This started off as a short story but ended up being more of a reflection of me. This is how I was feeling. Neha is a little of me. I don’t take photographs but if I had my own camera, big and bulky enough to have it’s own name, I would.
As for the ‘he’ in the memory, ‘he’ exists and I hope ‘he’ figures out who ‘he’ is. I was waiting for him in the empty flat. The memory itself is fictional, but the field exists in Kent, just on the outskirts of Canterbury, where I spent the first couple of years of my marriage.
This memory does not contain my children, because in the story, Neha is not yet a mother. The thought does not occur to her. Her life, at this point is a little emptier than mine.
I just like this piece, but not sure what to do with it…it’s not a complete story, but a little snapshot of my life, so I thought it more appropriate for this blog rather than the frangipani one. Enjoy!
“I’ll love you always, you know!”
“When I die, I’ll come back as a ghost and watch over you!”
“That’s a little creepy.”
They fell about laughing, then. Lying in each other’s arms, in a field of poppies, by the side of the road. The memory was like a painting. A couple in the long grass, surrounded by wild flowers, insects buzzing, innocuously, a song playing from her ipod, like a soundtrack to the whole event, the clouds making ivory horses and downy hearts in a cerulean sky.
Where was he now?
She turned the memory off and refocused on the bathroom tiles; uneven, cracked, off centre. How many months had they been here now? Neha counted, about four months. In that time she had pretty much found everything she could possibly need for a comfortable stay. So this was it? Her life transplanted to a hot sticky mess of poverty and imperfection.
Perhaps she had OCD or something. But everything niggled at her. The paint on the window panes, the way the plug sockets weren’t straight, the way the electrician turned up with a light bulb, hanging off a wire with the ends exposed, the way that people just hadn’t heard of a dry bathroom and wanted to fix every creak with coconut oil, that she was supposed to supply! She wasn’t enjoying her new role of homemaker. She wasn’t particularly good at it and the maids she had hired were a godsend, but they didn’t seem too good at it at either.
On the day she left her Great Britain, Neha, did not cry. She looked back, stoically and smiled as she waved. This was a new adventure. She was used to moving on. She was accustomed to new places and starting afresh. But today, as the night drew in, in an empty flat in the middle of Calcutta, she felt trapped and lost.
There was really nothing that she was doing with her life. She had worked from the age of sixteen, just so she could be financially independent. She bought a car as soon as she could so she was mobile. She tutored and then taught, so she could feel fulfilled. She was a somebody back there, here she was a ‘nothing of much significance.’
Occasionally, when Neha had access to the car, if her husband did not need it for work, Neha would travel to the old city with her camera; a black, bulky, thing that deserved its own name. She took pictures of the rickshaw-wallas, who still pulled their wooden carts by hand. She took pictures of the women in their long nighties hanging out their washing on the balconies; balconies with grills like the bars on a birdcage. She took photographs of the men with their hairless torsos as they balanced bricks on their heads, their bodies, a polished mahogany, sculpted by the strain of their loads. And when she returned she would look at the images, keep a few, delete the rest. She would post them up online and wait for the comments to pour in. It was her way of validating herself. Her husband teased her. Get a job! He would say. She should, she supposed, but nothing appealed to her. She did not want to teach again. She did not want the nine to five, yes Madam, no Sir lifestyle. She enjoyed not having to answer to anyone.
She would carry on taking photographs for now. And she would carry on waiting and remembering.
The doorbell rang. Neha opened it a crack, half hoping her husband had come home early. It was the maid, here to sweep the floors with her bundle of sticks.
Wordlessly, she let her in and went back into the privacy of her own room.