*Picture courtesy https://www.picnstory.com/
That was the first time Natasha saw him with a kid. Natasha’s friend had recently brought a beautiful baby girl into the world and they were visiting Natasha’s home for the first time. They had never met Abhishek in the three years they’d been together so Natasha invited Abhishek as well, kind of a double date she thought.
It turned out to be one of those life changing events that leave you questioning a lot of your choices and destiny.
The meetup was going well. Both Natasha and Abhishek adored Anu, the baby. Natasha was proud of her brand new home and the décor that she was building. There was a lot of chatter and laughter amidst shrill baby cries and nappy changing sessions. They played Jhenga, had a nice lunch that Natasha had prepared with a lot of love and talked about everything under the sun from their love stories to their work to real estate in Bangalore to where technology was headed to their childhoods and how different they all were.
All the time Natasha was observing how gentle and good Abhishek was with Anu. Abhishek was not your regular 30 something Indian male. He was tall, lanky, cute, clumsy and irritatingly introverted. Having him come down for a get together was a huge win for Natasha. But seeing him play and cuddle and take care of Anu so well, was something else. Natasha felt all warm and fuzzy inside but this gathering and Abhishek’s bond with Anu also left her with a big question that she had pushed to the back of her mind citing that she had time, which clearly she didn’t now.
It had been three years of a very steady and sweet relationship and they’d never thought about it, atleast not talked about it. With Anu and a happy young couple, the question pierced right back to the top of Natasha’s mind and sat there like an angry – hungry child. Waiting to be attended to.
As, she washed the vessels and Abhishek wiped the table, Natasha spoke between the clattering of vessels “That went well. Did you like them?”
Abhishek replied from across the kitchen wall, “Ofcourse. What was there not to like. They’re lovely people.”
Natasha continued “Yes. Yes they are. I hope we see more of them. We don’t have many friends since we both got our jobs. Not in this part of the city atleast”
Abhishek placed the mop on the kitchen table crossed his hairy arms and leaned against the platform.
“Yeah..we do not. The funny thing though is that you thought I’ll scare Anu away with my awkwardness and size. But it seems she liked me most today. Did you notice that?” he asked, smiling, his eyes turning into that “you were wrong. Again!!!” expression as he poked Natasha in the back, tickling her.
Natasha pushed his hand away and without turning, retorted “Most is not quantifiable. But yeah, she did warm up to you. You’re adorable with kids. That’s new.”
“Well, it’s not new. You just didn’t know about it. I’m great with kids. You’ll see when we have ours.” Abhishek said, putting away the leftovers in the fridge.
Natasha paused scrubbing the vessels and let the water run for a moment, before she collected herself and let the piercing thought finally form into words.
“I don’t want to give birth to a child” She said softly.
Abhishek shut the fridge door and gave it a moment. He was never one to retort back. Always calm and collected, even in the toughest of arguments.
“Um…why?” he asked finally, walking over to her and turning her face towards his with his fingers.
“The OCD and Depression. They are genetically passed on. I can’t live with myself knowing I brought a life into the world that has even a tiny probability of going through what I did and do everyday. It’s unfair…. To everyone.” She finally said it aloud, a thought that had been taking form for a while now as she had educated herself more and more about her illnesses.
Abhishek turned the tap off, took her in his arms and hugged her as tears started rolling down her face. He had known about her OCD and depression and the treatment she was taking. He had helped her through some very hard times in the last three years. Held her tight as she cried for simple reasons, dealt with her unending questions when triggered by an obsession, even dropped her for her appointments. Natasha had never thought she’d find someone who would be so non-judgmental and supportive of her illness. She had prepared to be alone all her life. And when she found Abhishek, it was like she had found her guardian angel, best friend and the love of her life in one person. Almost like a jackpot.
“What does the doctor say?” he asked calmly as he led her to the drawing room.
“I haven’t asked him yet. I didn’t think, this….us…would survive. I thought you’d leave. At some point. So I didn’t let the question come up. Just seeing you with Anu today, it was something…..special. You’d be a great dad.” She said curling up on the sofa, head on his chest, hands clasped, eyes moist.
“Well, let’s ask him if it’s genetic or it’s one of your many ill-formed assumptions. Ok?” he said, looking into her eyes, his soft finger wiping away a tear drop from her cheek.
“It’s not ill-formed. I’ve read a lot about it. There is a very high correlation” she said after a pause. A sadness and fear that she hadn’t felt in a while started creeping up from the bottom of her stomach.
“He is going to leave me now. This is the last straw. Who knew he loved kids so much. Why couldn’t I have brought this up before. I’m so selfish. How will I deal with this if it ends…..” and on and on, the questions went in her head in a loop. Some logical, some not so much. She was spiraling and it was evident in her silence and the tears that had resumed streaming.
Abhishek tightened his grip on her hand and drew her closer towards him holding her tight. His silence was a sign, it was a sign of something that Natasha had been terribly scared of in her subconscious.
“Let’s do our research and talk to the doctor once. He’s nice. Google can be wrong often. We are scientists, not doctors. Let’s leave it to them to know their science. Ok?” he asked lifting her chin towards him searching her eyes for some, any sign of agreement.
But he saw a strong resolve. She was stubborn in most things. But reasonably stubborn. Reason wasn’t going to work this time, he was sure. He could see that her decision was coming from a place of intense pain, years of pain and struggle.
“We can adopt. A child is a child” she spoke after a while, gently, sobbing.
“Um…It’s not the same. Never the same. Moreover, my parents would never agree.” He spoke. Calmly.
If this had freaked him out, he wasn’t showing it. Natasha wondered how he could be so calm and collected on a topic of such importance. She wanted him to fight back, to shout, to show disappointment, anger, anything. No reaction was the worst. It often meant no consideration.
“Abhishek, we will be giving the child a terrible thing at birth. Something they will have to deal with themselves, that we can never help them carry. It’s not fair.” She pleaded.
“We are not sure the child will have it. What if he doesn’t. What if it’s something in your childhood that triggered it, that we could avoid, take care of, be cognizant of and watch out for. We could do a lot of preventive stuff you know. And that’s all futuristic and IF it’s passed on. You see how much of this is based on assumption no?” He kept going, calmly but a little more strongly now. His hand moved away from her shoulder, his grip on her hand loosened.
Natasha grasped his hand, tighter and put her hand on his cheek, rubbing the stubble, now searching for something in his eyes, those deep black eyes roofed by those gorgeous eyelashes.
“You’ve decided to leave me. Just now. You care more about an unborn, unformed life, than me.” She said. Looking at him.
He got up, his back turned to her. He picked up his bulky bag and swung it across his shoulder.
“It’s not like that no. Really. Nothing like that is going to happen. We are great together. We will figure it out.” He said.
“You’re leaving now?” She asked, slight desperation and fear lacing her words.
“It’s not like that no” he bent and kissed her on the forehead, something she adored about him. “It’s late. It’s a Sunday. I have to run some errands for home. We will talk about this tomorrow no. Is that ok?” He asked, straightening up.
“Ok..ok…” Natasha nodded, as he opened the door to leave.
“Bye” he turned and waved his hand, as he pulled the door behind him.
Natasha was lost, slumped on the sofa, tears that she had held so that he could leave peacefully, now started streaming down her cheeks. The thoughts in her mind were storming, scene after scene, worsening futuristic assumptions and what if scenarios.
*Written as part of Write Club Bangalore session on picture prompts. Let me know what you think.