My eyes are paining from the long hours of research on the laptop. The pain in my back has aggravated. As I close my eyes and lull myself into sleep, I can feel your arm around me, snaking its way through the blanket onto my shoulders. I open my eyes but there’s no one beside me. I miss you. My heart does and today the mind does too, I guess. I check my phone again to see if I missed any of your calls. You are still at work or you’d have called. I hope you’ve eaten; I drop a text seeing no harm in reminding you once. I turn and shift to right side and close my eyes again, wishing sleep would come soon. I was tired but you must be more so. You’d been working long hours recently, barely managing to catch up on time to eat or even sleep properly.
My phone rings once. It’s you! Before I can take the call, you’ve disconnected and dropped a text. Maybe you thought I’d slept already. “On my way back. Will eat at home.” I sit up excitedly, forgetting about my back pain. I grimace in pain. As I stare at the wallpaper of my phone, of a holiday last year, both of us at the beach, I’m at ease. I walk out to the kitchen and put your food into glass bowls for reheating in the microwave. I sit by the sofa, lights flipped on, just in case the darkness makes me doze off. The clock ticks by and I wait for you to be back home. I think about the past when I’d snorted at the practice of a lot of Indian women eating only after their husbands had. I hadn’t realized that what might have started out as a traditional practice in reverence of their husbands, could also be a form for love for many. I silently laughed at being thick headed enough for having judged them.
The lock clicked as you slid the keys in them. I could see you, oh how tired you looked! But you hadn’t seen me yet. You took off your shoes, turned and laid eyes on me. You were surprised, all your tiredness washed away in that instance. That smile; the smile that lit up your face and crinkled your eyes! I would stay up all nights if I could be the reason behind that smile, I thought as I walked up to you. Is that why they say love is blind?
Nose squashed against the glass, the nine year old saw the corn kernels sizzle in the butter and pop. His breath fogged the glass and the sweat on his nose ran it down. His eyes squinted every time a kernel popped close to his side of the glass box. His father scooped out two paper cups, powdered it with flavours and handed it to him. He ran to the couple sitting on the bench with ice cream cones and handed their order to them. He stood smiling as the girl retrieved cash. She looked at him, slipped an extra note into his hand and said, “Go have some ice cream, popcorn boy!”
I had dozens of marigold flowers in my hand, a garland of it actually. What lovers did to a rose, I did to the pretty orange flower. “He loves me, he loves me not,” I uttered, plucking out the petals one by one at first and then bunches of it together until all that was left in my hand was the green stub filled with white broken fragments of the petal base. I ended at “He loves me.” I thought of picking another flower. Instead, I closed my eyes.
When he was in pain, I felt the pangs. He ran against the odds, but I felt breathless. I would be worried about him, but his first words would be “How are you?”. No one said it would be easy, but being by his side made it all so. “Was this love?” I asked of the marigolds. They wouldn’t say.
The red curtains were being pulled back. Dressed in a black floor sweeping gown, with sequinned black trimmings lining it, her wrinkled skin touched up by a pair of deft young hands on her troupe, she walked on to the stage. The soft light on the stage made her eyes twinkle. She could see a lot of heads in the audience but couldn’t make out their faces. Rushed silence welcomed her as her stilettos clicked on the wooden floor, until she reached the carpeted spot around the mike. This was her last opera. She’d chosen to retire Prima Donna before she was replaced by someone younger, more beautiful and maybe, just maybe, a better singer than her. The deft hands that had touched her up – she was retiring to her.
As he watched her walk away, he muttered abuses under his breath. As she walked farther, his voice became louder, hurling out the abuses loud now. It made him angry and unlike her, anger did not make him cry. Anger took him away from the pain, it made him feel in charge. He was no longer the helpless one. She may have broken up with him, but he was the one who would decide what he felt. And he chose to be angry. She looked back at him; the passersby were staring at her. She felt uncomfortable. Where there was pain in her eyes a few minutes ago, now there was shame and fear. Her confident gait was now hurried and skeptical. He broke her heart, twice now.
I scared you. The knowledge I had of you, scared you. I became the personal diary you never wrote. You could see the ghosts of your past reflected in my eyes, each time you looked into them. I became a reminder of what you were trying to forget. My comfort with you, scared you. You dreamt of coming out of your shell, greeting the world like you used to but the fear of being trampled upon pushed you inside again. You had lost the real you within yourself. You did not want to be reminded of it. Not by me. You thought it was easier to push me away. At least, you could still stay safe in your shell then. You wouldn’t disappoint anyone again. You wouldn’t worry about hurting anyone again. It would be just you and your memories. You wouldn’t have to owe anyone anything again. That was easier, wrong but easier. You chose to hide behind your scars. You chose to leave me behind. I was you. You were me. You chose to leave yourself behind.
I scratched his ear, like he loved. My old dog sensed my tears, nuzzled me lovingly. The doctor laid him to sleep. Forever. I cried.
She picked up the toothpick to dot her forehead with white. She was a bride in the film, while her own marriage was falling apart.
He knew the lions were hungry. Meat prices had risen; food portions decreased. Taking Lord’s name, he entered the lions’ rink for his circus act.
Her husband sat her down at the bed. She’d just taken a hot water bath. She placed her towel on her shoulder to soak up water from her wet hair. She inhaled deeply. This wasn’t the first time she had to answer the questions. This wouldn’t be the last.
“How did it happen?”
“What did he say?”
“How does it feel?”
“When exactly did it happen?”
“Did you see it all?”
Once again she closed her eyes and recalled the moment. In a flash, it was all over. One second she was at the pavement, the next she was on the road, the head of a dying man on her lap, blood drenching her clothes, tickling down her skin, shock overriding the bile building up in her stomach.
She opened up her eyes again. She was ready.
Her husband instead said, “It must be difficult for you dealing with the accident. Do you want to eat outside or should I cook?”
She breathed again!