The wait

Living inside the head: Life in five parts


Wait is like a big hole. An empty space to live in until.

How long, no one knows. But in that space which is empty, is everything. In it, is the feeling of uncertainty, as well as forever. Uncertainty=Forever.

In that space, is the voice of your parents, muffled as they discuss matters that must not be heard, once in a while, amplified over the sound of the hoover and the blender.

“No!” says Baa. Not what I mean.

“Okay, okay,” says Maa.

And the feeling of uncertainty gets interrupted, delayed and even forgotten for a moment. What lingers is the sound of the hoover and the washing machine and the blender-- and other sounds the household is made of.

“Life must go on,” says Baa.

From the quiet of my room, I repeat after him, my lips forming the sentence in silence. Life must go on.

Read also: Memory of a conversation, Pratibha Tuladhar

There are a bunch of things I carry with me in my heart. One of them is you. It is nothing spectacular for a memory, but it is still a place to hold within the emptiness.

You are made up of a thousand chords in that emptiness and each when strung, makes my heart pick up a different kind of beat. When I think of the horrible things about life that I might have to reveal to you, my heart pounds, making me draw one hand to my chest and say, “stop”. Life must go on.

You are also made up of soft sounds.

I think of the afternoon in the sun, when you swiftly lay your heart before me and said, eat! The soft sounds of eating, when one opens the mouth, encloses a spoon between the lips and the teeth come down to do their job. Between the tongue and the teeth, the eating is done and you become a nutty pulp of nourishment for my being. You taste like childhood, like Maa’s cooking-- the only culinary that counts.

Are you happy, you ask. I smile. Feed me more, I say. You smile. And it is the sound of a thousand monarch butterflies, flapping their winds softly against the start of Spring.

Read also: Of anger and love, Pratibha Tuladhar

Go turn your face towards the morning sun. It is when we are most adequate-- in the mornings, when our face is turned towards the sun.

We were married to the sun, remember? All of us. And each of us were raised to believe in eternity. Life was going to be as eternal as the biggest star in the sky, nourishing us by the day, receding by night to allow sleep to lull us elsewhere.

Being transported to that elsewhere was again, full of promise. In it were words, sometimes trapped in the ether, caught by you in the centre of your palm and then pocketed. Good things come from promise. The promise of another meeting. Just as the sun makes a promise to us every twilight-- the exact point when it will begin again at daybreak. How childlike this thought of promise and continuity! And yet, it is the image my mind lingers at-- one day at a time now.

Some days, my heart is steeped in regret for things left unsaid.

When Maa put a bowl of vegetable soup before me, I got up and left the table, instead of saying “I love you”. When Baa offered to drive me to meet my friend, I got out of the car and said I can walk, instead of saying “thank you”. Reactions too, like words cannot be unsaid. I responded with my being, my body yelling at them in silence and they cannot be undone-- the getting up and out and walking away.

But these were all days I needed out.

For months, I told myself I have to go away. That is my destiny. I have always known I was meant to go away. Not knowing where drove me out of my wits and yet I wrote a prayer each night for my deliverance.

But every time the time to leave showed up on the calendar, I dragged my suitcase to the door and stopped to stare at my parents. How can two people be so happy for your freedom? How can they revel in not knowing I have gathered the weapons to self-destruct? It is what wayward daughters do, pick the path of suffering and run swiftly towards the end of the world, with no desire to slow down, whatsoever.

Read also: We are fire-breathing dragons, Pratibha Tuladhar

Ever wondered why growing old is such a relief? Because it lets us know that the worst has passed and that we are more prepared because of our familiarity with sadness and that even the worst will be lived through.

It is full of promise, you see? Promise, that I will be right here when you want to sit down and take my hands in yours. Promise that I will always be capable of writing these open-ended, useless ramblings fit only for someone like me who never outgrew her teens.

Perhaps it is true then, that we become arrested in the years when life poured the most into our fold. And from those years begin to grow the bubble that will eventually become the void. And around that, we chisel our lives, putting in a little bit every now and then, hoping for what life must become. And by the time life has come whole, we are still in the process and we continue at the attempt to architect it-- even the end must be perfect!

Suburban Tales is a monthly column in Nepali Times based on real people (with some names changed) in Pratibha’s life.

Pratibha Tuladhar


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