The well-traced line

Some days I wake up when it is cold and dark outside and you are still asleep. I quietly make coffee and get ready for work. Just before I leave, I kiss your forehead, ever so careful not to disturb you. And then I pick up my bag, and walk towards the door, secretly hoping you win this game we play, wishing that you wake up before I leave.

The days you are awake, we both stand in front of the mirror and make funny faces. You try to grab the toothbrush in my mouth and I bob my head in the other direction. You look with wonder at the white lather taking up half my face and then at my shiny cheeks after I run a razor across them.

We have breakfast together. I carefully tear off a tiny piece from my toast and put it in your mouth. You smile showing me your two teeth and then hug me tightly. You lick my phone like it is a bar of chocolate. You leave tiny fingerprints on my glasses. I run my hands through your soft hair. And then I look at the clock and know it is time.

In a few moments, you see me all dressed up and smile. You think we are both going to take a leisurely walk. Your elation turns to despair as you see me tie my shoes. I am ready to come with you baba. Why are you not dressing me too?

And then I pick up my bag, kiss your cheeks, and drag my feet out the door as you begin to cry. You are obsessed with doors: afraid that I will close one every morning and disappear, and elated when it opens and I am back in the evening.

In the evening, I open that door and see you crawl towards me, smile, and clap. There is so much work to be done! We need to look at the world from six inches above the ground and hide plastic blocks under the sofa. We need lift the corner of the rug and nod approvingly. We have to find that long strand of string from a frayed shirt. We have to perform a percussive jugalbandi by tapping furiously on the ottoman. We must flip through the Macy’s catalog that just came in the mail and tear out all the pages. And then tired from all the effort, we need to lie on our backs and talk about how our respective days went as we sip water.

Hearing your crying get softer as the distance between us increases in the morning felt agonizing. So one day, I slipped out to work while you were in another room. All morning you crawled from room to room looking for me. You stood up on two feet and beat furiously against the bathroom door calling out as if to say “baba, I have waited for a long time; you can come out now.” And then when I was nowhere to be found, and you realized that I had run off, you sulked for the rest of the morning. That evening after I got home from work, you turned your face away from me; you didn’t want to look at me. You were angry. I took you out for a walk and told you I was sorry. I hugged you and hugged you until you rubbed your face against mine.

My darling, I cannot explain to you why I wake up every morning not having fallen off the bed. Why I don’t stand in the shower until the water turns to ice. Why I don’t forget my stop and take the train to the end of the track. I cannot explain to you the strings that pull me every morning across a well-traced line. But you know with what eager anticipation I converge upon a singular focus every evening.

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4 thoughts on “The well-traced line

  1. A more evocative piece of work, I’ve not read in a long time! Your child’s truly lucky. 🙂 I’m assuming this is based on real life. And though you need not answer it, I was wondering why mother did not figure in the scheme of things. 🙂

    Thanks for writing and publishing this post. 🙂 [I’m a bit tearful typing all this].

    • Thanks Ketan. Mother is constant support. The little boy would be helpless without her. She is there for him at all times. There are no Monday mornings and Friday nights. It is nearly 24 hours of dedicated work.

      Father is more of someone he plays with. Also father has had to go off for work for multiple days, and he remembers it.

  2. Somehow that broke my heart a little. I suppose that is parenthood – being thrilled about the first crawl, tearing up about his love of little dinosaurs etc.

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