Cataract surgery does that to a face. It takes the character and substance away. The eyes that appeared bigger through powered glasses all of a sudden look shorn and two dimensional, the face somehow seeming flatter.
Meha looked away, reluctant to acknowledge the welling shimmer in Vani’s eyes. “You need to sit down,” she gently lowered her friend onto the bed.
The untidy apartment bore signs of a departure. There were old baggage tags strewn around as also discarded packages of newly bought goods. An untidy heap of processed food and toiletries laid in one half of the sofa, they had to be shed so as to account for the baggage weight, the weighing machine had not moved back to its designated slot in the house yet. And there was that pall loved ones leave when they bid goodbye, that heart wrenching vacuous hole in the space they until recently occupied. Vani was beside herself with grief and guilt, “He is gone. I was so, so harsh on him! What a terrible mother I have been. Oh God, I told him once I wished I had not given birth to him. I am downright evil. Cruella, I am Cruella!”
Meha dunked the tea infuser in a big pot, turning to get some fruit from the refrigerator, “Don’t be silly Vani! Get a hold on yourself. Nobody is a perfect parent ever, it is too difficult a task. You have poured yourself into this college admission of his. It is time to look at yourself and get your strength back. Let’s rustle you some nutritious oats.”
Vani sat vacantly, eyes glossing over at the memory of his packed luggage along the wall. Her moist eyes paused at the corner where his guitar had stood, the “fragile” label dangling from the stem cover. His folder of travel documents had lain right where her hand rested on the bed today. She clenched her fist, feeling the onrush of another panic attack. A claustrophobic sensation seized her, making it difficult to breathe. “Meha,” she croaked, flopping back on his bed.
Meha hurried back with the two cups of steaming tea, “I made Kahwah, it will soothe your stomach. Do you smell the spicy aroma?” Vani was not listening, “I was a very demanding and impatient mother, always criticizing him, calling him a duffer even, hammering at him to become self-sufficient. Oh why, why, why did I use such harsh words, berating him for not scoring as well as my cousin’s daughter? He’s gone now. Too late!”
Meha punched the power switch on the brand new laptop, “Here, let’s get on with our Skype lesson. You have to let go Vani. He is on a journey you cannot follow him on anymore. I bet he barely remembers any of the horrifying past you are kicking yourself for. Here, give me your phone, let’s place a call to your Mum. Talking to her will help ease your mind a bit.”
As Vani held out the instrument listlessly, it stung. A sunny envelope lit up the screen. There was a message. “Ma! Thank you for sending me to such a great school. I love you. In class right now. I am at the right place, just as you always dreamed I would be. Don’t worry. I am telling you. Will do you proud!”
The mother sat up with renewed vigor, holding out her hand briskly, “Would you hand me that cup please Meha?! What were you saying now about the skype lesson?”