“Tea at seven?”
Everything was perfect. I was sitting in the college canteen. The radio was playing our favourite song. Raju’s special tea had just arrived on my table, its fumes clouding the lenses of my spectacles. The only thing missing there, was her….
Yes, I was missing her. I was missing my wife.
Tears were forming in my eyes. I was sitting in the same old canteen after twelve long years. I marvelled at the pace of the time! There was a time when I was a student here, and today I was the successful engineer who was called as a guest lecturer!
Mahn! I was doing well!
Maria, my college sweetheart and now my wife, was doing great too. She was the HR manager of a renowned MNC. We both were earning enough to afford best possible things for our little Rose.
I’d thought my life was perfect! I’d married the love of my life, I had world’s most beautiful child, I was financially stable. What else could I want?
But today, sitting here, I realised that all this while there was something very huge that I did not have! I realised that in the quest of making a living, we had forgotten to live. We were bread winners, we were amazing parents, we were nice friends, we were responsible children, but we couldn’t be good spouses to each other.
Where was our time?
I remember, during our college, being in different streams we couldn’t be together all the time. I would send paper notes to her via her friends asking,
“Tea at seven?”
And we would have an evening date, almost every day!
I wanted all that back! I wanted to spend time with her. I wanted her undivided attention. I wanted to send that note again and then longingly wait for her in the college canteen.
She would never reach at seven. She’d always be 15 minutes late. And even though I always knew why, I would still ask her. And every time she would give a lame excuse to me and I’d just smile mischievously. I knew that she spent those fifteen minutes to look good for me and she knew that I noticed everything, from the width of her eye liner to the shade of her lipstick. Though I love her with or without makeup, I would admit that it felt good when she took effort!
I picked up my phone and dialled her number,
“Hello!” she answered the call.
“Tea at seven?”
“I am sitting in the college canteen”
“John, you called me for this? I thought something happened at home or with Rose, I am in a meeting, will call you back!” and she kept the call.
Dejected, I left the canteen.
It felt terrible.
Did I call her only to talk about something important?
Well, lately, yes!
Do we even have a relationship now?
When I reached home, Maria had just arrived. She read my face, she always did. But today, she did not say a thing. I fake-smiled at her, greeted Rose, and came inside my room to take a cold shower. As I came out, I found a note on the dressing table that said,
“Tea at seven?”
I stood staring at the note and smiling like a teenage boy who had just been asked out!
“Who would say, this man is almost forty!” I didn’t even realise that she had been standing there!
“Who has aged? I don’t think I have!” I said pulling her towards me.
And then, Rose entered.
I love my kid, but I do need a break from that child! (Call me a bad father, I don’t care)
And here my wife goes away, winking at me!
Oh my god! She winked!!!!
Next morning, she wore that old floral dress she used to wear during college. It was a Saturday, formals were not important. I also tried looking for my old clothes but I’d gained a few pounds since college and there was no chance they were going to fit me.
We were both avoiding eye contact, smiling, blushing, behaving like kids!
When we all sat for the breakfast, Rose in her own sweet way, kinda spoilt everything!
“Are you guys having a Retro Day at office, Mum?” she asked.
Maria got confused, looked at me, and then answered, “No.”
“Then why are you wearing this? This is not cool!” and she started laughing!
And if this was not enough, she exploded another bomb!
“Dad, we have Annual Day practise today, please pick me up at 7!”
“Sure, darling!” I somehow said.
So it was cancelled!
Next morning, the plan was to leave Rose at her Granny’s and then enjoy our little date!
And then, her Granny called, informing that SHE was going to visit US!
Sunday striked out!
Mondays are tight. Both of us usually end up skipping lunch on Mondays, so a date is just out of question! One of us just picks up Rose and she spends her day at the office itself. This is pretty much the case all week. Saturdays are a bit easy and even Rose has her hobby classes. So maybe Saturday we can finally make it!
We spent the entire week in anticipation. We were slogging each day. It seemed as if the time had decided to become lethargic all of a sudden! Each day seemed like a year. I guess the most difficult thing on earth is to wait…
Friday night, at the dinner table when we were talking,
“You both will reach by six right?” Rose asked.
“Reach where?” Maria asked reflexively.
“Mum? You forgot? Tomorrow is our Annual day! I am performing!”
“Ohhh.. that! Yes darling, we both remember that! We’ll be there by six. Don’t worry!” I covered up.
That day, only Rose spoke during dinner.
Back into our room, we sat quietly.
No, not because our plans were cancelled. We were upset because we’d forgotten that our child was going to perform on the stage. How could we just forget? Since the day Rose was born, we’d made sure that because we are both working parents, our child should not suffer. Maria worked from home for some time even after her maternity leave and after that she took her everywhere she went. She wasn’t ever left at her granny’s or with some baby sitter, just because her parents were working. Even now, we made sure we picked her up from school and took care of her even during our working hours. Yet, today it felt as if we had failed. It felt as if we had become selfish. It hurt, it stung.
Next day, when we witnessed her performance, Maria clutched my hand and placed her head on my shoulder. She didn’t say a word, she didn’t have to. After the function, we treated our kid with ice cream!
It was midnight. Maria was still busy with something. I was standing near the window. The sky was unusually filled with stars. I wondered if this was how it was going to be. Could we not be amazing parents and amazing spouses at the same time? It felt as if it was a choice. And the choice was obvious. Responsibilities would always have an upper hand. Feelings will always be suppressed. Reality hit me hard on the face. It was difficult to accept but did I have an option?
Maria’s presence behind me broke the chain of my thoughts. She had two coffee mugs in her hand, she handed one to me and stood by me near the window.
“You know John, being Rose’s mother is like growing up all over again! And in her company, I have somehow realised that having tea is not cool anymore! And nobody goes on a date at 7 p.m., it is too early for the modern world. So instead of tea at seven, if we have coffee at midnight, wouldn’t it make us a lot cooler?”
I just kept looking at her. She had a solution to everything. She just knew how to make things right. I couldn’t help crying. She was the only woman, the only person who had the right to witness my tears. Only she could see me in my weak moments and then be my strength. Only she could hold me when I was falling apart.
I hugged her from the side and said,
“You forgot to mention that conversations become more meaningful after 12 a.m.”
She was losing control too. Battling her tears, she nodded. And we stood near the window, sipping our coffee, looking at the stars, pouring out our hearts….