by Eva Bell
It all began when I decided to do an Agony column, for a friend’s magazine. It gave me hours of amusement, being confidante and problem-solver to confused teenagers. Lathika was on my regular mailing list. She just couldn’t cope with the demands of adolescence – her hormones, her temper, her sexuality, her bowel movements!
I tried to convince her that a psychiatrist would be of more help than an Agony Uncle. But she whined in her next letter, “Don’t block me. I’m not insane. I just need a shoulder to cry on, even if it’s an invisible one.”
“Poor troubled girl!” I thought, “Writing is the best form of catharsis for a troubled mind.”
Gradually, there was a change in the nature of her questions. She asked about plum-coloured lips, and perfumes that set her pheromones on fire, or puffs that took her wafting through the skies.
I was concerned. This girl was on the path of self-destruction. I had to do my Good Samaritan act and save her. It was both curiosity and concern that prodded me to ask for an interview.
“I thought you’d never ask,” she wrote, “Can’t wait to see you. I’m drooling with anticipation.”
“You don’t know what you’re in for, dear girl. All I want is to put you across my knees and spank you,” I replied.
“Got to know you better before I risk it. Tell me about yourself. Leave nothing out,” she said, ”You know all there is about me, but I know nothing.”
“That’s how it should be. I’m the Agony Uncle, remember? So don’t get any ideas.”
Now that I’d warned her, I thought it safe to disclose that I was a rich businessman, living alone, in a spacious flat overlooking the sea. I was unattached, but was always surrounded by friends. I was a confirmed bachelor, and no one need get ideas about luring me into the matrimonial net.
There was silence for over a week. I checked my e-mail several times a day. She had become a ‘habit,’ almost like an addiction. I felt she was vulnerable, and unless guided properly, would make a mess of her life.
Sometimes I even thought she might be a wee bit unbalanced, and I didn’t like the idea of my preoccupation with her problems. As Agony Uncle, I had to maintain a balance, without being overly concerned.
Then I got a brief note, “Can’t trust the e-mail for details of our rendezvous. Look out for the postman on Monday.”
I was there on the dot of 5 P.M, as stipulated in her letter. I waited outside her building for a good hour. Then I climbed the stairs, and knocked on her door. Suspicious eyes peered through the peep-hole.
“No one by that name lives here. Get out before I call the police.”
“Did I get the address right?” I wondered. “Perhaps I should knock on another door.”
This time the reaction was even more virulent.
“Lathika… who? Listen young man, if you’re trying to barge into my flat to sell me some junk, I’ll set my dogs on you. They’ll tear you limb for limb with pleasure. Lathika indeed!
No one with such a fancy name lives here. So, on your march…..”
I bolted down the stairs two at a time. I was seething, as I drove to the Club.
“Nothing like a game of tennis, and a drink to soothe the nerves, “ I thought.
The girl had taken me for a ride. She must be gloating over her prank. Now I was certain that she was crazy. And I had been a fool to schedule a meeting with her. Why did I do such a stupid thing?
I reached home, after it was dark. The door of my flat was ajar, and when I stepped in, I almost died of shock. It was as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
A brief note said, “A fool and his possessions are easily parted. Be more careful in future Agony Uncle!”