Hope for Convalescence

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.

 

 

 

 

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The Exhibition

She was hit by a flood of happiness when her dad had said, “We’re going to the exhibition today!”. The remainder of the day, spent in wait for that evening, was all a blur. Lessons taught in school were heard but not understood. Food was eaten but not savored. The hot topic of the day was her exhibition plan and she told it to everyone who greeted her. Every time she told someone, her excitement seemed to grow, proportional to the number of people she had enticed.

 

“Samyuktha! Tell me what’s 4 squared two?” She blinked for a second, regaining her senses as she reeled back into reality. But it wasn’t long before she answered. She was a topper. “Concentrate” her ma’am said sternly and she sat down embarrassed. She wanted to listen, so she did. Five minutes pass, and Snap! She was dreaming again.

 

The vast expanse of the exhibition was vivid in her imagination. The entrance was modeled after the ‘Taj Mahal’, which symbolically tried to suggest, that the exhibition resonated with the grandeur of the monument. Petite shelters were lined up at the entrance and were glowing in pink. Kids surrounding the stands, outstretched their hands over the counter in want of feather like cotton candy. Crowded lanes were all tangled up giving, every passerby stuck in the maze, the impression that the place was way bigger than what it really was. The relentless cries of hawkers and the humorless banter of customers, kept the place lively and abuzz.

 

What little solitude was left in the place, was gobbled up by the squeals of excited passengers on amusement rides. This was the second best attraction at any exhibition, and it was only next to shopping.

 

She imagined herself on every one of the rides. In her fantasy, she had the guts to get on the roller coaster. She was tall enough to drive a bumper car. She had the time to admire the city lights from the vantage point when the giant wheel reached it’s zenith. She would’ve imagined a merry-go-round but the continuous spinning makes her nauseous.

 

Food savored at the exhibition was always the same. Typical. It was always Pav Bhaji, Chole Bhature and Cutlet Ragada. It never got better, but it never got boring either. What happened after that wasn’t quite clear. She didn’t imagine anything beyond the fun part, maybe because she didn’t want it to end. But it had to. Cause the time had come for her dream to come true.

 

She wanted to make sure that she’d do every single thing she had imagined. Like a mental checklist. She filled her head with expectations and her heart with excitement. She couldn’t contain the enthusiasm any longer. The school’s final bell rang. She didn’t have to.

The man at the ‘Vantage Point’

From the vantage point,  everything was clear. The aerial view presented him with a different perspective, both visually and mentally. He was in a different world altogether, a world that’s characterized by unfulfilled desires and materialistic detachment. 

He looked down and saw his own house. He’d had innumerably pleasant moments there. But now all that was left was pain. He didn’t want that to be his last glance, so he closed his eyes and opened them again. It was the first day of college, he was so bright and young then. He was making new friends and was soaking in the attention. Just when he was reliving the excitement, slowly, the reel of his life started to speed up. Days and months flashed by. Faces that seemed warm and cordial transformed into evil and prejudice. They still had the same face, but they all looked different somehow. The warmth in the memory was gone. It brought chills to him and he closed his eyes yet again. 

And after opening them, he saw himself sitting in a church,  and was surrounded by people. The Community Church was a good place for a neighborhood reunion. In fact, it was the only time they greeted each other. They all had fake smiles and bare faced lies…..not even Satan in disguise would look more nice. Ironically, that is who they’d just prayed to get away from. His gut wrenched and he closed his eyes to open them to a new scene. 

He saw his 7 year old self playing in the mud. No one around to stop him. Nothing to worry about. No obligations, no liabilities. No proposals, no promises. The kid was lost in his own world, lost in pure innocence.

A wide smirk smears across his face. He finally looked up. He saw a golden vulture circling in backdrop of a snow white sky. It finishes it’s rounds and gently starts to descend towards him. It was time, and he was ready. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore. And again, he closed his eyes, for one last time.