The Come Back – Chapter 26

by Anita Menon

The hassled home nurse kept running up and down the hall – way trying to keep the Professor from walking and tiring himself out. He was still very weak from the surgery and needed all the rest that he could get. But today there was no stopping him. Maya was expected in a few hours from now and he couldn’t keep still. His home nurse accompanied him back from the front porch for the sixth time since the morning and it was only 10 a.m. She kept warning him about the perils of over exerting but he seemed unperturbed about it. He had a twinkle in his eye and an imaginary skip in his stumbling steps. His dear friend, Dr. Abelhammer had arrived the previous day and they had spent the entire day catching up on the last 3 decades of each other’s lives. They purposely did not speak about Maya because they wanted to see for themselves what had become of her. There were so many questions racing in their minds but it all had to wait.

He had sent the taxi at the airport well before the flight was due to land. He did not want the driver to miss her at any cost. He even gave the driver a photograph of a young Maya which the driver promptly returned back to him when he got to know it was more than 2o years old. He said would manage by displaying a huge placard and promised to return only after he had found her at the airport. In spite of so many reassurances, the Professor could not help but and kept ringing the taxi driver up to ask his whereabouts. The home nurse gently pulled the warm duvet over him and prayed that he rested until his special guest arrived. She too seemed very intrigued by all the sudden flurry of activity that was going around.  Since she was the non-interfering sorts, she kept to herself but the expression on her face was that of absolute intrigue.

The Professor noticed that both the daughters were conspicuous by their absence and he rung Mrs. P to ask about their whereabouts. Mrs. P informed him that Anna was in her room, studying while Ash was out of the door quite early in the morning. She had mentioned something about going to check up on the Tattoo parlour. The Professor needed his daughters to be around to face this woman who had changed their lives forever. What would she be feeling like right now? Would she be scared to face them and come forward to apologize? Knowing her, that was highly unlikely. Maybe she would want to stay back for good once she sees her daughters were all grown up. What if she remained indifferent? Would he have the strength to tolerate such indifference considering how frail he was right now? What was taking her so long? Maybe the driver missed her and she took another taxi and lost her way! Or she might not have boarded the flight at all!! Wonder when Abelhammer was going to make an appearance today? It was almost 11 a.m and nobody seemed to be worried and here he was almost on the verge of a nervous breakdown!!!

An involuntary shaking started on his left leg and spread to the other. What felt like a minor tingling turned to violent, uncontrollable shaking. It felt like gigantic tremors were rocking his body.  He felt dizzy and the last thing he remembered seeing was a terrified home nurse helping his convulsing body calm down. Then everything went blank.

Consciousness and unconsciousness seemed to be competing among themselves. His eyes fluttered and through half-opened eyes he saw his soul slipping out of him. He peered hard, trying to force his eye lids open. He could faintly see his soul levitating  over his cold body like a milky, white, silk handkerchief. He mustered all the energy that he could to raise his hands so that he could grasp it quickly before it left him. His soul seemed to be teasing and taunting him by slipping through his fingers leaving traces of memories. Memories that were buried so deep that they seemed like they belonged to a stranger. A stranger who looked just like him but much younger, standing at the porch holding a letter that changed his life forever. His body trembled and shook when he saw his child looking at him with her eyes filled with tears and anguish. The other one was so young and he thanked God for the little mercy he showed since she was incapable of experiencing the grief that her older daughter felt. He lifted himself up and ran after his soul which was slipping very fast into a blank whiteness. It grew impossible for him to trace his soul as it merged itself into the whiteness around him. He let out a loud cry which originated from the depths of his gut and when it was out, it was so loud that the whiteness shattered into a million pieces. His soul levitated back to him and he found himself sitting upright in the hospital with the doctors, nurses and his daughters around him looking down at him with anxiety, fear and sheer astonishment.

He looked beyond the faces that surrounded him and his eyes searched for the face for whom he came back. There she was standing all crooked like she was broken at several places. Her eyes, alert and unsmiling were peering through the crowd to reach him. He knew she was worried about him. He could feel it from the way she stood like a crumpled ball of waste paper.  She was still so lean and her hair was still full of curls and waves.

She was wearing it down.

He smiled to himself.

He did not feel tired at all. His daughters seemed to have forgotten about Maya’s presence and were completely consumed by what was happening to their father. He saw fear in their eyes and longed to comfort them. But right now he needed to meet Maya.

It was his turn now.