Candace woke up early and sat upright. She never was a morning person, but as the due date came closer, she couldn’t help insomnia. Today was ‘The Day’, but she didn’t feel ready for it. “Nobody ever does“, the doctor had told her and after deep thought, she had acquiesced to his suggestion of getting the operation done.
It would’ve been a usual Tuesday for anybody else, but it seemed extra gloomy to Candace. Lately, her pensive demeanor had been apparent to anyone who had cared to notice. From people around her, sympathy was plenty but empathy was scarce. Having been a loner all her life, Candace didn’t feel the need to have someone to share her melancholy with, but having a shoulder to cry on, once in a while, would’ve been nice. Her pet dog ‘Chase’, with its heart-melting eyes, and intoned whimpers and whines, provided her with occasional solace.
Her appointment was due 3 hours from now, but she decided to get out of the house early and get some fresh air. After a quick shower, she took a look at herself in the mirror. Her neatly shaven head accentuated her once plump face which was now gaunt from all the chemotherapy. Dark circles draped her eyes but she still, somehow, managed to look good. She was quite the show-stopper back when she was in high school, but all that seemed superficial now.
She stepped out of the house in an attire that was dull and insipid on a day which was bright and vibrant. A prickling sense of inequity impinged on her but by now she had learned to parry it. In a meek attempt to take the most circuitous route to the hospital, she decided to walk across the park and then take a bus.
She entered the park and found it scarcely populated. “Perfect!”, she mused for it was in perfect harmony with her mood. She chose to sit on an empty park bench overlooking the pool. This way she wouldn’t have to face the happy strangers who gave her hapless looks as they passed by. She didn’t need their sympathy. She didn’t need another reminder of her life. She didn’t need their ephemeral concern. She was fine by herself.
When she finally finished wallowing in contemplation, she realized that a little girl had come to sit beside her a while ago. She was probably only 5 years old and had her hair tied in adorable pigtails. She was completely immersed in relishing a cone of strawberry ice-cream, smiling after every lick, and swaying her legs in excitement. Now it took her a while to notice that Candace was watching her. And then instinctively, with her outstretched elfin arms, she offered Candace what little was left of her strawberry ice-cream. And as she giggled, a mischievous pleasure was radiant in her eyes and she wanted Candace too to experience it.
The innocence and naivety of the little girl bemused Candace and eventually suffused with a heartwarming feeling. She refused politely and patted her on the head tenderly as she watched her finish the cone. The little girl’s cheeks were now flushed pink from all the ice-cream she had smeared on her face. She gave a satiated giggle after completion and waved Candace goodbye.
After she left, Candace couldn’t fathom why the place suddenly felt so empty. “Wasn’t this what I had hoped for?”. She was already missing the little girl she had known from minutes ago. The question puzzled her, but there was no mental turmoil. It felt happy. It felt right. Her reclusive lifestyle has robbed her of experiencing the little nuances of life that made it interesting. Although, now she was reminded of her own childhood. The friends she had. Her family.
But she wasn’t nostalgic and neither did she crave for something new. She had reached a vantage point in her life which made her see things differently. All her life she had taught herself to be independent. To be strong and ready to face tides. And today is just a test of time. She only needed someone to jerk the negativity off of her cluttered brain. And the little girl’s naivety had hit it out of the stadium.
Candace walked across the park with her head held high. A palpable smile arching on her lips. She boarded the bus, took a seat by the window, and was humming all along the journey. She closed her eyes and could still picture the little girl, with her ice-cream smeared cheeks, giggling at her mischievously. And then she smiled too. For the first time in a long time, she felt happy. She was finally ready.