They sat on the veranda overlooking the busy city. She poured two cups of lemon ginger tea and they sat in silence absorbing the sights and sounds of the city. The city had a pace and the pace was a disguise to make the people feel vital, their work indispensable. The pace diverted the people from the only things that matter, from the few empty moments of life, full of meaning. The pace held the city on a tight leash and made it swing with self importance and pride.
He looked at his wife. She still looked pretty after fifteen years of marriage. He wondered what had caused her to have the affair. He had been a dutiful husband as far as he knew. He was a bread winner and a provider. He had tolerated all her quirks and eccentricities. Yet she had had an affair; she had found another man more attractive and had shared herself with him. The hurt and resentment churned within him and he felt nauseated. He looked at his wife. She had attractive eyes with long lashes. When she smiled, her smile lit up her whole face and her eyes danced in the glow of that light. Why had that smile embraced another man? Why had those eyes caressed someone else?
He looked back over the journey of fifteen years and wondered exactly what had gone wrong where. He had done fairly well in his career to provide for a life of comfort and luxury for themselves. He had never let her wishes and desires go unfulfilled. He looked at the city hustling by below; he absorbed the beats of the frenzied pace. Pace. It must have been the pace that cajoled him and slyly led him away from her. He thought about the impossible deadlines at work which he had consistently met. His success had created new standards and raised the benchmark for future successes and he had played along, a puppet to this pace. His mind wandered over the various late night meetings, the weekends spent in attending seminars, the constant travel on business. He wondered whether it was the design of this pace or the mere refusal by him to share his work tension with his wife that had first created the wall and hurled him towards Tania. Tania was his colleague and partner at work. She attended the same meetings and seminars with him, she worked with him to meet his deadlines; she understood his work pressure, his commitments, and shared his success. She was his confidante, the one with whom he could unwind and freely discuss his anxieties and celebrate his triumphs. She was his colleague, and also his good friend.
His mind played back on the day when his wife had discovered some text messages on his phone from Tania and suspected something. She tried to make light of it but he knew she was being eaten up with jealousy. He should have assured her perhaps that there was nothing more to it apart from a couple of office colleagues sharing a lewd office joke. But he had led his ego command him. He had been irritated and annoyed at his wife for making a big ado over nothing.
Perhaps she had needed comfort then but he continued ignoring her fear. This had caused a further rift in their marriage. His days were eaten up by the pace of work, his evenings were empty. Now looking back he knew that he could have set it right then. Perhaps he could have planned a vacation with her or put aside one weekend to spend alone with her and really talked to her only if she had given him the opportunity to make an effort. But she had continued to ignore him, busying herself with her household and motherhood duties. She had now joined a music class and she devoted all her spare time in it. And so he had not made that extra effort to bridge the gap. He had not known that one day that gap will expand to engulf his life and swallow up their marriage.
He turned instead to Tania to share his thoughts, feelings, emotions; Tania who always understood and who posed no threat to his ego or his marriage; Tania who continued to be his good friend.
She looked at her husband sipping his tea in contemplative silence. A familiar feeling of warmth tugged her heart. She yearned once again for him to see, to understand.
It had been a while since she had stumbled upon and gradually unearthed the level of intimacy he shared with another woman. Yet, try as she did, she could not detect a single instance of indiscretion on his part. She came to understand that he shared his heart and soul and not his body with another woman. And this began to kill her. Strangely, a physical affair would have been easier for her to cope with but the thought that her husband belonged to another woman in emotions and feelings enveloped her with deep grief and resentment. She felt unloved and unwanted. She tried to ignore him hoping that he would care enough to coax her back into the bond they had shared, but he did not even notice her silence. Her desperate loneliness gnawed at her heart and drowned her in a sea of self pity. She took the advice of a friend and decided to enrol for music classes in an attempt to nurture her long neglected passion. But even music could not assuage her hurt.
He was away, always away. The children missed him, didn’t he realise? Even when he was there, he was not actually with her but in a world of his own, a world where she had no clue how to enter. Her loneliness gave way to frustration and she felt a void opening up before her. She panicked.
Jai came into her life as a support that helped her get back to her feet and avoid falling into the pit. He came as a distraction to bring back the romance and colours in her life, to make her smile for a while and look forward to life. She remembered that phase as a mist of golden days and clandestine meetings with her lover. Her heart had felt light, her steps lighter. She had fancied being in love all over again. Yet, as all good things come to an end, that golden phase had run its course. All that was left of it now was a feeling of shame coated with guilt. She pulled her thoughts away from it and concentrated on her lemon ginger tea.
He watched his wife tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ears and adjust her spectacles. He knew that if she smiled, he would smile too. The busy city hastened along down below oblivious to the beauty of a raw unguarded moment in time. She raised her long lashes and looked at her husband. She wondered if she should confide in him and disclose her affair but she feared that it would hurt his male pride. How could she explain that her affair was because she had loved him so much?
He knew he loved his wife, or else why did he not take advantage of her affair and use it as a reason to break ties? The answer was that he wanted this woman, had always wanted her. He knew that he should keep the knowledge of her affair secret or it would break her, he could not bear to humiliate his wife.
The city blurred away with its cacophony of sounds and its frantic pace. All that was left was a moment of rare insight and understanding shared by two souls who have always loved each other. She poured them another cup of tea each. He watched her gentle hands firmly tipping the teapot. He caught her hand then and she looked into his eyes. The warm aroma lifted his spirits as the pace of the city died away. Her eyes embraced him with warmth. He smiled.