How Blue Is My Sapphire?
How Blue Is My Sapphire?13 mins 17.8K 13 mins 17.8K
I looked at my watch and called up the reception, frustrated, “Hi, I am checking out in 15 minutes. Also, could you please book a cab for me?” “Sure, ma’am” the courteous voice continued, “Where should I book it for?” I paused, then replied, “Ummm.. Airport” in an unsure tone.
I checked out and boarded the cab. On my way, I looked out of the window and saw those familiar streets, shops and schedules. Some cities will just be the same even after a Big-bang, I thought. Looking at such familiarity, I wondered, should I still refer to this place as my home-town? I don’t have my home here anymore. So what’s a home-town without the home in the first place?! I felt funny at that riddle.
Near the Airport, I saw a seemingly new coffee shop. I liked how it looked and stopped by. The Café was irregularly yet consistently shaped and had letters embossed all over it. But what I liked the most was the blue color of the walls. It was a different blue and I wanted to see more of it.
I went inside the coffee shop. It had exquisite designs of silver on those marvelous blue walls and I was so impressed. I was happy that I checked out sooner and will be spending the next couple hours here before I check-in for my flight. I settled down on a corner table and took out my bookmarked Opera Omnia to read it over my first cup of cold coffee and a piece of cake. I put the book on the table and looked around, continuing to admire the décor. Everything about this shop had an unusual élan by the standard of a coffee shop. The collection of paintings was incredible, the hanging lamps were a masterpiece, the legs of the tables were designed in the same sequence as in the silver designs on the walls while the cushion of the chairs matched that brilliant blue. It had a beautiful chandelier at the center and a table right below it. But before I could appreciate more, I was awe-struck at that center-table.
Neil? Is that him?! I speculated. Looking more closely, I confirmed him to be my ex-boyfriend, Neil. It has been 10 years since I saw him, I thought with a gentle smile. My first impulse was to walk up to him, hug and say a hearty hello, but I refrained myself. I saw a woman with him, a happy smiling woman. And as I am conventionally poor at judging circumstances and its respective customary reactions, I just avoided any interaction, same way as I do in most occasions.
I have been to food joints and other public places before, all by myself; I do that sometimes to just observe the surrounding or to just feel the presence of my own company. I like it and this helps me in my current profession. But this one was a bit different. Neil was not just another ex-boyfriend of mine. He was the one.
I looked more closely at the couple in the center table, this time focusing on the woman. She looked pretty with that slight smile, twinkling eyes looking at Neil and her hands put on the table. The next moment she lifted her hand to rest her chin on her palm and there it was- that clangor of the bangles. It’s that typical sound which comes when the conch shell, red coral and the iron bangles collide with each other on the wrist. I know them, they are the emblems of marriage.
“You make the down payment, I’ll pay the EMI,” Neil suggested to me, suddenly.
I looked at him blankly, “I don’t understand.”
Then Neil went down on his knees and proposed, “Aqira, will you do the honors of marrying me? And also buying a house together?”
“Are you kidding me? Of course I do,” I jumped on him and we both fell down laughing, hugging, kissing.
We made out that night. After a while, I was lying on his sweaty chest when Neil said holding my hand, “Next year this time, we will be together in our own house.” I got up at that and said, “Next year? Isn’t that too early?”
“Too early for what? We are old enough, settled and happy. What else do you need?”
“Ideal circumstance,” I replied promptly and continued, “I am thinking to quit my job and take up dance seriously. Probably have my own troupe. Probably in a different city. So I don’t think all this will be settled within a year.”
“I see,” Neil said, in a disappointed tone.
“But how does it matter if we are married or not unless we are together, I don’t see a difference. Do you?” I asked.
“Yes there is and there always will be. We are social beings Aqira and I personally like the concept of marriage. It’s a beautiful relationship.” Kissing my forehead, Neil continued, “The red sindoor, the mehendi and the soft jingle of the bangles. I can’t wait to see them on you. Do you have any idea how beautiful you’ll look with those bangles?”
