Goodbye




Harry, my better half, was as usual in the garden with roses, lilies, orchids, tomatoes and onions, among other vegetables. These plants were his babies, and communing with them was a daily ritual. He spent hours every morning. Whenever I questioned him about what he murmurs each day, he would say he is encouraging the plants to pollinate and produce more.   Regardless of whether these flowers and plants pay attention to him, he makes sure they are content by monitoring them and their needs, which also makes his soul happy. Likewise, I loved spending time in my kitchen, cooking food and trying new recipes that, in a way, were meditation for me. The clinking of running water as it splashes in the sink, the pots and pans jingling, the sizzle, the crackle, and the beep of an oven all sounded like a musical instrument to me. I also took orders for cakes and cookies occasionally.   The sounds did irritate me sometimes, but it didn’t make a difference to Harry. It’s not that it never annoyed him, but due to sudden sensorineural hearing loss, Harry turned deaf, and one fine day the world fell into silence for him.  Harry was a DJ by profession and often got exposed to loud music. He ignored all symptoms and signs, thus damaging his ears forever.  ‘Have a nice day.’ cochlea (the inner ear) wished and bid goodbye. “My foot! How am I to have a nice day without you? You dumb, Harry thought. He remained upset for days before coming to terms with reality. One day from my kitchen window, I saw a snake slithering around in our garden. I bellowed to ensure he heard me, but in vain. The tea cups I was holding slipped from my hand and scattered across the floor. I jumped through the mess and sprinted in the direction of the garden and saved him. Hushhh. It was a narrow escape. “Carin, I am not done with watering the plants. Why did you pull me in? My plants are waiting for me.” Harry raised his voice. “So is the snake.” I retaliated.  “Bake? I know you have baked cookies. I will taste it later. Let me go.” Harry insisted. “No, you are not going.” I fought back my tears. “Dying? Who is dying?” Harry looked puzzled. I took a piece of paper, wrote what I had to say and thrust it into his hand. “What??? Really? Why did you not tell me when I was in the garden?” Harry reacted after reading the note. "I was shouting at the top of my lungs, but you did not hear. The snake would have bitten you if I had not arrived in time. Why don’t you go for a hearing aid? I reprimanded him. Sometimes we laugh out loud when something like this happens, but the stress is tremendous. With great difficulty, I convinced him to use a hearing aid to make his and our life easy. He eventually agreed, and we invested in the hearing aid. Harry used the device only for a few days. Even though it improved his hearing, it was also uncomfortable. The noise fluctuated in volume, at times being louder than it should be and other times sounding like mosquitos whispering in his ears.   He gave up and refused to wear it. We were back to square one. When I needed to communicate with him, I would yell, but he would not hear me well or sound muddled. As a result, I frequently got a sore throat. Some days I would write notes, but most of the time, he would ignore them. So I stopped writing. One morning, I was preparing pasta and sandwiches for breakfast for my son. Side by side, I was also preparing for Choco cookies as I had received orders for the same. I kept the oven to pre-heat. When I opened the oven, I found a pink note in it. “Who the hell kept this? Is this any place to keep a paper?” I pulled out and slammed the letter on the kitchen counter and kept the plate of cookies to bake. “Tony, Hurry up. Your school bus will arrive shortly.” I called him while setting the breakfast on the table. He did not answer. I waited for a couple of minutes and then rushed to his room to call him. I stood stunned when I saw the bed nicely made, and all the stuff that usually lay around was in place. But Tony was missing.  “Hey baby, are you in,” I knocked on the bathroom door. I soon realized he was not inside the bathroom. When I was about to leave the room, I saw a bright pink note prominently kept on the pillow, the same colour note I had seen inside the oven while placing my cookie plate. I quickly grabbed the note with shaky hands and opened it with the worst premonition. The letter said, “Dear Mom, it is with great regret and sorrow that I am writing to you. I am eloping with my girlfriend and will be with her from now onwards. I did not tell you guys personally because I wanted to avoid any scene with you and dad. Fevicol is a wonderful person, and I am passionate about her. I am sure you would never approve of our beautiful relationship because of her weird tattoos, crazy clothes, and smoking. Moreover, she is only fifteen years older than me. Mom, it’s not only passion, but she is pregnant too. One more thing I had like to share. You guys often said heroin is not good to consume, right? But Fevicol has opened my eyes. She devours often, and according to her, the taste is good. She also said that it feels like going to heaven and coming back. So don’t worry, mom, I will be fine and surely going to enjoy the rest of my life. Love you both.” Your dear son, Tony. Fevicol? Bullsit! Who keeps such names? Fine. Whatever name this bitch wishes to keep is her choice. I will kill her if she glues to my baby. He is just fifteen, Damn it. I rushed back to the kitchen and picked up the note I had slammed on the counter. It read, “There is a letter for you in my bedroom.”  “Harryyyyyy….Letter...I yelled from my kitchen window and tried to complete my sentence, but my voice choked. “What do you want, honey? Did you say butter? Ok, I will get it.” Harry said like an obedient child. “Idiot. I said Tony has left a letter for us and eloped with some girlfriend older than him.” I ran towards the garden screaming. What? Tummy? Common now, don’t you start all over again. I know you have a blotted belly and are upset about it. How many times have I told you to do some exercises to get back in shape? Oh God! What am I to do with this man? He doesn’t wear his hearing aid, and I am done with this now. “I said tony is gone with some bitch.” I yelled vehemently. “Bitch?” How could you even think I would call you a bitch? You are my sweetheart.” Harry said with a wink. “I came close to him and thrust the letter into his hand. “This is what I hate about you, Carin. Why do you scream so much? I know I have some hearing problem, but I am not deaf nor standing yards away.” Harry mumbled. I hit my forehead with my palm and started weeping. The stress on my face was intense. My forehead creased, and my nose wrinkled. Seeing me weep, he calmed me down and quickly read the letter. While he read, I could see the stress build on his face, but then he suddenly burst into unrestrained laughter. I was utterly bewildered. "Have you gone insane, Harry?" At the top of my lungs, I screamed. “Did you read the letter till the end?” Harry asked. I wondered what he was talking about. I pulled the note from his hand and read the last line. “Mom, I am not doing any of these. I am at my friend's place. I scored poor marks in almost all the subjects, and I am sure you guys must have seen my report card on the dining table. Once you have calmed down, sign it and give me a call. I will come back.” “He bloody fooled us. I will not spare him. Let him be back.” I yelled. As usual, Harry did not bother much and got back to his work. Tony came home by evening. “I am sorry, mom and dad. I know it wasn’t right on my part to play such a prank. But I didn’t have a choice.” “You better be,” I said and turned to go to my room when I instantly remembered that the principal generally calls parents if the kids perform badly in their exams, especially when they are in their 10th grade.  “Tony, did your principal call us to meet? I inquired. “Yes, mom. She has asked me to get you and dad.” Tony said softly, looking down.    “You are telling me this now after I checked?” I questioned aggressively. “We are coming tomorrow to meet your principal,” I informed. The following morning as we were getting ready to leave for school, my phone buzzed. It was dad. My mom was not keeping well, and he wanted me to accompany him to the hospital. So I had no choice but to send Harry alone. I had sternly instructed him to wear his hearing aid to avoid problems.  Harry and Tony reached the school. The peon asked Harry to wait outside the principal's cabin while tony went to his class irritated as Harry forgot to wear his hearing aid. After a while, the peon gestured to go in. Harry went in and greeted the principal. She, in turn, greeted him and said, “Please take your seat.” “Greet? I did greet you, mam.” Harry said while looking at the principal in confusion. “Sir, I know you greeted me. I said sit down.” She exclaimed.  “Mam, I am being nice to you, and you are addressing me as a clown? This is so unfair. I did not expect this from you as the principal of the school. Taking a deep breath, the principal pressed the call bell kept on the table. The peon rushed in. “Call Tony.” The principal ordered.  “Hmmm…pony…Sorry, mam. Well, I know you are upset with my son’s ponytail. We have told him umpteenth time, but he pays no heed and refuses to cut his hair.” Harry softly murmured. The principal became furious but kept her composure and signalled for Harry to remain quiet. Harry, as usual, gave a puzzled glance and kept mum. “May I come in, mam,” Tony asked, knocking on the door. “Yes, please.” The principal replied. As soon as Tony stepped in, he guessed something was seriously wrong, and without wasting any time, he apologised. “Mam, I am sorry on behalf of my father. He cannot hear well and isn't using his hearing aid.” “Oh, ok. Now please ask your dad to leave and call your mom tomorrow.” The principal responded. Tony went back to his class, and Harry returned home. “Hey, honey. I hope mom is doing well. You know what, today at school was a complete waste of time. The principal did not say a word about Tony's grades. She was talking all rubbish.” Harry announced. I knew it was pointless asking him anything. So I shook my head and waited for Tony to return from school.  When I learnt what happened in the school, I felt like yelling at him for not wearing his listening device. But I didn’t.  Our twenty-fifth anniversary was nearing, and I was very excited. My son insisted on throwing a party for close friends and family members. So I agreed, and we ended up inviting almost seventy people. The night before our anniversary, I was sitting in front of the mirror and applying oil to my hair. Harry was relaxing on the bed.  “It’s been 25 years of togetherness. How fast time flew. I still remember our first meeting and how you initially did not like my profession. Later you often accompanied me for most of my shows. Do you remember honey, on the day of our wedding reception, I had personally selected songs and given them to the upcoming DJ to play. How beautiful those days were.” He said and heaved a sigh.  I nodded my head and turned back. A tear escaped his eyes.  “Awww…what happened darling? Are you ok?” I went close to him and inquired. “Yeah. I am fine. How much you used to talk to me even when I teasingly ask you to shut your mouth. Now you speak when there is a need to. I know you guys find it difficult to communicate with me due to my hearing problem. But trust me, a little sound also feels too much, leading to a splitting headache. Hence I refuse to wear the hearing aid.” Harry bemoaned. I felt bad and guilty too. I kissed Harry gently on his lips and said, “I am sorry for making you feel that way. I never meant to. I was pushing you to wear the device only to make things easy for all of us. It’s fine if you don’t wish to use the hearing aid. None of us will insist now.” A smile crept on his face that made me smile too. “Now go to sleep,” I said and walked towards the switch to put off the lights. “No, I am not weeping. I said I am fine.” Harry uttered softly. “Not any moreeeee,” I said and pressed my lips together. Pour? What do you want me to pour? Do you want to have water sweetheart? Wait, I will get it. The air in the room turned decidedly frosty, and my anger brewed up. We were sitting just a few meters away. I yelled, “Harry, I don’t need anything. Go to sleep right now.” When I woke up the following morning, I found a rectangular box, wrapped in crimson with a red rose on top of it. I got up instantly, sat on the bed with legs folded and opened it. It was a stunning pearl necklace Harry gifted me for our anniversary. My joy knew no bounds. This was a sweet surprise, and I couldn’t thank him enough.  Tony took care of all the arrangements for the evening party. When almost all the guests arrived, we cut the mouth-watering two-tiered Belgium chocolate cake covered in white chocolate swirls. The cake-cutting ceremony was followed immediately by the DJ starting the music. While some made their way to the dance floor, others sat and watched them. Harry and I joined as well. We were all having a good time. Later, I noticed that the music was getting too loud, and the speakers were blaring. So I asked the DJ to reduce the volume and went back to dancing. While we were dancing, just for fun, I whispered in Harry’s ears, "How is the music? These are all the latest ones."  He smiled and answered, "It's perfect. I am enjoying this lovely music."  I winked at him and continued to dance. I knew he couldn't hear anything clearly but was trying hard to act normal. Things will never go wrong as long as he is content and I can handle the circumstances. Sometimes, it is okay to unwind and take things easy rather than make a big deal out of everything. The party got over at 10 p.m. One by one, guests started leaving.  “Bye, Harry. We had a good time. We will catch up soon.” one of our family friends said and shook hands with Harry. As soon as they left, harry whispered in my ears, “Is he crazy? Why was he asking for ketchup? Were we supposed to give everyone ketchup as return gifts? “Oh my heavens! Harry and his creative interpretations.” I threw my hands in the air and burst into uncontrollable laughter. Before he could ask me anything, I quickly leaned forward, kissed him on his lips and then rested my forehead against his with a sigh. The next day when I opened the main door and picked up the newspaper, a pamphlet fell off. I generally ignore these leaflets, but that day something caught my eye. It was about a new hearing device. I immediately contacted the number printed on the leaflet and took all the details.  The highlight was the return policy. If the customer is not satisfied, they can return the device within three months and will get a 100% refund. When I shared this with Harry, he agreed to try this new and improvised device.  Unlike the older models, where we constantly had to dispose of expensive batteries, this device came with rechargeable batteries just like cell phones.  Moreover, the whistles and whines that occasionally occurred with hearing aid microphones also got eliminated, and whenever he went outdoors, the volume of wind noise automatically lowered. Harry is happy and satisfied with this new hearing aid. I now do not scream anymore. The quality of our life has improved. Tony still plays pranks despite warnings that leave us in shock sometimes. But then, every food tastes good when you sprinkle salt and spices. Similarly, a pinch of humour is necessary in life, to beat stress and boost energy levels. Authors note:  Cochlea - The cochlea is a hollow, spiral-shaped bone found in the inner ear that plays a key role in the sense of hearing and participates in the process of auditory transduction. I chose the title Goodbye for two reasons. 1) In the beginning, the inner ear says goodbye to Harry, causing inconvenience, and 2) Harry bids goodbye to his anxiety after he gets this new improvised hearing aid. Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!