The Come Back – Chapter- 11

by Anita Menon

Prof. Reed breathed heavily through the oxygen mask. His body was in intense pain and a mere movement brought about tormenting contractions in his stomach. The tumour was spreading fast and it was in its final stage the doctor had warned his girls. The Professor had overheard this distressing piece of news, all the while slipping in and out of consciousness. He was brought out to the Hospital to start treatment with a new oncologist. The older one was his friend and had given up on him. He couldn’t bear to see his old friend wither away like this. The new oncologist was a smart, young doctor who believed in trying a lot of new drugs in his treatment. The Professor knew that he did not have much time but it did not bother him much. He was rather enjoying this carefree time going back in time and reliving his beautiful memories. He did not have to do it deliberately. His brain, as if on cue, took him to the rightful memories and opened doors to ones, he thought, he’d forgotten. Such wave-like memories, building up in volume and strength and enveloping him in emotions that he thought were dead.

It felt like a drama, being played out in random parts. He knew it all so the sequence was unnecessary. He was the lead actor and the audience all at the same time. Never in a long, long time had he enjoyed being all by himself. But he did feel a pang of guilt when he saw the sullen faces around him. His never – tiring daughters doing the rounds in shifts more out of the need of staying out of each other’s way. Their devotion to him was unquestionable and he felt blessed. How could he tell them that they shouldn’t worry about him and that he was having a wonderful time?  All they saw was hundreds of tubes and a wreckage that was his body. Alas, it was only so late that he realized that happiness was all within him, waiting to be freed. He slipped back to his golden moments where he dreamt about the lovely sunsets, birds flying to the horizon, the first snow and the gurgling rivulets. He dreamt about her and holding her hand; tight and fierce. He had to because he felt that she would otherwise slip away. He saw her journal and her cursive writing. The beautiful loops that formed with the g’s and the j’s.  The strikes through beautiful sentences because they weren’t perfect, in her opinion. The waste paper basket that was overflowing with crumpled, discarded sheets of paper, thrown away in anger and disgust. Standing there, as a spectator of his dreams, he desired to pick them up and to read them, to caress and cherish them. But he couldn’t, because they were gone and the time was gone.

He clearly remembered the little things about her. The way she jerked her head back to laugh a boisterous, hearty laughter. The first time he was taken aback since he did not expect a frail girl like her to laugh so loudly and with such careless abandon. The tip of her nose always shone and he teased her about it. He called her a reindeer and she called him Santa because he had started showing a little belly. He just couldn’t outshine her in talk or in gestures. If he bought her a lovely necklace, she would squirm because she was uneasy about receiving gifts. She would go out of her way to repay his kindness ( that is what she thought it was) by writing a poem that was so deep in meaning and thought that words failed to sum how he felt about it. Their relationship was one of great trust and friendship. He never crossed the line except for a little flirting when he felt she was more relaxed. In her traditional outfit, she twirled around her home as if she was Rapunzel who despite being trapped in her tall tower was happy with her life. She hardly stepped out but showed as she lived great adventures inside her head. Those adventures she penned down in her journal with great hurry and excitement. Rarely she let him read her journal but when she did, she would be disappointed if he praised all her work. In him, she saw somebody who was capable of telling her the truth about her writing but he was so much in awe of her that he could never bring himself to see her writing in bad light. But conversations were lively and animated between them and they always met at her home. It was rare that she opened up to him and freely talked about herself. He had to mine a lot of information only through the glimpses he got through her writing. He dared once, to ask her out but she declined and withdrew into her shell for days. He took a cue and never mentioned about it again. Her father Dr. Iyer was rather charmed by James and so his visits were welcomed. James had great respect for his mentor and did not want to disappoint him at any cost. He couldn’t ever bring up the topic of his daughter so that he could know more about her.

James had never been so happy in his life before. He was doing brilliantly at work and he had the love of his life whom he met every other day; only that she didn’t know about it.  Even if she did know she pretended well…