I stood there in the rain. Waiting for you.
You never came.
With my every raindrop, I could sense increasing panic.
Where were you?
Were you all right?
Did you lose your way?
Would you come late as usual?
The shower brought anxiety, but no answers.
As the breeze ruffled the lace on my dress, I thought about how defiant you had seemed when I spoke about us ending this relationship. Our families would never agree to the union, I’d said, it was futile. You looked at me, willing me to take back my words. I didn’t. And you vowed to make me yours no matter what happened.
Secretly, I rejoiced. Your passion and need for me made me feel wanted and prized. Special beyond my wildest dreams.
But outwardly, I just stared into your deep brown eyes and sighed. It was going to be one hell of a struggle. “We’ll win, don’t you worry, my sunshine”, you said calmly.
Just as calmly as I’d packed my haversack this evening.
I couldn’t say we hadn’t tried. We’d both done our best. But then, I already knew it was not going to work. Our families were too deep-rooted in their “traditions” and swore by the “societal norms”. The stuff that we called phony was their way of life. I couldn’t blame them, one man’s food was another man’s poison. But I sure resented them for giving the community precedence over their own blood child.
You stood listening to my daily tussles, relating to me what you’d put up with the previous night. Your determination gave me strength, your love gave me power. I knew you’d find a way for us to be together.
And then you said there was no way but to elope.
I didn’t bat an eyelid before I said ok.
What did I have to fear? I loved you, and I knew I wanted to be with you.
I couldn’t be without you… That thought made my decision easier.
You, for your part, worked everything down to the minutest details. I was astounded to see how carefully you’d mapped everything, you’d obviously been thinking about this all those nights we feigned sleep. My love and admiration for you grew, if that were possible.
You said you’d made arrangements, and I trusted you blindly. You explained why it was essential that I withdraw all my money from the bank, and how I needed to ensure that no one ever knew that I was giving it to you to plan a better life for us.
The raindrops dripped from the branch overhead on my nose, the wind punctuating every drop with a whoosh.
Where were you, I screamed into the darkness for the thousandth time.
I was greeted with silence. Or turbulence. Whichever way you looked at it.
I stood there all night, expecting you to come up around the turnaround and mutter some lame apology and excuse, and then I would get mad at you and urge you to dash off before someone saw us.
It never happened.
The rain subsided. Night gave way to dawn. Sunrise came and then noon. My weary eyes still searched for you. Milkmen, newspaper vendors, school kids and professionals made their way to their destinations as I waited, depression and disappointment embracing me like a loving mother.
I did not weep. I felt my anger drain away. I guess they were all right when they said that you were duping me. That you never loved me, only used me as and when convenient. It wasn’t your mistake, it was mine. I couldn’t blame you for my faith in you.
I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. I’d let your love seclude me, exclude me from all the people and things that were earlier mine to command and cherish.
But they’re bang on when they say that blood is thicker than water. Shame-faced, I knocked on the door and mum answered it. She looked dishevelled, but the sight of me at the door kicked her into action. She grabbed me, made me sit down and sip some water. I did not realise when the tears flowed. Neither of us said a word as she fed me and put me to bed.
I lost track of time. I just noticed the alternating light and darkness. I gazed into nothingness and cared about no one, not even myself. The “living dead” was what they would have titled me in their fancy books on psychology and fiction.
“Beta, your cupboard is a mess. Why don’t you clean it up today? It’ll give you something to do and take your mind off…” her voice trailed away. We’d never spoken about that day again, and she could not break the unspoken code.
I did not argue, I did not have the right or the energy to do that. If that is what would please her and make her feel that I was getting back to “normal”, so be it.
“And line the drawers with paper, keeps the dust away…”
I’d never quite understood that concept, and had voiced my disagreement on previous occasions. But today, I just quietly obeyed her thumb rule. She loved me. Unconditionally. Under any circumstances. That was more than sufficient for me to do her simple bidding.
It was the least I could do…
As I unfolded the paper and arranged it symmetrically on the middle shelf, a picture in the corner caught my eye.
A young, handsome boy had skid and dived headlong from a cliff the night it had poured.
You hadn’t left me that night. But you’d left me…
Never to return…
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