There was an almighty tingling sound as I pushed in through the shop's door, the tinkle amplified by the absolute absence of any soul in the room. I wondered whether the shop was closed and I had somehow gained the super power of walking through locked doors when a chirpy sound called from my left, "Hello! How may I help you?"
I turned left and was greeted by a very pretty face surrounded by curly hair. She, the storekeeper, was beaming but the smile seemed forced, conditioned even, and her eyes expressed a deep desire for an afternoon slumber. I walked briskly towards her desk, hoping to put her out of her misery quickly. At the desk I put forth my request,
"Er, I don't know if you have many of those but could I get a, er, a Sorry card?"
My embarrassment and discomfort were blatantly visible and her sudden judgemental look didn't help either. Regaining her composure and her smile she said, "Of course! We do have Sorry cards. You'd be surprised to see our collection."
"If you could just point to where they are..." I said. She raised her head and quickly surveyed the shop before replying, " We don't have many customers right now, I'll just lead you there."
I had feared this. It had taken a lot to convince myself to be the bigger person and take the first step towards reconciliation but I surely didn't want others to witness my guilt, folly and submission. How would this pretty girl react when she sees me picking out the particular card that I had come for? It doesn't matter, I consoled myself.
Walking behind her towards the multitude of aisles I took in the surroundings. The card shop did look peculiar when it was so empty. It was a blast of colour, though more vulgar than inviting. And the silence too was eerie, absolutely unbecoming of a place that should be brimming with giggles and sniggers. Somehow I was forced to think of my purpose in being there and whether this may bring back the giggles and smiles where silence had begin to reign. Now we moved in an aisle with the two towers of cards on both my sides looking down upon us like big gaudy monsters. I wished that Sorry cards would soon make an appearance. As soon as I had thought this the shopkeeper stopped abruptly and I, too busy staring at the cards, walked right into her.
"I am so sorry," we both said together and started laughing. Perhaps it was awkwardness on her part and anxiety on mine. To defuse the tension, I asked, " Not many customers today, off season or something?"
She smiled and said, "I don't know. I don't work here, see, I'm just filling in for a friend so..." She said this as if she was embarrassed to have been found in such a situation. I wondered why. I was beginning to say something even more unimportant when she cut me off, " Here are the Sorry cards, by the way! Which category are you interested in?"
I glanced at where she was indicating and was left flabbergasted by the mind-boggling variety on display. There were cards there for apologising to almost everyone a person could know or not know, for that matter. Sorry cards for parents, siblings, partners, friends, colleagues, and even third cousins. Who in the world knows their third cousins well enough to offend them? And then there was much to be said about the card company's strategy, cashing in on what humans do best, that is, make mistakes and then run after paltry ways to amend them. I snorted derisively.
"Told you you'd be surprised." said my companion in the shop.
"Haha yes. Surprised and full of , um, pity. How many people can we hurt!" I said, chuckling again.
As I looked for the card I sought, her presence made me anxious. She seemed to sense this and said something I felt as if I had really wanted to hear. She piped up, "I too bought a sorry card once." I felt relieved to hear that as though a big swelling bubble in my chest had burst. Empathy was right around the corner, I perceived, and enquired further.
"Really? For whom, may I ask?" said I.
"A third cousin, if you can believe me," she said, half sniggering at my incredulous expression, "He fell for me apparently and I said mean things to him. It wasn't his fault, though, was it? I realised that and gave him a Sorry Card since I didn't know him very well. And that was that."
"Oh, so the Sorry cards for third cousins do have some use."
"Hahaha yes, some unfortunate times." she said, "And you? What brings you here today?"
I didn't reply straightaway but went for the card I had been searching for. Sorry cards for Mother.
"Ouch, that must be really sad." she said. And I could see that she understood. She added, "I won't pry."
I absent-mindedly nudged the edges of the card I held. Nothing written inside could really come close to the truth. But it would have to do, for now.
"We haven't talked for a week now," I told her, "But it is not as black and white as it was in your case."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
I wondered how to reply. What did I mean? I recalled the shouting matches and flying taunts that had occupied all of the week before the last. It wasn't all my doing, I remembered telling myself, still stubborn on that fact.
"I mean, how do you decide whose fault it is? I don't think I started it, yet here I am. I obviously feel guilty; she is my mom after all. But why does she stay so unmoved by all that did take place?" said I, trying not to seethe.
"I guess it happens sometimes," she said in a bid to placate her customer, "From what I hear, you and your mother have had a misunderstanding and someone has to come out as the bigger person, take the first step. And it is you, so be happy about that." she finished with a smile. I felt she made sense and perhaps this gesture of mine may make mother see some sense too.
"Can't it be that both the parties come to a realisation together, you know, both be apologising and reconciling at the same time?" I asked one final question as we headed back to the counter desk. She gave a waited response,
"That would require divine intervention."
I chuckled again.
Back at the counter desk, as I pocketed the 100 rupee Sorry card, there again was an almighty tinkle of the door crashing against the overhanging bells. From the door emerged a woman in the end of her forties and a pained yet sceptical expression on her face. As she laid her eyes on me, that expression changed dramatically to one I could not quite comprehend but I was sure it was identical to the one plastered on my face right then. The perplexed shopkeeper next to me said, "Let me guess, your mom?"
I could only nod.
"Ha! Divine intervention!" It was her time to laugh quietly.