Part 1: The Girl
Once upon a time, there was a woman who grew up into a very wrong person. There, if there ever were a story written about me, I am pretty sure that’s how it would begin.
She looked out of the window and saw the sun set.
As it went down over the horizon, it threw a riot of colors across the purple sky. It coloured everything that it touched like a painter’s stroke: the skyline of the sprawling city and her sinking emotions.
Who am I?
What am I doing here?
Her reverie was rudely interrupted by a sharp rap on the door.
It was old Mrs Robinson. “Do I hafta tell ya, time and time again, to tone down your stereo late nights, girl?” She drawled.
‘Girl’, you better mumble an apology before she kills you with that look.
“Oh, I am so sorry, Mrs Robinson! You see..”, she began and had her apology broken off by an index finger pointing right at her nose.
“Oh, I know the likes of ya! You better watch out or else. It’s a neighbourhood of decent folks, y’know!” She growled, before waddling away.
Really? The likes of me. Just what exactly did she mean by that?
She plopped down on her old, beaten-down couch and remembered.
It’s not surprising just how often and far back into our past, we can drift away sometimes, isn’t it?
She heard the bedroom door open and close shut. A shadow loomed across the room in the dark. She recognised it and shuddered. It slid beside her beneath the covers and groped for her.
She whimpered. A cry remained unescaped from her throat.
The next evening after the family dinner, her mother asked her to join in with the dishes.
“You know, girl. I have been meaning to tell you this: I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay back home for college. I mean with the pressure of being the sole bread-earner of this family, I don’t think I have the resources to put up with a toddler and a growing teenager like yourself. While also lodging your drunk-of-a-step-father who keeps himself busy with the television during the days and other forms of entertainment at night.” She looked at her daughter.
Do I sense an underlying accusation in her tone of voice? Or is it concern?
It’s alright, Mother. I don’t wanna be your ‘Other Woman’, anyway.
She replied brightly, “Of course, Ma! My friend Tina has been asking me to move out, already. She has even put in a good word for me to the manager at the restaurant where she works.”
And then she softly added, “I am going to miss you, Ma.”
Her mother turned her face away. She thought she heard her stifle a sob. With her mother’s back turned towards her, she realised something for the very first time in all her young life:
Having something bad happen to you can get a lot worse when the people you love, know about it. And are still powerless to do anything about it.
It’s alright, Ma. I understand. Her heart ached to comfort her.
She packed her bags a week after the conversation with her mother. She left home at the age of seventeen and never looked back.
Part 2: The Encounter
The sound of the choir practice brought back waves of nostalgia. She too had sung as a child at church.
When Daddy was alive..
As she sat reciting her Hail Marys, her eyes fell upon a little girl of about four, running in the aisle.
“Hello, there! What’s your name, sweetheart? I am Christy!” She advanced a step towards her.
The girl blushed and retracing her steps to her father, yelled with the might of a child’s lung, “Daddy!”
‘Daddy’ surfaced from one of the rows at the back. A beauty of a man with the kindest eyes she had ever seen on a man. ‘Daddy’ also sported a Papa-bear beard and a warm laugh that tugged at her heart.
What a gorgeous man! Stop drooling.. Uh-oh, here he comes!
“Hello, My name is Adrien and this is my daughter, Maya.”
He stretched out a hand.
The deep bass in his voice became a musical note that flew to perch deep inside her very soul.
A few, short exchanges took place.
She learnt he was a widower and came to the church when he missed his wife.
He learnt she loved choir music and often spent ‘whole evenings’ listening to it. Then it was time to go.
“Hope to see you around, Christy.” His kind eyes spoke a language all of their own.
She nodded mutely and waved goodbye.
Back in her room, she sat thinking about the encounter.
It wasn’t much of a first-time conversation. But every minute was a moment more to gaze at the beauty of a man, that had stood before her. The warmth in his voice had seeped into her very bones, like the warmth of a midday winter sun.
Is this what ‘love at first sight’ feels like? She laughed out loud.
Nah, lust for one! -at first sight- sure exists, not love, you silly old girl. She sighed wistfully.
But what if it does? Would it then, come looking for me?
Her mind went back to her list of conquests. As images of men strutted in and out of her vision, she had to admit: most of them had been extremely manly and well-endowed. And here he was. There was an inexplicable attraction towards him, no doubt. Yet, there was something about him, a peculiar quality about him, that she didn’t quite understand. It made her feel uncomfortable.
She shook her head in an attempt to shake away his image in her mind’s eye. A futile attempt.
