Lying down on the spacious bed with pale blue sheets and staring at the high pale yellow ceiling, my life ran through my mind like a movie on the projector of an empty cinema hall. Every scene was well written, with perfect directions, but the story was not of a perfect person.
Like everyone I went through happy moments, sad times, lonely days, struggling years and probably a lot more, because I was not like every other woman, as I thought and hence made a mess out of my life unlike any woman would willingly.
Just then a tall handsome middle aged man with curly hair and ivory complexion walked in. His big brown eyes shined with the reflection of sunlight falling at him as the nurse opened the curtains.
“Good morning Miss Anjali, how are you today?” he asked with a big lively smile on his face that made him look even more handsome in his green scrubs and white coat.
“Fine” I replied in a low weak voice as I felt sick. Very sick.
He ordered the nurse to check my blood pressure and moved to those big machines by my side noting down some recordings as I guessed. After the complete procedure, he moved towards the bed and asked if I had any objections regarding answering a couple of questions. On my approval he continued to inquire about my family, relatives, friends or husband and all I had for the answer was
He apologized for this tragedy but he didn’t have to. It was my fault. Entirely my fault. Thinking of what I had left been with after all these years, a tear rolled down my cheek. The doctor gracefully seated himself beside my bed and politely said, “Madam, I have to tell you something”. Hearing the tension in his voice my heart raced like a train.
“Yes son?” I replied scared.
“Yesterday during your therapy session, you were unconsciously crying” he said staring straight into my eyes “is there anything bothering you? Anything you would like to share? As this is important for your recovery” he explained.
“I am fine son” I replied “what do you think can bother an old lady like me?” I excused, “I’m perfectly alright doctor” I lied.
“Thank you” he replied smiling “have a nice day!”
I watched him walk down the corridor in front of my room. Turning my face away from the door a river of tears gushed out of my eyes and my heart blamed the doctor for giving me this pain, for reminding me of old days. Deep down I knew it was not his fault. I was wrong. The fight within me continued for several hours until the nurse walked in and injected me with “the drug of peace” as I called it. The world went blur and my eyelids felt heavy. I was falling into deep sleep – a world of peace.
The sun of the next morning brought a relatively relaxed day with it. It felt warmer than usual. Doctor walked in with a confident smile but this time not with a nurse but with a tall, slim beautiful lady, not in any hospital uniform. The lady looked approximately the same age as the doctor. She had dark straight hair and wore a dark eyesight frame, dressed with blue jeans and a white casual buttoned shirt. Greeting the doctor I asked him who the lady was.
“She is my wife” he smiled “Mrs. Ian Leon-“
“Mrs. Cynthia” she interrupted, “you can call me Cynthia” she smiled, bringing her hand forward for greeting.
The doctor then insisted his wife to spend some time with me, as he thought she might enjoy and he left us alone. For a couple of minutes neither of us knew how to start the conversation but then I initiated by asking the lady,
“How long have you been married for?”
“Almost eleven years now” she replied with a faint smile.
“And how many kids do you have?” I inquired
“None” she replied in a low disappointed tone
“Oh! I’m sorry to hear that” I apologized.
“Oh! It’s fine.” She replied smiling, “what about your family?”
“I’ve lived alone since the last 37 years” I replied like I did to every other person who asked me this question,
“I’m sorry, but what happened to your family? If you don’t mind sharing” she requested.
I stared back at her; all blank for a moment and the requested “child would you like to take me down for a short walk?”
“Sure!” she replied with a smile walking to the wheel chair placed beside my bed.
. . .
Lying down in my bedroom, after the long day I closed my eyes to figure out what the day had taught me. After years of routine feelings, I was feeling the curiosity running down my body. I had a pool of questions in my head. Everything seemed entangled and confusing. I turned around to face my husband; he seemed to be in peaceful sleep. I thought of waking him up, but then changed my mind. Who would believe we were once best friends, who shared everything and had no formalities; when one fine day, the decision of sharing a lifetime was the one wrong decision they had taken, together.
I left everything for him, I thought admiring his handsome features. My house, my dreams, my career, my family, my wishes EVEN my own identity. But he deserved it, his love deserved it. He literally worshiped me, loved me from all his heart. What now? Why did everything change? What made everything change? There were too many questions but no answers. And after enough thought, I finally decided to wake him up.
I shook him by his arm, “Ian?” I called, “Ian, I need to ask you something”.
