Friday, November 07, 2008

Brimful clouds

It was a gray overcast afternoon and it thundered every now and then. The breeze carried the fragrance of wet-mud and the yellow light made everything glow in a fresh heavenly glitter. Far away, bright flashes of lightning arrowed down to the ground... But it did not rain. The brimful clouds seemed adamant. Much like a pained woman of great restraint who lets not a tear roll down her cheek.

With child-like eagerness, Clint kept drawing the curtains to catch a glimpse of a cloud-burst. He stared at the heavens and then checked the leaves to see if any stray drop had spread glittering diamonds over it. He was so eager to see the towering curtains of water looming from the heavens! But the heavens, it seemed, were out to test his patience that day. Aging Clint smiled and drew back the curtains. He was by now a master at the game of patience. Also his weak eyes could no longer bear the dim glare of even this velvety-yellow light for too long. He was in his sixties, but looked ninety! They say hardships age a person before time...

Just then the door-bell rang. Clint made effort to get off his rocking chair and slowly tread towards the door. Staying all by himself, he didn't have many visitors. So he was a bit surprised at this unexpected call. Outside the door stood a pretty young lady with tears swelling in her soft brown eyes. Maybe she had lesser restraint than the rains or her pain had simply overwhelmed the barricades. Her three-month-old daughter lay fast asleep resting on her shoulder, oblivious to the warmth of her mother's tear-drops that occasionally fell on her bare neck.

"I'm sorry, Pa!", uttered Beth, with a voice that choked at every word. Clint stood stunned for a while, then put his wrinkled arm around her and took her inside. He didn't speak a word, as though he knew & was prepared for the inevitable.

Beth lay the infant on the bed & sat by the fireplace. Clint sat next to her, in his couch that was as old as him. It was after a very long time that the father and his girl were sitting next to each other by the fireplace.

"Shall I get you something?", inquired Clint. Beth just shook her head whilst wiping off her tears.
"Is she hungry?", he inquired about the child. "No, I did feed her before leaving", replied Beth.

A long uncomfortable pause that followed was pregnant with silence.

Clint: "I told you..."
Beth: "I know, I'm sorry Pa... I was foolish..."
Clint: "Men know men better, at most times. He didn't seem a genuine person to me and I told you that..."
Beth: "I was just so much in love... It just felt so right..."
Clint: "But you could have at least given me a patient ear. I'm your only family!"
Beth: "I said I was juvenile. And now I'm paying for it..."
Clint: "Now, it's not just you who's paying..."
Beth: "I'll raise my girl all by myself, she won't be a burden to you".

Beth seemed a little annoyed by now. She was not ready to take the blame for being in love. What wrong had she done?

Clint: "You two are my blood. How can you or the little girl ever be a burden to me?"
Beth: "When u were warning me against him, I just thought you were jealous..."
Clint: "I was! I sure was! This guy came from nowhere and was holding my daughter's arm and was to whisk her away from me. He was to have the honor of your company for life! I strived single-handedly to raise you and now he just takes you away... I sure writhed with jealousy."
Beth: "No... I felt you were jealous as it didn't work for you... Did mom even look back once when she walked out on us? And now, him... Maybe it just takes more than me to be loved..."
Clint: "Now why are you blaming yourself for what your mother did? Women in love act so irresponsible..."
Beth: "Oh ya... Mr. Responsible... and what do u understand about being in love? Maybe that's why mom left you..."
Clint: "Beth! Think before you talk... If I didn't know what love was, I would have gone my way too. I would have got re-married and given you for adoption."
Beth: "Well, maybe that's what you should have done! At least at my hour of need I wouldn't be listening to the list of sacrifices you made for me... And Clint, if I haven't mentioned it in the past, Thank you!"

This was the first time that Beth had called her Pa by his name. To hear his name in this tone from Beth, ached Clint. He wanted to say something, but his lips just shivered and kept mum. It seemed like two hurt souls were alleviating their own pain by poking into the wounds of the other.

The raised voices shuddered the sleeping infant who woke and whimpered a little. Beth got up from her seat near the fireplace and walked towards her to pat her back to sleep as also to get away from Clint. As Beth patted her daughter, Clint patted her and said, "When she grows up, don't let her fall for some loveless man like me".

Beth was overwhelmed. She hugged her father and wept inconsolably. "You've been a great father, Pa... you've been my unfailing support. I'm sorry for being so brash". Clint couldn't hold back his tears either. "It's not your fault, it's not your fault...", he kept on repeating ceaselessly.

Meanwhile outside, the brimful clouds did burst out finally. It poured and poured. It felt as though all tension was let loose, all barricades were breached, all weights were unburdened. The blue skies shone again and diamonds glittered over the leaves of soaked green trees. Suffocating dams had collapsed and relationships had found new paths to trickle into. There was a freshness in this flow. Giggles could be heard from that home that belonged to two girls and an old man.

Acknowledgments -
Painting Illustration - "Father and daughter" by Daniel Maltzman