I woke up earlier than usual yesterday. But waking up would imply that I had got some sleep. I should just say I got out of bed earlier than usual. It creaked in disagreement. I cringed and almost bit my tongue, but she didn’t stir. Crying through the night had drained her out.
I took one long swig of coffee. A comforting wave of heat ran down my throat when she woke up, in pain once again. The stomach flu which my little girl had just recovered from had left a ear infection as its replacement. I felt her forehead. The fever had raised its hood again. My normally happy little girl was slumped on the couch, too tired to even cry anymore.
If I call the pediatrician now, will I get an appointment?
Should I just take her to urgent care?
I wonder if they’ll put her on antibiotics.
My phone buzzed next to my cup of tepid coffee. It was my dad.
“Many Happy Returns of the Day!” He had written. Had I forgotten something? What day was it? A few seconds later, I smiled. My dad never forgets.
On this day, 9 years ago, I sat in the backseat of my sister’s car, feeling the salty air of the Arabian Sea blowing through my hair. I had carefully chosen my outfit. Something that was midway between traditional and modern. A kurta and jeans, and I was sweating through them. I was meeting the man I had virtually dated for the last six months, in person. Everything had clicked between us until then. We both loved nerdy jokes, food and traveling. I loved to talk, he loved to listen.
But what if he had a weird tick I couldn’t ignore?
“It’s going to be fine!” my sister clearly sensed my anxiety. “Besides, if it starts to go south, just text me!” She winked.
“I’m here!” I texted with about ten smileys from outside the restaurant. I was still in the car, just in case I needed a quick escape.
My phone buzzed almost immediately. I saw his tall frame standing on the opposite side of the road, dressed in black slacks and a striped shirt. Those black slacks, as I would come to know later, saw the light of the day only on special occasions.
“I see you.” his text read.
I was still inside the car. He couldn’t have seen me. Who was he looking at? It was someone waiting outside the restaurant in a heavily bedazzled ghagra, the Indian equivalent of a ball gown. He started walking across, looking at the girl in the ghagra and veered towards me as soon as I got out of the car. To this day, he argues that he had indeed seen me. I highly doubt that. I will also never understand why he thought I would wear that to meet him. But the night ended with a proposal and a ring on my finger. My future with him started with a good laugh.
Had it really been nine years?
This year, our special day was a blur, between visits to the pediatrician and the pharmacy. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t celebrate. The sinking feeling of growing old took over. I’m not sure if it was the sleepless nights or the exhaustion, but I was feeling morose. How mundane this day had become! Where was the romance?
After my daughter was finally in bed, I stood in the balcony under the night sky for some quiet. My husband’s head bobbed up and down as he loaded the dishwasher. I motioned for him to join me.
A couple walked past our house on the sidewalk below. The man had his arm wrapped around her like a security blanket and was hanging on to every word she whispered into his ears.
“Ugh, look at them!” I rolled my eyes.
“We used to be like that.” I said wistfully.
“We still are.” He put his arm around me.
“But there are days when I want to kill you.” I said, laughing.
“You do?” He asked in mock horror.
“Don’t you?” I asked.
“Do I feel like killing you? Sure I do! But I don’t because I love you.”
Nine years later, he still knows what to say. The romance may be buried under parental responsibilities and piles of laundry, but it’s alive and well.