Here’s Inca Write’s short story for Different Truths.
I met Kevin one evening when darkness pulled a blind over the dusty window panes of the male ward. I did not see him, though. I saw his uncle Johnny, a frail man, serious and gravely ill. He had pancreatic cancer. There was a bystander who stood unobtrusively near the bed almost merging into the darkness, not speaking a word and I never said a hello to him.
I met him again in the eyes of my roommate, in her awkward smile, the way she took care to pin the folds of her sari at her waist and the extra minute spent on ironing the white coat. I met him in her reluctance to talk about her day and in her plate in the mess hall as she pushed the food about with disinterested fingers and listened breathlessly to a junior describing her day in ward 7. I was in ward 7 too. She never asked me about my day. We were too close for that.
A few days later when we were back from the hospital, I lay on my bed waiting for Juliet to finish washing up so that we could go for tea. Her white coat hung from a nail behind the door. There was a white envelope sticking out of the pocket. That was unusual. Letters were never delivered to the hospital. So I asked her. She said it was from a patient who had asked her to post it for him. Him. Hmmm.
Juliet wasn’t forthcoming but she seemed happy and I was happy for her. She had a rough time at home, a missing father, a domineering Mom and a hooligan of a brother. To add to her woes, she stood out among the predominantly South Indian crowd because of her Burmese features. But she was one determined girl and picked up the local language much faster in those few weeks than in the whole of four years I had known her. She looked for approval though in all the wrong places and that worried me.
Johnny was scheduled for major surgery. He was Juliet’s assigned patient for her case study. She made me write her presentation charts and I helped her with the customary health education session in ward 7 about pre-operative care. Kevin was mysteriously absent during her talk which somehow increased her confidence. How did I know his name? It was written on a MIMS copy that materialized on our study table one night and disappeared just as it had come the next day.
It was on a community visit that I actually got a good look at Kevin. We were dumped at the oddest parts of the city by our college buses and had to go ring strange door bells and distribute flyers about an upcoming health camp coming up in the area. It was a large house with big lawns and somewhat overgrown hedges. One of the teachers was with me and we opened the gate carefully in case they had dogs. Two rings and the door flew open and there stood a young man who blushed furiously for some reason. Out came the flyer and a small questionnaire. The teacher walked to a tap and washed her slippers which had become muddy, it having rained the night before. I explained to the young man the purpose of the visit and took up my pen to jot down his name in my diary.
“Kevin”, he said and it clicked. He was blushing at my uniform and not because of this young female in his house. This was Uncle Johnny’s house and he even said he knew me by sight. By the end of our visit which lasted for about 10 minutes, he asked me about Juliet. I told him she was my roommate and he broke into a grin. I introduced the teacher and told her about Johnny in ward 7.
Afternoon I told Juliet that I knew and she no longer had to hide it from me. He was a pharmacy graduate and was on vacation about to pursue his masters. He played the guitar, he sang, he had a small band of his own. His parents were in the US of A. He had lent her the MIMS. He had given her the letter to post. So I officially knew now what I had already guessed.
Then it was Valentine’s day and Juliet was going out to meet Kevin at a nearby cafeteria. She had in her pocket a poem to give him. The day went well. He was amazed she said, that she could write poetry. He had brought his guitar and he put the words to a tune and sang it for her. That I couldn’t hear the song was the only regret I selfishly had about the whole affair. The words were after all mine.
Johnny had his surgery and went home soon after that.
A month later Juliet came back angry and weeping from a date. By now several passionate poems had changed hands and he was still clueless. She had a small package in her hand. I made her some ginger tea in the black kettle in which we sometimes boiled eggs and made Maggi. She had been to the railway station to see off the enterprising young man who was going off to his hometown to see a girl chosen by his family. To get married. Till the time, the train was announced, he did not give any hint of this very ordinary news. He gave her the package as the train was entering the platform and on the steps, told her all and that he would not be writing and said ,” Keep this, you will need it ” We opened it later. It was a Bible.
End of affair
End of the semester.
I was packing to go home and Juliet was to come with me. A telephone call came which upset/changed our plans. It was Dad telling me that a pharmacy graduate was coming to ‘see me’. His name was K___N . Thinking fast on my feet, I told Dad I couldn’t make it as I had some extra duty to make up for some lost days of work. We left by the next bus to Goa and had a gala weekend drinking feni. I guess I look quite different when not in the rigid uniform and tight hair bun. He hadn’t recognized the photograph sent by my dad. On the way, we got the Bible gift-wrapped with red hearts and sent to a particular address which Julie most propitiously had with her. With a card of course which read “Keep this, You will need it more”.
These imps in poems work in mysterious ways unlike the Bible.
Pix from Net.