“Sorry, she is around. We are discussing some issues plus she wants me to sleep early and workout tomorrow. Can’t chat. Later.”
She felt it like a blow in her gut. Drained of all her energy that usually built up over the course of the day to finally find a release during this time when she had him to herself. The door slammed on all of that.
“Goodnight, sleep well” she messaged and creeped out of her toilet with the phone tucked in her bra.
Stealthily she crawled on to her side of the bed and lay down no different from the creepy crawlies of the night she so hated. Her husband of 20 years slept peacefully, or so she assumed.
The misadventure had started on her last trip home. It had been a devastating trip on every account. She had rushed to India at the news of her brother’s death and in the month that she stayed there she met the man who had left her at the altar 21 years ago. She told herself that she was vulnerable and it was natural to find solace in a man who had courted her relentlessly for years and so she agreed to one lunch and then another and then a few more.
He said he realised, now, what a mistake he had made when he succumbed to family pressure and married a rich girl instead of her, and she believed. She felt good that he realised, that he found her attractive still to say this.
They chatted every opportunity they got, reliving the past and making the present selfishly messy. The future – did not occur to them. Love they called it. ‘Reconnected’, ‘meant to be together’ were the phrases used. It suited them well; it justified the mindlessness of it all. And then she went back to the country and to the man who had taken care of her broken dreams and helped her carve out a life for herself these past 20 years.
She came home like an empty shell. Her eye was always on the phone, every beep raising her heartbeat, every request for a picture making her change umpteen dresses and shades of lipstick. The selfies with the unnatural pouts filled the gallery of her phone and she slept less and less each night. The phone that never had a password now had one. It was a ticking bomb ready to explode on all that she called her own, three kids and a devoted husband.
Her day revolved around his messages. She waited like a dog waits for a bone thrown his way. Initially he was eager, he stayed awake till the wee hours to chat with her, but now all she got was a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes a day. Curbing her self-respect she asked him why. “Busy,” he said and she believed yet again. Her life though she had blissfully changed to fit him in. She was never busy for him.
When pouts didn’t work, she played mind games. She controlled her urge to message him and suffered withdrawal symptoms like an addict. If he still did not get in touch, she sent a causal joke hoping to sound breezy and yet get noticed. She changed her profile picture and put up a loaded status message. When he did take the bait she felt like she could eat again, breathe again.
“Rajja I still love you…”
“Say it again, just one more time...”
“I checked the tyre pressure in your car and got the tank full. Going now, your breakfast is on the kitchen table. See you in the evening,” the husband said from outside the toilet door.
“See you,” she said in a matter of fact voice her fingers flying over her phone’s keypad. It was the time she had him just to herself. She was lapping up the treat that had been thrown her way.