Looking at the watch on my wrist and sipped from my cup. How beautiful would I look? Not enough to surpass the feeling of having my own dance troupe and travelling the world winning hearts. Not enough. It was a firm decision to leave almost everything behind and start afresh in a different city, alone. Neil understood me very well, took some time, but he did. He understood and respected that I left my high paying corporate job to pursue my passion and felt proud of my success. But he couldn’t convince himself for a long time that I chose my career over him and went to a different city, leaving him, leaving us. I think after this, he started to understand me a bit more.
Strangely, it wasn’t that hard for me – neither to leave my family, job, colleagues, nor the city and nor Neil.
In fact if I ponder more, it doesn’t seem strange at all. All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am.
I have done this so many times, since childhood. I changed 7 schools in 12 years as my father got posted a lot. I made best of friends each time, but missed none on leaving school. My father taught me that leaving is a good thing. With leaving the present, you have an opportunity to have something better in future. Somehow, circumstances and coincidence have always proved my father right on this. And over the years I got subconsciously and irrevocably conditioned to this attribute. I am not sure if shrugging past is a right or wrong thing to do. It’s just instilled in me and it’s least likely that I can shrug that off.
Hey, can we shrug off the trait of shrugging off? It sounded like circular referencing in a spreadsheet. I smiled again on my silly riddle!
Coming back to Neil, I loved him and though I didn’t shrug him like rest of the things, yet; but I definitely prioritized my career over him. At that point, my career needed me more than my relationship, at least that’s what I thought. I knew and planned, once this was settled we would be together and assured him each time he sounded apprehensive over those STD phone calls.
Neil was one of the best thing that ever happened to me. It was for him that I knew what caring meant in real. What is the feeling of loving someone like you are the last woman, like there is no tomorrow. I used to be mad, restless, finicky, overworked and he used to be my rest house. Or more like a personal Peace Pagoda. The moment he took me in his arms, all my restlessness went away like…. Poooof! That’s how I knew, he was the one.
One day I asked him, “Why do you love a mad woman who naturally complicates life? You could have easily settled down with a simpler and marriage-material kind of woman.”
Neil replied, “Yes things would have been simpler if it wasn’t you, but the point is, what is the point if it isn’t you?”
That was my favorite riddle for a long time, probably the longest.
I was staring blankly at some random page of the book when I realized it’s time to re-fill. I ordered again and in the meanwhile, went to the rest room. While washing my hands I looked into the mirror, closely. I stared at my temple for a few moments.
I returned to my table to see my next round of cold coffee served already. I was so sure to write a good review. But as I sipped in, I instantly raised my hand and asked, “Excuse me, I need some more ice cream.”
“How much more ice cream do you need baby? You’ll catch cold like last time,” Neil said in a caring tone.
“Ummm I just love it this way,” I replied
“You know, they say a woman craves for ice cream when they’re pregnant,” Neil added.
I said, “Absolutely not! It’s said for pickles and not ice cream!”
“No I am sure it’s ice cream and there’s a possibility that you are pregnant right now, are you?” His expression said he looked forward to a 'yes'.
“I can’t be pregnant because…”
“I am on pills.”
“What? Why Aqira? Oh God! This is it!!” Neil freaked out.
“Neil, calm down please. I was about to tell you.”
Neil stormed to our room and slammed the door shut. I followed him.
"Neil, I was about to tell you", I reiterated entering the room.
“When? Oh God, Aqira! I did everything for you. I left my job and family to be with you here. I am not even speaking of marriage and living in with you because you want it that way. I was just so hoping that if you conceive then we will have a good reason to step into a new life together, get married and settle down. I want you with me and I tried so hard. But…” Neil sat on the ground, hopelessly crying.
“I don’t want a baby,” I mentioned softly.
“What?” Neil looked at me.
“I don’t want a baby, Neil. I won’t be a good mother.”
“You don’t want to have a family of your own?”
“Of course I do, I already have. You are my family.”
“But this is not enough Aqira, I want a family of you and our child, like everyone else does. And what do you mean that you can’t be a good mother?”
