What you love can hold you captive, but it can also free you. Here’s a story about being free to love yourself, warts and all.
One of the top 5 entries for September’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me” taken from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
I glance again at my watch, as if looking at it repeatedly would calm my exasperated nerves. My eyes behind the safety of my dark shades scrutinize the people entering the restaurant. I look around. The stylish wrought iron furniture and stained glass windows create a perfect ambience for a romantic lunch.
I check my phone again as I adjust the scarf over my head. There are no missed calls or text messages from Arun. I phone him again but it doesn’t get through. I want to call the airport and check if the flight from Delhi has landed but I don’t know the airline he is coming by. He had gone to Delhi on official work. We had planned to meet at our favourite restaurant before he went home. Negative thoughts crowd my mind. I log into CNBC on my phone to know the latest news. Thankfully, all flights are safe.
May be he has lost his mobile and does not have my number; I ignore the fact that he could have called my office to get connected to me. I think of all possible reasons that could have prevented Arun from reaching me. May be he is stuck in the traffic like last time when he reached the movie theatre post interval…this Mumbai traffic!
My lower back is aching due to sitting erect on the hard iron chair of the café. It is past lunchtime and my stomach is growling. A waiter is coming in my direction bearing a tray with a banana split. It must be for the next table. I go back to playing angry birds on my phone as I swallow my saliva.
“Madam, your order please?” The waiter stops by my table after serving the banana split.
“I will wait for some more time, I am expecting someone,” I repeat for the third time. I pretend to read the menu card intently.
“Madam, we don’t take orders after 3,” the waiter persists.
“Okay, one black coffee and a plate of green salad,” I say, returning the menu card. “No dressing please.”
The waiter pauses for a few seconds before nodding, perhaps at the weirdness of the salad and coffee combination.
I go back to playing angry birds. I kill pigs with renewed fervour.
By now, the waiter has brought my order. I look at the coal-black coffee with a forlorn expression. I bite into a slice of cucumber and fix my eyes on the entrance again. The cucumber is bland and tastes insipid; I chew it anyway.
Besides Arun, my weight loss is my other obsession. I have been sweating it out in the gym for the past four months but the needle on the weighing machine hasn’t moved a centimetre.
“Reena madam, cut down on sweets,” the gym instructor said after the work out.
“I think, I suffer from a sweet disorder,” I told the gym instructor. “My life is bitter without sweets. Just the aroma of chocolates seems enough to add on a few Kilos.”
Arun has not yet told his wife about me. He says he will tell her when the right time comes. Until then he wants me to stay in the wraps. Therefore, we always meet in less crowded restaurants, occupy corner tables, dark shades over my eyes, my head always covered in a scarf. I have never understood the reasoning behind dark glasses, scarf and everything clandestine, but does love ever follow any logic?
My patience seems to be bursting at its seams. I have been waiting for five hours… and three years… my inner voice adds. I am very angry… angry with Arun for keep me waiting, and angry with myself for continuing to wait for him, today and always. I want to go back to work. I am tired of waiting, and the knot of the scarf is itching the delicate skin of my neck. I try to loosen the knot but its noose becomes tighter; its ends have gotten entangled just like my emotions. I pull it with a force. A small tear appears on my silk scarf. I don’t mind, unlike my life, it can be mended easily.
I unzip my handbag to keep my shades in it. The ambience of the restaurant appears brighter without the darkness of the shades. While I am rising from my chair, I observe the image of a flying bird on the stain glass window, its feet wrapped under its wings, but I am no bird; and no net ensnares me.
I take small, slow steps towards the exit. I am gradually finding my dormant energy back.
Suddenly, I feel famished as if I have not eaten since ages.
“One scoop of Chocolate mousse please.” I stop at the Takeaway counter.
Pic credit: 28691409@N05 (Used under a CC license)