Here's the thing. It all started when my crazy uncle Arjun got into horoscopes. Yeah. Horoscopes. I'm not talking, like, ooh, Aries, your star is in the fifth house, something, maybe watch out for a promotion! (although that would be awesome if it worked) I'm talking, here is the kind of advice we get when we Skype him:
"I have divined that Obama would do much better at winning your elections if he took five kilos of barley and released it into a large body of running water." (You have to imagine this in his adorable, totally-sounds-like-a-racist-joke-unfortunately Indian accent.) (I can't do it.) (But okay, even in my normal English it sounds pretty crazy, right? Maybe even crazier, 'cause Uncle Arjun really commits. All together, it kind of lends an air of authority to the - )
"Uncle AJ, listen...America really appreciates your advice, but I'm just not sure I can get this information to the president. Does it work if I put the five kilos of barley in the water for him? No? Not so much? What, Mom?! I'm just saying - okay, I'll go...I'm going! Happy birthday, Aunt Lakshmi! I'm just gonna...bye guys...peace..."
This has been going on for years. At first we thought it was a phase, like, some kind of misplaced Y2K apprehension, but it's not. It's clearly not a phase.
When I applied to Princeton, I had to hang seven fresh stalks of lemongrass from the north-facing bough of a tree. Do you know how hard it was to find lemongrass in Boston in November? (Spoiler alert: It was super hard. This was 1997. Pre-global-warming, too! There was, like, snow on the ground, and there I was, trying to climb a tree while my little brother literally pointed and laughed, and, can I just say, I am awesome at sooooo many things: you need some Cicero translated? BAM. I'm there. But climbing trees? Climbing anything, really? Not so much my area. I was a nerd.)
Anyway, here we are fifteen years later - oh god, is it really fifteen years? I'm old, you guys. I'm old - I'm old, and I'm a doctor, and I'm burying mustard seeds in the mulch on the street outside my OB/GYN practice on my nonexistent lunch break, because my crazy uncle on the other side of the world thinks it will help me find love before all my eggs shrivel up or I have to become "one of those lesbians," which, okay, I don't, I mean, do I really believe him; well, what is believing, really? It's just -
"Wait - wait - Dr. Castellano, don't go..."
"What the hell are you doing?"
"...over...there. Sorry, Dr. Lahiri."
Note to self: If you need someone to run interference when you don't want certain obnoxious, judgey colleagues walking in on (out on?) you doing weird things in the dirt outside your office... Betsy is not your girl. Morgan would've tackled that sonuvabitch.
"No, it's nothing like that! I'm not burying them to eat. Or, uh, to - grow and then use on...hot dogs...or - whatever, Danny, you're just a racist, okay? This is a really important ancient Indian spiritual tradition and you shouldn't make fun of our very rich and literally prolific culture!!"
Danny frowns, but in that way where the corners of his mouth turn up like he might laugh. Mindy's not sure if it's a laughing-with-her or a laughing-at-her kind of moment. It feels safest to just be annoyed at his stupid scrunched-up face.
"Oh, oh, I'm Danny Castellano, Handsome Doctor. I'm sooooo smart and I'm, I'm skeptical - "
"For the last time, I do not sound like that." He gets up from the table with his neatly-wrapped half-sub - jackass - and shakes some crumbs off into the trash can. Whatever. "You should really work on that impression if you're planning on making a habit of it."
"Well, you should really work on your - your - shut up!"
He grins at her from the doorway. Douchebag. "I am, you know," he says.
"You are, what?"
"Handsome. Smart. Skeptical. With good cause, I mean, because - "
"Get out of my face."
* * *
"I swear to God, if you change the channel to that fish-catching show, I will stab you in the throat."
"You're really violent, you know that? You should look into that with someone."
"I'm not violent! I'm just - " All right, he might have a point. God. Fuck him.
"Not that - it's - the show. It's crabs. It's a show about crab fishing."
"Are you serious, Danny? I don't - just shut up, please. I don't want to do this with you right now."
"I said, okay." He drops into his usual chair, puts his feet up, and takes out his phone. It's a weird moment, but she's not sure why. Danny glances at the TV, then back down at his phone, then up at her. "What?"
"Nothing," she says quickly. "Okay."
"That's...not...there's no part of that question that helps me know what you're talking about, Danny."
"With the - you know, in the ground. Outside."
So awkward. Mindy gives him a what-have-you-been-smoking look, even though she thinks she might know what he's talking about now. She'd like to know where this is going before she says anything, though. Also, it's funny.
"The - mustard thing," Danny says, finally, in a tone that says, I know what you're doing.
She widens her eyes at him. "What mustard thing?"
"Stop it! Why are you doing that?"
"Because I can." He gives her a Look. One of those patented, obnoxious, your-behavior-is-childish-and-ludicrous-to-me Looks that she may or may not deserve at times but which, nonetheless, never make her want to yank his chain any less and always make her want to tell him, Jackass, your face is gonna freeze like that. "Why do you want to know?"
"Maybe I'm interested in your life. Or...maybe I'm doing research for a book on the antics of insane people. Could be either, really."
"You should be nicer to me."
"Because, in this conversation, I have something you want."
"Oh, come on. I was just curious."
"Hmmm. See, I don't trust your curiosity - I think you have an angle."
"I have an angle?"
