An elderly man's reflections on his life.
|Life is not always a bed of roses. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to analyze whether all that happened to me was fair or not. Did I deserve all that I got? So many memories over the past 80 years that I have to strain my old, weak memory to remember those moments – some cherished in my heart, while others, I try to put away in a secluded corner of my mind.
When I was twelve, my mother died of cancer. I was especially close to her. People called me “mama’s boy”. She loved me more than the rose she never unpinned from her bun. She called me the “apple of her eye”. Till date I never came to know how an apple tree came to grow in those sweet honey eyes. Sure they were the colour of fertilized soil and her frequent pained tears might have watered the plant, but how come it bore only one apple? And I am surer that she had just one apple of her eye more than the fact that god exists. Losing that wonderful friend, mentor, mother . . . that can’t be fair. But then, staying apart from her, I found my love.
She was just thirteen then and so was I. And we met somewhat like this – one fine June afternoon, I walked my way to the form room through the hall, after I got my books from the locker. My diary slipped from the rack and out jumped my mother’s picture. I quickly gathered everything and stuffed my locker close. My eyes were brimming with tears and my vision became blurred, and I bumped against Carole. Her books fell from her firm, slender, beautiful arms and a single tear of mine rained on one of her books. God! I was never more embarrassed in my life! She noticed I was crying and comforted me in her own girlish way. I looked at her – she had my mum’s eyes, lips as rosy as the flower in my mum’s hair. I ventured to comment, “Mum!” and almost immediately realized what a jerk I sounded like. Carole was understanding though and since our first visit, something just clicked and she became my everything – mum, lover, friend, confidante, and later on, my beloved wife. She loved me from the depths of her soul. That was fair in my life!
After my mother’s death, dad grieved all day and all night. His boss was dissatisfied with his work and fired him. That wasn’t fair to us at all! How cruel could the human race be? Now, after school I had to work at a grocery store for our upkeep. And dad! He just laid back and cried indifferent to our situation. A happy, complete, loving family was getting wasted, and I could sense that. That was NOT what we/I deserved! During those times, Carole was my sole support. Having her was fair. I needed her so much then.
Life moved on. Less than five years past my mum’s entry to heaven, my dad pines away to death. His passing away didn’t make much of a difference in my heart or house. Death is never fair to anyone, but life goes on. I was old enough to live on my own; I worked and earned enough money also. Carole’s household was very helpful. I am sure I deserved that much!
At 20, Carole and I married. We had a child – a little boy we named Alex – after three years when we both finished college. My life couldn’t be happier. But one fateful day, my happy crashed down. My wife was working at a lingerie store during that time. One night, some predators strode in, and raped her. That cursed time, no one else was there in the store and my dear pretty wife refused to give into the demands of her male “customers”. Perhaps they wanted her to do something vulgar. All this is just how the police recreated the scene. My Carole couldn’t handle her violation and committed suicide. For all the times we spent together, for the all the love and warmth we exuded to each other, how did things end like this? I damned god that day and wishes no remnants in my house that reminded me of him. That was when all religious feelings flew off the window.
However, I had sworn to myself that I wont let little Alex be the way I was when my mum left me. Alex and I became the best of friends and did virtually everything together. I came to know of his crush even before she did. Up till that extent we stayed by each other. Today, he has grown up to a lovely grandfather of sixty-seven years, but our friendship remains intact! After Carole, I definitely needed this! God was fair to me though I was unfair to him.
As I stood before mum’s grave one day ten years after Carole died, I asked if everything that happened to me was right. And suddenly, my cell phone rang. It was a call from the police. They had convicted Carole’s rapists. They had arrested them long ago, but the conviction took seven years. Some days from then, I learnt that one of them had been sentenced to death. And the other two are sentenced with life prison with no parole. Death IS fair to SOME people, and sometimes to ME too!
Sixty-two years since that first stone from hell fell on me, I stand and caress the cross over Carole’s grave a day before her birthday, and review my life. I had led a fruitful life, it didn’t matter whether it was fair or not. Everybody has his or her share of fair and unfair incidents. It’s how you live it that matters. So many people come and go but some stick to your mind and leave an indelible mark on you. I am realizing my time is nearing, I tell Carole I am coming soon to join her. My great-granddaughter comes running to me, she must have eavesdropped on my private conversation with my lover girl. She quickly says, laying red roses on her great-grandma’s grave, with a six-year-old’s caprice, “Don’t worry! You wont be lonely for long great-grandmamma. We’ll all soon join you on your birthday.” Realizing the truth and wisdom in those innocent words, I nod at her and smile at my mother who lies just beside Carole.