The first time Arun and I go out after I lose my voice is to Niti and Kevin’s house. The evening of December tenth, their wedding anniversary. Eight years they’ve been married, eight years we’ve been friends. If I skip their party, they won’t hold it against me. Our friendship is stronger than that, but Arun won’t let me test it.
“You’ve got to get out of the house” —his answer to everything I say.
When the argument tires me out, I give in. The other guests have already filled up their lawn when we arrive. I peer at the crowd from inside the car. Panic pins me to my seat. I can’t breathe, can’t stretch my arm out and reach for the door. An avalanche of sympathy is about to hit me. Condolences are the last thing I want, but condolences will bury me alive when I go out there.
“Come on,” Arun says, taking my hand. He’s freshly shaved and showered, free of the workday’s grime. His cologne, strong and musky, lingers in the air.
He springs up from the driver’s seat. I stay put. The car is safe haven, the lawn a minefield.
“You’ll be fine, Pallavi,” he promises, looking me in the eye. This is the lawyer talking. He can fake an air of cheery confidence even if his chances of rolling back the tide of sympathy are zero. The world will commiserate. Neither of us can rein it in.
“Give me a minute,” I whisper. My voice is a harsh,
raspy sound. Broken. Beyond repair.
Arun cheers me on. “We can do this …You and me, together.”
I want to scream, but the only sound that comes out of my mouth is a whimper. A faint mew—the kind of noise a kitten makes when it gets left out in the rain. To lose your sight is to go blind; to lose your hearing to go deaf. What is the right word for a voiceless singer?
I stay in the car till Kevin and Niti come running to the gate, smiling, waving at us. Niti is Arun’s closest friend. They went to law school together, graduated top of their class, and stayed friends even after joining rival law firms. Their friendship is a thing of wonder. How it thrives, defying the rules of the rat race, is a mystery to all the other lawyers in town.
Niti was the first to hear about my loss. I’m not sure how exactly Arun explained the doctors’ verdict to her, but explain it he did. She heard the news before the tabloids and tv channels sniffed it out and came running to write my obituary. Swarms of reporters flooded our home. OB vans camped out at the gate, brazen camera crews stomped over the lawn. The stories they spun were all written in the past tense. “Pallavi was India’s leading classical vocalist…” “The virtuoso’s voice held the world under its spell”…“She was a supremely gifted singer, a rock star in her own right…”
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