(Note: this was written nearly a decade ago and remained forever in the drafts folder. No longer relevant and is as good as fiction, hence, reposting.)
The morning rush of patients was over; monitoring vitals, sending laboratory investigations, prescribing medicines and all the relatively small yet hectic duties that internship brought were done with for the day. The patients were in their beds and that provided her some rare quiet moments. She pored over the books that would enable her to cross yet another threshold of her medical career, a postgraduate degree. She concentrated on the questions, mentally eliminating choices and zeroing on a single answer. Confidence surged and ebbed with every guess.
Two hours passed by. Apart from a casual chat with the nurse on duty, there was nothing to interrupt her studies. Few seniors came by later in the evening, and she updated them about any changes in the patients’ conditions. Her duties lessened and she closed her book and waited for nine pm when she could finally go home. Everything seemed dull. She looked at the clock, the minute hand mockingly refused to budge even after what seemed like an eon.
Then he walked in, a confident stride. He had come for his evening shift. Suddenly she became aware of how heavy and awkward her hands felt; and not knowing what to do with them she picked up the book in front of her. Emoting a bilaterally equivalent expression became impossible and she was stuck with the right side of her face trying a hesitant smile, while the left eyelid drooped and the nostril flared. She took in furtive glimpses of him without being too obvious. She was acutely aware of the fact that he stood a few inches away from her and that was her cue to freeze. The simple task of handing over a patient file to him made her sweat glands go into an overdrive. He was totally oblivious of what his presence was doing to her, he probably didn’t even notice that she existed. Time seemed to gallop now, and soon it was time for her to go home. She cursed this relativity of time!
He used to be just another face, another acquaintance. The words that came to her mind when she had first seen him were, “Oh My God! What Acne!” It might have been sudden or gradual, it’s a blur now, but she had looked flustered every time he looked at her or the rare times he talked to her. He hardly knew her, nor did she. And there was no use of harboring any romantic notions for him as it wouldn’t have led to anything. Be reasonable, she chided herself repeatedly. But the heart had stopped taking orders from the reason-seeing-logical-thinking brain. There was a visible disconnect between what she thought and what she felt.
So here she was, acting like an over-enthusiastic teenager, feeling elated every time she caught a glimpse of him or saw him smile; when she had firmly decided that falling in love wasn’t a consideration in the near future.
What was it?
It wasn’t love, it’s too deep a word to assign to her feelings for someone she hardly knew. It wasn’t lust, she didn’t obsess or fantasize about him. It wasn’t an infatuation, he was not the most eligible guy around. It wasn’t the want to be in a relationship, she knew and accepted that he would never reciprocate her feelings. She didn’t feel the urge to see him, or be with him constantly.
She was just happy that there was this boy out there who made her smile every time he crossed her mind. And that’s that.
She noticed the whirl of the ceiling fan in the faint glow of the light streaming through her window. If she peered closely she could distinguish the individual blades of the fan; and resembled a spinning top when she half-shut her eyes. She checked the time. Eleven pm. For the next half an hour she tossed and turned in bed, but sleep eluded her.
She checked the bedside stool for a bottle of water. Empty. Reluctantly, she got out of bed and walked towards the kitchen. The icy gulps of water felt blissful. Humidity made the night unbearable. She felt sweat trickling down her neck and headed for the shower. A refreshing shower might help her sleep better. Once in the bathroom, she took off her sweat drenched t-shirt and examined it. The colors were fast fading; the material over-stretched yet soft, and a clumsily stitched patch of cloth on the sleeve was quite distinct. It was a decade old but she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of it. Every night she slipped into it; the soft feel and the faint, powdery smell of the fabric was a source of comfort. Her mother teased her about it, called her a pack-rat. She smiled thinking about it as she stood under the shower, briefly shivering as the first drops of the cold water fell on her. Drying herself off, she stood in front of the mirror and checked her reflection; she loved being curvaceous, but resolved to shed the few extra pounds off her waistline. Chuckling at how often she made this resolve and its earlier feebleness, she slipped into the first t-shirt she could lay her hands on. It was bubble gum pink, a color she wouldn’t be caught dead in. But with no one around, she put it on and cursed her sister for gifting it a couple of years ago. Her mother is right; she is a pack-rat hoarding even the stuff with the least sentimental value. She checked the time again. Midnight.
