She gazed at the Morez clock ominously crawling towards six, dangling precariously on the cracked wall behind her. Her nose wrinkled unceremoniously as the smell of antiquated books rose from the dust, settling on the moist sheet of glass, mixing with the smell of sodden earth to form a film of nostalgia she couldn’t escape. Her tears had only just dried, forming unsightly stains down the slopes of her cheeks, dripping down towards her feet as they stood planted firmly on the floor. It was tempting to slide down, to succumb to the soft carpet and stare outside as light began to break.
Her eyes were glazed over, glassy and moist with the few tears she managed to hold back. The sun began to stream in through the window, a sudden inferno attacking her bare feet as it bounced off the window pane and engulfed the room in misty light. Chirps began to pierce the air with their shrill sounds, shattering the still of the night, making way for activity. She sauntered towards her bed, letting her body sink into the pillows, her eyelids heavily falling over her eyes as she beckoned sleep.
She succumbed then to Morpheus’ spell, her body resting, her mind still abuzz with thoughts, swirling back to the events of the night. She recounted the conversation, tossing and turning, asleep but conscious, trapped in the intricate web of her thoughts.
Her mind raced with images of the foggy night, clouds separating for a spell to let the moon cast a luminescent glow on her as she sat, surrounded by pictures and laden with memories.
“Are you chilly?”
“Not at all, it’s a quiet breeze – you know I love the sort.”
She nodded, remembering that he did. She reached forward to adjust the collar of his shirt ever so slightly, watching him cringe with slight frustration. He hated when she did that. She hated when his collars were askew. She couldn’t sit still till she’d managed to get them straightened out. So much so that she had an insane urge to run to the cupboard and place collar stays on all his shirts so they sat just right when he wore them.
“I’m so hungry. Isn’t there anything to eat around here anymore?”
“Not since Sunday. I haven’t been to the mall,” she was fidgeting with her fingers, watching him slide back on the couch. She reached an arm out, unconsciously knocking his legs off the coffee table so that they hit the floor with a thud.
“Sorry. You know I hate that.”
“Make me a sandwich,” he joked, patting her arm in the comforting manner that made it less likely that she’d get up.
“Go make one yourself.”
She watched him groan and drag himself off the sofa, move towards the refrigerator and go through the motions, slowly humming to himself.
She couldn’t fathom why he was making himself a sandwich so close to dinner time. “You won’t eat then; everything I slaved over will have to be packed up in Tupperware. And then you’ll whine about having leftovers for lunch,” she muttered under her breath, but loud enough for him to catch.
His sunny smile dazzled her, breaking the clouds apart for just a tiny second, lifting the veil of fog that came along with the monsoon. She shook her head, refusing to let him melt her annoyance, switching the television on and watching the channels flicker with bad monsoon signal.
“If we’re watching another musical, I’ll retire to the bedroom,” he threatened, slouching next to her, chewing noisily. “Close your mouth when you chew,” she almost snapped, then put her arm on his to avoid any possible altercation that could follow. She smiled when he squeezed her hand, an indication that it was going to be one of those good nights.
The rain began to drip down, she could hear the slight pitter-patter splashing on the channels of her windows and she moved to close them, making a motion to draw the curtains too and then deciding against it. The lights were dim and the glow of the moon lent the room they sat in an unnatural, but soothing glow.
“Nice night,” he mumbled between bites, peeling his eyes away from the television if only for the slightest moment. She lay back in the comfort of his arms, wondering why she had ever felt as though she needed anything more than this.
“Are you sure you’d rather sit in front of this idiot box all night? It’s barely nine, we could still go out,” he was picking at the crumbs in his plate.
“Oh, it’s barely a drizzle!”
“It’s enough to cause a traffic jam. Which makes it difficult to go anywhere in this city.” She wondered as she uttered the words, if she’d become a bit too complacent, a bit too fond of the sofa and a night of food and television. But it had always been like this during the monsoon, it was more of a rainy day ritual than a lifestyle. She stopped herself from obsessing over it.
“We can dance with the rest of our friends over the weekend,” she grinned, laughing at his addition of, “And drink ourselves silly!”
“And drink ourselves silly,” she echoed, flipping channels with lightening speed, looking for something worth staring at all night.
“There we go. Let’s watch that.”
“Seen it,” she sighed.
“That then, it looks hilarious.”
“Oh come on! We’ll spend all night flicking past channels!” He snatched the remote away and out of reach. She struggled for precisely 30 seconds before she realized it wasn’t worth the effort. It wasn’t what was on television that was important anyway. Sitting there with him was good enough.
“We’ve got that wedding on Saturday,” she was picking at her toenails – a disgusting habit but one that he’d grown so accustomed to, he merely tapped her hand away. She remembered when he had first seen her do it. His face had scrunched up so much he’d resembled a ferret and his eyes had been slits of disapproval.
They spent hours in front of the television, finally moving into the other room for dinner. She went through the motions in silence; he wasn’t much of a chatterbox at mealtimes – his head usually buried in his plate as he wiped it clean. She ate slowly, watching him bustle about with the dishes afterward, smiling when he told her to hurry up.
“You should make this more often,” he said picking at the French fries on her plate.
“Unhealthy,” she muttered in between bites of a greasy, homemade burger, laden with sauces and coleslaw.
“But unhealthy.” She knew he would accept that as the end of the conversation. She loved that he had learnt not to argue extensively when she’d decided to put her foot down.
She watched him clear up, wiping the plates as he washed them, stacking up leftovers in the fridge. She’d have to eat them herself. He hated leftovers. She watched the rain ease up, wondering whether she should suggest a quick walk. But, he was already heading off to bed. She shrugged, it was late enough and the idea of warm arms around her and the weight of a thick blanket was too tempting to shake off. She was watching him walk and he glanced back, giving her a half smile, a glimmer in his eye as he turned and walked into the room. She poured herself a glass of water, standing at the window, sipping on it slowly, cradling it in her hands as she heard the droplets form little puddles on the concrete below her window.
She went through the nightly motions, switching off lights and locking doors, walking into the room, expecting to see him sprawled out on the bed, taking up both sides, refusing to budge as they wrestled for space.
The room was silent, dark. She flipped a light on, looking in slight bewilderment at the empty bed, sheets crisp from their morning layout. The bathroom door was ajar, but there was no sight of him. Her forehead wrinkled in confusion and she called out, waiting for him to answer.
She looked down at her hands, wrinkled and puffy from medication, ran her fingers down the uneven cracks on her face, the bulge under her eyes and the loose skin under her chin. Slumped back in her chair she stared at her reflection, confused, suddenly unsure of where or who she was. “I don’t recognize myself,” she said, looking around the room for him. “Are you there? When did we grow old? Is this a dream?” She pinched herself, but her hands were still wrinkled. The wind raged outside, rising and falling in quick succession.
There was no response, just the creaking of the door as the wind struck it repeatedly. She was enveloped by silence, watching the light fade from the sky, the clouds covering it, her cheeks slowly dampening as the first tear trickled down.
Rhea Dhanbhoora has been writing since childhood, has published a book of poems (Poetry Through Time, published by English Edition in 2003) and is currently a Literature student, writing features as part of a full-time job. She can’t imagine a life without writing and one day hopes to be able to live and breathe off the words, preferably in an idyllic country setting somewhere. Food, music, reading and travel are high up there on the list of things she loves reading and writing about. Writing to her is, like life itself, an adventure – a journey to find her place, to define and redefine who she is over and over again and to live and learn through the process.