I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”
When he slammed the door, wasn’t it like I came out of trance, stuck at ‘four’? I might’ve paused, lost to his mesmeric gait; how else he could’ve slipped out in three secs. Don’t I love his gait more than his manner, captivating though it is; he knows that as well, and yet he walked out on me. Isn’t it like deserting a companion amidst a desert? Worse it is, ditching the mate in the heat of the act?
How I rushed out craving to catch a glimpse of him, maybe for the last time, and how distressed I was at not finding him? Maybe, his eagerness to exit from my life outstripped my urge to espy his gait. Standing at the gate, didn’t I feel like I was stranded in life? Oh, how things had come to this pass with him? Slowly, how the irony of my situation began to dawn upon me? That’s even in my state of dejection! Didn’t I feel amused that the effect of my fascination should’ve become the cause of my disappointment? If only I was not lost to myself admiring his gait, wouldn’t I have prevailed upon him not to desert me? Could I have? Maybe, but it was philosophy that had offered its hand to me. If not, how I would’ve been able to drag myself into the emptiness of my home for introspection. That I was drained out to sink into the sofa was another matter.
Whoever thought that our love match could become a mismatch? Is it really so? Am I not embracing hypocrisy to camouflage my idiocies? What am I to gain by a false sense of sympathy? It’s time I learnt a few lessons in psychology as well. Won’t that help me in understanding the realities of life? No denying but where am I to begin with? Am I to first climb the heady highs of romance or descend the marital slopes of discord? What if I swallow the sour before savoring the sweet? That’s fine if the show is on; now that its curtains down, better I alter the menu. Better still, why not I am a little ingenious to alternate; won’t that help me keep the focus even.
As Shruti was wont to sing paeans about Rahul, how I used to mock her that by showering praises on her cousin, she was bound to bankrupt her beau! Jokes apart, while his persona in her album enamored my heart, hadn’t her ballads on him became music to my ears? What about her dramatic announced of his impending migration to the U.S., didn’t I sense my heart skipping a beat as if to begin my life afresh? Unable to hold the burden of excitement, couldn’t it have spilled some of it onto my face for her to grasp. Was it not her turn to tease me by saying sorry for making me lose my heart to an exaggeration? What a heady feeling before an impending rendezvous.
When he waved his arrival to her O’Hare, didn’t he love-gait straight into my heart! As if guided by my enamored eyes, as he advanced towards me like a robot, was it not like a dream coming true? Oh, how I was impelled to grab his hand with both hands even as he was tentative in extending it to me! Was it not love at first sight? Did he lose any time to propose dating? Did I miss a date ever? Is there anything to better that in all fiction? They are not my words but of Shruti’s! Wonder how nascent love can make life so exciting! Won’t it in return seek copulation for its own fulfillment? Alas, why on its path of fruition, love has to contend with cultural hindrances? Won’t our culture hamper lovers’ route to the altar with caste hurdles besides status barriers. But then, living in the West, we could go west, and that’s what we did, didn’t we?
How adamant were our parents to tie us in a nuptial knot. Didn’t his mom say she would rather starve but not break bread with low caste lass? How did my dad dismiss my choice of a high-caste lowness; didn’t I tell him not to be mean being rich. But how naïve was Rahul about his mom’s turnaround? That’s in spite of my telling him that the waiting game suited her and not us. Didn’t we waste one youthful year for nothing! Wasn’t that enough for us to go west, but how ill at ease he was when I moved into his flat. Wasn’t he shocked as I broke the news back home? Well, it worked with my dad but Rahul’s mom was made of a sterner stuff, and that called for one-upmanship, didn’t it? What was my threat to display-ad our live-in in the Indian press but just that? Yet credit the scandal in the offing for turning that bully into a billie. Was it really so, as she had the last laugh, won’t it seem in hindsight that it’s a tactical retreat on her part.
What a wedding it was though? A designer wedding it was, all said so, didn’t they? Wouldn’t have dad splashed half his black money on it, but did I suffer from any qualms about it then? Having been a beneficiary all along, what’s the point in my becoming a moralist now? Maybe, the wounds of life open our minds to its profligacy; could be, but does a grand wedding guarantee a lasting marriage? No way, as it appears. Of what avail was that fanfare of a marriage for Rahul’s mom could readily fray at its rough edges? Why blame her when my own attitude, or lack of it, was the cause of my undoing? Oh, how I took Rahul for granted? Well, I was even callous to his needs? Wasn’t that enough to let her take the wind out of our marital sails?
