I waited in silence staring at the empty steel chair at other end of table.
Just like the sky outside and my heart inside.
That chair was probably just as cold as mine was when I sat down around 3 minutes ago. And although I couldn’t see it yet, it must bolted to floor; just like mine.
I looked at a lonely clock hanging on the cracked wall enclosed in a cagey structure and smiled sheepishly at metaphor. She was going to meet for mere 15 minutes after around 3 months of waiting and had already lost 3 of them. It was not because she was deliberately late or careless but she walked slow and her knees hurt after sitting for long time. God knows how long she had travelled to make it in time for our today’s meeting.
Not being able to withstand the constant reminder of time we were losing, I looked around the room to fill the void. 20 odd couples sat around me, whispering, laughing, crying and even fighting in full view of CCTV cameras capturing their every moment. I gave a fake smile to guard by the entrance to ease the tension of sitting alone in a full room; he just scoffed and looked away without any sign of empathy or pity. But then again I had given up on empathy a long time ago. By the end of fourth minute, when I had nearly lost all hopes of her coming to meet me, I noticed her small frame walking slowly in my direction… her eyes already welled up with tears.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat; yet I was secretly happy that she cared enough to come despite all that had happened. Truth be told, I would have happily spent next 11 minutes to her delirious sobbing and incoherent mumbling, if that was all she could mutter. As she sat down in slow paused movements, I immediately knew her knees have gotten worse since last time and she was in visible pain.
“Are you eating? Are they feeding you?” she always cared about my eating more than anything else.
“Yeah”, I said looking at her empty hands.
“You look thin.. Can’t you ask them to give you more? ”
I shrugged impatiently and said, “I’m fine. Did you bring it?”
She nodded sadly. Sensing I was waiting for her to elaborate, she mumbled, “I couldn’t manage to get it in. They took my bag at the entrance.”
She pointed with a shaky finger at a lanky security guard. As if she was thinking hard about a solution, her wrinkled face contorted with a mix of desperation and despair.
“I have left it with him. Do you know him? If you want I’ll bring more and leave it with him.”
I stopped her from falling apart in fit of tears by wave of hand.
“No need. As of now one pack is fine”. I was really angry, with myself for making her go through the ordeal to get a pack of cigarettes, something she would never ever touch in her life. I didn’t know how much more I’ll break her by the end of it all.
“Tara was talking about some progress..”, she seemed excited, “..I didn’t get the legal clauses, but she looked hopeful. I wanted to understand but my head hurts a lot when she talks about complications.”
“Can you also get me one pack of chewing gum”, I interrupted.
She frowned at me but immediately composed herself.
“Off course dear. I’ll bring it. Do you want two? I can bring more too”, she chirped excitedly.
“No I don’t want two, just bring one OK?” I didn’t want her to overstretch. Already I felt guilty for making her go through all this, when its all my fault to begin with.
“Is Tara fine?”, I changed subject scratching my beard.
“She is planning to visit. I wanted her to come with me today. I even asked her to, so that she can drive me upto here. You know I find it really tough to take bus. My knees hurt. But she said she had some work. Sometimes I really need her to drive me here. Its very hard for me to walk all this distance” , She kept repeating same thing over and over
“Yeah. Ok..” I was already furious at Tara for being so inconsiderate. But I had lost all rights to get mad at her especially after the entire tribulation she is going through.
“Can’t you come home this Christmas.. umm.. I don’t want to travel all the way on Christmas night and also you won’t be stuck here.. can’t we make arrangements. I think if we talk to someone it can be arranged… but I don’t know many people and Tara is busy with her work, I jus want you to come home from here… u know…”
“It’s a JAIL”, I could feel her heart sink when I said it out loud.
“I know. But cant they leave you out for few days —
“I’m in prison… it doesn’t work that way.. I fucked up and I’m now facing life sentence”
She stared at me for a minute with tears flowing down her wrinkled and tired eyes.
“Im just tired. And I want you to be happy.. Sometimes I wished you never left”
“Tara doesn’t take care of you?”
“No. . . she doesn’t love me like you did. She thinks I’m a burden. I don’t want to be a burden. Its just that my legs hurt all the time. And you are so far away. I can’t travel all the while to meet you. I miss you a lot.” She started sobbing hysterically.
I looked at the guard uncomfortably.
“I’ll talk to Tara when she visits me next time”, I tried to pacify her with a smile.
“Air conditioner in our bedroom is broken. It doesn’t throw cold air out. I don’t know what to do. Its very hot at nights. Something is broken.”
I nodded in despair.
“Will you please talk with Tara. She would listen to you. I think it can be fixed. I don’t mean to trouble her, but I’m confused about what the electricians say.”
I use to take care of her every need. Now she is like an abandoned puppy without her bearings.
“I’ll talk to her”, I offered a meek reply.
A guard walked over. Looked me straight in eye and lifted his arms.
“Don’t we have more time. I just arrived.. Ohh no… Its my mistake.. I should have come early..”, she seemed confused.
“Its ok. Just sit here till someone escorts you out.”, I said calmly getting up with my hands crossed behind my back.
As I stood and started to walk away in silence, I heard a scream from behind me.
I looked around and found her calling my name.
“Arent you forgetting something”… “You never forget…”
I stood in silence. I didn’t forget but I couldn’t bring myself to say it to her. After all that I have done to her and all the pain I have caused. It just didn’t mean the same. Yet I looked in her expectant eyes and then uttered while looking at the floor.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom”
I fell on my knees crying. “Sorry I couldn’t get you a card this time”
“Thank you. I don’t ask for much. Please take care of yourself”
“I’ll talk to Tara.”, I promised.
As she was led away by another guard in silence, she asked him softly, “Do you have kids?”
Ma’am. Please collect your belongings here and keep all the items meant for the prisoner in that tray for inspection.
“He has no idea what he’s… to me. I just want him to be safe. Please take care of him will you?” she said as she emptied the contents of package in tray.
“Thank you. I hope you called your mother today. He almost forgot what day it is, he’s better than that, its just the stress of prison. It really wears you out..”
The guard nodded coldly. He handed over her bag and opened the exit door. The woman with a small frame limped slowly towards a deserted bus stop…
If there is one person in this world you can count for to understand you no matter what.. its your mother…
In fact there is no love pure than love of mother…so much so that even the pinnacle of affection between two people can be measured when they start feeling motherly love for each other irrespective of gender…