It takes two to tango
"Shall I flirt with you, Susan?"
"What's wrong with you? Have some coffee if you are sleepy."
"Never mind," I said, and fluttered from one desk to another as part of my study of minds.
"Shall I flirt with you, Sandy?"
"What do you think you've been doing all these years?"
"Oops! How did you get that impression?"
"You said gorgeous and saucy every time I wore something new to work."
"Is that a sign?"
"Might or might not be. It depends on how we women take it. It also depends on our relationship with the guy."
"How do you tell if someone's a flirt?"
"Women can see through guys. It's a God-gifted, intuitive power. Even before your glance falls on us, we capture the motive lurking in your thoughts."
"So you hate flirts?"
"Who said? We love attention and we love to bask in it. But to what extent to acknowledge it or encourage it is up to an individual. It depends on her desires."
"Thanks, Sandy. Hey Vani, long time no see. How have you been? Shall I bring you some coffee?"
"So strange. Darling, did you have a fight with your wife today?"
"Come on, just being nice to you."
"How come so coquettish today? By the way, two sugar cubes, please. And no milk. Keep it half cup. Coffee makes the skin dull. Listen, don't forget to wear your mask. There's mounting evidence the new coronavirus is airborne."
"Mr Pattali, how come so romantic today?"
"Who me? No, Masoom. I'm free for a while, so thought why not meet people. By the way, you always look great in this western outfit."
"Mr Pattali, it was a great article. The piece you shared yesterday. I didn't know Emily Dickinson was bisexual." Masoom pushed her black glasses back up her nose.
"Hello Esther, How're we today? That was a great Facebook live yesterday. You looked like Monroe in that hairdo."
"Marilyn Monroe? Listen, Suresh. You are born to swim and drown in work. However hard you try, you aren't cut out to be what you intend to at the moment. To flirt is an art."
"Listen Esther, I have the reputation of flirting with my professor. Every time I got ejected from the class, Annie Raju, my English professor, posted my bail and she would counsel me standing in the college porch. Students said we were flirting."
"Once when my shirt got ink stains, my sister who worked in the same college asked me how it happened. I blamed it on Annie Raju's blue chiffon sari. Next day, Prof Annie made me stand up in the class and joked, 'I'm honoured to have painted your dreams blue'."
"Wow, interesting. Tell me more."
"I blushed a rainbow. End of story."
"Where's she now?"
"She died of cancer soon after her last stint in Nigeria."
"Now go back your seat and pray for her soul."
"Don't write me off as naive. As a young husband, I was crowned the best joking flirt after my gregarious demeanour at parties. Women crowded as I joked my heart out. It was a new revelation that to joke and sing meant being flirtatious. So, I changed. I became a humourless human. This is my incarnation."
"So today you are on a pilgrimage to the past? Happy journey, my dear."
"No harm, no? You know the definition of flirting? To court triflingly or act amorously without serious intentions. Underline the part without serious intentions. It's supposed to be harmless."
"Flirting in office can land you in trouble. It's a thin line between being friendly and flirtatious. It depends on how you view it and handle it. I took it forward and became a mother of two."
"True. My daughter calls me a flirt because I chat up a German author past midnight. It's intellectual talk."
"Hey, look at Marie. Isn't she awesome today with that Egyptian headpiece? Hey Marie, did you hear what Pattali said? He said you look like Cleopatra."
"Esther, tell him to wear the mask on his heart."
I was about to leave Esther, when Fatima waked past. Scruffy hair and flowing red gown. Fatima was like poetry in motion. She stopped a few yards away and turned on her heels.
"Pattali, you look like Gene Wilder in The Woman in Red," Fatima winked.
"Oh, thank you, Kelly LeBrock."
"Game for some coffee on the balcony?"
"Balcony or window ledge?"
We laughed like there's no tomorrow.