He turned to face me and forced a “yes?” out of him.
“Ian, can we bring Anjali home?” I asked.
“Can you do what?” he asked shocked and sat up.
I repeated my question and as I expected he accused me of being stupid and blamed me for disturbing his sleep and went back to sleep.
But I hadn’t lost hope yet, I was curious and confused. This combination sure is a very energetic combination of feelings; it can make you move mountains. So did it. The next morning I walked to the front of the hospital building. I felt victorious. I looked up, “Saint Al Hospital” – the place that created the distance between Ian and me. I walked in the building and for the first time I felt like soon the walls would fall. I walked in to the elevator and waited for the 5th floor. During this course all the good memories of Ian and me accompanied me and gave me hope. Hoping to win the fight for my dying relationship I walked stronger than ever and happier than ever into Anjali’s room.
After convincing Anjali to come along and helping her pack, we arrived home. She admired the interior of my place and appreciated me of having a sense of style she’d not seen lately in Alberta. In spite of Anjali being of a totally different culture and religion, being with her only made me feel better and reminded me of mom. After sometime Anjali asked me if there was anything wrong between Ian and me, as she had noticed I hardly mentioned him and probably didn’t want to be known as “Mrs. Ian Leonard”. The question was difficult but I knew I had to talk to her. Only she could help me save my relationship as this was the only thing that lacked in our marriage, the guidance of elders. But I didn’t feel comfortable with the surroundings. I explained her that I’d love to talk about it but not at the moment. She kind of understood what made me feel uncomfortable so she requested me to take her to the Hindu temple nearby.
The architecture of the temple was unique. One which I had never seen in a long time, not since I last saw an Indian movie which was probably when Ian and I were dating and only needed a reason to be together, even if it was a movie we didn’t understand. As shown in the movies, temple was a peaceful place. Anjali and I decided to sit down at the back side of the temple. I inquired a little about Hinduism and asked her what exactly was the value of marriage in her religion. She explained marriage was considered a very sacred act. Women are considered very important part of the family, they believe that they are the ones who hold a family together. One interesting fact that I found out was that they believed marriage was not an act for one lifetime. They get married to the person for seven lives. This made me realize how important having a life partner is. While we drove back home, she explained me how they take several vows during the processes of getting married but while she explained she paused. When I asked her what happened, she replied saying, “I am not the right person to talk about this.” The rest of the journey back home was only full of silence.
Tonight I couldn’t peacefully lie down on my bed. I had a strong feeling Anjali had something to help me through this hard time. I walked into Anjali’s room and sat down on the floor while she was asleep in her chair. Resting my head on her knees I closed my eyes. She ran her hand through my hair and asked, “What is wrong child?”
“Nothing, missing mom” I said in a low voice.
“She misses you too” she said
“How do you know?” I asked looking up at her with my eyes filled with tears.
“We believe if you miss someone from all your heart, they sure feel your love in the air around them” she explained
“I wish this is true” I replied, her explanation gave me hope, her presence gave me hope and she always gave me support. I had probably started loving her a lot more than my own mother, who abandoned me just because I wanted to move to Edmonton with Ian.
. . .
Next morning I decided to take Anjali for a movie at the cinema so I handed over the house to Anjali and told her I had to go somewhere in an emergency. I drove to the mall to get three tickets as I wanted to take Ian by a surprise too. After purchasing the tickets as I exited the mall I saw Ian’s car park right outside. I was surprised and happy at the same time to see him there. The feeling reminded me of the days when Ian would show up at my door without prior notice. But to my disappointment and shock, both the doors of the car opened and from one of them appeared a short, fragile young girl, about 20 years of age as I guessed with a crystal fair complexion and beautiful big black eyes. I moved to a corner so they wouldn’t notice me. Ian led her into the mall, she followed him and I just watched them walk away.
On returning back home, I was confused and upset at the same time. Anjali asked if anything was wrong. I had no answer to her question, even if I would say something was wrong, I wouldn’t know what is wrong! After all it had been 7 years and things had been going wrong for no reason that appeared to me but for once I REGRETED fighting so hard to keep up with Ian.
. . .
I walked beside Ayana in silence for some time and then I finally decided to initiate the conversation,“So what was it that you wanted my help with dear?” I asked in a parental tone.