How she began scripting the plot of my downfall even before we settled down in Seattle. What for her unending tele-talks with him, feigning depression, that too at our bedtime. Wouldn’t have that whore known that sex is ninety-percent mental? How the devil planned to fail our sex-life as a prelude to wrecking our marriage! Weren’t her life-long sacrifices for him and his disregard for her undivided attention the recurring themes of her emotional blackmail? What cunning to pepper her talks with how she loved me being his beloved? Oh, how all that infused a guilt feeling in him leading to a sense of alienation from me?
What about dad, didn’t he willy-nilly strain our tenuous union; how he used to pester Rahul to invest in India’s booming real estate? Wasn’t his offer to advance monies meant to preempt any excuses? How Rahul could’ve refused that without raising my hackles? What an irony that the acceptance entailed a price to be paid! Won’t decency demand that I should own what was bought, at least till he repaid the loan. What else he could’ve done than to let dad have his way? Why did dad go on an acquisition spree that tended to squeeze our resources? Was he eager to uplift his son-in-law’s status in his own circles or did he intend to secure my financial future post-divorce, or worse, was it him aim to preempt Rahul from providing to his parents? Isn’t it stupid in every way, well, but he did dig the grave for that bitch to bury our marriage, so it seems.
If only Rahul hadn’t asked the devil to come and sup with us in the U.S. Being a mom-boy how could he have negated her request to rest and recreate in his shade? Though my sixth sense warned me of the impending trouble, could I have put my foot down without looking cussed? How fatal it proved to be as the whore poisoned his mind and undermined my love! How she took him under her spell to sound the death knell for our marriage! Oh, the way she weaned him away from me, lo, did the bitch master black magic to become a witch as well! Why didn’t Shruti tell me about his mom-sickness, shouldn’t she have, being frank and forthright althrough? Maybe, it was my fate that faltered her at full disclosure, where it really mattered.
Am I not into a blaming game? How does it help me in anyway? Why not I better self-introspect? It’s as if I perched my life on a hollow branch, didn’t I? Weren’t my spending sprees getting on his strain nerves? How can I put it on papa for letting me become a spendthrift? Shouldn’t I have adapted myself to my new situation, and even behaved better. But what about dad’s indents for settling the outstanding, wonder how Rahul didn’t call it quits much before! Why did I limit my alacrity only to the bedroom? When it came to the kitchen, wasn’t I plain lazy? How does it help blaming mom for pampering me? Didn’t I know Rahul loves all those spicy Andhra recipes? Yet I left him to fend for himself with his self-prepared stuff or McDonald’s hamburgers! Didn’t I know he cooks for nuts? Was it any justification that I wasn’t particular about the food I eat? What else it was but sheer callousness? That too, when he was so caring to cater to all my needs, why not I admit my fancies? Why did I let my lethargy become the Achilles heel of our marriage for that witch to push through ‘doubts of duty’ into Rahul’s mind? How she took over the kitchen as a prelude to leading him out of my home, and life as well!
Would it have been any different had we been living in India? Without any dollars to exchange, how could have dad pestered Rahul to invest? Given the taboo, where was the question of my man getting into the kitchen for it would have shamed us both? Wouldn’t I have taken to the Indian ways of a working wife? Probably, besides, isn’t the air over there more conducive for couples to cling on to each other regardless, though I hear it’s steadily getting worse on that count? Whatever, with our flanks covered somehow, wouldn’t have that devil stayed put in her place? Surely she would have, and it could’ve been a different story to write home about; well, it’s neither here or there.
Why suddenly this nauseating feeling? Why couldn’t it be morning sickness? When did I last have my periods? Whatever was the turmoil, how could I’ve missed the count? Oh, how he loves children; surely more than any man I’ve ever known. How thrilled he would have been at the prospect of my carrying. With the sprouting of his seed right within me, wouldn’t have his love for me had had a rebirth? How eager was he initially to tend me when I’m in the family way. Haven’t I overheard the bitch branding me barren to her son that was as she gave me enough hints that she was glad I didn’t bear to pollute her high clan with my low blood? Wouldn’t she have played upon his craving for an offspring to nudge him into a fresh nuptial? Surely she would have for that could be her game plan.
Now that so much psychic muck had flowed under our marital bridge, could his child in me make him change his mind? But then, who knows what fate has in the offing, and a trial too costs nothing. Why not I ring him up, no, I’ll personally tell him so that I could sink into his arms.
Sprung from the sofa, I dashed to the door, counting aloud, “One, two, three, four”.
Acknowledgement: Story based on the lead provided by Aswin Sanghi for September 2015 ‘Write India’ short story initiative of Times of India