20 Mar 2011

Summer, Winter, Spring...

It had been a freak accident. Sameer was a good driver, this shouldn’t have happened to him. But Fate had different plans for us. Fate had a drunken lorry driver who would skid on slick ice, hurtle at 150 kmph towards our sleek, little SUV and flatten it better than my failed batch of cupcakes. One minute I was a happily-married-to-high-school-sweetheart NRI with a flying career, seemingly everything anyone could want and the next I was in the ICU in a godforsaken hospital fighting for my life. It took me seven days to wake up and when I did, they explained to me the seven, different places in my body where they had to put rods, plates, saucers and whatnot, how my insurance was valid only for another week, how my husband was no more and why I had to sign the release documents for his organs. And, in that order necessarily. I couldn’t process any of it. I realized we had been in a major road accident and that my life would never be the same again but the rest took a long time to sink in. I was penniless, the female version of Iron Man and widowed. They flew me back to India and for a few days I was safe under Ma’s wing; the vultures swooped in soon enough. ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’, ‘He was so young and handsome, you looked so good together’, ’It’s God’s will, beta, what can we humans do’. I wanted to scream at them, tell them where to shove their false sympathy even while they were branding me a manhoos, unlucky. I still refused to realize that my world didn’t contain Sameer anymore; I didn’t want to think about it. I never cried. It was a cold winter.

Days and nights wore on. Insomnia and depression crept into my life as surely as ants into sugar. PJ’s had become my haute couture. Physically, I was making progress – I could walk again, eat by myself. The local hospital even decided that I didn’t need a couple of the rods. But mentally, I was stuck in the previous summer in New York, the glorious summer, the last summer of my life. A fleeting wedding, our parents flying in for the celebrations which lasted almost a month, flowing champagne, laughter and him. Blissfully happy days with Sameer taking me everywhere, everyday. Quiet dinners at the Plaza, rappelling in the Rockies, the long walks through Central Park with him making faces at the ducks in the pond and me giggling uncontrollably, that one crazy night in Vegas we spent winning a total of 8 dollars.. all of it seemed like a movie that I had seen and then the lights came back on and I was back in reality. Every time I closed my eyes, images of that life came flooding back, bringing with it, an iron clamp around my heart; the pain made me want to curl up and never wake up again. There were torturous times when I could see and feel every detail in high definition – the twinkle in Sam’s eyes when he was horsing around, his soft fingers brushing the hair away from my face, the heated, humid air laden with delicious smells of the tiny pizzeria that last day, the crunch of capsicum I hated, the brilliant colors of the flowers, the bad d├ęcor we laughed at. And I would yearn for a moment more, snatch a second from eternity…to go back and not let him drive, to have taken a cab, to have ordered take out, gone hungry, anything but. The summer, I realized, had been my fleeting moment of fulfillment and happiness.

My desperation rose and fell like the tides, as months went by. The vultures had left; everybody’s life was back on track. Everyone, except me, that is. I felt useless, worthless and soul-less. The ache in the pit of my stomach had become a permanent fixture. Everything reminded me of him, so basically, I could do nothing. I gave up chocolates, Coke and chappatis – the three things we had lived on. I looked into the mirror and a gaunt, rail-thin old woman stared back at me. There was rock bottom, ten feet of trash and then me.

Ma watched me from afar, never interfering, never ‘imparting wisdom’. She knew better than to sit me down and have the ‘it’s a part of life, you have to move on’ talk. She fed me, clothed me and held me when I jerked awake at 3 a.m reaching out for Sam, but not much else. But the day she caught me staring at the steak knife a little too contemplatively, she knew. In no time, she had just bundled me into the car and drove in silence. We had reached the cliff-head when she stopped and nudged me out. Sunset had given the place a glow and the long rows of cherry trees cast their long shadows. Ma took me to the very edge of the precipice and gestured – on one side was the deep, endless crevasse, rocky and formidable and a solution to my endless pain and on the other, I saw my mother, my guardian angel, my rock, frail and old, but iron-strong in spirit, standing on a carpet of the spring’s first cherry blossoms, arms outstretched.  She had tears in her eyes. All at once, it struck me – she knew exactly what I was going through. She had had the same choice and she was giving it to me in the hope that I would choose her, that I would choose life and sunshine and the chirping birds. It seemed a long way toward her but once in her arms, she held me tight, promising never to let go. I knew then that Sam was gone and life would never be the same again but I had to go on. I smelt her woodsy scent, wild and flowery, exactly like her and the darkness started ebbing out. The sun’s glow brightened up my life a wee bit and I could smell the flowers again. Spring had arrived.

p.s: my first attempt at fiction.