She knew she had to leave for work at six in the morning for a 24-hour shift at the hospital, but sleep still eluded her. Maybe she can utilize the time she is awake to surf the net and gather information about the obstetric procedures she might get a chance to assist. An hour of peering closely into the computer screen and scribbling tiny notes on her obstetric and gynaecology text followed. She even updated her blog and checked her mail. One a.m.
She hurriedly got into bed, and desperately wished for a meagre four hours of sleep! Lights dimmed, pillows fluffed up, fan on full speed, few drops of lavender oil on the pillow, a glass of warm milk; she didn’t want to miss a single trick in the book. After half an hour of eyes tightly shut, she sat up wearily on the bed. There wasn’t any use pretending, she wasn’t feeling the least bit sleepy.
Her stomach grumbled. That wasn’t the sound she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear a yawn! Maybe she would sleep better on a full stomach; noodles for dinner are hardly filling. She made a mental note to strike off Maggi from next month’s grocery list. A frantic search for mustard sauce to make her favorite sandwich followed. Plopping down the couch with sandwiches in hand, she thought about the sleepless ordeal before her. The professor who would be on the rounds was infamous for terrorizing the interns; and tomorrow would be no exception. No sleep and a tough taskmaster prodding all day would literally be a lethal combination! She checked the time again. Two a.m.
She picked up the TV guide; and was torn with indecisiveness about whether to watch “American Graffiti” or “Annie Hall”. Never being good with decisions she alternately surfed both the channels watching bits and pieces of both the movies. Woody Allen isn’t half as amusing when one is struggling to sleep. She thought of how closely the gum-chewing dude, driving around town in the first movie, resembled her first crush in high school. And instantly fell into reminiscing those days. Bliss! She was snapped out of her fantasies by the ZooZoos giggling in the new Vodafone ads; and she burst into a fit off giggles to how these egg-headed characters resembled her next door neighbor. Drawing resemblances is something that comes to her instinctively, a secret pleasure that delights her often.
She walked into the balcony to watch the sunrise two and half hours later; basking in the first rays of the day and also enjoying the slight chill of the morning breeze. She dashed into the kitchen for a quick cup of green tea and sat on the balcony again, enjoying the calmness and serenity of this part of the day. A few people were out on the streets…the joggers heading for the nearby park, the vendors on the way to the market, and even few teenagers grudgingly setting off to early morning tuition (the gawky, tall one slouching all the way resembled a character from “The Corpse Bride”).
Five a.m. She had bath again, breakfasted on milk and cereals, and then got dressed for work.
Five-thirty a.m. She lied down on the couch, waiting for her colleague to pick her up at six. A thirty minute long wait.
She rubbed her sleepy eyes, picked up the phone and mumbled groggily, “Hello”.
“Wake up you sleepyhead! We’ll be late. I’ve been waiting for you downstairs for the past ten minutes.”
“Oh sorry! I must have dozed off.”
“No surprises there. You ALWAYS oversleep!”
“Nothing. I’ll be downstairs in two minutes.”
Tell a Tale prompt for Week 7: Silence
She smiled imagining Arjun’s delight on hearing the news of her pregnancy, and had a sudden desire to be near him. Cuddling up in the couch, running her fingers through his hair, a quick kiss by him and although secretly delighted, she always feigned anger at this. She longed to be with him; recreating images of their last meeting repeatedly, relishing his presence as if he were actually there. Her mind was full of his thoughts when she felt an arm around her waist, “Don’t, Arjun”, she cried out in mock anger, the words slipping out of her mouth even before she realized she was in her home, not Arjun’s. She turned; and although she had imagined this moment of truth and confrontation a million times in her mind, nothing prepared her for the look of sheer disbelief and hurt on her husband’s face.
She was at a loss of words. What can she say to soften the blow, and ease his pain? A gamut of emotions engulfed her. Shame, guilt, defiance, anger, fear, impatience, grief. Guilt predominated. The gut wrenching silence that followed her words seemed to shake her very existence, the existence of their marriage of seven years. The tension prevailed, and she didn’t have the courage to break it. He left the bed to wait by the window. The seconds ticked by and all she could do was wait. Life never seemed so uncertain.
