Story 31

She lit the candle and brought it to the living room from kitchen. In the early days of their marriage the candles signified a romantic dinner but tonight it was not so. The candles were necessary since there was no electricity in the house. He was supposed to pay the electricity bill, which was way past due date. She had reminded him when they both had left the house for their respective jobs but when she came back from work she found there was no electricity. 

Frustrated that he had forgotten despite her repeated reminders, she had called his mobile which went straight to voicemail. She had found her way in the dark and reached the cabinet in the kitchen where they kept the candles. 

Now, looking at the shadows the candle threw on the wall she tried his mobile again. Same response – voicemail. She sat on the couch, tucked her feet under her body and rested her head on the backrest of the couch. The shadows were getting scarier by the moment; she picked up her mobile again and dialed his number. Voicemail.

She almost jumped out of her skin and dropped her mobile on the floor when there was a loud knock on the door. 
“Who’s it?” she asked, her voice trembling.
“It’s me.” He said in a slurred voice. “Open the fucking door.” He continued.
She rushed to open the door and he stepped in. He lost his balance over the threshold and she held him in her arms and helped him to stand upright. He swayed, unable to balance himself on his feet.
“You are drunk.” She said
“Nice guess.” He said and laughed at his own joke.

He felt sick all of a sudden and tried to rush towards the bathroom but he stumbled over the center-table and fell down and vomited on the floor.
“Fuck” he yelled; rolled over to the side and lay on his back on the floor next to the vomit – he passed out.
Too disgusted by what had just happened she did not move to help him get up or clean the vomit. She closed the main door, secured it, found a way around him and picking up the candle from the dining table she walked towards the bedroom leaving her drunk husband on the floor next to his own vomit in total darkness.

She changed into comfortable clothes and went to the kitchen. She did not feel hungry but she still made preparations for dinner. She lit another candle and kept it in the living room. He was still lying sprawled on the floor. The stench of vomit had spread in the living room and it made her feel nauseated. She repented allowing him to pass out, she should have woken him up and made him clean his mess. She was frustrated. First he had failed to pay the electricity bill and secondly he had gone and gotten himself drunk. She walked to the kitchen and took out a bottle from the refrigerator, walking back to the living room she emptied the bottle on her passed out husband’s face who woke up startled.

She walked back to the kitchen and got busy with making dinner for both of them. There had to be a reason for what he had done. This was the first time she had seen him so drunk; this was the first time she had seen him drunk. Period.
She added mustard seeds to the oil in frying pan and allowed them to splutter, next she added cumin seeds and curry leaves. She picked up chopped onions to add to the pan when she heard him outside the kitchen door.

“Switch on the exhaust fan. I am feeling sick” he said and walked to the bedroom. She ignored him and added the onions to the pan. She had just added turmeric powder and was about to add the vegetables when she heard a loud bang. She dropped the chopping board on the floor. She rushed out of the kitchen to see that he had closed the bedroom door. Suddenly she was scared. She switched off the burner, switched on the exhaust fan - nothing happened. Of course the fan would not start; since there was no electricity. She would have mentioned this to him before he banged the bedroom door shut, but now she was scared to speak. She went to the living room to see if he had cleaned or even attempted to clean the mess. He had.

She knocked on the bedroom door but he neither opened it nor answered her. She knocked on the door again and begged him to open the door. She was in tears as she continued knocking. Finally he opened the door. He was crying, too.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“This should have been your first question when you opened the main door but you chose to judge me and behave as if I come home drunk every night.” He said and walked towards the bed. He sat on the bed and held his head in his hands. He looked so vulnerable. She knew that something was wrong but she did not know how to handle it. She had never been good at it. He was the emotional one and she was the practical one. The only emotional thing she had done in her entire life was saying yes to his proposal and getting married to him. He loved rains, she hated the delayed trains, the potholes and the water-logged roads. In the beginning days of their marriage, he was the one who left notes for her to find in least expected places. He expressed his love whenever he could, she did not know how to express her feelings. She loved him but he loved her more.

She knew if it had been her who had been upset he would have found a way to make her talk. He would have come closer to her, hugged her or massaged her shoulders and made her feel relaxed and loved. 
And what had she done? When he had fell down and vomited she had walked past him. When he had passed out she had left him alone in the living room and instead of trying to wake him up with care she had splashed cold water on his face. 

“I am sorry” she said. “I was frustrated because you forgot to pay the electricity bills and came home drunk.” She explained.
“I did not forget. I went to pay the bills but I was mugged.” He said, “Before going to the bank” he added and she felt a lump in her throat. He continued, “See, this is what I am trying to tell you – you did not bother to ask me.”
“Did you try calling me on my mobile?” he asked 
“I did.” She replied
“And?” he questioned
“It goes to voicemail.” She said
“Do I ever switch off my mobile phone? Have I ever run out of battery before? You know well, I charge my phone every day. It’s only you who I talk to.” He tried to make a point.
“You should have asked me what had happened. You failed to see the bruise on my face but you smelled the liquor.” He said and it was then that she saw that he had a bruise on his forehead and a cut on his lower lip.

How do you explain getting drunk? She wanted to ask but remained silent. He looked at her and laughed. “Even now you are thinking how I got drunk, aren’t you?” he asked sarcastically. She looked away, ashamed.
“There was a beggar sleeping in the alley where I was mugged. I drank whatever liquor he had in the filthy bottle.” He said and retched. He rushed towards the bathroom and vomited in the sink. 
This time she walked towards him and held his head as he vomited again. He rinsed his mouth and stood upright. She ran her hand over his back. 

When they had fallen in love and gotten married immediately after college and that too against their parents’ wishes, they had not imagined life to be so tough. They were used to a different kind of lifestyle when they stayed with their parents and suddenly their way of living had changed. They both had a decent job, managed to scrape through each month but they were not prepared for a blow as huge as this. Losing one month’s salary mattered even if it was not too big a deal. They still had her salary to get them through. 
They had promised each other not to touch the money in the bank account, they were saving for the future; she being pregnant and all. 

“It is okay.” She said as she rubbed his back. “And, I am sorry. You know that’s how I am, I wish I could change, I wish I could learn to express.” She added. 
“I know you are hurting and you are right to be disappointed in me!” she said holding his chin and turning his face towards her.
“I am sorry.” She apologized again with tears in her eyes.
“No, I am sorry. I should have not said what I said about you.” He apologized.
He was about to kiss her when his stomach growled. She laughed and said, “Give me ten minutes, dinner will be ready soon.”
She started to walk out of the bedroom but changed her mind and walked back towards him. The grumbling stomach could wait a little longer. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her back.

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