The wind had whispered a secret last evening but I already knew. For the first time in years, I had seen little buds sprouting on the lone Plumeria tree in the front yard of my house. Madhu loved the sweet fragrance of the flowers and would often ask me to bring her a handful. But the gardener in me knew better. One day I planted a tiny sapling of Plumeria for her. Those were the early years of our marriage.
“A gardener is the best kind of lover. He loves nature like a virgin bride, tender and attentive.” She often teased while I watered the plants. As years passed, our love blossomed and I felt like our love has been decanted into the aromatic scent of the flowers.
I got up earlier than usual and stepped out anxiously, to collect a handful of seasons first flowers for her. But as soon as I opened the front door, I saw a boy of seven or eight, plucking the Plumerias in haste.
“Hey, hey?” I picked up my walking stick and marched towards him.
Startled, he moved away from the tree and before I could say anything further, he was gone. Determined to catch him and bring up the matter with his parents, I almost forgot about my sciatica and started chasing him. After a couple of minutes when my legs were about to give up, I finally spotted him standing in front of a bench by the lakeside.
I watched him from a distance. He gave the Plumerias to a woman sitting on the bench.
She took one and gently tucked it in her ear.
From a distance, they both appeared happy and gay. As I inched closer, I saw tears in their eyes. Her eyes were hollow. A dark brown scarf desperately tried to hide a bald head and a thick sweater covered the bones and the thin layer of skin that was left of this woman.
She smiled with all the pain in her eyes. And he looked at her as if he had the power to crystallize this moment for eternity, only if he tried hard.
The Plumerias sat on her lap, just the way they had in Madhu’s lap, many years ago on the day she left this world. That day the sweet scent of love transformed into a bitter note of melancholy and it stubbornly remained that way.
But why then, looking at this mother and son made me feel deeply perplexed?
I found myself caught between opposing needs. My bitterness was comfortable, familiar, justified. Happiness was uncomfortable, unfamiliar.
Perhaps some crossroads are eye-openers.
I forgot all about the reprimand. Instead, I picked up a bud from the ground and tucked it in the lapel of my worn-out jacket, and let the fragrance of love fill the air once again.
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