How can I help you say goodbye
We were her regulars. It’s seen by the way her hands hover over the largest ones in her pile. Our smile makes her decide. And later the extending fingers of the smile roped in her family.
Certain days it would be husband who chopped in quick sure strokes our daily dose of good health. We would see her sit in the shade of the tree they have claimed as their own, nursing her baby. Once in a while her little daughter would stare at us, her small features forming into a prefect scowl.
The unseen cool waters of the tender coconut that rushes up the transparent yellow straw…
And so it was everyday. Only the straw colors would differ. And yes, the scowls too- with varying, or sometimes I thought, deepening levels of intensity.
So when we didn’t see the entire family for some days, we were worried. I think it had to do a lot with the breaking of a pattern. In the many months that we knew them not once have I cared to ask their name or if at all I had to take steps in familiarity it would be to shove their little girl in a warm bath and scrub her to cleanliness.
And she magically reappeared claiming her same old tree with her green bunch of coconuts with their secret waters.
She didn’t appear surprised when we stopped. Holding the chosen ones in my hand, I ask conversationally, “Where were you all these days?”
She leans on the car while she tells me what I shouldn’t have asked.
Her 5 month old baby died. Just like that one morning. After she nursed him and put him to sleep. She woke up as usual, bustled about the house, maybe picked up his dropped toys which she was too lazy to pick up the night before. And when she had to cook breakfast and realized she was short of food, she picked up her what she thought sleeping baby to go shopping with her. When she pressed the cold lifeless body to her bosom, the first realization that something was wrong struck her.
Her final realization after that period of numbness filled with waiting in the hospital watching busy doctors, sicker people, and a proclamation; was of loss.
No one knew what had gone wrong. She least of all.
I think her story stopped long before I realized it did.
She was back to work. She did not have the luxury to dwell in grief.