FEAR NO TEAR
By Neel Anil Panicker
I lifted her head, she looked at me and said “Hold me darling, just a little while”.
In our family there is a long held tradition that way back in time, in fact several generations back.
It is simply that men don’t cry, and more so, grown up men.
All through my life I have tried and I must say been damn successful in manfully upholding this hallowed family tradition.
Right from the time when I was barely a child; one still to see the first of several double digits of my life.
I remember the day pretty clearly. I had just alighted from the school bus; bid adieu to my gang of best chums tied to our bums; and lazily sauntered my way towards home.
Being an only child of working parents comes with it own share of attendant issues, as well as privileges, one of them being that you get to open the doors to your dwelling. (Yeah, I was owner of a personal key to my house at an age when children still don’t step out of their homes without firmly attaching their arms to their daddies and mummies or elder siblings, if they had any, that is).
So, as I was telling you, there I was opening the main door and stepping into my house and lo! what do I find?
My dear Trinkle, my love, my heartbeat, a most beautiful parrot if ever there was one, lying face down, immobile, cruelly slumped to a corner, in her wide, rectangular cage.
‘She must have caught cold,’ opined mother, or ‘You never know with these birds, what they contract,’ replied father, both trying in vain to distance the blame as far away from us. As if, or so they thought, that would in some way lessen the pain following the pet’s demise.
For days on end after that I was terribly shaken up and stirred but not once did I allow even a tear drop to moisten my ashen cheeks.
Tears are not for a man to show, father would constantly remind us.
As the years passed I learned to hide nee stop, completely, the natural flow of tears, and I must say I have been successful all these years, right through the most trying times of my life.
I even managed to hold on to the family pride when the next major tragedy erupted in the household_ my grandmother’s death. It came at a time when I was right at the far edge of my teens, desperately waiting to leapfrog into the tantalizing twenties.
Though we knew her end was near, struck as she was with a highly malignant form of throat cancer, I for one, was just not able to hold on to myself.
I distinctly remember the last days of her life.
She was in hospital for a week or so and all that while mom and dad would be by her side. Not that she needed much help, bedridden and comatose as she was for a good three weeks before life escaped her.
I would stand guard outside her bed, and still not be able to lock eyes with granny; just was not brave enough, or so I thought, to look at all the drips and needles and wires that attached themselves to her fast disappearing frail frame.
Her death really shook me up, shook me to the extent that I almost forgot I was the torchbearer of a hallowed family tradition, and I began to cry.
Well, almost. For at the nth hour I happened to look at my father, his face all impassive and inscrutable like a battle hardened poker veteran, and miraculously the tears or more precisely the lone tear that was lurching around in the corner of my eye turned back, banished into the dark, interior recesses of my benumbed memory bank, the repository of all pain.
But that was then and this is now. And the truth is that now, as I sit, hunched to a corner wall, in this darkened roadside hotel room, there is a lady in my arms, and she is dying. And she is begging me to allow her to do so, peacefully, slowly, and happily.
“Hold me darling, just a little while”. Her words are a mere whisper, a strain, and a pain. Oh, that voice, that once bright, bubbly voice, now sliding and fading away, slowly but surely.
I hold her close, my strong macho torso wrapped around her, shielding her, protecting her, preventing her from dying, for a while, just a little while.
Maybe, she will survive unlike granny.
I know I am wrong and that it is just wishful thinking. Who am I fooling?
Cancer is a remorseless beast. It strikes when one is most vulnerable. As I am now, as is this young girl, my darling Minu, two people who have a lot to love and live for.
And then it stops. The breathing. She is gone. All quiet. No more.
Slowly, painfully, inch by aching inch, her once lithe body goes tender and cold.
And they come, like a torrent. The flood of tears. All bottled up. Submerged.
And as they finally hurl down in a maddening fury down my ravaged face, I let out a deafening roar, a blood curdling cry of despair.
Fuck the family heirloom.
I am sorry dad, I failed you.