I had written this a long time back - the good old way on paper. This was the time when I was reading a lot on the stream of consciousness technique in literature, popularised by Henry James and the other favourite of mine, Virginia Woolfe. In college we were being taught Woolfe's Mrs. Dalloway and every page of the book was an experience I can still relish. Some of my friends said that I was literally seduced by her, and I would not disagree. I still am and never fail to miss on reading something about or by her whenever possible. Those bohemian college days were fun and amidst the stupor of literary liquor, the fertile mind would conceive something or the other. This story was a result of one such night. Today, I am re-writing it and hope to carry the original flavour but the excitement of doing so is much more than what the result would be.
She nervously read her appointment receipt. This was the tenth time that she was doing so and perhaps would do so a few more times before the clock reads 3.30 pm.
"3,30 pm, " she thought to herself, "is the appointment and she could not be late." She was known for procrastinating. Everything could wait for her. Life was fun and so was she. “There will always be a time for everything," she would announce loud to anyone who tried to talk to her about it. Sometime she would laugh it off. Her laugh was mesmerising. It never failed to disarm her detractors and like always leave many men in the room smiling to themselves, secretly wishing her in their lives.
The waiting room had two other ladies. She tried not to meet their eyes but would secretly steal a look at them. Both of them carried a happy anticipation on their face. This would make her more nervous and, she would continue to read the appointment receipt and steal glances at the hands of the big round clock that was hung on the wall. It seemed very still and discomforted her. She would shift her gaze occasionally at the water dispenser in the hallway and watch the bubbles rise up in the canister every time someone would fetch out a glass of water.
He looked around in the room for the bottle of water. She usually would leave it beside his bed knowing that it would be first thing he would reach out for in a half awake and half sleep state. Today, it was not there and finally after groping for a while, he lazily rose from the bed and looked at his watch - "3.30," it read.
"3.30," she looked at the clock on the wall and then looked at her wrist. She was not wearing her watch today but that did not matter now. It was 3.30 and she was still waiting for her turn. She looked at her receipt again to reconfirm and then rose nervously trying to smoothen the crease of her dress. She loved dressing for any occasion but did not have time for the same today. Dress did not matter here, grit does. She walked towards the receptionist who was busy on the phone, deftly moving her fingers on the keyboard of the computer at the same time. She cleared her throat to announce her presence.
"Please proceed," the receptionist told her. She let out a sigh of relief knowing that she was not late today. She did not need directions to the place. She was here earlier and quickly found herself the room. She read the board outside the door like the previous time - "Sonia Singh, Snr. Gynecologist". "Nothing changes," she thought, “nothing at all”. She knocked at the door.
He heard a knock at the door and rushed to open it. It was the colony guard asking for the monthly wage. He refused yet again – “Come next week.” He was anticipating her at the door and he would not want to waste time on anyone else. The room was stale with smoke but he was not bothered. He would sometimes move to the window and look out of it through the smudged panes. The street below with all the cars, cycles, rickshaws, thelas and people seemed a contrast of his room, which never bore a busy look. Lazy, maybe but busy never. She loved it that way and he smiled to himself thinking of how she would announce that even an alert sentry would fall asleep in the room.
She smiled at the doctor. This was the first time she did so. The doctor smiled back and suddenly she was not nervous anymore. She knew what she wanted to hear and she knew what to do. “So,” the doctor spoke raising her eyes from a series of report, “are you serious on your decision”
“Yes, I am,” she spoke. She looked into the doctor’s eyes. The doctor smiled and asked to her lie down. “It will be a routine check up,” the doctor said, “don’t worry.” She was not worried, just a little amazed at the decision that had materialized in her head. She asked for a glass of water.
He hated the morning after dehydrated feeling. “I must stop drinking so much,” he thought to himself. He has been promising the same thing from a long time -sometimes to her and sometimes to himself. Each time he fails miserably, the same way he has been treated in his pursuit for a new job. Jobless, married and living on his wife’s income was not easy. He hated to think himself as a chauvinist but the ‘man’ in him roared at times and he succumbed to the lure of liquor so easily then. He vaguely remembered that she wanted to tell him something yesterday. “What was it?” he thought. “Did she tell me where she will be going today?” he pondered
She had not told him about her visit. “He must be anxious,” she thought. She was out on the streets. The din of the traffic was deafening. “Careful,” she told herself, to calm the excitement to reach home. She passed by a McDonalds and quickly stole a glance at her reflection on the window. She looked like one of the ladies in the room earlier – the glow of anticipation not hidden on her face anymore. She smiled and moved towards the crossing and patiently waited for the traffic signal to turn red.
She still was thinking of her decision at the signal. “This is it.” She told herself continuously, “There is no turning back now.” She took a deep breath and looked at the traffic signal and then at the other side of the road. There was only one woman waiting to cross over. “She looks so happy and bright,” she thought to herself, looking at the woman. The traffic signal turned red and the vehicles came to a screeching halt.
He could see the streets from the window and he kept waiting beside it looking at the traffic signals change colours. “She should be home soon,” he thought and looked at the clock on the table. “4.40,” it read.
“4.40,” he spoke aloud, nervously looking at the table searching for a note or anything that would tell him where she was. He cursed his addiction yet again and lit a cigarette when he heard the knock on the door.
“This is it,” he thought as he rushed to open the door.
“This is it,” she thought as she waited for the door to open.
He gave a knowing smile and ushered her in. The time read 4.45 and everything seemed to stand still when she spoke. He heard her patiently and slowly moved towards her. She kept looking at his eyes.
He thought for a while and then stole his eyes away from her and moved to the window, to blow out the smoke. The window made a strange noise when he yanked it open. Her eyes kept following him waiting for him to break the pregnant pause that had suddenly become more eerie than the room itself.
He smiled and held her tight in his arms. He was numb with a feeling that only he could understand.
She held him and felt the warmth in his shoulders, “Things would be ok,” she knew it.
He loosened her slightly and looked into her eyes while still holding her fragilely in his arms. The gaze was long drawn and she went limp when his breath got closer and spontaneously her eyes closed and lips parted. She could feel him get closer to her lips and was surprised when he passed by and cleared his throat to speak to her ears
“Abort it,” he spoke.
She stood transfixed for the moment, listless and stunned. Her mind re-winded to the clinic, to the knock at the doctor’s door, to the decision, to the exit she had made, to the street, to the crossing, to the woman who stood on the other side of the crossing – “How happy she looked,” she thought before slumping on the floor.
“So,” she spoke as she curled naked to the other side and he held her from behind – “Boy or Girl?”
“Girl,” he answered, nuzzling his head deeper into her nape and his hands tighter into her stomach.