“I have so many plans for myself and us together. I have to work really hard to do things, Neil. I want to travel the world with you, get a higher foreign degree, own a house by the beach.. I want to do a lot more. In fact I was going to tell you about something exciting, I met an editor last day…”
“So? You want to do a lot, so?” Neil interrupted.
“So.. Amidst all of this, I won’t be able to give my child the time he/she deserves. And I don’t want to sacrifice my dreams for them because they’ll feel that pressure someday. Either way I won’t be a good mother.”
“You mean to say all working and ambitious women are not good mothers?”
“They’re probably. But I won’t be. Because I know how it is to have a parent just to have one. I rather not be a mother than my child to think of me that way.”
“What kind of woman are you? Who doesn’t want to have her baby? Do you even have a heart? One day you’ll have a big house but no one to come home to.”
“You’ll not see or hear from me, ever again” Neil stated and left. Forever.
I surprisingly got back with a baby crying in the adjacent table. I realized, it’s time. I asked for the check.
But this time when I looked at the center table, it was vacant. I impulsively stood up and the next moment, when I realized I shouldn’t have, it was too late. Neil was standing by the gate, facing me.
He looked at me from the distance and there it was.. the best smile in the world. I smiled back with all my heart. He waved at me and I waved back at him. After 10 long years, we finally bid goodbye to each other, happily and ceremoniously.
Soon, I boarded the flight and settled on the window seat. Though I was happy to see Neil and have that rewind-ride to my memories, still there was something that left me uncomfortably thoughtful. “Don’t I have a heart?” Even though I was over Neil a long time back, but somewhere I wasn’t over his last words. They’re omnipresent yet subliminal, only dragged to my conscious today. “I don’t feel like having children even seeing others have them, but does that mean I am heartless? Am I selfish? Am I bad?”
There was a pause inside me, it felt like a vacuum. Then, all of a sudden there was a filling gush of a reply, “No, I am not bad. I am Blue.” Just like that unusual blue Café. It had its own different way of doing things, just like I do. If it doesn’t cease to be a Café, why would I cease to be a woman with a heart? I probably don’t have a soft heart made up of red fluid of overflowing emotions. I probably have one made of Blue crystals of strong desires. Something which is rare and unusual, just like a Sapphire. My conscious brought smile back on my face.
As the plane landed, I boarded a cab to my place. This time looking outside the window I felt, oh how have I missed this place!
On reaching the building, I rushed to the elevator and pressed the button. On my floor, the door slid open. The corridor was dark. I am the only one living on this floor. As I slowly walked towards my apartment, jet-lagged and alone in the dim-lit passage; Neil’s last words flashed through my mind, “One day you’ll have a big house but no one to come home to.”
I swiped the key and whispered in my mind, holding the knob, “I do have a big house Neil I am not the only one living here.” I opened the door and called out, “Sasha, mommy’s home!”
And there came my 2 year old baby running towards me. She jumped on me and I took her in my arms, “Oh God I missed you so much. Did Judy feed you everyday?” She nodded her head vertically. “Did you mess up anything while mommy was gone?” She nodded her head again, horizontally this time. “Good girl, give me a high paw!” My four-legged daughter raised her front leg for a high-five. “Mommy got your favorite biscuits. But before that, come let’s shower together, it was a very long flight!”
On the 39th floor, sitting in my open balcony which overlooked the beautiful New York City, I patted Sasha to sleep. While she slept on my lap and I ran my fingers through her silky furs, I looked at those magnificent skyscrapers and felt deeply contended. I chose, I left, I was left, I loved, I failed, I achieved and I wondered: after all of it, I was happy. And this was the best kind of ‘happy’ that I could have been. Isn’t this feeling of contentment everybody aims for? I think I have achieved it, for now.
I opened my laptop, thinking- after all the trip to my ex-home-town wasn’t for nothing. Though I was frustrated that nothing substantial clicked while I stayed there; and was almost returning disappointed until I stopped by that Café. With a framed plot in mind, I started typing the title of my next Novel – “How Blue is my Sapphire?”