“Sir, this is something I cannot explain to my parents, I have been with you since the last 3 years, under your supervision and you probably know what kind of a girl I am.” She said. The expressions on her face were extremely worried and stressed and she looked like she had not slept for days.
“Go on, I’m listening” I assured her.
“Sir, you know I belong to a very conservative family, I have experienced freedom here, and I don’t want to go back to the Middle East. It’s like a jail!” She explained
“Do you remember I told you in the beginnings that, whatever happens do not ever say that you don’t want to see your parents?” I scolded
“Sir it’s not about my PARENTS! It’s about the restrictions!” she retorted
“Listen Dr. Ayana, if my parents would stop me, from something I would really never do that again.” I said
“But my parents do not understand sir! You don’t know them!” she shouted, for a moment I saw the rebel in her. She was at the wrong path. Guidance wouldn’t work for her now, it was late. She needed restrictions. I felt blank, but I couldn’t stand the hatred she had for her parents so I had to walk out. She called me but I sat in my car and drove fast.
. . .
As fast as I drove the memories ran through my mind even faster. I couldn’t hold it in me anymore. The guilt was boiling inside me. It was hotter than a volcano; I could feel it ready to erupt. And it did. My eyes were filled with tears; I couldn’t see the world anymore. My regressions stood before me for answers I had been running from all this time. I involved myself in work just to ignore what I had done to Cynthia. I was guilty of taking away her life; not literally. She left the worldly pleasures for me, her friends, her family even the wish of having children. I didn’t let her work because it would hurt my ego; at the same time I didn’t want children because I believed we couldn’t afford it. She would stay home alone all day, talking to no one and I would go home late due to work. I knew I had made her life a living hell, I couldn’t fulfill any of the promise I made with her. I knew she thought I had changed. I knew she held me responsible of her loneliness and I was extremely sorry for blaming her every time when she said we didn’t socialize enough. Telling her that she was responsible of us having no more friends was easier for me every time than accept the fact that I had been giving her so much of pain. I left my parents because they didn’t want us to get married. It was not Cynthia’s fault but I still blamed her, because the love of her mom made me envy her. I knew I was Cynthia’s only best friend, who was never there for her when she thought he actually would be after getting married. I knew I was at wrong. I wanted to apologize but I didn’t know how! I regretted every time I fought with her for no reason. I regretted making her cry. In the course of these thoughts I felt a stream of pain running from my head across my spine and spreading throughout my body.
. . .
As I walked out of the mall, my cell phone rang. “MAMA calling” it displayed on the screen. I didn’t want to pick up. I cancelled the call. I knew what they had to say “come back, we are waiting to see you in the white dress” and so on. I wanted to live yet. FLY high up! Life was much more than getting committed to me. Commitment was probably the last thing I wanted to do. I was upset; I wanted to just get out of there. I took a cab to the museum. On arrival as I got out of the cab I saw a little child sitting under a tree and crying.
I walked over and asked “what’s wrong? You’re lost?”
He looked up with eyes filled with tears and cried “NO! It was my fault; I ran away”
“Are you hungry?” I asked
“Yes” he said wiping away his tears in hope for food.
“Come along” I said and held his hand gently.
“Where are you from” I asked as we walked across the pavement.
“I’m from Pakistan, but my dad was posted here in Athabasca for two years so we are here since the last year.” He explained.
“And what is your name” I inquired.
“My name is Talha, what is your name sister?” he asked innocently, holding my hand tighter.
“I’m Ayana, I am an Arab” I replied with a smile, “so you are a Muslim right?” I confirmed.
“Yes!” he replied with a big smile. We walked into a restaurant that offered Muslim food.
“You are beautiful sister!” Talha said, the surprise comment during the lunch made me laugh.
“How old are you?” I asked laughing.
“Ten! I’ll be a man after ten more!” he shouted with excitement, which made me laugh harder.
“So why did you run away?” I asked laughing “you’re such a cute kid” I said canceling my mother’s call again.
“I was afraid that dad would hit me because I got a bad grade in MATHS “he said in a whispering “and I know I was wrong because I didn’t study well, I didn’t know how to face them” he explained.
“So what are you going to do next” I asked curious to know.
“Go back home” he replied in a sad voice.
“Why?” I asked him confused “why would you run away in the first place then? “
“Because I was being stupid, I miss my parents! I know I am too young to say this but after the difficult life I saw in these two days, I have realized how important parents are, mother is always right and dad always scolds for good!” he said “if they will not tell you what to do, then who will?” he explained.
