“Once you have kids, your heart doesn’t stay intact inside, instead pieces of it roams outside hither thither. “ She thought out loud, staring at the diminishing landscape below as the plane took off. I quit my admiring gaze at the beautiful greenery and turned towards a pair of beautiful eyes, forlorn and lost somewhere far away. I was on my way to attend a two-day conference in Milan. My glimpse brought her to senses, she excused herself, with a smile that I recognised as one that tries to gulp the lump in the throat. A smile that made her eyes small enough to hide the tears welling up. I was at once arrested by a curiosity to know more of her story.
As a psychology major, I sensed her personality type wouldn’t give in for a small talk. I remarked, “ Home is where the heart is, then where would you say your home is?” “I would say I have no home”, she replied. I persisted, “The ones who are loved are not homeless.“
“Do you conclude that I am loved?” she asked.
I was taken aback by the sudden onus of an explanation. Or was it rhetorical? I managed to hide my awkwardness with a friendly introduction, “My name is Hector, I am an intern at the Institute of Psychological Health.” “ I am Kayla.” By now, I concluded that she was a woman of fewer words, loved or not. After a lot of cross-questioning, I gathered that she was a mother of three and an analyst by profession. And that was all I could gather before we relapsed into silence.
The silence was broken by a baby who started crying incessantly from another row. After a while, I noticed her stiffening with anxiety. “Does that affect you?”, I asked. “My babies never cried for that long, I never let them. I feel sorry for the kids whose mothers cannot understand their child’s needs.” I had nothing intelligent to talk about babies, so I kept my mouth shut, but not for long.
She took out a book, “Forty rules of love” by Elif Shafak and started reading it.
I was never too popular with courtesy and diplomacy, so I interrupted her, “But of course, there is love? “ “What is a love that is only assumed and never shown? How long will you wait outside a door that doesn’t open? And suppose it opens, would you still want to enter it? Worse, what if you enter another door?” I immediately regretted my lack of decorum. I made a mental note to always let an ardent reader read without interrupting. I have let out a flurry of deep questions on myself while she waited for me to reply.
I quickly summoned the air hostess for a glass of water and tried to close the topic.
“Whatever it is, I am sure you would choose wisely.”
“If there were no choices, there would be no regrets.” Yes, I can vouch for that from my own experience of a minute ago. She definitely was not a woman of less words.
“It is easy to choose wisely when a decision solely affects you. But when it influences many others in your list of unordered priorities, it becomes extremely difficult.” She went on. I listened attentively. “My kids are going to be apart soon, even though they are so young to leave the nest. My nest crumbles perhaps because of my inability.” Her voice cracked. That explained the pieces of the heart.
My heart melted and eyes blurred. This is a pain only a mother knows, just like childbirth. I had heard of the empty nest syndrome, but I could never fathom the depth of it. Even if I become a dad someday.
I fell into meaningless reveries while she read the rest of the rules of love. I was pretty sure she had her own hefty rulebook of love, up her sleeves. Her thoughts would kill her and reading was an escape from those thoughts.
Very soon, our flight landed with a thud and racing speed. We walked to the exit and as a parting note, I comforted her, “You are an amazing person, your children are so lucky to have you.”
“I doubt it, Hector. I failed everyone who loved me. To the point where they took me for granted. I failed them every moment I didn’t let them struggle on their own. While hatching, the egg has to be cracked open from the inside for the young ones to be strong enough to face the world. Instead, I cracked it for them from the outside.”
Leaving me pierced with profound words like sharp arrows, she walked away while I gazed at her direction for what seemed to others like an eternity.