The water was cold, my feet were frozen. I stood there silently watching the waves rush up to me. I was feeling numb to the pain and the cold. My face pale and my eyes were tearing up. My mind kept instructing me to wipe the tears away but my hand did not seem to obey. I continued standing there looking at the waves as they got violent. From the corner of my eye I could see the red flag go up, signalling high tide. I didn’t want to leave, not yet. I felt a strange sense of peace standing there. It brought back memories, and made me think.
I was a coward and a selfish one at that. Nearly twenty minutes later I managed to move my feet and turn away from the waves. I looked ahead at my house and started walking towards it. My feet felt like jelly, my thighs were wobbly and I was afraid I would collapse and lie there on the sand until some dog came by sniffing out my dead body. I wish that would have happened, I wish I didn’t have to go into my house and look at myself in the mirror ever again.
I walked into my house, through the door at the back and quietly slipped into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. I could hear the kids in the room above. I could also hear the music seep into the kitchen from the family den. I had three lovely children and a husband who loved me dearly. We were on our annual family retreat. We made it a point to come away every year and spend time with each other and ourselves. This was one period that we all enjoyed thoroughly and yet this year I felt rather restless and uneasy. We had a good 28 days before we all headed back to the city and the hustle-bustle of our lives. Two days into the retreat and I was itching to go back. I poured the tea into my cup and walked into the den, Ashwin was sitting on the couch and seemed lost in his book. I sneaked up beside him and cuddled up to him. He stretched his arm and took me in. Thirty years of togetherness had taught us to enjoy the silence.
I don’t remember when I fell asleep, when I turned and opened my eyes I found Ashwin gone and a quilt over me. I turned over to check the time and was surprised to note that I had dozed off for almost 4 hours. I hurriedly woke up and rushed out to check on everyone. There was an eerie silence outside, I looked for the kids and Ashwin but found all the rooms empty and the car missing. I picked up the phone and dialled Ashwin’s number. Two rings later the call was answered by a chirpy happy Ashwin. I was just glad that they were all together and sounded happy. They were to return by evening. I put the phone down and returned to the den. I went back to the couch and sat in the corner all shrivelled up. I didn’t bother switching on the lights. I wanted to be alone in that darkness. I needed that. Suddenly the tears started to flow again.
My tears took me back to when I was a selfish 22 year old girl. A few months into my marriage with Ashwin, I had gotten pregnant. I was elated when I found out. Ashwin was out of the country and all I did was wait for him to return so I could run into his arms and share this wonderful piece of news with him. I remember it all like it happened yesterday. I went to the doctor for my regular check-up and it was then that she told me that my ‘foetus’ would not survive. She had insisted on calling my baby a ‘foetus’. My baby had an acute heart condition which was next to impossible to cure. I was going to give birth to a baby whose chances of survival were bleak; he could die within minutes of coming into my world. The doctor had said, “If the foetus does survive beyond three months, it might cause danger to you, and if by some miracle you managed to give birth it wasn’t going to be easy. You would have to put your life on hold in nurturing this child.”
I was shattered and the manner in which the doctor was speaking made it even more difficult for me to think straight. She kept saying that the best option would be to abort the foetus. It would mean nothing if done at this stage. She kept talking, told me about how non-invasive the technique was and how I would be ready to conceive again. She convinced me, I agreed, I don’t know what took over me, but I agreed and scheduled the procedure to be conducted that very day.
I returned home that evening feeling devoid of all emotions. I showered, changed, and fell into bed that night. I woke up next morning having erased all memory of what happened to me and with me. I got ready and left for work. Ashwin returned that night. I held him close at night and slept on his arm. As assured by my doctor, I conceived again. Life seemed to have moved on and as the days went by the memory became more and more distant. I gave birth to three healthy children. I raised a beautiful family. I put in everything I had in raising and nurturing this family. Yet today as I sit here in darkness I feel a void in me.
I don’t hear my kids call out for me every morning; I am seldom let in on secrets, crushes ,and pranks anymore. No one seems to be asking me to cook anything any more. I feel redundant, worthless, and many a time just numb. The world believed I had it all, but I knew what I didn’t have. I knew what I had erased. I wish I was selfish in wanting to keep that baby. Selfish in wanting to give that baby everything I had, nurturing that baby for life. I wish I hadn’t been a coward.
I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to erase that chapter….