LESS OF A MAN
It is 2:00 AM in the morning and Safal is staring at his ceiling. It has been that way every night for a few weeks now. Some days, he listens to that clock ticking in the hallway. Then he thinks of all the ticks, all the minutes, all the hours and days and weeks and months and years waiting for him. All of it without Sahara and her love. And he can’t breathe then, like someone’s stepping on his lungs. So weak he just wants to collapse somewhere. His gaze slowly shifts towards the walls of his room that shows pictures of happy moments, the day he got married. His honeymoon where he is embracing his lovely wife and the pictures that once showed his life so full of love. If he could tell you, in some weird way about how he feels. It is that, he feels hollow, in his own house, in his own room and in his heart. It all started a year back, that dreadful day he got the news, the day his wife told him that everything was going to be okay and there were other options. The day he found out that he was sterile. Before that, his life had been so much more than just plain misery. His life was perfect.
The day he met Sahara was still the happiest day of his life. There had been a lot of firsts in his life but that day was different it was the start of a lot of other firsts. He never knew that his favorite smell in the world would be the lavender mist that Sahara used every time after her morning shower, how he felt relieved whenever he heard the door opening when she came after a long day at work. Her hair that parted in the middle, her big eyes that squinted a bit whenever she read something that offended her. She had become his whole world and he was hers too. He felt it whenever she talked to him, how she laughed first at his embarrassing moments but always said that no matter what happens they were staying together, after all vows meant a lot to her. She was the girl that didn’t take promises lightly. That became the factor that ruined his life. He promised her a child but he couldn’t give it to her.
Not a word passes between them, not because he has nothing to say, but because he don’t have to say anything now. Before they talked about soft giggles, and tiny toes and who would change the diapers.
Safal’s phone is beeping now. He looks at it, and there is yet another text from Sahara with words of compassion and hope that it was not the end of the world and she was still with him no matter what. But her words seemed flat.. There are good people in the world like Sahara, his parents and his friends who stayed by his side . They were all there to support him in his time of need. No one thought he was less of a man. But in these situations, no-one thinks of how he is feeling. Everytime Sahara kissed him, he remembered the promise that he didn’t keep. He noticed the changes, small changes.
Safal and Sahara lie next to each other and are happy, but there is an emptiness that haunts their togetherness. It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime. Not a word passes between them, not because he has nothing to say, but because he doesn’t have to say anything now. Before, they talked about soft giggles and tiny toes and who would change the diapers. He would see Sahara’s eyes light up when they discussed whose features they wished to see on their baby. Sahara once said, “I hope the baby has your eyes, I love them.” She had also said “I’m so afraid. Because I’m so overpoweringly happy. Happiness like this is terrifying. The gods only let you this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you.”
It all started a year back, that dreadful day he got the news, the day his wife told him that everything was going to be okay and there were other options. The day he found out that he was sterile.
And these memories makes him want to tear himself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But he is here, his body blocks of concrete, his lungs empty of air, and his throat burning. There will be no floating away. Safal is gutless. It’s how he was made. And that’s not such a bad thing because the valid reason is that he never lied to himself about it, at least it was a valid reason to him. Not about that. Nothing wrong with cowardice as long as it comes with caution. As far as Sahara knows, he never asked where he had been for a lot of nights or why he had left because he never told.
Is there happiness at the end? He wanted to know. If someone were to ask him today whether this story of him ends with happiness, he wouldn’t know what to say. But right now, he is surrounded by people who care about him. Yet it seems useless. He could get all the support in the world but he is not ready, no matter how many times he tries to understand them, he will feel like less of a man. His phone beeps again, another text from the love of his life. She has stopped calling because she has accepted he won’t pick up. Maybe she will stop texting too.
WORDS: SHREYA SANGROULA