“How will you go back?” I asked.
“Can you drop me off to the train that goes to Athabasca?” he asked
“Come” I held his hand and started walking towards the street to get a cab.
On our way to the station I realized how stupid I had been by ignoring my parents and that if it was not them, I’d never been able to come all the way till here. After dropping off Talha on the train and waving him a good bye, on my way back to my hostel I called mom and apologized for not attending the phone call, but to my bad luck, she had a terrible news for me. My father had passed away fifteen minutes ago. It was too late to turn back but not late enough as I still had to show up to prove I was a good daughter for my mom at least. Although I regretted missing my dad’s final phone call. And I always will.
. . .
I rushed in my room with extreme anger. I didn’t know what to do. I got on to the pc and prepared my CV. I had tears running down my cheek. I was furious and hurt at the same time! Anjali had been asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t explain; I just couldn’t. But subconsciously I had been crying out loud about what Ian had done to me, what all I had given up for him and how he had changed. Just as I logged on to search for jobs my mobile rang. It was an anonymous number, I picked up and the next thing I knew I was in my car driving crazily to the hospital. When I reached there, Ian had been shifted to the general ward from ICU. He had just had a severe accident at Jasper Avenue. They said he had a minor head injury but there were no complications and he could go back home the same day, but only if he would rest for about a week more. When I entered the room, Ian asked me to sit beside him on his bed. I did as he ordered.
“You’re upset with me? Aren’t you?” he asked
“You know I have reasons.” I replied
“I know you have the rights” he said
“What do you have to say?” I asked
“Don’t ever leave me” he said. I was shocked; I hadn’t heard this in a long time, at least not for the past 7 years.
“You changed” I replied
“I know” he confessed “and I am sorry for that, really sorry. You mean the world to me! You are still the only best friend I have, I realized I had been running away from the truth, I had been unfair to you, I had been selfish. I promise I won’t ever be.” He continued
“You promised a lot more” I reminded
“I know, but I promise I’ll fulfill this one.” He reassured, just then his mobile blinked showing *1 new message*. He asked me to see who it was. After reading the SMS the scenario I saw at the mall was clear. The girl was his student who had now left for her homeland as her father had passed away and she thanked him for helping her realize the importance of love in life; Especially parental love.
. . .
Walking back home, yes I would call it “home” now as we never felt more like a family before we talked like we did years back. On arrival we called out for Anjali but no one replied. I found her on her bed, asleep and went to kiss her forehead when I realized she was cold. Dead cold. I screamed out for Ian and he came running in. He checked her pulse and confirmed her death. Near her body we found a letter, which she probably wrote before her death. The letter said;
I may not be there until you return; my life was over the day I gave up my home for useless reasons.
I belonged to a middle class Indian family from Delhi, whose parents were happy to get their daughter married to a good looking man who worked abroad. I got married and moved to Edmonton. I had done an interior design course but my husband wanted me to stay home and work for our kids. I was excited to come here and didn’t want kids as I wanted to work. He never enforced his decisions on me. I just thought he would. We spent years together just working on our career and when finally my husband started creating an issue of not having children I asked him for a divorce because I wanted to be successful and I accused him of envying me of my success. As I earned more than him, after the divorce I worked happily and successfully for several years until the company told me to retire. And no other company would accept me. I lost everything. My family, my husband, job and I had nothing. Not even a child. I fell sick and lost all hope, I’d cry all day and night and Dr. Ian in spite of all the hard work couldn’t cure me, not because I couldn’t recover, but because I didn’t want to. I had no wish for life until I met Cynthia; she was fighter, unlike me. I knew I could help her through, I knew I could save your marriage; I knew this is how I had to get over my regression.
And today, I wish I could see you together. But I do not regret not being able to see this moment as I have done what I should’ve. Today my regressions are over, with me. Regression doesn’t help you until they change you in a positive manner. If you let them kill you, they stay with you until your death bed.
I could’ve gone back to my husband, he waited all life for me, but I couldn’t because I was not as strong as Ian. I could’ve given up everything for him, but I couldn’t because I didn’t love him as much as Cynthia loves you Ian.
Never do something that you have to regret. If it happens, fight until the regression dies.
And remember dying without a partner is harder, than dying knowing someone is beside your death bed or is waiting for you in the hereafter.
By: Dr. AM
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