Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Essence

-Mahima. A. Jain

‘Is it that important?’ she asked leaning towards me over our little coffee table. Her brunette fringe covered her eyes and she impatiently pushed it back, revealing her unfathomable dark eyes. I knew her tactic – she knew me too well. I had a weak will, I would break at the slightest pressure and she was doing everything right – pressurising me. But I had to stay firm. I had to go.
‘I already explained it, did I not?’ I retorted, not trying to show her how much I hated going – going away from her in the very period we needed to be together. It was hard. She was so delicate, so admirable and so beautiful.
‘Tell me once again,’ she begged me. Getting up from the opposite chair and cramming into the single seat sofa I was sitting on.
I turned and looked at her, she had an impish grin on her face.
‘Don’t do that to me!’ I whispered and unwillingly as my lips gave way to a grin.
‘No, really, tell me once more, why exactly you have to go?’ she asked placing her hand over mine and rubbing it softly. She was a great actor, her impish grin was gone and a serious look was over her face.
I did not answer at once. I let her tickle my forearm and I knew inwardly she was counting down to when I would yell out, “No I don’t want to go!” But this time that was not happening. I would go after all it was only a matter of days. She lifted her gaze from my hand and looked me in the eye. The fringe of her hair was travelling back to her eye, one more movement and it would cover her perfect lashes and pitch black iris. I always loved it when she pushed her hair back – the way her eyes looked – mad and irritated – when it troubled her was a funny sight. She was not too happy with her fringes but I thought it looked great.
I removed my hand from her subtle clasp and tenderly pushed her fringe back. The end of her mouth twitched in to a smile, but only for a split second.
‘So? Why?’ She pressed, remembering her mission.
I grimaced and in a swift motion got up. I walked over to my closet and started packing.
‘Okay for the umpteenth time, I have to go because they need me there. It’s just for research and I will be back in a couple of days.’
‘What if something happens to you?’ She asked.
I laughed out and stopped at once at her glare.
‘I am serious, what if something happens to you?’
‘Listen, I am not going on war! What will happen to a person, who is going to dig up the Mayan civilization? What do you expect, the tribes to come alive and bury us instead? Or do you suppose there are chances of me being possessed by the time I finish my work there? And I thought you knew my profession.’
‘But I won’t be able to contact you!’ She said and pouted. ‘It’s our anniversary one of those days when you are digging up the dead.’
My irritation vaporized when she said that. After great persuasion from my side had she agreed to me going there and it was true our research site had no means of communication. No mobile phones and no landlines. No internet and no wi-fi. I stared at her face for a minute. Opened my mouth to answer but when I realized that there was nothing much I had to say I let my jaw drop for a second and then closed it. I turned around and continued packing.
She crossed the room very slowly. She knew I was weakened. She came from behind me while I packed my night pants on the top of the suitcase. I checked my mental checklist of necessities.
‘Trousers. Shirts. Towels. Under garments. Cargoes. Socks. Floaters. Bathroom necessities.’ I murmured to myself. After much thought I added, ‘I think I am forgetting something.’
She touched my elbow from behind. It sent shivers down my spine in a very comfortable way. It was weird. Goosebumps had actually become a comfort with her around me.
‘Me.’ She breathed in my ear. Her lips brushed earlobe and her hand entwined against my body.
‘What?’ I asked in confusion. I had forgotten what I was doing a second ago. All I could remember was my admiration of the electric currents she had always given me.
‘You said you were forgetting something.’ She reminded me. ‘You are forgetting to pack me.’
I grimaced. She was being completely unreasonable. I raised my eyebrows and turned around. Her hands were still around my waist. And I could see the top of the fringe now.
‘I am going to miss you. You should understand this is hard for me. Please don’t make it harder.’ I whispered softly but firmly. ‘You know between my profession and you I have always chosen you. But this is a golden opportunity for me. And that too when I thought everything was lost. Not many people get invitations with the funds to go to historically and archeologically rich sites. All those years of learning and arm-chair researching might actually pay! Please I beg of you do not make this harder for me.’
She looked up when I begged. Her eyes were wide, eyebrows raised. She closed her eyes, smiled without happiness and removed her hands from my waist. She took a step away from me and nodded. I did not get what she was trying to prove the nod. I felt dumb.
‘Handkerchiefs’ She said after a while had passed and we were still in the same position.
Once again I asked her, feeling moronic, ‘What?’
‘You said you were forgetting something. You did not pack handkerchiefs. It will be hot there and tissues might not be enough. You should pack reusable handkerchiefs.’
I raised my eyebrows this time. So, the nod was a yes to go. I smiled. This time willingly. I nodded. We packed handkerchiefs. I was closing the cabinet when I saw one of her handkerchiefs – pink and laced. I took it in my hand. I have no clue what made me do it but I had a quick impulse to smell it and I did it. Rose water, washing liquid, strawberry cream. It was her. I discreetly put it in my bag.
A week later, at the research site, I walked ten miles, asked for a lift and then reached the nearest village with the phone connection. I dialled my landline number and she picked up the phone at the first ring.
‘I knew you would!’ She screamed with the happiness of a child.
I smiled. ‘Happy fortieth anniversary dear!’
‘I love you,’ she breathed into the phone. ‘I love you like I did when I was twenty and you twenty-two.’
I laughed. ‘And you still smell the same – Rose water, washing liquid, strawberry cream. I packed you after all.’ I felt the lace in my hand. Her essence lingered in abstractness reminding me that even before Mayans it was her whom I loved.