“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
I looked back, quite a handsome face stood tall behind me with a thin smile crossing his lips. I moved slightly away to catch a better glimpse of the bearded man. There he stood with a urine bag in his hand, in his hospital robes.
“Sorry, I did not get you.” I nodded my head sideways.
“The painting is a beautiful hamlet, isn’t it?” he spoke in a clear voice.
“Yes, indeed. I wonder who stays in such peace, someone who could paint such bliss.” I looked at the greens right in front of me. I had come to wash a few plates in the ward’s kitchen sink.
“Do you think our outward needs to be blissful to paint such lines?” He winked at me with a smile.
“Yeah, but who else can do so. I mean the way I am feeling, I won’t ever be painting anything good right now, or perhaps writing anything beautiful either.” I washed my plates as he stood beside a woman who had vomited just ten yards from us and was waiting for help. I was too concerned about hygiene and health and I was not sure if going around her vomit and pulling her up to her feet with the feeding plates in my hand was a good idea. I retraced my steps back.
“Scared to help her, your plates might catch her germs. Damn, I thought you’re a fearless young girl.” He nodded and was almost about to leave.
“I am, but I don’t know what she suffers from and why she vomited,” I argued back since no one loves to be called something good and something very bad all at the same time. I knew I was fearless but I also knew the fears within. I was aware of my inner fears but then perhaps I didn’t know someone sitting out there was reading them so well. Besides, I was brought up on stories of heroes and heroines, and I had devoured them always. I could not ever come to terms, with the fact, that I, in all these years had grown things or rather, appendages in me which were not at all, from the world of fairy tales.
“Grade 2 lymphoma, I am not sure about the stage and it’s not infectious. Her name is Smitha” He smiled again as the woman crouched down beside me.
“I…. was…. I totally forgot, I am in the cancer ward for a moment.” I went forward, offered her a hand which she took and the vomit on her hand touched mine as I struggled to move her to her feet.
“We all forget who we are, where we are and all we love to remember is the chaos.” He quietly uttered these words as I moved out of the door with the lady leaning on me to shift her to her ward. As soon as I walked out of the door, the nurses came forward to help me, for she was still heavier than me, though muscular but I was lean enough to carry her weight.
I went to her ward as two sisters carried her on their shoulders. She suddenly looked back at me while she was reaching the room, beckoning me to follow her.
They cleaned her up while I waited on the additional bed beside her.
A big Bible peeped from within her pillows. It was in Telugu. She was from Andhra Pradesh, with a daughter for help. The daughter had a job to see and a boyfriend to attend to, so she could not be here on all days and the woman would mostly be alone.
I did not understand a word of the language and looked at her blankly as she clutched the Bible, cried profusely after the nurses left, and while the man with the urine bag in his hand, stood leaning on the door.
“She is telling you that her family betrayed her, even her daughter feels she was stealing her time from her. But she still comes once in a while. The rest of the family has grown indifferent towards me.” He paused, only to continue again, “Even my wife felt the same; she obviously could not tolerate the pain. She too left unable to understand why she was facing the torment within five years of our marriage.”
“So, she too left?”
“Yeah, with my son, in her hand.”
“Ohh, God! What crap?” I protested.
Then she called me to her and I still smelled of her vomit. Smitha hugged me hard and then kept her head on my shoulders. “You are good,” she said as he translated. “You look after your mother.” She patted me. “I see you running up and down, I see your father and younger sister coming as I yearn to see my son and my husband, my entire family.”
“I am so sorry.” I had no other words for her. That very moment, the sisters came in with a list of medicines she needed.
“She needed them,” the sister looked at me.
“Give me some time. I will get back to my mother. I will get them for you.” All the while the man sat beside me and translated all of it to us, with a smile never leaving his face.
I ran back to my mother and there she was waiting anxiously for me. “Where were you? I have been waiting to talk to you. Were your washing plates or cooking them?” She demanded.
“A woman fell, that corner room one; there was no one so I was trying to help. There is no one for her and she needs some medicine, I will fetch it from the pharmacy and get back here in some time if you can stay.”
“Okay.” She turned towards the window with tears in her eyes crying to digest the pain she felt when she thought about the woman.
I ran out to the pharmacy, took the drugs, some antacids and the rest were pain medications I could tell. I quickly glided back through the huge lift door with doctors all around me. They wanted to protest for it was a lift only for the doctors but then I had my reasons and I had to hurry back. For the first time, I wanted to be by my mother so very badly and wanted to clean my hands as they still smelled of her vomit.
The incident left a vivid mark on my soul. I am not sure if this incident changed me in any way, or was it, that I was just being what the incident had to tell me. I always have tried holding those two faces close apart from keeping in touch with them, I had very little to do in the ways their life turned up.
I cannot say if I was moved by all this or I was feeling scared again. All I remember is I felt cold, numb, and damp. Even when it echoes now in my head, I feel the same, paralyzed, unable to breathe or move forward by any means.
The lady fought to survive and so did the man, amid my struggle to survive too. We occasionally share how we all feel about the world.
The man who met me on the corridors with a urine collection bag lives quietly in Canada with an adopted daughter.
Smitha who learned about life in the hospital bed, separated from her family, and went on to live with her younger unwed sister in downtown Hungary where her sister holds an important position, after accumulating all her wealth. She had enough to make a living in a foreign land amid foreign people except her sister to call her own. Whenever I call, she seems happy despite not being connected to her son, daughter, and husband for a long while.
Shadows and echoes are what is left of in our lives often and it is how I see some lives around me. Sometimes even mine seems so chaotic yet pragmatic that I had to stop to make sense of what life is trying to teach me.
Snehashree is a content writer by profession, and she writes on almost all the niches. She writes poetry, a book is also available on Amazon, called “A Hiatus from the Loaded Past”. She also regularly writes on her blog: https://www.rollercoasterrideonlife.blog/ and on her website, https://www.writersnehashree.com/. She is a part of IndieITPress and Talking Zebras Group.