I walk out my office’s entrance and into the street. The street’s not crowded, not absolutely vacant either. I see a few people walking, mostly my colleagues who just left the office, and some kids with bags on their shoulders. They’re probably headed to their tutor’s house. It’s the late afternoon—school’s done, lunch’s done, hence, ideal time for private tuition. Poor kids!
I watch the marigolds by the street. All arranged in different rows, one after another. Disciplined. Beautiful. I always wanted to meet the guy who takes care of these flowers. Rasheed knows everyone in the office. He can find the guy for me. Maybe the guy can teach me how to organize things.
How to bring everything into a disciplined, orderly shape. How to make everything sense.
Does everything make sense?
Sagor’s growing up. He doesn’t need approval anymore. He lives his life his own way and I get to be an audience.
He was always truthful. He could never lie. All it needed to make him say the truth was looking him in the eye. He never stared back.
And yesterday, he did it. He stared back. I saw his lips. I even smelled the cigarette. Yet he lied. He didn’t even take any time. He just said it. No, I didn’t smoke. Without any hesitation.
Is it really that overwhelming? Is it really strong enough to break a boy’s decency that once seemed unbreakable?
He never comes to open the door for me. He sends the maid. No need to greet me when I’ve come home. He’ll be with his phone.
Does he still watch porns? What was the last time I caught him? Two months ago? Yeah, two months. Probably should’ve told him. Should’ve let him have it. That would’ve pushed some humility into him.
I turn into an alley. A young couple walks past me. The boy in a white t-shirt and a pair of blue trousers, the girl in a glittering-blue shalwar kameez. Hands clasped together, fingers intertwined. So much love, so much warmth.
What was the last time Taslima held my hand like that? I can’t even remember. That’s a surprise.
I get it. She works hard. She has a job. She looks after Sagor’s tuitions. She knows what’s in the fridge and which stuff is missing. She pays the maid. She cooks. She gets everything done. If she wasn’t here, my family would’ve collapsed a long time ago.
But is ranting all the time going to change anything?
She expects me to understand. She wants me to sympathize. She wants me to sympathize with her all day, all night. Well, who’s going to sympathize with me? Who’s going to understand me? Who’s going to see my pain? I come back from work every day and find my son’s smoking, watching porn. I come home to hear my wife’s yelling that doesn’t stop for a second. My son says I never care about him. My wife says I never see how hard she’s working every day. There’s no quiet. Not the slightest of relief. All the blaming is on me. I’m the bad husband. I’m the bad father. I don’t know how to manage family. I’m never up to the expectations. I’m the one who’s ruining everything.
At the far corner down the alley, the woman with awfully messy hair and filth all over her torn clothes is dancing, as always. She’s the town’s famous lunatic. Everyone knows her.
What she’s doing right now hardly fits to be called a dance. It’s more like kicking the air and swinging the arms and circling around in public.
She’s got no obligation. No barrier. She can unleash every bit of emotion she has inside. She’s fearless. She’s free.
It’s a gift to be a lunatic.
I admire her. And I envy her.
I’m about to walk past her when she suddenly leaps and takes me in her arms. She smells, but I don’t mind. I hug her back. She takes a long time to let go, and after that, she smiles and reveals the three moldy teeth in her upper jaw.
I take another turn. I can see my house from here.
It used to feel so great to look at the house. The little gate, front yard, the brick roof, the windows. Rasheed loved the house when he visited last week. It seems to have some sort of charm on people.
It lost that charm on me a long time ago.
This used to be an irritation. Coming back home would irritate me. But now, facing the same helplessness, the same frustration, it’s more frightening than irritating.
I step inside through the gate. The guard says something to greet me. I nod.
I make for the front door. I press the call bell.
What if I hold a grudge today? What if I begin to have expectations? What if I start blaming?
What if I bring it all out?
The door opens. It’s the maid.
I step in. From the kitchen, Taslima screams, “You had to come so late, huh? So late! Can’t you think of anything else for a moment? Work, work, work! Do you even care to stop and think about the family? No, you won’t. I have to do that. I’ve gotta do all that alone. Why don’t you just…”
Each and every word stings. Each and every sentence is answerable.
But I don’t answer. I bring nothing out.