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Two Lines on a Stick
by Sandisha Sai (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 10-Jun-2016


It is rather odd that one little stick made of plastic can take over your life, hold the strings to your emotions, and literally decide whether you need to be happy or sad!

For almost four years now, four very long years, Tamara has held on to that stick as if clinging to that last semblance of hope. Every morning, like on an alarm mode, she got up at 4, pulled out the drawer near her bed, fished out a fresh stick, snug in its wrapping, and dragged herself to the washroom. That little stick had no idea of what was to come. A few minutes later, invariably, as if on clockwork, Rohan would hear the long wail, the longer silence, the shower running and then Tamara coming back to bed. More silence. He could no longer reach out over that wall between them to comfort her. Her sorrow was clearly hers alone.

Four years ago, when they had gotten married, they were already in their early thirties and Tamara knew that if motherhood had to happen, it had to be soon. Every month she would buy a home pregnancy kit to check first thing in the morning. With each passing month the joyful anticipation and the never ending hope began to crumble and something in her started shutting down and shutting Rohan out of that little cocoon of misery she had woven around herself. Family was strictly shown the door if they dared to ask.

Honey, it is alright. It will happen soon Tamara. Just be a little patient. I am also in this with you.

You do not have a clue about how this feels Rohan. What can you possibly feel?

Look, Tamara. I want to be a father too you know. This is not just about you and your feelings. Do stop to think for a minute about how I feel.

This is my body and my misery. You are a man. What difference does it really make to you?

Tamara! I love children too you know. But you heard what the doctor said. After so many IUIs and so many miscarriages, IVF is now our only option. But your body and your mind have taken a beating. Let us just give it a rest. Let us go for a long holiday. We can come back and think of our options.

Options! What options? IVF, adoption, or just a state of childlessness? You give up if you want to. I will not. I refuse to. Do you know how it feels when I see one pink line on that stick every month, when I get my periods? Do you know how my joy at seeing those two pink lines feels after an IUI goes well? And that very night, as if God feels that He  needs to put  a 24-hour cap on my happiness, I bleed again! Can you even imagine that pain?

Don’t shut me out please. This is not helping us, our marriage, or our home.

Tamara got up and went into her bedroom and closed the door behind her. She stayed there for a few hours before she came out all bright and chirpy and ready to take on another day and another stick. She refused to meet Rohan’s eye.

They never spoke about it again, not till this day. It hung like a sword between them, waiting to slice the marriage that was already hanging on threads.

You know, Navneet, I pretend that it does not matter so much to me, so that she can get out of this constant misery she has made her life into. Of course I want a baby, but I want Tamara back even more. But I seem to have lost her. I feel so lost Navneet. What can I possibly do to help her?

I may be her brother Rohan, but you know that she has shut all of us out. We tried convincing her to think of the next logical step, to go for counselling, to just give it a break. But you know how she is.

It drives me crazy to see what she is doing to herself Navneet. I miss her so much.

They drove home in silence after work that evening. For the past four years and two years before their marriage, Rohan would pick her up from work before heading back home. But the girl who would roll the windows down and sing so loudly that people in the neighbouring vehicles would laugh, was gone. All of her natural joy, the spontaneity, all of that was taken over by this single-minded stubbornness. She sat there in a brooding silence now.

Something was different today though. He could sense it.

They passed the usual medical store close to their apartment. He slowed down to stop as he always did. It had become such an obsession with her that she had gotten into the habit of checking the kit every single morning, irrespective of whether it was the right time or not.

Tamara reached out and touched his hand on the gearshift and nodded her head to say “no, don’t stop.”

Surprised, yet unsure of whether to say something or not, Rohan drove on. As they entered the long driveway that led to their beautiful apartment complex, Tamara turned to Rohan.

Do you mind if we parked the car and sat in the park for a bit today? It has been a long time.

She took his look of surprise as an affirmation.

I gave in my resignation today. Can you apply for a ten-day leave of absence from work?

What happened Tamara?

I got a call from Navneet’s friend a few days ago. She wants to take us to a little village near her home town that her NGO has adopted. There is something that she would like to show us. I have been talking to her regularly and even gone to the village once with her when you were away on an office trip, but I want it to be a surprise for you.

Whatever it was, it seemed very important for Tamara, so he just nodded a yes.

Navneet’s friend Clara had devoted herself to the NGO, where she worked as a part of the administration. The NGO had just adopted this village near her home town. As she led Rohan and Tamara towards a small, ramshackle old house near the village school, she and Tamara spoke in low undertones, deliberately leaving Rohan out of the conversation.

The house, as they approached it, was old and rundown and had a big board that read “Avvaya’s Home for Destitute Women”. What it lacked in exterior aesthetics, it made up in terms of the liveliness it was emanating. Flowering plants beautifully tended to, well-hedged bushes, and women of various ages fussing over them like they were babies. A very warm and comforting feeling passed through Rohan and he smiled at Tamara who returned it spontaneously. They did not enter the threshold, they did not have to. They left that for later. But the power of the contrast that they just witnessed was like a wave of realization and looking at Tamara, Rohan guessed that she had already felt that and by bringing him here, she was trying to let him into her world.

By shutting myself out from you, I actually shut out the only person and the only beauty that my life has. It is only when I look at how happy these women are without anything in the world that I swore that I would nurture what I have in abundance – your love. I never realized your pain and how unconditionally you were trying to support me despite that, until Navneet came to my office with Clara. Clara lost her husband and five-year-old daughter in a freak accident a few years ago.

They never stopped at the medical store again after that day. A few months later, they brought home beautiful little babies – a boy and a girl. Tamara never needed two lines on a stick to predict her happiness again. She decided it for herself.

 

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