Seven years ago:
Her family fixed a suitable match for her; and after meeting him a few times in company of numerous relatives, they were married. As she sat on her new bed awaiting the man, whose preference of reading old English classics is the only personal detail she overheard apart from his name; and to whom she’s married now. He came into the room and sat next to her. She could sense his nervousness, the silence punctuated with occasional clearing of his throat. He was waiting for appropriate words or moves to initiate their first interaction alone. She smiled at this endearing cautiousness on his part not to ruin the moment for her. Emboldened by the shared nervousness and indecisiveness, she put her hand over his and looked at him. They smiled. Shyly at first, and then burst into peals of laughter sensing each other’s nervousness on their wedding night. And then they talked. Sharing bits and pieces of their lives, sowing the first seeds of love. They talked into the wee hours of morning. Then they made love, collapsing into each other’s arms. They laid there in a warm, companionable silence; embracing each other; contemplating this new start, the future, and the delightful promises and hopes it held now. Marriage was a plunge into the unknown for them, and they were ecstatic at their good fortune of finding each other. Love, laughter, passion tinctured their days. Life was blissful.
Four years ago:
He explored new ventures at work; frequent travels became a part of his life, and the heavy work load began eating into his time with her. She tried to be understanding, vainly convincing herself that this phase won’t last long. But she was wrong. As time went by, the tenderness and love that marked the initial years of their relationship vanished. He seemed like a man possessed to achieve the heights of success at any cost, even his marriage. She tried to talk it out with him, remind him of his responsibility towards her; but to no avail. She expressed her desire of having a baby, but he didn’t have time to take care of a child at this stage in life. He called it nagging and said she was too insecure and dependent on him. He considered her lack of ambition a shame, and ridiculed her for being “just a housewife”, nagging and creating obstacles at her husband’s work. The insensitiveness that marked his remarks that day convinced her of how much he has changed; the man she had grown to love so deeply seemed to have disappeared all of a sudden. She got a job, and started working to fill the void in her life. She worked at a pace that defied fatigue and time, because the deafening silence that prevailed at home, even in the company of her husband filled her with the dread of her life passing away in such horrible monotony, and devoid of the love of the man whose bed she continued to share. Life became stagnant.
A year ago:
She had met Arjun at work, the new trainee under her. He was a couple of years younger than her, but she couldn’t help blush each time he set his impish gaze on her. He was attracted to her and he didn’t try to conceal it, which made her more resolute to avoid familiarity with him. But the more you try to resist something, the more it plagues your every waking moment. She found herself charmed by his youthful enthusiasm, infectious laughter, and his eagerness to listen to her. They talked for long at work, and slowly the meetings shifted to venues outside of work. And even though they shared a platonic relationship, she found herself concealing these meetings from her husband. Friendship serendipitously transitioned into love and soon they were inseparable. He cherished her, and it awakened new emotions and passions in her. Soon the dual lives she led with her husband and Arjun became a burden. She wondered why she was holding onto a marriage when her husband considered her as a piece of furniture, and refused to acknowledge that she harbored dormant feelings of love and care towards him. But as Arjun lay sleeping in her arms, the silence of the night breathed a new whiff of love in her dreary life. She decided to leave her husband. Life was about to change soon.
She waited for her husband to say something. Nothing came. She tried to justify to herself the circumstances that led to her infidelity. This time it didn’t sound convincing to even her. The hurt in her husband’s eyes seemed to have erased her former convictions about her relationship with Arjun. It was the longest night of her life, and in the morning her husband left for work. She packed her bags and drove off to Arjun’s home. Cocooned in his arms, she told him about the previous night and then about her pregnancy. The way his body tensed on this bit of news, made her instantly realize that the worst is far from over, it is yet to come. The numbing silence that greeted her this time didn’t shock her. It was as if deep in her heart she always knew and feared this possibility. After what seemed like ages, Arjun tried to calmly explain to her how he wasn’t ready to start a family, or even get married. She nodded and left his home. This can’t be happening to her, this is not how her life was supposed to turn out. She didn’t know where she was driving, and when she finally stopped the car; she saw that she had driven herself home, the only place she had associated with love and comfort. When her husband lied next to her that night, she turned towards him. No one spoke a word. And then the tears came, as the unspoken apologies poured out of their hearts, the regret of the years lost, mourning the setback their love suffered. She waited, wondering whether he could ever love her again; and this time he put his hand over hers and smiled. They embraced, remembering and renewing their love. This time the silence of the night spoke of realization, and an unspoken promise.