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At Crossroads Once Again
by Sandisha Sai (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 26-May-2016


The chimes that I had all those years ago in Nevada, in a small thrift store hidden away from the usual touristy kind of places, were tinkling softly in the gentle morning breeze. I still find it amusing to say the least, to call it the morning breeze; as per people who knew me and had washed their hands off of me calling me a goner, it was still the fag end of midnight. But I loved this time. This was the time that somewhere in the country, a sleepy hand groped under his girlfriend’s nightdress for a quick one in a semi-slumber state. This was the time that young harassed mothers, tired of incessant nursing and poop cleaning bouts, slept fatigued and hopeful for at least a few hours of sleep. This was the time when small animals deep in the jungle began their early hunts for food before their bigger and stronger peers began their preying. This was my time – the time when only I was awake and the world was asleep. At least that’s what I liked to tell myself. Every time I saw a light turn on in the distance in our massive condominium somewhere, I felt like it was an intrusion on my time and my kingdom. The early morning loo visits usually ended with the light being left on in their semi-sleep state but I did not mind that, as long as I did not see any shadows in the night.

I sat as always in front of the sheath of greenness, masked in the before dawn shadows, a peculiar shade of purple and grey. Believe me, in all the years of being awake and sitting and gaping into the same sight, I had done a fair bit of research on the shades and the hues of each and every tree, plant and shrub that constituted my greenness. And I call it mine because it was!

My reverie was temporarily disturbed by the sudden cry of my little one and instead of rushing in, I waited to see if it was just a bad dream that would fade away. It did.

I was at crossroads yet again. And this time, I did not want to while away hours and days in ruminating and retrospecting. Was there such a word? There was not enough time for that. Whatever glimpses I had of my own greenness today could possibly be my last and I did not want to be just another light that faded as the dawn broke and radiated its own brilliance. I could not be a tiny speck of blood and bones ensconced in pale pink flesh slowly dimming into a pale nothingness. I wanted more of these fag ends of midnight that I hold so precious and call my own. My claim on what God created.

From somewhere inside the house, Bisky, the family dog moved around restlessly, as if to say that he understood my turmoil. A small little whimper and then he embraced slumber again. Only his morning bowl of milk would awaken him again and that was not due for a few more hours yet. I laughed at the memory of how a very drunk Karthik had named the new puppy we had brought home. Biscuit and Whiskey had become Bisky and the name had stayed. The baby had another bad dream and moved restlessly on the bed as if in synchronization with my own state of mind. She did not settle this time and instead the cries became wails and became louder and louder till Karthik reached out a sleepy hand to take her into his warm cuddle. Comforted, she slept again. His own slumber was deep. I had always teased him, even in our days of courting, that his sleep could be regulated with a switch. Switch off and he slept deep and dreamless and switch on and he jumped out of bed, ready to take on the day and whatever it brought with it. He never lazed around in bed, not even on a weekend or on a holiday. It just had to be “get up and start moving” for him. But till such time, during his designated hours of sleep, he was pretty much useless for anything else except for sleep. Any late night drinks, cups of cocoa, nocturnal walks or popcorn and book sessions were usually all mine. He never tried, never made a pretence. Sleep, he said, was the most precious commodity, and I agreed as I never had enough of it.

I stood watching over Karthik and the little one, we hadn’t decided on a name for her yet, and had still clung to calling her baby. Rather clichéd in the lowest sense of the word I know, but somehow, I haven’t been able to gather the energy to give a flag off to a new life when somewhere other embers were slowly being snuffed out. I had run out of excuses as to why an eleven month old was still not named but then it didn’t really matter. And so baby and Karthik clung to each other and slept on, blissfully unaware of my presence at the doorstep. I slowly slunk back into the darkness and back to my seat in the back porch to the comfort of my greenness. I had thinking to do and yet the lights were slowly getting turned on in the distance. It was not long before the dawn would break my self-generated code of silence and bring in its own pleasant sounds – the chirping of birds of different and unknown breeds, the sounds of the nearby river as it splashed itself into a state of awakeness, (again, not sure if this word exists, but let me be guilty of coining a few today), the sounds of morning ablutions interspersed with the early morning sounds of the milk man, the paper guy, the rude whistle of the pressure cooker ready to dole out food to a school goer, the old man in the next villa in the middle of his oil pulling routine, all familiar in their own routine, routines that actually set my inbuilt clock for me. All happened as if on cue, like the prompter giving the protagonist a rude nudge as if to say, “you are up next”.

The book that I had completed during my seven months of pregnancy (Baby was a premie), had done all its usual rounds with the editor and the publisher and was set for launch in a couple of months – the dream of my entire adulthood. Our villa in the same gated community that we had lived in for the past two years after twelve years of nomadic existence was ready for hand over. I had spent months planning and overseeing every single detail, including the width of the door opening leading to the back porch, to the new greenness that I would make my home in a few weeks.

Odd, I thought, that I had spent years in therapy after the first crossroads I had encountered – the gruesome incident that had left my body and soul shattered and my vagina at a constant monologue with itself, a struggle that I still grapple with. I spent many more precious hundreds of hours over the several crossroads that I had stood on over the years, always taking my time to get out of the path, to heal. Yet this time was different. For the first time, my wait on the crossroads was on a stopwatch. I was being timed. And yet I had so much unfinished business. Karthik remained unaware of my innumerable visits to the doctor. I did not see the point in putting him through the path of never return; he still had to live through much more. Only I was on a stopwatch; the doctor had said a few more months at the most. But I knew that I could no longer shield Karthik as I always had in the past decade and a half that I had known him. I could no longer be the bubbly, chirpy, diehard positivist that he liked me to be, a big sham really, as all the crossroads that I had stood one in the past four decades had made sure that I had at least mastered the art of hypocrisy. He would have to face this on his own for once and become the shield for the little one. He would I was sure. Only I was moving on. I suddenly thought of the poem "The Road not Taken", well, that was no longer an option for me I guess. 

I waited for dawn to break fully in all its glory and envelop my little light in its all-encompassing radiance. I waited for Karthik to jump out of bed and ask for his morning cup of coffee. The bottle of milk for Baby and the bowl of milk for Bisky had to be ready as well. But they would wait till I had finished telling Karthik what I had to. No more waiting. No more time for that. Remember I was on a stopwatch.

The word unfinished came to my head once again, as it had several times in the past few weeks that I had known that I was dying soon. That was it! (Brainwave). I would give Baby her identity at long last. I would name the little one Mikan, Japanese for unfinished. My own way of saying that I could never be done. 

 

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