did you have to talk to him?”
“It’s fine. He didn’t suspect anything was wrong.”
“Oh. Good.” She let him back into his body but remained standing next to him, now just a wraith. “Was it hard to you, speaking to him?”
“No. Your food is good.”
“He can be…solicitous,” Kala said. “I hope it wasn’t weird. Oh my god.” She laughed. “I’d better get to work.”
She faded off to Mumbai. Wolfgang sighed and went to get dressed. He’d have to have a second breakfast. Vaguely he wondered whether it might be possible, if Kala did end up joining Rajan for lunch, for him to join as well. Rajan wouldn’t know he was there, and he would never be Kala, and he would never be Kala’s husband either, and he wouldn’t belong. But there was something comfortable about Kala’s life, and even though she didn’t feel like she fit in it, like much of it was deception, it was an illusion of the type that Wolfgang wished he could have. Warm, and loving, and full of color. He wanted to have that kind of life with Kala, he knew. No, he wished that they could have that life together now, with none of its pieces missing, even Rajan.
But it was a dream. No, he would eat lunch with Felix and help him with the club and try to figure out what the hell Lila Facchini wanted with him, and it would be business as always. Still, he’d had a good morning. He hoped Kala would make the best of the rest of her day.