Shoulder to Shoulder
(Soumya Nidtha, 03/2007)
Our annual visit to Bangalore, India is a strong concoction of anticipation and exhilaration. I drink in the energy springing from a fountain of affection. The familiar noise from the streets, a noisier kitchen and too many sentences said all at once makes it home. Home is where we are gathered. He and I sit across the room. He looks. This gaze I remember well and keep close to my heart. Silence between us is warm, enveloping me in a blanket of trust. The subtle crease near his eyes, and lips curling into a smile makes me happy in my own skin.
Our dear kin wonder why we don’t display affection. We don’t talk of birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations with wine. A life without a brood is like leaves in fall, they say. Leaves drift even in a slight breeze. Their worry is their truth. Questions asked in the spirit of the experienced have no answers.
He and I are no strangers. Existing in each other’s lives long before we coexisted. Many shooting stars and eclipses have been witnessed. We watch them together, he watches and I watch, without a feeling of time passing. Time has passed; the tick tock has been steady for 13 years. While his soft velvety brown eyes looks at me, I was daydreaming alone. Anxiety, fear and anger erupting in me, a volcano like Vesuvius, one that could smother happy lives. Without a hint of disappointment he saw me leave.
I had made an emotional decision. I watched a blurred image of him recede while my wet cheek rested on the plane window. I saw the only shoulder on which I slept in the dark disappear. Salt rings forming around my armpit while hauling my pack, I wrote postcards and wandered around. Flowing on the Mekong, smiling at the children in Phnom Penh and walking in the sleet near Taksim Square- riding high in spirit, my escapade was real.
It is year 14; we meet. A loving gaze is in the room. The same street noise catches my ear, but the family chatter is subdued. I don’t fill the silence by words; instead I walk past everyone to find his shoulder. I rest my head on the shoulder I know. I am in the present, leaning on my husband and my hero. I believe in my husband’s shoulder. It is my pillow as the moon rises in the vast blackness, and a strong shoulder that stands proud while twenty wiggling toes touch in the morning dew. The stillness when we sit shoulder to shoulder is our celebration of love and reverence.
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