“I don’t care if you leave today. Why should I bother trying to say otherwise when it makes no difference whatsoever?”
My bitter words seemed to fall on deaf ears. He just stood like a rock with his eyes looking out into the garden. I became more agitated when I failed to spur a response.
It was a Friday morning and the row had started when Kris announced, “You know, I have to go with my team to evaluate the milk union in Kottayam. It looks like I will be away the whole weekend.”
Again, I was being left all alone and feeling neglected. This had become a regular occurrence. Even those days my husband was at home, there would be a hoard of fellow researchers and friends with him. “While you guys are immersed in discussions of anything and everything from world economics to local politics, I am being sidelined here. Am I married to the television or what?” I used to complain on being left watching programs on the TV.
Now, he just stood there, looking out through the window and running a hand through his thick hair. The silence irritated me. It needled me that my emotional outbursts did not seem to affect him. I was hurting and I wanted him to feel the pain too. So I continued harshly.
“Oh, go ahead and neglect this wife of fourteen years. After all, it’s just me here and we don’t have any kids to hold you here, do we?”
I rushed to smother those words with my hands, but it was too late. They gushed out of my mouth, shattering in the room like broken glass. I saw him flinch in pain as from a whiplash. A wave of shame and regret engulfed me. I hated myself for crossing the line and talking about our childlessness. He still did not speak, continuing to look at the shrubbery with raindrops shimmering on the leaves. It was monsoon season, and his face reflected the clouds of gloom in the sky. I took a remorseful step towards him, but he put out a hand, stopping me.
I looked away, my lids drooping to cover the pangs of guilt I felt in inflicting the pain. Feeling stifled by his silence, I needed to run away from his anguish….and my self-reproach. Hastily I grabbed my handbag and left for work. In the office, I tried to bury myself in projects and reports, but all that I achieved was feel more and more ashamed. Kaleidoscope of my life with my husband kept flitting through my mind. I remembered how we met each other for the first time. I remembered all the romance and the sweet nothings in the early years of our married life. The little tiffs we had, the love and the companionship…. For the past ten years, that was all that I really wanted back, ever since those test results that had cast us into despondency.
We had gone for the health check when after four years of marriage, I could not conceive. Though we believed everything was fine and that we simply had to give it some more time, friends and family had prodded us on for a checkup. After a nerve-racking examination, I had been given the “all clear” and we went for an ice cream and a roam in the park while waiting for his results. It was a pleasant day and all seemed well with the world…. And then we went back for his report.
“Things are not looking good, I must say. I’d suggest that you adopt if you really want children,” the doctor said commiseratingly when he handed over the results. Kris read the report and then held out a hand to me. I clutched it and I still remember how cold it felt. The paper trembled in his other hand as he passed it on to me. The term Azoospermia was introduced into my vocabulary.
“It’s just a health problem dear– it can’t affect the way we feel about each other” I had tried to tell him. “We have to be strong and get through this together”.
But then, he had seemed to withdraw further and further away from me, burrowing into work… like an ostrich, burying its head in the sand. I realized that he was building a protective shield around himself and I took particular care in not saying or doing anything that would hurt him ….until that Friday.
I decided that I needed to go home and beg his forgiveness as soon as I could leave from work. I wanted to tell him, “I only want you to love me and keep me close. I really did not mean to say what I said in the morning. I’m terribly, terribly sorry..”
But when I returned home sad and contrite that afternoon, he had already gone on the trip. It looked as though the tour team had been in a hurry. Used teacups were still left on the coffee table. One of my potted bonsai plants had fallen off the stand and was lying on its side, as in portrayal of things to come.
The monsoon rains thundered on the roof as I twisted and turned in my bed that night. The next morning, the rain had abated and a lone cuckoo bird was crying plaintively. I was getting breakfast ready when I heard a car come into the driveway. My heart jumped with joy. “He has come home early,” I thought and rushed to open the door.
As if in a surreal world, I saw a couple of policemen. The whole world went quiet except for the patter of the raindrops. They came in and had me seated before they said, “Ma’am, your husband died in a motel last night. We believe he died of a heart attack.”
“Gone before I could beg his forgiveness… leaving me behind” my heart murmured.
While the monsoon clouds darkened the skies crossing over into another realm, in the distance the cuckoo bird continued lamenting heart brokenly. “I’m sorry……… I’m sorry……”
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