A SKETCH

I squinted my eyes at the bright sunlight streaming through the windows. “Marie, please shut the curtains” I groaned, like a kid who was being dragged out of bed on a Sunday morning. 
“Ma’am, you haven’t been out for three days in a row now. You need to get some sun and fresh air.”  She said, concern laced in her voice. “I’ll get the wheelchair.”
“No, please” I pulled the covers over my face and whined childishly, “I want to sleep.” My pleading was useless as she went to the corner of the huge room to get the dreaded wheel chair.
She kept it near my bed and helped me onto it. If I was being honest, maybe I could’ve walked if I wanted to, but I didn’t have the energy to try. I was often disgusted by how helpless I was and moreover I did nothing to change it. The helplessness had begun feeling like it had been a part of me all along. I tried remembering those days, when I was once a woman who ran both her office and her household with little or no help, but those memories seemed like dreams now. The vague smile of nostalgia about my long gone ambitious self didn’t even approach my lips before it was morphed into a regretful frown by the realisation of my current situation.
“Ma’am, will you like a cup of green tea?” Marie asked, as she set up a table near me. She placed the wheelchair just where I would’ve asked her to, with time she had grown accustomed to my choices. The cool shade of the tree was much better than the scorching sun.
“Tea” I said willing my mouth to stretch into a smile. However my efforts went in vain and my mouth defying me, formed a strange sad expression.
It had been four months and my condition hadn’t gotten any better. I remembered the feeling like it had happened just yesterday. How the lifeless body of what should’ve been my healthy child lay in my arms. I refused to believe it and kept trying to wake her up, and when the truth dawned on me eventually, I went numb. I hadn’t cried about it, u had shut off my feelings because they were too overwhelming for me to manage. I didn’t let myself, because the day I cried, I would’ve believed that it was something I had accepted as past, and that was something I wasn’t ready to do.
“Ma’am? Here’s your tea.” she said handing me a cup “Would you like to read? Should I bring you a book?”  Her efforts to make my condition better were relentless.
“No, thank you. I’ll just sit.” I replied tonelessly.
She sighed audibly making me feel guilty for not even trying. But the guilt was not enough to make me take steps towards my own betterment. She walked back to the house. I knew she would return with the jumper she had been knitting in a minute. She never let me out of her sight, like I was a kid. This started from the day she saw me with some sleeping pills in my shaking hand and a glass of water in another. That glass of water was meant to be taken with my medicines to improve my health, which I found ironic.
I looked at the cup of tea which I was holding. For maybe the first time in those  four months, I took a sip willingly; it tasted good. A leaf fell on my head, distracting me from my ‘tea tasting’. The leaves were beginning to turn the floating yellow-red of autumn, always a favorite of mine. 
“Marie?” I looked at her, sitting on the porch steps, knitting as usual “Can I get a sketchbook?”
She looked very surprised as she fumbled to keep the jumper in a bag kept near the stairs. She walked up to me quickly and asked me as if she had just woken up,  “A sketchbook?”
“Yes” I nodded “My sketchbook, the one I have in my second drawer.”
She smiled as she almost ran inside to fetch it for me with a child’s excitement. She was back quite quickly as she handed me my sketchbook like it was something precious that was capable of saving my life. 
“Thank you.” I managed a slight smile which seemed to satisfy her. 
She scuttled off to her knitting to give me some privacy. I opened my sketchbook quickly flipping to a blank page, I wasn’t ready to go back to my old memories yet. Most of the drawings in the sketchbook were during my pregnancy; many sketches were of a baby, mostly based on how I thought she would look.
I began sketching a far away tree. As I drew I added a swing and a woman’s figure on it, her hair blowing wildly. Her face wasn’t visible clearly, but by her body language, she seemed free. As the sketch completed itself, in a way, I realised that I had drawn myself. It occurred to me that I wanted to be that version of me, free and wild and happy. But every time I sensed a little happiness in me, I intentionally overrid it with nostalgia and sadness, because I felt like I was betraying my child if I felt happy. I thought she deserved mourning. But then I realised, I hadn’t truly mourned her yet. I hadn’t cried.
Marie had told me to cry, to grieve. She had said that it would get it out of me, expressing my sadness in some way.
So I turned the page and a blank page appeared before me. I willed my hands to move across the page, making some bold and soft strokes. The pencil became blunt as I had been drawing for quite some time now. I felt tears welling in my eyes as I kept drawing. My hands ached from all the pressure but I refused to stop before I had completed my sketch. Tears were streaming down my face and I carelessly wiped them, just before they fell on the page. I cried the whole time, without letting out a sound. When the sketch felt complete, I called Maria, who immediately got to her feet and came to me.
“See” I said, my voice quavering, showing her my sketch. 
She gasped audibly. I had drawn a woman facing a grave, which read Riley Olsen, my daughter. It took all of my courage to draw myself, mourning the loss of my still born I never got to raise. 
Marie looked at me with tears in her eyes, “I cannot even begin to imagine how it must’ve felt.” Then she bent down and gave me a hug. “I’ll be here if you ever need anything.”
“Thank you” I smiled, closing my eyes and feeling the autumn breeze blow away my pent up grief. 
 

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