Manmeet Kaur
Posted September 17, 2020 from India

July 2023

He replaced his freshly washed cup on drying rings of water from the last cycle of tea making. The living room airspace carried the smell of tea leaves. I asked him, once again today in vain, to keep the cup upside down. He winked and smiled at me or the cup, I am not sure. 

He was stirring the red puree in the pan, starting a fresh cycle of a morning. A new can of beans was ready to be to splashed. The puree was meant for pasta last night. It was left to wait in the fridge, because none of us left the sofa. The puree stared as it stirred, and its fall from grace had a tinge of anger towards me. Sloth. 

It was 10am and I wasn't feeling breakfast, more like evening tea. I could have it if I could lower the blinds at an angle for me to see half of the bulb of the street lamp, stopping right before it touched the window of the house in front. I managed it. And I brewed myself some tea. He was on his second cycle of washing and placing the cup when I winced at the thought of a mosquito slipping into the cup and getting stuck in the wetness below the rim for his lack of foresight. He saw me and made a face. He would have patted my back if he was standing here. I wondered how I knew. But I guess I did. It had been three years of watching and knowing. The sound of time: a pat on the back and a peck on the cheek. It was routine when it happened, painful when it didn’t.

He came with the camera. I stood still, having lost the point. Why did we have to take a picture? It’s our Memoir, he said. After three years of being under a Covid imposed lockdown, it made me laugh how we took pictures everyday. To know what? Maybe because it would make us cry to talk about it. We put faces to feelings, these pictures were our full stops to endless lines. All 1096 of them. So this is how it will be. Smile, even if you’re sweating. Because that’s what will remain in the picture: that smile, not the sweat.

We even had a new system to measure time. We tore strips of paper each time we felt something done. The passing of day measured in hanging strips of paper against the living room curtains. Sometimes I tore many at once, and sometimes, a long time passed. I had 84 in all. He had 667.

I hovered over the living room for a little bit more before taking the stairs back to the bedroom, hoping to catch a nap before he noticed the blinds and disturbed their angle once again. I sat near the window and looked at the pavement for a little bit, before shutting the blinds and finding my posture under the duvet.

Falling asleep baffled me. The best alignment of my legs with my back and a bend of the shoulders was hard to come by. I wondered how and why I lost myself enough to forget how to sleep. I had subscribed to the ‘Memoir’ channel early on. They had promised to help retain the connection with before. The patterns varied but the idea was simple: stay with the image of what was, and breathe in the belief that it will be once more. Their YouTube business was thriving. There was some talk of counting people alive by likes and dislikes on the channel. But I digress. A redness moving in between the chest and stomach, not knowing where to settle in the battle of self loathing and self care. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on your breath. Focus on the centre of your forehead, right where the tweezers snapped the union of brows just this morning. The itch of that uprooting haunts the breath. Is it okay to focus sideways? The memoir of my plucked feminist body is chiding the centre of my forehead. May I focus maybe on the migraine which pays a visit every now and then, checking in? Pain. A repeat of bodily functions which sometimes talk. But I digress. Let's try again. Breathe in. Breathe out. I felt betrayed. He could recall his childhood, he could recite poems not online, he could fall asleep. And here I was, trying a task of the night in the afternoon. I slipped into my nap.

I woke up with a thud. There was something different. I released my shoulder from under my head and cursed my decision making once again before slipping into the carpet slippers and taking a turn towards the stairs. There was something different. I could feel it. There was a noise I didn't quite understand. Something that had woken me up. I think I muttered with each step. I think I took a few steps backwards. Once, to arrange my duvet for when I wanted to nap again. Once, to put the pillow back on the bed now that my shoulders were with me. I didn't want to go down at once. There was something different. I knew.

I reached the end of the stairs and entered the living room. He was sitting by the blinds, and he hadn't opened them up. He sat reading. Nothing new. He looked the same. Smiling.

There was something different.

I looked around. I saw nothing out of place. I sat by his side and stroked the thumb of his right foot. He bent and kissed my arm. Tea? He whispered. I nodded with a smile. The blinds helped. He chose one of my hairs from the blanket and put it in the book to mark the page. No time wasted to look for a bookmark now that I had taken his offer for tea. He filled the air once again with the fragrant tea leaves, picking up the white cup with a new thud. He had put the cup upside down the last time around. Just like I had asked him to for three years now.  I looked at him and smiled, maybe laughed a little. He didn't wink this time, but he definitely smiled at me. And he kept smiling until he came with the tea. I tore five strips of paper that night.

This story was submitted in response to From Poetry to Paintings .

Comments 6

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Nini Mappo
Sep 18
Sep 18

Hello Manmeet,
So much warmth and camaraderie in your memoir. I hope that you are actually doing that. It sound so beautiful. I love the reference to fussing over little things like the angle of the blinds, anticipating routine and missing it if something lock-down.
You write beautifully. Thank you for sharing. I do hope that you read this reply drinking a cup of tea, from his hand ;)

Manmeet Kaur
Sep 19
Sep 19

Thank you so much for such warm words and encouragement, Nini! I am so glad you liked it.
I do have a whole kettle right next to me right now, such great timing to be replying to you :D
Love warmth and hugs!

Sep 19
Sep 19

Thank you for sharing Sister.

Hello, Manmeet,

Welcome back to World Pulse! How have you been? I hope you and your family are well.

You're a great storyteller. Thanks for sharing your memoir to us. I felt scared with the thought that the lockdown could last three years, though. I hope not.

What inspired you to write this piece, dear? It takes a lot of work to stay in a relationship for three years, especially in a lockdown.

Sabiha Hasan
Sep 24
Sep 24

Nice, very creative and thoughtful.

Sep 25
Sep 25

It was nice reading the indepth of yur life.