The Come Back – Chapter 36

by Anita Menon

The act of grieving brings out those tiny people who always lived inside us but whom we never let out. But untold grief can slump our reflexes and these tiny people come out to do odd things. They help us cope with the incredible sadness that seems to be crushing our heart. They kick-start the emergency defense mechanisms systems to protect our body and souls. Some people cope with grief by drowning themselves in their work. Some people by talking endlessly about everything under the sun other than the moot point. Some people find solace in food and drink while some in the prolific art of cooking.

Anna found herself scrubbing, cleaning, polishing whatever she could find. She kept cleaning and cleaning until she was too tired. Then she would take a short burst of rest and then get out of the door to run as long as she could. Then she came back home, exhausted and without a thought in her head. That worked well to cope up with all  the turmoil going on in her head. The tiny people were working hard on her behalf so that she became unfeeling of the whirling emotions threatening to consume her. Anna went out running in the drizzle that left her cold, damp and lost. She struggled her way to the nearest tree at the park and waited for the drizzle to stop. There she saw a cafeteria right outside the park that she had failed to notice in all these days of her visiting the park. She jogged quickly to the sanctuary of the cozy cafeteria. A warm, nuzzling scent of coffee beans crushing to make fresh coffee hit her nostrils. She inhaled and her senses perked up while her body begged for the warm fuel. She lined up at the counter to place an order, all the while warming her hands. She removed her jacket and placed it on the head of a chair closest to the counter to dry.

She heard a tiny voice full of angst saying, “I know mother, if you leave,you don’t come back for months! I am not going to let you go this time. I want you to attend my school party and meet my new friends.”

Anna turned around to take a peek at the source of the voice and saw a girl who was barely 8 or 9 years old, holding her mother’s hand. The mother seemed completely uncomfortable and in response only patted her daughter’s head. The girl was wearing a yellow dress with pink and white flowers.A thick purple sweater, on which beads of rain drops shone, made her look like a big ball of purple wool. She wore no stockings and her knees were red from the cold. Her nose was a tiny spot of red and her cheeks were shining rubies. Her blonde hair was tied in a pigtail and she had a small bag in her hand. The mother was a tall blonde, with short-cropped hair. She had an air of being a business woman. But Anna could sense a deep tension on the lady’s face . Anna noticed the narrowing of the brows though the smile on the lady’s lips tried to conceal the dilemma in her heart. The lady looked chic in her light blue jeans, a white cardigan and a black leather jacket.

” You aren’t leaving, are you, Mother?” , the girl persisted. The mother took her phone out from her jacket and began to fiddle with the phone.

It was clear from the mother’s body language that she was leaving her child, no matter how much her child insisted against it. Anna felt something crushing inside her. All the numbness disappeared and she turned to face the woman.

” When your child says, she needs you, why don’t you listen to her? Do you think, it is easy for a child her age to go on with her life, without her mother?”

Surprisingly, Anna’s voice was calm but assertive. She didn’t care how the lady might respond to her transgression.

The lady seemed visibly shocked at the outrage and Anna found her stepping back a bit. She grabbed her daughter and shot out of the cafeteria. Thankfully, the rain had stopped by then and the sun seemed to be gracing the world with its radiance. The birds chirped and people found themselves back on the road to their destinations.

Anna looked around her and realized the entire cafe was looking at her. She felt a flush spreading across her face and she quickly paid for her coffee and ran out. She ran and walked back home with her coffee still untouched. The coffee was cold and she discarded it in a bin just outside her home. She felt the tiny people had suddenly realized that Anna didn’t need them anymore. The hurt was healing and the numbness gone. They quickly, took their leave and went back to their tiny homes inside her.

A new sense of purpose filled Anna. She felt, something that seemed like courage, filling up her system and spreading like a wild-fire. Her heart was blazing and her thoughts lining up to ask questions. She rushed upstairs and knocked at her sister’s door. Anna opened the door to be hit by a wall of smoke. Ash had been smoking without a break. Maybe that was her way to coping with her grief. Tiny people had left Ash alone. They couldn’t find a way to engage her. Cigarettes did that for Ash. The windows were open and thin figure in a black slip and back towards Anna was standing against the window. Anna rushed to Ash and hugged her. Ash was startled and turned around to greet her little sister.

Something passed between the two sisters and they went down to the dining room to see Maya sitting and reading some papers. For once, Maya’s face cheated some emotion out of her. She seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact that her daughters were looking at her. Anna noticed that Maya seemed to be going paler with each passing second. The paper dropped from her hand on the table and Maya closed her eyes. Suddenly Maya realized she was being watched by a pair of disgruntled eyes, Anna observed. She forced her eyes open and motioned the sisters to come and sit around the table.

” I have something to share with you today.”, said Maya in a sombre voice. Anna wasn’t used to Maya’s voice as yet because she barely spoke. Maya’s voice seemed to mirror hers and Anna  felt herself recoil. She didn’t want anything to do with this woman. All she wanted was some answers.

Anna saw that Maya was extremely vulnerable and her hands were shaking as she arranged the sheaves of papers  in a neat pile. Then Maya rubbed an imaginary spot from the table and cleared her throat. Anna immediately realized where got her cleanliness obsession from.

“I have been diagnosed with something that I thought you might be interested to know. Not from the perspective of my welfare and well-being but from the point of view of why I did certain things that you hold me responsible for.” , Maya spoke with slow deliberation. Each word, weighed and thought over a thousand times.

Anna saw Ash stiffen up while she herself felt at a confusion and intrigue eating into her conscious being.

Anna intimated the tiny people that they might be needed sooner than she had deemed necessary. The tiny people nodded in agreement and waited patiently for Maya’s story to unfold.