Rajesh had a fantasy. It wasn't lewd or vulgar or anything. In fact, you could say it was almost genteel. Rajesh's dream was that one day he would wake up to the sound of a woman crying in the next room. He would go over to investigate and find a beautiful stranger, lying in bed, crying her eyes out. Seeing her distraught, he would take her in his arms, console her, lull her gently to sleep. They would lie together through the night, she breathing calmly by his side, he watching over her while she slept. Then, when the night was over, he would slip away.
And that was it. There would be no words spoken, no communication of any kind. They would never see each other again. And there certainly would be no sex - no, not even a harmless little kiss. It would be a night of absolute intimacy with a total stranger.
Rajesh was very fond of this fantasy. He thought it demonstrated maturity and refinement. Not for him the lurid porn-inspired threesomes of his classmates. Never mind that they laughed at him when he told them about his dream. They were just hormonal, over-sexed teenagers, that was all. What would they know about sensitivity, about the meeting of souls? A woman would understand. A woman would appreciate the spiritual fragility of Rajesh's dream. After all, weren't all the magazines always saying how much women wanted to be held?
The trouble, it turned out, was that very few women want to be held by total strangers. As time passed, Rajesh began to see the flaw in his fantasy. How do you get a strange woman to let you sleep in the room next to her, ready to come to her rescue should she suddenly start crying in the night? The easiest thing to do, of course, would be to get into a relationship. Sooner or later the opportunity to hold her through the night would doubtless come up. And after all, wasn't that how all his other male friends were getting their fantasies fulfilled? Getting into a relationship with a girl and then cajoling her to cooperate in whatever obscene scenario they had in mind?
Except that the whole point of Rajesh's fantasy was that it had to be with a stranger. In his head he could already hear the things his fantasy woman would tell her girlfriends the next morning. About how kind he'd been, how generous, how protective. Like a true knight-errant. No, she would tell her amazed listeners, he never tried to make a pass at me, not once. Her friends wouldn't believe it. Were there still guys like that? He would be a legend.
It wouldn't work if the girl wasn't a stranger though. What was the big deal about comforting your steady girlfriend through the night? She'd probably just take it for granted.
At first he tried hanging out in singles bars, trying to spot women who looked particularly miserable. Like they'd just got some bad news and were trying to drown their sorrows in drink. This didn't go well. Either the women were convinced he was just trying to take advantage of their unhappiness (which he was, though not in the way they thought), and turned away from him in scorn. Or they actually took to him, in which case they cheered up and soon became animated and flirtatious without any signs of the depression that had drawn him to them in the first place.
Rajesh was a good looking guy, he was intelligent, he was a good talker. He sensed instinctively that he could have taken a number of these women to bed. But what was the point? That wasn't what he was looking for. A couple of times he tried explaining to the women he hooked up with that he emphatically did NOT want to have sex with them. One woman told him to get lost, wanted to know what he was doing in a straight bar anyway. The other slapped him.
Who would have thought it would be so difficult not to have sex with a woman? In desperation, Rajesh decided to compromise and tried going the relationship route. After all, it wasn't every boyfriend who was that tender, that supportive. His first girlfriend couldn't sleep if someone was watching her. His second girlfriend, whom he first met at a party sitting by the pool and crying, turned out to be a surprisingly positive and optimistic person (her grandmother had died the night he met her) and after six months of waiting for her to have another breakdown of some sort he dumped her. His third girlfriend he tried taking into his confidence - explaining to her, at the end of their third date, what he wanted. She immediately wanted to know why he didn't want to sleep with her. Was she that unattractive? He finally had to have sex with her just to convince her that he didn't think she was ugly.
By this point, Rajesh was starting to lose hope. Gradually, as the years passed, and an endless lifetime of unconsoling nights stretched out in front of him, he decided that his fantasy was just that - an idle dream. It was never going to come true. At 30, defeated, he got married. The first few times his wife cried in bed he held very tenderly, kissed away her tears. It felt good. After a while, though, her tears were mostly about things he had done (or hadn't done) and he started to get irritated. What the hell was her problem anyway? Everyone had troubles. Didn't he go through hell at work? Why was she always carrying on like this? Weeping away over the smallest thing?
He decided that his trying to console her was only encouraging her. Maybe if he ignored her when she cried she would stop doing it. So now when he felt her sobbing in the bed next to him he simply turned his back to her, pulled a pillow over his head, and dreamt again of that perfect stranger, the one he'd never managed to meet, the one who'd have a real reason to cry and would deserve to be comforted.
Decades passed. Rajesh got divorced and his wife got the kids so he went back to living alone. He never remarried. Sometimes in the night he would wake up thinking he heard someone cry. But there was no one. He told himself it was all those years when the children were young that had done this to him. But in his heart of hearts he knew it was her, his fantasy woman, whom he was listening for.
Then, one day, at a conference in London, it happened. It was late - a little past one in the morning. He was walking down the corridor to his hotel room, a little drunk, when he heard the sound of someone crying. It was coming from Room no 462. He listened for a while to see if he could make out any other voices. There were none. There was just the heartbreaking sound of a woman weeping alone. It was exactly what he'd always dreamed of. Gathering his courage, he knocked. A minute later the door opened a crack and a tear-stained face peeped out. God, she was gorgeous. Or would have been, except for the tears. Couldn't be a day over 25. He felt strangely elated, and also terribly frightened. "Oh, I'm sorry. I was just passing by and I heard...that is to say...I just thought...look, are you all right?".
Five minutes later, he was inside the room, listening patiently as she told him the old, familiar story - a boyfriend, high school sweetheart, getting married in three months, just called to say goodnight, a woman answered, been going on for months, she didn't know, never going to forgive him - and he saying, "there, there" and helping her get her shoes off and tucking her into bed and putting his arm around her and leaning her head against his shoulder and plying her with tissues. And then, when she was finally asleep, easing her gently onto the pillow, turning off the lights, and sitting in a chair by her side watching her, the soft fall and swell of her breathing.
He waited till it was 6:30 by his watch, and then slipped away to his room. Too excited to even think about sleep, he shaved, showered, packed. He was catching the noon flight back home. He felt elated. He felt like singing. Finally! After all those years of waiting, his fantasy had come true. He wondered who he could tell about it, who would understand. There must be someone.
He ran into her in the lobby. She looked much better now - more composed, and infinitely more beautiful. But the meeting was all wrong. It wasn't supposed to happen that way. He shrugged aside her embarassed thanks. It was nothing, he said. Any gentleman would have done it. Only too glad to help. Hurriedly brushing her off he turned back to the reception counter to finish checking out.
Behind him, he could hear her talking to a friend. They had come down to breakfast together. They were talking about him! His ears pricked up. "And he never tried to come on to you? You're sure? Didn't try to feel you up or ANYTHING? Maybe when you were asleep? These lecherous old men are the worst, you know". Good. Good. "No, no, nothing like that". Here it comes. "Just look at him - he's clearly past all that. I doubt even Viagra would help him now."
At the counter, Rajesh cried out in shock and dropped his pen to the floor.