Participating in Friday Fiction 221. The idea came to me almost immediately but I found this quite hard to write..
Raghu sat there a stone throw away from the top of the hill with this ankle nestled in his hands. The pain shot through this ankle and through his feet and toes as he tried to flex his foot. In addition to the pain in his ankle he felt another wave of misery sweep through his insides. This had been a terrible idea.
Three years ago today he had lost his wife to a road accident. It had been the worst three years of his life. Three years ago he was a whole man. A man with a job, ideas, hobbies, friends and a wife that he had loved, who had loved him. His two children were grown and settled abroad. He had made trips with his wife to visit them every alternate year and they had visited the other years.
The death had caught him unprepared. As a child who had lost parents rather early he had always felt that he had already paid his dues. And his wife, his wife. What is left to be said about shared domesticity. It had not been high highs and low lows as his wife liked to say. They had always been a calm couple. Married young, they seemed to fit together well, well enough. And after his initial reluctance to love anyone who could die on him he had opened up.
They had weaved their daily routines, hobbies, friends in out around each other for the past 35 years - a great giant banyan tree of a relationship. And her death had caught him with his guard down. Taken his breath away. Sitting on top of the sparse hill he took a deep breath. It felt like the first one after a very long time.
This had been his first hike after... In the three years in between life had been so hard. Simple things. Getting up, getting dressed, going to work, not screaming out in pain, eating lunch, coming home, eating dinner, going to bed. Maintaining this simple routine seemed to take all that he had to offer. He had dared not introduce any variations with the fear that everything would come tumbling down.
To begin with friends had called, his children had called almost everyday but one by one all had dropped off. His children still called him once every week at the weekend but for the rest of time he was alone. Alone just barely managing to keep up his routine. He figured sooner or later the routine would get easier and then he could start reintroducing all of the other people, experiences into his life again.
This hike in fact was a variation. The last two years on this day he had waited patiently for his children to call and then once it was over had fallen apart over a bottle of wine. It was in fact the only day of the year that he allowed himself any alcohol. With his perceived predilection for alcohol, he had been terrified to drink at all after she had died.
As he sat alone with a sense of despair growing Raghu realised almost for the first time that it was never going to get easier. He tried to stand up and get moving but realised that the pain was just too much for him even to limp with most of his weight on his other leg. He sat down again and check his phone, there was only a tiny bit of charge left. Raghu did not have anyone to call who would willingly drop everything and come and get him. There were still a few friends who would do it with some private grumbling but the thought filled Raghu with despair. They would do it because they pitied him.
This was exactly what he was hoping to avoid with his unwavering routine. This feeling of helplessness, of despair, of rage at the unfairness of it all. If he let everything in he was not sure he could cope.
He lay back against a bare rock and looked up at the sky. The mountains cleared his head slowly. As the breeze rose he felt himself start to breathe deeply. He closed his eyes and the exhaustion from all the emotions made his muscles go limp. He made up his mind and picked up the phone and dialed.
It rang and went to voicemail
" Hi this is Malini Raghu. I am not available at the moment but please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day"
For the first time in all the time he had listened to her voice he smiled a little at his dirty little secret. Continuing to pay her mobile bill had been an indulgence to begin with but off late he felt guilt and shame at his inability to move on. Maybe he should have made a little more of a scene, cried more, drank more, been a bigger disaster. Maybe then three years would not have found him on a hike alone with no one to call.
He sat up and decided to wait for the two youngsters that had been in front of him through the hike. They had reached the top and had gone on further to visit the waterfall. The thought of inconveniencing strangers did not fill him with dread at the moment. He would make a scene. And when he got home he would call his children, cry some more, take a vacation, let it hurt some more.