Short Story: A Verse on the Golden Jubilee
A heavy mist hung in the air, coating greyish clouds in a thin layer of dew. It persisted throughout Sunday, leaving a moonless night. Sporadic flashes of an uncanny electric spark discharged in the atmosphere, turning the black sky into a sea of fire. The great many shadows of wind boisterously waltzed across the window, running helter-skelter all over the crystal glass. The haze was so opaque, that it blurred one’s vision, smoldering down the very visual sense.
It was their Golden 50th Wedding Anniversary. A bright sunny day was expected. Unfortunately, the clouds howled at erratic intervals, sometimes pouring as if they were exalting the last breath of the universe and sometimes resuscitating the pulse of life, like a low drizzle.
At 81, her spine was bent like a bow. The flesh that covered her tender bones rose softly when pressed, like socks, and slowly released when untouched. She had a malignant brain haemorrhage a couple of hours ago. The golden time had ceased since then, unwrapping with a kohl-coloured bed sheet. She had taken vows on her wedding day that she would live with him and take her last breath with him. Today, deep in the depths of her heart, she had silently cursed her life for playing a tumultuous spoilsport. She could not speak, yet her eyes spoke in volumes for her undying love towards him. She could not move, yet her silence had already shaken her beloved’s earth. She could not taste, yet she could sense the sweet aroma of his aftershave. She could feel his manly hands running over her tender cheek. She could imagine herself entwined in his arms, like the magical petals of lotus lips. She could sense his pounding heart through the windows of her eyes. Alas! She was helpless like the painting of Mona Lisa, sternly staring at her fate.
“D-darling, where’s your woollen sweater? Please wear it. It’s cold… yea, very cold,” she said, blinking her eyes and squeezing the liquid out of her eyes upon opening. He had tried to speak in a lionhearted tone, yet a heavy gulp perched on his throat. His heart sank when he gently grabbed her palms, allowing his lips to gently stroke her delicate lips. He kissed her amorously like the day he had kissed on her wedding day.
There was a kindest healing melody in his voice when he innocently raised his chin in an affirmative manner to respond. “Sarah, my love, look here. Here, my love. I am wearing the woollen sweater you had knitted over the last winter. Look here, my sweet. See, you see?” he said, swiftly grabbing the woollen sweater on the sofa chair and pulling the cloth down to his waist. “Are you happy now, my sunshine?” he said with a soothing tone while settling down on her bed. A simple curve approached her lips, indicating a satisfied smile.
“D-do you know I had made mushroom cream soup for you in the morning? You like it, eh. Don’t you?” she chuckled like a baby, recollecting her childhood memories she had spent with him. He used to purloin mushrooms from her father’s farm when he was seven. “Aw man. Good times, yeah. Soup was delicious” he smiled, rubbing his hand over her hand. They had giggled like 7-year-olds. Suddenly their childish giggle transformed into a serious hush. They looked into each other’s eyes with a paralyzed gaze, as if their bodies had been frozen. They could visualize the water being separated from its river. They could hear their hearts wailing with pain. They had understood the sharp truth of life, like a knife slicing through the butter. “Hun, it’s our day today. James, wouldn’t you read a verse today?” she whispered, her lips quivering as she spoke. He took a deep breath with an ache in his heart, and abruptly delved his hand into his pants’ pocket, taking out a mini diary. He then adjusted his spectacles below his nose, and slowly flipping the brownish pages of his diary, he began to touch the written words on the page. He advanced towards her muttering softy:
Old woman, with you I have sharedEverything about lifeFood, drink, clothes, all that make a homeSleep, and all our wakeful nightsFrom the birth of our children, to their settling down,And finally, moving on,Every stage of my lifeI have shared with youWith you I have shared the grief of partingQuarrel, reconciliation, solitude, tooAll my tricks I shared with you, truths and lies as wellMy pain you have borneAnd all your pain has passed through my poresWe have lived togetherBut how is it possible for us to die together?One of us one dayWill have to leave the otherAt the funeral pyreAnd return alone.
There was a pause after the ending, and he returned his gaze back to her face. She had seen a flashback of her entire life in nutshell. She was indebted to James for his unconditional love, and tried to say something to him.
“H-honey, remember the first time when you had fallen head over heels for me? I can still remember how nervous you were with a bouquet of flowers in your hand”, she chuckled while continuing, “Oh! How I long to embrace you like our first date! Would you please bring that time back to me? I want those fresh melodious winds, navy-blue skies, and that childlike heart to cease till I grasp my paintbrush and paint on the canvas of my life,” she said merrily. She was pink-eyed and lachrymose, seeing his head bowed with sorrow. “Aye, I had loved you then. I love you still, and I will always continue loving you… even after my death. Our love is eternal, no? When I am gone, just remember me in your breath. Just touch your heart and you’ll sense me right there. You are my brave heart. You have to take care of yourself. I love you, my prince charming,” she said while sobbing. Her pillow was soaked with tears.
“My darling, how can I forget that happiest day of my life!” he uttered zealously. “Yes, yes, I was quite shy in revealing my pounding heart. I can vividly remember that bright sunny morning when I had received your missive, reminding me that I had put more than half an hour of your time as you were getting late to college. Well, guess what? You were too irresistible. I could not take my eyes off of you when I had first seen you in that red dress. You looked so sensuous. I can still see that ravishing beauty in you,” he said, drawing his eyes all over her face. She had been touched by his romantic milieu. “Oh, dear…” she said, pleasantly blushing.
He could not hold his tears any longer. He could not keep his head bowed any more. He could almost hark to the agonizing utterances of his heart. He could not resist his arms to show his evergreen endearment towards his only love; his childhood love.
“Oh! Sarah, my life… my soul! I love you. I love you so much. Please don’t talk about dying. I can’t even imagine a single day without you. What would I do without you, huh? How can I live without you? You are in every breath of mine” he cried, embracing her passionately. There was something not right when he had hugged her. He could not feel her heart pulsating. She had stopped breathing. His heart palpitated wildly.
“Sarah... Hey... Sarah... Sarah! Saraaaaaaaaaaaah! Please, please, please talk to me. Oh, my sunshine, bon voyage…” he cried, kissing her on forehead, and gently closing her eyes.
Meanwhile, somewhere down the hills, the winds whirled fervently across the navy-blue skies. Slowly comprehension began to dawn on him. He kept on looking at her in silence. A peculiar silence. A harrowing silence. A doting silence. A childlike silence. A bona fide silence. An enlightening silence. A numb silence.
~ Copyright © Surabhi Kaura 2015
P.S. The verse which I have mentioned is by Gulzaar, one of my favourite Indian poets.
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