She pumped up the sound on her stereo. The sound of classic Jazz filled the room. She picked up the saxophone that lay in its dusty box. She had bought it on a whim at the thrift store; music had the effect of a salve on her soul. And today as she played the instrument with a sense of abandonment, her heart ached in places she knew not existed.
Part 3: Parts of us we hide
A loud grunt and a shove, and the heavily built man lay limp on her, spent from the act. She rolled him off of her and sat up on her side. She lit a cigarette and blew out a perfectly rounded, smoky sphere into the air.
“You owe me money, hon.” She spoke at length. The sound of her voice, or perhaps, the mention of the word, saw the man spring to life. He jumped up and grabbed his clothes, on his way out.
“Well, and you owe me a good breakfast!” He guffawed as he exited the door to her apartment. She sat there, shaking her head. Her friends were right: Business meant business. And sadly she had no sense of it. She cursed herself for mixing it with pleasure, a pleasure that she clearly failed to partake in.
Not that my resources are dwindling; I take pains to ensure that. But just that these escapades-sexcapades leave me feeling so damn hollow, deep within! Argh.
She dragged herself out of bed and climbed into the shower.
Her day-job still awaited her.
“Christy! You are late, again!” Barked the manager at the restaurant she worked in.
“Table number Nine awaits an order from you! Scurry, you little squirrel or else, I will punish you later, tonight,” he added menacingly.
She fumed under her breath and turned away. Just then she caught a glimpse of the bearded Papa Bear, walking across the restaurant entrance. She ran like a dart, through the door and attempted to tail him. He rounded a corner and disappeared behind the horde of pedestrians. She cursed under her breath at having lost him and returned to the restaurant, dejected.
“Are you out of your bloody mind?”, hissed her friend.
“Still thinking on catching potential customers for later, today?” She added, with a smirk.
“Oh, no. It’s not how it looks, trust me!”
What in the world was I thinking? Following him like that. As if he had any inclination to talk to a stupid waitress like me!
What had come over me? Christy, wake up and smell the coffee!
The voice in the back of her head, pinched her where it hurt most. She remained vexed for the rest of the day.
She stopped at a red light on her way home. A couple in a dark alleyway, kissed passionately, lost to the world around them. She looked away, her cheeks burning. Just in time to see a lone leaf dancing away, caught in a drift. She dragged her feet back to her apartment.
She woke with a start. The timer on her bedside said: 2:00AM.
She was beaded in sweat and her breath came in starts. Her heart pounded. Her thoughts lay in disarray and her roiling emotions felt ready to explode. The nightmare. The one that had recurred all these years and gave her trouble sleeping.
She sat up in bed and lit a cigarette. The chill of the night descended upon her, creeping into her very soul.
Somewhere out in the street, a lone dog barked, oblivious to her.
Sometimes the cries of our hearts are so deafeningly loud, they drown out the noise, without.
PART 4: Parts that make a whole
“Hello, there. What a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know you work here!”
She looked at him, dumbfounded. He sat at a table in the restaurant.
“How in the world did you find me?” She blurted out.
“Well, I didn’t, I mean, I did.. but. You know, what I mean. Seredipity, I guess.” He flashed a grin. His eyes twinkled.
“Oh, okay then. What would you be interested in?”
“For now? Just a cup of black coffee with no sugar, please!”
She could swear she saw a smile creeping into those warm, brown eyes as he said it with a straight face.
“Coming up!” She scurried away.
What the bloody fuck! Is he flirting with me? Serendipity? Oh,give me a break!
She rolled her eyes. Her tumultuous emotions inside, told another story. She floated back to him with the coffee.
“Here, you go,” she said, with the quintessential chirp of a waitress.
Adrien looked up into her eyes. She shifted her feet with discomfort.
“Actually, I had been wanting to see you, Christy. After the day, we first met at church. Remember? I had no idea, however, that you worked here. I happened to pass by this restaurant, yesterday and who do I see? So I stopped by yesterday, just waiting outside, looking in. I saw you working and simply looking beautiful, while you were at it. But then for some reason, fear gripped me. I felt like an idiot and left.”
His blatant honesty caught her unawares. She swallowed and blinked back at him. Then she found her voice.
“That would be two dollars, ninety cents.” She mumbled and ran for cover.
No, No, No! This is not how it’s supposed to be. This is all wrong. Love isn’t supposed to come looking for you, you.. Christy Tamins. You bloody whore!
The voice in her head, grew vicious, louder in crescendo, attacking her.
This is wrong, so wrong. This isn’t how it turns out for you, you filthy girl!
Just what do you think you’re gonna be doing with him? Making a fucking family!
Oh, wake up! It’s never going to happen. Not in your pathetic, little, holed up life!
She clamped her eyes shut and wanted to scream for the voice to stop.