"Yeah. You have an angle, Dr. Castellano, and I have a patient waiting. So, if you'll excuse me, please. We'll have to finish this conversation later."
* * *
Danny's actually been a little bit distant with her since the whole "you have an angle" thing - more so than usual, that is - and she feels kind of bad, because, come on, Danny! She was kidding. He's so bizarre, because he never takes her seriously, except for once in a blue moon at the dumbest, most inconvenient possible moments, when she's really, really just screwing with him.
As a peace offering, she decides to bring him a tiny pot of loose soil and a packet of mustard seeds to plant in it. People look at her funny on the subway, balancing the pot and her purse in one arm while she tries to text Gwen with her other hand - so he better appreciate it.
She gets to the office early, expecting it to be empty except for Danny, who comes in at god-knows-when sometimes to play the piano or work out or...who knows, maybe he sleeps hanging upside-down on the back of his door! (It's all within the realm of possibility.) And, sure enough, she can hear the faint strains of some song she doesn't recognize as she puts down the mustard pot to look for her keys. Why he locks the door when he's in there, she doesn't really understand, but you know what? It's too early to be asking questions.
When she opens the door, Morgan is behind the front desk. All right then. Why either of them is locking the door when - "Heyyy, Dr. L. Listen, I was just..."
She hears a slight scuffling sound and then something distinctly like a muffled yip. Oh god. Yup. Definitely too early to be asking questions. "You know what, Morgan? I'd really prefer - I just - I'm not - I don't wanna know. Right now. Maybe ever..."
"Huh, funny. That's almost exactly what Dr. C. said."
"Yeah. Okay. Shine on, Morgan." Mindy gathers up the pot - "Aw, thanks, Dr. L.! That touched me...here, and here." - and, a little more hastily than originally planned, knocks on the frosted glass of Danny's office. The music stops. Danny comes to the door and opens it with an expression that makes her 100% sure he thought she was Morgan. His mouth half-open to launch into an exasperated telling-off, his features slide ungracefully into confusion. And then wavers; he gets a look like he's considering going back to the telling-off route - but not necessarily. Yet.
"What are you doing here? It's not even eight."
"I come in early sometimes!"
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do! You are so - okay. Okay. I am not going to get sucked into this. I came here to take the high road."
"The high road?" Wow. His dubiousness is just rude, is what it is.
Mindy takes a deep breath in through her nose and tries to think of calming things. "Yes. The high road. I brought you a present."
She proffers the pot, and he looks at it like it might explode. "What's it gonna do?" he says warily. "Shoot snakes at me? Shock me? Coat me in a shower of glitter and little April Fool's Day rhinestones?"
"Okay, that last one sounds pretty cool, but no, I'm serious, Danny. And actually I totally forgot it was April Fool's Day until just now, so, of the two of us, you are the only one full of underhanded schemes."
Still eyeing her suspiciously, Danny accepts the pot. "Thanks," he says, with what cannot be termed great enthusiasm. "What the hell is this?"
"I'm going to tell you a story," she says, and brushes past him into his office.
"That's my desk."
"I'm just borrowing it. You can sit there." She gestures to the piano bench, and, now looking slightly mutinous and like he's definitely headed back towards the telling-off route, Danny complies. "I'm going to tell you a story," she repeats.
"I have an uncle who does horoscopes."
"You mean, like, for a paper?"
"No, in India. It's just this thing he got into ages ago - I don't really get it, but it's - it's a thing. And he...suggests...that we do these ridiculous things sometimes. For example, planting mustard seeds will help us find love. Well. Just me for that one. Really."
"Oh." She expects him to burst out laughing immediately, but instead he has a look like he's processing. She's not quite sure what to do with that, or silence, really, in general, more often than not, with him; so she figures she'd better go on. She - "Mindy, you do realize you're a doctor, right?"
Oh, god. "I knew you were going to do this! This is why I - "
"You went to medical school? Supposedly, in order to get into medical school, you had to pass some science classes first? Learn a couple things?"
"You know what, Danny - "
"I mean, didn't you ever learn anything about plants?"
"Mustard can't grow in a pot this size. You need, like, a big pot. These things - they can get to be like three feet tall. I mean, you can grow it indoors, pretty well, but. What? What's that look for? Where are you going?"
She gives him talk-to-the-hand! as the door shuts behind her.
"Danny. You are an insufferable know-it-all. You know that, right?"
The tiny pot, and the seeds (still in their package), are nestled behind his stupid giant computer. He peers around the screen, unfazed, like he hasn't quite caught what she said. She's about to repeat herself, maybe with some choice expletives added in - when, to her (eternal) astonishment, he says, "Yeah. You wanna go to dinner with me? Say, Saturday?"
"Ha, ha. Very funny."
She can't read his expression. She tries to look at him harder, as if that'll make him crack.
"What's going on in here?" interrupts Jeremy, poking his head in and breaking up the staring contest, after about twenty seconds. Danny looks away, rubbing the back of his neck. Mindy watches him for a beat, then turns to Jeremy and smiles brightly.
"Well - a couple different things, Jeremy? Like - I really like the new gloves we ordered? And - I'm pretty sure Danny and I are going on a date this Saturday."
As she heads back towards her own office, taking her sweet, sweet time, the sound of Jeremy's voice behind her gives her immense satisfaction.
"...That's a joke, right? April Fool's? Danny. Danny?!"
* * *
Dammit. Uncle AJ!