It’s 9.15 am. I take a final look briefly at the mirror. A sad lifeless face stared back at me. These days I cannot stand my own face. It’s getting late for office. I try to eat a quick breakfast – the idlis are way too hard and the chutney had no salt altogether. ‘These idlis taste like rubber, I can’t have them’ I shout at my mom, take my bag and run for my car.
‘Damn it, you haven’t cleaned my car again today’, I yell at the watchman.
‘I am sorry amma, yesterday Chinnu was running a high fever..so had to take him to a doctor’
‘Always giving excuses’.
I started my car and didn’t turn back. Damnn traffic.
At my office, the reception guy says with a broad smile, ‘Good morning ma’m’. I give a curt nod. I wonder why he smiles so much.
My colleague, friend, and reportee Divya is waiting for me.
‘Morning gal, take a bite at these sweets – I made them myself. Hubby and kids loved them’, she says.
I gently push the box away.
‘Divya, the last report you sent to the client had so much incomplete data, and the grammar was bad too. Sorry to say this, but you need to get serious about work gal. You always seem to take work too easily – you invent all sorts of excuses when I ask you to do something..
’My kid isn’t well’, ‘It’s my husband’s birthday..’this just won’t do.
I knew I had hurt her. But I didn’t care. She stared at me for some time in disbelief with her eyes flooded with tears. ‘You already knew that my grammar wasn’t good. But then you told me that I would pick up along the way. And about the client, the requirements are just evolving. The client didn’t bother when I sent that sheet with incomplete data..’ she told silently.
‘And reg my family, everybody has one and moments with them’..she said between sobs.
At the word, ‘moments’, I felt paralyzed as if stuck.
‘I had my moments too Divya, but now they are gone. Gone forever’, I thought.
I do not know what went wrong between me and Arun. Or have I been too blind to not take notice? He’s not meeting me as he was before. No texts. No whatsapp either. And whenever I call him, which is very frequently nowadays, I reach his voice message. And these times, when I had to talk to his answering machine, I get a knot in my stomach. He keeps reassuring me time and again, ‘I am just busy with work dear’, …but why do I sense a coldness in his voice..surely it is not the same voice that used to bustle with energy at my voice.
‘What have I done wrong Arun?’
‘If I was not good enough for you, you should have told me before – I cannot go back to what I was now’.
I cried and cried in the washroom, with my hand kerchief pressed to my mouth. Surely, I cannot let anyone at office discover my grief. I could hear the voices of Swati and Bindu discuss Bindu’s wedding next month. Bindu seemed to be saying Swati – something naughty about her fiancée, and both were hugging each other and giggling.
I felt another surge of knot in my stomach, and had to puke this time.
‘Divya, I have an important work to do. If there’s anything you need me for, call me’.
She looked cold at me with an expression that said, ‘Isn’t this taking excuses’? but said nothing though. These days I have been too aloof and boss-like for her to take that chance.
‘We have a client call at 7.30. Would you join?’
‘You manage for today. I have something important to do’.
I felt sorry for Divya. She had no other choice but to put up with me. We were the only two employees of the company working from India. Even if my behavior sucked, she had nobody to take the issue to. Further, I was her lead.
‘Why are you home so early?’, my mom asked. I let it pass. Didn’t want to answer. My mom is now aware of my mood swings and is very concerned. Every time she tried to broach the subject, I avoided it. I went to my room and closed the door. Nothing could control me now. I was hitting the wall, swearing silently, and crying. The gift that Arun had given me a few months ago, a brownish-red handbag with a cute ‘hello kitty’ on it. was lying in the corner. When I was planning to buy a new handbag a couple of months ago, he had silently put it in my car. That day I wouldn’t have exchanged the bag for anything in the world.
Days passed. I didn’t know how nor I cared. Looked like life had a way of going on even if I didn’t want to. I talked very less at office or home nowadays. Divya told me that she could take my ire but not my indifference.
Usually I love winter the best. But this winter just didn’t seem to pass. My only solace was the walk I went alone to a nearby park. I had known this park since I was a child and nothing about it seems to change – the cool winter breeze, kids playing, the familiar trees, and my favorite bench from where I could see most of the neighborhood without being seen. Maybe this phase is called ‘moving on’.
Major changes were going on in our company – acquisitions, restructures, and letting go of dormant/non-functioning depts. All these kept me and Divya very busy. We had been clocking 12 hours for the past one month. If I lose my job too now, it would be a total disaster. Wrecked as I was, I didn’t want Arun to see that. So, I was damn bent on saving my job, and me and Divya searched every nook and corner to identify something new that we could do for our dept. We were to give a presentation to the CEO who was visiting our office on 20th Dec.
At 8.30 a.m on Dec 20th, before leaving for office, I took a final look at my face. My cheeks went hollow due to not eating enough for many days, dark circles were forming around my eyes. I decided one-thing – opened the left drawer in the shelf. This drawer was my favorite place until a few months ago when Arun decided to ditch me. It contained all my make-up items. I slowly and very hesitantly applied cream and foundation, massaging my face gently and carefully. How I missed these simple things that were always a pleasure to me. The foundation managed to hide my dark circles to a great extent. And the new eyeconic Lakme kajal did a magic to my eyes. For the lipstick, I was hesitating between light brown and mauve. Then, on a second thought, I opened the drawer on the right and took out a bright RED LIPSTICK which I had saved exclusively to be worn when Arun was around. Maybe the color was too bright for an office presentation, but I didn’t care.
A new, beautiful, and happy face stared at me. The week looked very busy – I need to catch up on my old friends, take Divya for a lunch treat, movie with my mom..