I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven..."
He knew I was watching him and maybe he was purposely delaying his exit because he could sense my impatience. That way, my man in blue had a real sadistic streak running in him. Stopping myself from checking the watch yet again as I counted backwards, I was hoping that I was left with enough time to make my 11 o’clock clandestine? rendezvous with Shantanu.
Shantanu......I recalled my first encounter with him......the reports had just come in and there was no doubt I had the brain tumour.......again, and this time on, it had come back with a vengeance......it appeared to be malignant and fatal. I was in shock because I thought that chapter of my life had been closed forever. 20 years now that I had lived with the shadow of the tumour, indebting me to this man in blue with whom I now shared a love-hate relationship. I had not told him yet of the impending doom; I couldn’t figure out if the news would make him happy or upset and I was scared to find out that answer.
Getting back to Shantanu, I had treated myself to umpteen shots of tequila that night when I had found out about the tumour and he had been so kind, so sweet, so handsome and so young....... He had been like a knight in shining armour for a jaded and faded 50 year old like myself. He very kindly took me in my drunken stupor to his hotel suite booked for his conference. A thorough gentleman, he didn’t lay a finger on me but wanted to protect me from those who didn’t have such inhibitions. I am sure I must have made a spectacle of myself, since he reluctantly admits that I made quite a few overtures on him. He fell in love with me that night, he claims and that’s how our affair started.
My man in blue, in the last 20 years of marriage had never made earth shattering love to me.......a romp in the bed usually left me dissatisfied and aching for more and in the last 10 years, it had become more of a perfunctory, rudimentary, sometimes annual process. Shantanu on the other hand was a tender lover, meeting my needs before satisfying his; His younger muscled body also had more stamina and we could go at it the whole night. We had been meeting secretly for a month now and the frequency of the liaisons kept on increasing and the passion intensifying. For me, It wasn’t love.......
I had finally decided to face my tumour problem head on and visit the required faculty for the correct solution. I had also approached a close friend of my man in blue for likely surgical intervention of my medical predicament. After meeting Shantanu, I had to go for the investigations. As I pondered how I was going to manage going there, my man in blue seemed to have come to some decision after a lot of inner struggle. He shut the door he had opened to leave, with a firmness that belied the trepidation on his face. He pulled a chair from across me at the table and set facing me with a contemplative look on his face. I didn’t, no; I refused to feel guilty for being unfaithful to him.
After all our marriage had turned into a sham due to his unfaithfulness, albeit not physically but in mind and spirit, I had always known he was hers. I had blamed the insipid sex on his lack of feelings for me but now I knew one didn’t need deep feelings for hot and torrid sex.
“Do you have something to tell me?”, he asked gently.......The sudden gentleness in his tone after years of listening to harsh retorts and epitaphs from this very mouth was very confusing and I looked into his eyes thoroughly rattled by now. Did he know about Shantanu? How did he find out? Why was he being nice about it? As I searched his eyes for the answers to these questions, and a few more, I was flummoxed by his good looks as I had been years ago when I married him.
“Deven called to tell me you have the tumour again and this time on it may be malignant. He is considering surgical excision after the MRI reports come in. Where are the reports, Honey?” Honey!!!!! When did I become a Honey from Rascal and Thief and useless Woman???? I was missing something here…… Usually this man said nothing good about me. Whatever respect he gave me, it was very grudgingly given. What was his game now? I was perplexed.
As I gazed upon his handsome face, I thought again irrelevantly how much blue suited him and how blue was my favourite colour. When did we or rather when did I (since I knew only I had ever cared in this relationship) stop loving him? ? -When he lied to me the first time…….or when it dawned on me that he did not love me and in fact, never had………
I think, in retrospect, for him, I had always been the breeding cow with excellent genes to produce healthy beautiful and intelligent children. Once I delivered, he needed a golden hen to produce money and to bring up the young child and he deigned to keep me on but did not feign even an atom of love.
As I was trying to solve the riddle of his puzzling behaviour, I noticed a glint of greed in his eyes and the cruel tilt to his thin unforgiving lips. Hmmmmmm, I thought to myself, he’s standing to gain monetarily from all this. I wondered what devilish scheme this man had cooked up now.
