Saturday, January 13, 2007

Summer Of 2003

We went out to feed ducks in the lake in our community earlier today and were disappointed at not finding them in their usual numbers. The few that were around were not interested in food - I theorized to J that they must already be full. Sitting on the wooden bench, enjoying the mild weather and the silence all around, I found myself thinking of a time few years ago when things were much different both for J and I. I felt grateful for the passage of time and its healing touch. But for a while today, I was back in April of 2003 when I wrote this :

A Short Walk

I change into a red, pink and white striped tee – red is color of my happiness – I need to try these new shoes I bought, so I can survive in them the first Monday at work. My first job after coming back to America in such difficult times. Decide to take a walk to the strip mall across from the apartment community. It is cold outside, I step back in to grab a cardigan – my room-mate of two days snaps at me “ Did you lock the door behind you ?” I say “ I thought I told you I was going out and you said you were going to be in”. She says “But try locking it so you can learn how it works”

In two days and in lieu of $500 per month including utilities, she has decided that she is a better and happier person than I can ever aspire to be and so she can teach me how to live my life – I have decided to humor her. She has a “husband” in LA she says and they spend the better part of Saturday morning on the phone – looks more courtship less matrimony to me – fours hours of mid morning pillow talk is quite a lot !

The Holy Roomie

After college, I never lived with a room-mate and promised myself I never would - but here I am creature of circumstance living with one because I cannot afford a place of my own - at least not right now. The wall between our bedrooms is wafer-thin though I have to wonder if my room-mate realizes it as phone sex each night reaches fever pitch - I presume it must be with the "husband" in LA.

I don't know whether to be sad or amused at their plight. She prays aloud for two hours each evening - her singing is accompanied by ringing bells and clanging cymbals. On the weekends she repeats the performance in the mornings as well. I was always nervous around overtly pious people and here I am living under the same roof with a Hindu zealot.

Anyways, I step out again, up from the basement down the stairs and into a summery afternoon. Two trees full of white blossoms stand right in front of the apartment. They look desolate, a fragile beauty that would not be able to weather a storm.

Remembering R

The walk takes me from Le Havre Place to King’s Chapel Road – it’s a long straight walk – I chose this route because I don’t want to meet anyone – the neighborhood does not feel very safe, the kids look scruffy, the cars are uniformly shabby, the women are over-weight - all the signs of impoverishment in America.

The memories of my first time in this country come back – the pretty community that looked out of this world in it’s picture perfection to my Indian eyes. The same trees, the same summertime skies and mild breeze. When I walked there was someone who walked beside me, someone who almost always held my hand when we walked together like it was the most natural thing to do and wanted to rush home so we could kiss "properly".

I missed him terribly when he went to work and my happiness was truly complete when he knocked the door in the evening. Sometimes he surprised me by coming home to lunch turning the afternoon into a thing of exciting possibilities . If that was not love, what else was it ?

Walking Alone

And how the seasons changed and the with it everything – I look at this country with new eyes – the eyes of a frightened woman in a big unknown world, with very little money trying to make some rather impossible dreams come true. Something tells me, he knows how passionately I want to make a beautiful life and wherever he is, he wishes me well. That inspite of everything he does not admire me any less than he once did - for the strength of my convinctions and my passion for life.

I feel bitter about having my world being turned upside down – like I deserved the happiness that he once promised me. I feel alone in America – the road ahead feels incredibly long. If I must build a future, I must fight every fear , every hesitation and doubt and come out strong. Do I really desire that kind of strength ?

I was happier by far to depend on him, have him take care of me – to go about my life knowing that the big things would be taken care of – I had to dream, keep the magic of our relationship alive, work at a job and save up a little for the future. I cherished my innocence and would give up a lot to keep it. When I woke up this morning, my eyes had that child-like look for a bit then it was gone again - it was almost as if I had imagined the look that I longed for.

Longing for what is gone

Every step that I take alone, I remember him – that I had truly loved him and had lost him to forces beyond my control. I think he must miss me too – in the past year there has not been a minute when I’ve not thought about him – sometimes in the sheer white hot fury but many more times in sadness of nostalgia – but through the myriad of conflicting, confusing emotions I missed him. He was not perfect but he was still a very good friend – maybe the best I ever had.

Fleetingly, I wished we were back together, taking on new challenges and making a fresh start knowing fully well that it was impossible - I had chosen to burn every last bridge so I would never fall prey to the temptation of returning. It took effort to accept the truth - that it was over, that we would never be able to fulfill our promises to each other - long and dark shadows from the past would always fall in the way. I long for someone who will let me lay my head on his shoulder and rest just for a little while – take a break from this ceaseless running , trying to beat the impossible odds.

Aisle gazing

I wander across the aisles picking up the bare necessities to survive. I stop by at the cosmetics section and spend an inordinately long time thinking if I really need a Body Gel and a Facial Scrub – I look at the price tags and decide to wait until my first pay check. I can’t help feeling very poor. When I shopped with him – I never thought twice about buying anything and he would only insist that I buy more and more – forcing on me a lipstick or a nail polish or yet another dress that I did not need. Was I happy then ? No. Am I happy now ? No. I needed the sense of balance in my life that was missing then and still is.

I buy food to last me a while. I’ve spent about $80 on groceries and I should be good for the better part of this month. I need to now estimate how much it costs me to survive – all of a sudden I have one fourth of the income that I was used to and it’s panicking me because I am used to a life style that I cannot afford any more. How can I bring my child here if I cannot afford to give her the life she deserves ? How can I stay in this cold heartless country alone without her. Why do I want to be here ?

For the first time in my life I feel financially insecure – I have to think twice before I spend anything. While I would want J to value money, I want her to feel like her small material needs are well within reach – just like I did growing up. I realize what a long way I have left to go.


Prerona said...

i was feeling vaguely depressed all day and reading ur post made me cry. there is something very heart tugging at the detached, beyond sad kind of tone. i know u maybe did not mean it that way, or i dont know if u did, but it came out as extremely well crafted piece of work. thanks for sharing it

i never shared rooms after the scary roomies in college hostel. ardent maharastrians who used to freak out if you played "english music". recently when i was debating coming back to college i was petrified of the prospect of having to share again, but it worked out well. everyone is nice and reasonable. no indians of 'a particular kind around'.

i hope ur difficult times pass. let her amuse you. dont let her get to you. easier said than done i am scared of her just reading about her. but then i scare easily when it comes to people. specially the "happy/religious" kind

Heartcrossings said...

Prerona - Thanks !

When this happened four years ago, it was hard to bear. In hindsight there were valuable lessons learnt. I am with you on the overly happy people - something is usually very wrong. Likewise for people who are way too "innocent"

ggop said...

I read and re read this again and again. I had lots to say but kept deleting the text in the comment box. :-)