Short Story: The Cycle by Malini Gupta
It had happened again. He could hear it in the flatness of her voice. He felt that familiar rage taking shape inside his head, but forced himself to concentrate on her voice. “Yes,” he said, “I have noted down the list. Shall I repeat it, Didimoni?”
“No, no need, just bring it over when you have the time,” she replied, her voice flat and exhausted.
If he could, he would have rushed over with the groceries right away. But that would not help. Making a tremendous effort, he kept his mind on his work, on Barun da’s endless chit chat and instructions. He even managed to smile at one or two of his jokes. As they shut down the shop, Barun da helped him to load the three or four grocery bags, for the home deliveries Rongon would make before he went home. And, as every day, Barun da called after him—“Go home straight after the deliveries, Rongon—those boys are not good for you! And come on time tomorrow.”
As Rongon cycled away, he thanked the Universe for bringing him to Barun da’s doorstep, and as he did unfailingly, as he thanked the Universe, he remembered to register his complaint against it. But there was no time— here was the Banerjee house, and he got off his cycle to deliver the bag of groceries. As he completed the next three deliveries, his heart began to quicken. He slowed down as always, his emotions slowly spooling away from his control, slowing his cycle, tightening his voice, clamping down on his soul.
The light outside the verandah was on. Didimoni was home. Often when she wasn’t, he would rest his cycle on the gnarled banyan tree next to the gate of her beautiful bungalow. On the other side of the tree, its roots and branches entwined to make a natural seat. He would sit there and often doze off, waking up when he heard Didimoni’s office car turn around the corner. There had been times when, tired from a day’s work, he had fallen fully asleep under the tree. He had woken to Didimoni’s gentle, steady voice and her hand ruffling his hair as she called to him to wake up. Even as he thought of her touch, he felt the heat rise in him.
Stumbling, stammering, he had woken up, “Oh, Didimoni! I am sorry, sorry!”
“There is no need to be,” Didimoni had said, smiling at him. “You work hard every day, don’t you? And you need not have waited for me—you could have delivered and gone home, Rongon.”
“I would never….” He’d begun harshly, checking himself just in time, saying nothing but standing silently, unable to meet her eyes.
And yet, every fibre of his being had been aware of her presence as if she was Life itself. He’d known, without looking at her, that the smile had vanished from her eyes and the sadness had returned. It swamped her entire existence and changed her person. He’d finally managed to look up. She, too, stood looking at him, knowing he knew.
“Come,” she’d said, turning away from him and moving into the bungalow.
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