I stood up abruptly, told him I was in a rush and would talk to him later in the day on this subject. The petulant sulk that came over his handsome features was proof of my suspicions.
I hurriedly called up Shantanu cancelling our rendezvous. My guilty conscience was telling me repeatedly to come clean with this innocent and loving man but I was literally starving for the affection he was pouring into my hungry soul (surely a dying woman deserved a little affection) and I kept stalling the imminent progression or rather end of our liasion.
As the drums rolled during my MRI session, and they literally roll and resound in the close confines during a brain scan, I was wondering how I could find out what my man in blue was up to. Since money was involved and he now knew I was sick and probably terminally sick, the options seemed few. My mind hit on a possible life insurance policy with him as a beneficiary.
When one knows one isn’t going to live long, one wants those few hours to be worth their while. Suddenly I was feeling above money, above right and wrong, above someone else’s villainous intentions. I wanted happiness and to finish joyously each and every item on my bucket list. As I ruminated on my priorities, I said to myself: - “What the hell? Let him have his money......If gaining from my death makes him happy, so be it.” It was also a certainty that my man in blue was not any time going to help me with my bucket list........So I decided to tick off each item on my own as soon as possible.
The reports were as bad as I expected, actually a little worse. Surgery was not possible; if attempted, it would probably drag me further away from the last item on my bucket list. So, I opted out of it. Before leaving the hospital, I requested the kind Doctor to refrain from discussing the outcome of my results and my stand on any further action with his friend, my erstwhile husband. He duly promised with a pitying look in his eyes, but I knew that my husband would hammer down all those patient-doctor confidentiality walls with his persuasiveness and I didn’t have long to start with my bucket list.
The first on my list was a confession of my lies by omission and a sincere apology to Shantanu.
As I watched him come towards me with a huge bunch of tiger lilies, my favourite flower, I thought to myself how this man (whom I was using for sex) had insinuated himself into my life and knew things about me that my husband of 20 years still didn’t know. He cared for my two children like a close uncle would, always, remembering their birthdays and important occasions. My doll adored him and wanted his presence at her dance recitals rather than her own father.
With a peck on my cheek, he murmured, “Wow gorgeous, I can’t wait to see what this gifts going to look like without the wrapper.” I smiled tiredly because the MRI sessions are always tiring. Surprisingly, he noticed and worry crept into his eyes. It was so heart-warming to see his concern that I started rethinking my decision to confess my misdemeanours.
But, like I said, Impending death had made my desire to correct this wrong very strong and so I told him; told him my whole gory story from the time I got married to now. Coffee cups were replaced by sandwiches and then soup as I told him everything. As I told him of my impending doomsday, this alarmed gentleman crossed over to my side and hugged me. “Get a divorce and live with me. Let me care for you till I can.” brought tears running down my cheek which he gently kissed away.
Nam Myoh Renge Kyo ...............The chant popped into my head. I had joined a Boddhistava group recently to find some peace within. They believed in the theory of cause and effect. I must have done good sometime somewhere for this man to care for me so much and so unconditionally. This caring was a novelty to me as my man in blue had never given if he were not gaining.
I told Shantanu of my bucket list and my plans; he laughed and said he would help me fulfil each and everyone. He planned a holiday for himself and since he was his own boss, it wasn’t difficult. I suddenly could see the silver lining on my dark grey cloud and life, whatever was left of it suddenly looked so promising.
First stop, valley of flowers in August in full bloom with butterflies, my childhood dream which I had thought would never be fulfilled with my man in blue.
Suddenly a thought struck me and I made a dash for Jade Blue.....a shop for exclusive mens clothing....... A blue T shirt, A blue formal shirt, and a blue night shirt all in Shantanus size and voila........suddenly I had the right Man in blue in my now, really short but extremely happy looking life.
First stop, valley of flowers in full bloom in August with butterflies, my childhood dream which I had thought would never be fulfilled, with my real man in blue and as the thought struck me, it felt right, the right Man in blue now figured in my really short but extremely happy looking life.
“I am packing every memory that we are making in a suitcase.........” the lyrics of a song by Matthew Koma aptly played in the background of my thoughts. And as Beau Taplin said, “Sunsets are proof that endings can often be beautiful too…………