“Shutupshutupshutup, please shut the fuck up,” she begged. With her forehead pressed against the cubicle, she waited. A tear threatened to fall. Then she stomped out into the afternoon light, through the backdoor, her face stoic.
Part 5: The Sum of all Parts
A frenetic knock. Mrs Robinson answered the door.
“Good evening, Mrs Robinson. I have something for ya!”
Before the old woman had a chance to open her mouth and refuse, the sound of music filled the corridoor of House Number Eleven at St. Park Street. The old, second-hand saxophone bellowed out beautiful, plaintive musical notes, one after the other. For all it was worth. And Mrs Robinson didn’t ask for it to be stopped halfway, either. She listened, all quiet and transfixed. She watched with raised eyebrows as Christy played her instrument, lost in some kind of a trance.
Then the magic of music ceased and it was all quiet.
“You know, I made that composition, especially for you, Mrs Robinson.” Christy was the first to speak.
“Not to alarm you, or insult you, like you often do to me, but because I love music and wanted you to know, just how much. I am sorry, I play too loud for your ears, sometimes. I am even sorry, for all the noise that reverberates through these thin, wooden walls at night. Highly unpleasant, I get that. And I sure pray to God everyday, that the noises would simply disappear, one day. But until then, I hope to get better with my music and enthrall you, just like I did today!”
She swallowed and waited.
Old Mrs Robinson didn’t say a word. But then she did something she had never done before. Well, with Christy, anyways. She smiled at her. A big, beautiful smile.
“Wow, I didn’t know you had a chipped tooth there, Mrs Robinson.”
Another smile, this one bigger. A guffaw.
A bridge between two, lonely hearts formed that day. Hearts that lived right next to each other, too, but happened to be divided. Well, until now, that is.
Christy knew all along, her music had the power to do that. She just didn’t believe she could, that’s all.
She stood at the entrance door and waited. The sound of choir music blew in the evening wind. She shuffled her feet and stared at the people on the busy sidewalk, scampering by. The minutes ticked into an hour before she saw him. Adrien came into her view and his face lit up as he spotted her at the door. Little Maya was smiling at her as well.
“Hi, Christy. Say ‘Hello’, Maya.” He looked down at his daughter.
“Hello, Adrien.” She sighed. Just saying his name out loud made her dizzy.
“It’s so good to see you, Christy. Believe me.” She knew by the sound of his voice that he meant it.
“You can go in, Maya sweetie.. I will catch up with you in a minute. Save a seat for Daddy!” The little girl hopped away, ahead of them.
“I am so sorry about yesterday. It was too much, too soon for our second meeting, I agree. I just didn’t quite realise what I was saying until I had actually finished saying it!” He looked downright sincere and apologetic. The sight of him warmed her heart.
“Ah, happens all the time! No problem.” She brushed it off with a wave of her hand.
“So you were saying that you are falling in love with me?” She smiled at him.
Adrien missed a step. He stood there, staring at her.
“Now, those were not my absolute words…,” he began only to be cut short.
“It doesn’t matter. What does love really mean, anyways?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I am not sure. But I know it, when I see it.”
“So, you mean, it’s something tangible? Something you can see, hear or touch?”
“Um, I wouldn’t say always. For instance, the love of God. It’s something you feel in the depth of your heart; you can’t explain it.”
“Or the love of Music, for instance. It breaks me in places and makes me want to cry.”
Adrien looked deep into her eyes.
“Yes, like the love for music. And the love for sunsets, for the brotherhood of man, for the laughter on the face of my child. You seem to understand it quite well.”
She was looking at him, beaming in the most inexplicable manner.
“You don’t know me, at all!” She was shaking her head.
“All of my past, present and future. All of my good, my bad, and ugly. The way I want to cry ugly but can’t! The days I look like and act like filth..!” Her voice was breaking. She paused and regained her composure.
“But, Adrien, sweetheart.. for all I know! Adrien, the love of my pitiful life! You don’t even know me.” She said it in a small voice. She was smiling again, a sad, little smile.
He took a deep breath before he repied.
“How does that even matter, my dear Christy. If I said I loved you, I would have to love all parts of you, isn’t it?”
Something about the reply broke her that day.
She stood crying a river, as Adrien put his arms around her and Maya ran towards them alarmed to see a grown woman bawling like a baby, in the arms of her father. Which to Christy, should have been a complete stranger. Well, at least, in the eyes of Maya.
But love is funny like that.
And tears are such funny little things, too. The more you wait for them to show up, the more elusive they remain. And just when you didn’t expect them to, they do.
Opening up through these cracks of you, you thought had well-healed over time.
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