If you are the early rooster variety, we’re unlikely to ever be friends. From my balcony on the 1st floor, I can’t fathom what on earth tickles the bright and earlies into jiggling large smiles and tiny shorts at 6.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Can they perceive things I can’t? Visions in the slab of grey overhead? Soul-stirring music from the feather-bags in trees?
A pigeon poops on my slipper in retort. I suppose that’s fair. Feather-bag is not an accurate description. Shrill feather-bag is more like it. The poop dries on my slipper as I meditate upon a slew of brown water stains running down the apartment building across the street. I am too tired to move.
A window swings open in the upper reaches of the building and a feminine hand pops out, decorated in colourful bracelets, holding a cigarette. It retreats briefly for a puff and pops out again, resting meditatively on the window-sill as smoke wafts up to the sky. Young, idle, probably making plans for the weekend… up a hill one Friday morning from a whatsapp exchange the night before… down an isle of monogrammed bags from a passing glance through the window…
The old me? A free spirit, master of her world, click-clocking really good-looking lawyer heels down that straight line between desire and happiness called do-whatever-you-want-whenever-you-want.
If she were to lean out of the window, how would she see me now? Popping almonds beneath a mop of wiry hair in a white frock buttoned awry and pigeon-pooped slippers. She’d see a mom. Only moms look like they’re forever recovering from seeing a ghost. Or preparing to meet one. She’d probably give me a once over, roll her eyes and go back to chirpier thoughts befitting her morning cigarette. Should she wear the ‘can’t help being stylish’ pink dress or the ‘real, not like the other girls’ grey jeans for her weekend hill trip?
The old me had no time to waste on the crazy moms of the world. She didn’t mull the mysteries that made her own mom receive bad news with unearthly calm but cry to the skies over mundane hellos and goodbyes. Or purse her lips when dad bickered about the daal at dinner but explode if his slippers were found a forgivable distance from the shoe-rack. She simply dismissed her mom as irrational. An untimely bhajan loudspeaker over a peaceful neighbourhood that couldn’t be reasoned into moderation because, well, god. If she ever became a mom herself, she’d be different, of course. Laid back and in control. You know, chill.
The Universe took her up on that challenge rather unexpectedly. A bottle of absinthe emptied itself in her tummy at a birthday party. A little bean danced in its place on the ultrasound screen six weeks later. It can’t be a coincidence that it was an apple that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, and an apple that fell on Newton to reveal the laws of gravity. At some point, your hedonistic irreverence is bound to whack you hard on the head and make you realise your inevitable fall.
I can’t tell you the rest of the story. Scratch that. I have no words to tell you the rest of the story. No words to describe what happens to the heart when it looks up from a crib with recognition in its eyes for the first time and says ‘waa waa’ – in a way that could have been ‘maa maa’ – and then proceeds to lunge to the floor without warning. The thud to the outside world is nothing compared to the one in the mama’s chest. Those watching think what follows is hysteria. But they didn’t witness the real fall, and they don’t know who is really hurting, or where.
Slowly, I realised I was stuck. In that moment in the labour room before the contractions become unbearable. Peering into a black-hole of immeasurable joy and unspeakable pain, fused together in such a way that no science can grasp what is what. Relieved to have gotten this far. Paranoid I might not see it through. Calling all my gods this last time, I promise, and telling myself that everything will be ok.
That moment is my whole life now. And while I struggle to regain control, all physical alibis of comfort have abandoned me, throwing their weight on the other side of an unfairly balanced see-saw like bullies. Sleep no longer restores my nights, warmth no longer reassures my cups of tea, loo-breaks no longer excuse me from a tense moment.
Now from this mooda eight months on, I cannot explain to the girl in the window why I passively watched my son cry himself to sleep moments ago, and why I cry sometimes when he giggles in my arms. Or why the fabled morning sky is uninspiring, and the chirping birds, shrill. I can quip that she might know for herself some day when she becomes a mother, but those words ring uncomfortably close to something my mom would have said.
All I can say is, be kind, dear Donna, as you look down upon my hapless and seemingly possessed tribe. No matter what you think of us now, you’ll fare no better when it is your turn. Nobody chooses motherhood in the way you think they do, and nothing prepares you for it in the way you think possible. Don’t let the fun you’re having delude you. In truth, your high perch of vacant weekends and thoughtless vices is only an apple’s throw away from my lowly scatter of bearings. The Universe is watching, and waiting.