I dimmed the table light so that it won’t disturb his sleep but the table kept making weird noises with every movement my hands made over the cheap notebook I found in the bedside drawer. I was being so careful. Maybe too careful and maybe that’s why my hands were shaking so much. Or maybe it was because it was the first time I was sitting with a pen and paper ready to pour my heart.
How long has it been – four months or five. Maybe it was longer than that. I don’t remember exactly how long we had been on the road. I bet he remembers. I suddenly had a strange urge to wake him up and ask him. I am sure he would not only tell how many days but how many hours it had been since we packed up our basic essentials in our car and drove away. Drove away from our home of the last five years.
We moved into that house right after we got married. And furnishing it turned out to be a nightmare. We had our first fight as a married couple over the color of the couch. And we had our first make-up sex on the mattress on the bedroom floor. It took us longest to find a bed we both liked. Initial few months of living together, it seemed we could not agree on anything. I started to imagine that he was deliberately refuting everything I am saying. But those fights full of passion brought us closer. Maybe we needed some fiction to rub off our rough edges and then settle into a more comfortable existence.
He learned to cook. I learned to drive. We both learned not to sleep without resolving a fight. We were happy. We were in love and we were happy. “And they lived happily ever after” – that happens in just fairy tales. We didn’t get our ever after. We were happy but it was not for long.
Everything changed in just a couple of hours. Or maybe it wasn’t even that long. I don’t remember how long they were inside our home. I don’t remember a lot about that incident. If I told him that I don’t remember, he would say that I am intentionally blocking out the memories. And maybe I am. But what’s wrong in that. All I can forget is the details. The pain doesn’t go away. I wish I could forget the pain as well. I wish we both could forget what happened to us. It wasn’t our fault. We were in our house. We were not walking alone at night in a dangerous neighborhood. We were inside our home in a safe neighborhood. The neighborhood we selected so that we could raise our future kids there. But now, even we were not safe.
After the police went away and the cleaning crew hired by them had cleaned the blood, we both sat in the home all alone. He was not looking at me. He didn’t look at me for the next three days. I remember that. I also remember when he looked at me next.
We were not speaking at that time. Not just to each other but to anyone. Neither of us was going to our work. We were just sitting in the apartment not talking to each other. Then on the third night, I found him sitting on the bathroom floor with a blade in his hand. And I didn’t feel anything. Nothing at all. It was like my mind did not know the correct response. Maybe there wasn’t one. So, I just found another blade and sat down next to him.
That’s when he saw me. That when he actually made eye contact. He kept looking at me for a long time. Or maybe it was just for a few minutes. I don’t remember the details. I just remember that his hands felt warm when he took the blade from me. I remember his hands shaking when he threw away the blade in his hand too. And I remember what he said next – “Let’s leave. Let’s go away from this place.”
And so we did. We resigned from our work. Sold our first home along with all the furniture. We just packed our clothes in one bag each and loaded our car. We left my car since it never worked properly anyway. His car was more comfortable. I didn’t say anything when he went back and brought our photo album. He didn’t say anything when I slipped on his jacket for warmth.
And off we went. We didn’t say anything and just kept driving. When he would get tired, I would take over. At nights we would find any motel or sometimes sleep in the car itself. Nothing mattered. We just kept driving. I don’t remember how much distance we covered from our home. I don’t remember if we kept moving in the same direction or if we changed our course. Maybe we crossed the same town more than once. Who cares. I didn’t. I know he didn’t. All that mattered was just driving.
He loved his music and was proud of the collection he kept in his car. The same collection was traveling with us. I had heard those songs so many times. Each song was cataloged as a specific emotion for me. Like there was a song that was playing when he kissed me for the first time. Then there was the song which was playing when I saw him crying for the first time two days after our wedding (he didn’t want me to see him crying and was hiding in his car). Each song represented something. There were our grocery songs, our going to office song, our fighting song, there was a song for every moment we spent together.
But we didn’t have any song for this. There was no song for being in pain separately and together. For hurting for ourselves and hurting for the one we loved more than ourselves. No song for the silence between us.
I could feel his pain and he could feel mine. We both were hurt by the same people in the same manner. And we both didn’t know what to do next. We didn’t know how to handle our own grief or how to help the other to handle their grief.
We were not speaking because we didn’t know what to say. There no words but we were communicating. Sometimes he would hold my hand when driven. Sometimes he would curl up in his seat and put his head on my lap when I drove. He used to love it when I would play with his hair. Now all I could do was wipe his tears while I drove.
But we were healing. It was slow, but we were healing. He would stop the car if he saw any beautiful scenery. Then we would sit in one place for long and keep staring at the sky or the river or the forest or whatever had made him stop. Watching sunsets soon became a routine. Wherever we were, whoever was driving, we would stop and enjoy the sunset before moving forward.
Sometimes if the night was clear, he would keep driving through the night. He would never let me drive after dark. I don’t know what was his logic but I never objected. We barely talked. I didn’t want to waste any words in arguing.
Then one night he played the song which he played at our wedding. He kept it in a loop and we kept absorbing the music. After a third or fourth time, he stopped the car and got out. I thought maybe he just wanted to stretch his legs. But he came over to my side, opened the door, held my hand and asked me to dance. And there we danced. In the middle of the night. In the middle of nowhere. Under the stars just two people dancing to a song. We would have made a strange scene had anyone been there to look at us.
It was the first time after that incident that I saw him smile. From now on this song would be categorized under ‘his smile song’.
We slept in the back seat of our car that night. He held me in his arms that night. We started a new journey towards happiness that night.
We started speaking again. At first, we would say which song we wanted to play next. Then what we wanted to eat. Then one day, during our sunset ritual, he spoke about that night about that incident that we never talked about. He told me how he was hurting, what he was feeling. He was patient when I told him what the pain was doing to me. We sat there in the same spot talking from sunset to sunrise. Then we found a room in a motel and made love.
We kept talking over the next several days or maybe even weeks. Details were still not registering in my mind. But he was with me now. We were traveling together now.
We found a beautiful bed and breakfast in some small town and decided to stay for a few days. It started to feel like our second honeymoon.
The room was nice but some of the furniture was not very stable. The desk in the corner was threatening to wake him up. But I wanted to pour out these words before he woke up. I needed to record this day. I had missed my periods for the last two months. When I told him, he held me so gently like I was a china doll which could break from his touch itself.
We went to the town doctor together. We received the news together. We were together when my doubts threatened to rob our happiness. Logically I knew this would be his child and not a result of that incident. It had been too long and I did get my periods in the months after that. But my mind was too busy being swallowed by fear to process logical arguments. I was glad that he was with me to guide me out of that fog of fear and doubt.
He said that we need a home now. We couldn’t keep on driving with a baby on the way. Neither of us wanted to go back so we decided to go forward.
Tomorrow we will go on the road again but this time with a purpose. We need to find a town, we need to find a job, and we need to build a home again. And in all of this, we need to stay strong and not let fear control us.
Tonight I need to write this down to remember. I forgot many things but I don’t want to forget this. I don’t want to forget any details now. I need to write before he wakes up.
Powerful portrayal of emotions heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. Loved the restraint shown in depicting overwhelming occurrences.