A Cup of Tea by MX Steele

Sumati looked out through her grimy kitchen window. Paint peeling off the buildings, moss-covered roofs; laundry fluttering in the breeze, met her unseeing eyes. Here and there a window was open, its shutters pulled to one side – blank testimony to the woman who stood and gazed at them.

How many years had she stood staring at this very scene?

Maybe twenty, she surmised. Whatever, it was a long time, a very long time. Too long and a big waste to spend your life looking out at descript old buildings, she chided herself. Then again that little snapshot was hers and she felt an odd kinship with it. She knew every window, every balcony. She knew when another piece of plaster fell of any building exposing the bricks within. She even knew if the people changed in the houses by the laundry they hung out.

She shifted a bit as perspiration ran in rivulets down her back. Behind her the TV was on – some politician was giving a speech in Delhi, his voice droning on and on and giving her a headache. For the life of her she couldn’t understand why her husband sat transfixed. Maybe that is why they called it the idiot box.

“What happened to my chai?” queried his petulant voice.

Silence greeted his query; she continued staring out of the window. The crows were flying low over the rooftops. The sky was ominous and pregnant with low grey clouds.

Hmmm, she thought distractedly, rain again I had better get in the washing.
A drop of hot water splashed on her hand from the boiling pot on the stove. Instinctively she jerked it away and used her saree pallu to dab at it.

“Arre! Are you getting my tea or not?” his voice rose in irritation.

She turned around measuredly to look at him. He sat on the leather couch with his back to her, slouched down on its inflexible surface. Even though she could only see his bald head, she knew exactly what he was wearing; his loose white cotton pajamas which he bought every two years from P.N. Varajkar on Girgaum Road and his once white cotton vest (only from VIP and only the ones with half sleeves). Seriously, why did he even make the effort to say something, when she knew exactly what he was going to say even before he said it. Her sister called it being married for so long, she called it being boring. Well she had better get him his tea or his next words would be: Can’t you even get a cup of chai ready in time?” She turned back to the stove, her hand reaching out to the bottle of tea leaves on the counter.

“Why do you keep staring out of that window, what do you see there?”

She stopped, her body rigid with shock. She cast a sideways glance at him; was he actually interested in what she was looking at?

He had broken his pattern, but why today, she wondered? Even as she opened her mouth to answer, she heard him announce sweepingly… “All a stupid waste of time, nothing there but some people throwing rubbish out of their windows. If it stops you from doing your work, maybe I should just cover it up.”

Sumati almost choked on the bile that rose up in her throat. Her hands shook so much that she held on tightly to the counter to steady herself. She turned around with a sharp retort on her lips but she saw that he had already turned away and lost interest in her. Maybe it was better that he stuck to a pattern; at least that way he left her alone. How could he even think of boarding up her window? There was a kitchen knife lying on the counter beside her. She silently picked it up and hefted it in her hand, it felt good. Cold and powerful. She deliberately looked over at him and then at the knife in her hand. He wasn’t even looking at her. Maybe she could just walk over and stick it into the back of his neck even as he sat there.

She deliberately looked over at him and then at the knife in her hand. He wasn’t even looking at her. Maybe she could just walk over and stick it into the back of his neck even as he sat there.

Would I be able to do it? she wondered.

Then he said something that helped her make up her mind.

“Seriously Sumati, your brain must have got frozen, standing there for twenty years looking out of the same window. That too at the backs of some dirty old buildings. That window takes up too much of your time, it will make you mad one day.”

A strange feral sound escaped her lips. She shook her head vigorously from side to side as if to get rid of some disturbing thoughts. She was leaning against the kitchen counter now, staring at him.

She hated him, she just hated him with his bald head and a few strands pulled over to the other side in a pathetic attempt to hide it. She hated the way he spoke to her, she hated the way he dressed, she hated the way he talked, the way he ate his food. She took a deep breath… but that was her and she could handle it. But he could not talk about her window like that. With an anguished cry she ran over to the couch and stuck the knife in to his chest as deep as it could go. His eyes questioned her… “Why?” even as they slowly glassed over. She drew it out carefully and then pushed it back in; into the stomach this time, again and again. Until he could breathe no more. Sumati laughed great big guffaws from deep within.

She was free! Free! Free! He could not touch her again.

She leaned back on her heels, surprised at how easy it had been.

“Where is my tea?”

Was she imagining it? A spear of lightning lit up the sky, shaking her out of her reverie.

He still sat there on the couch, demanding his cup of tea.

She turned around and walked over to him, her hand wrapped carefully in her pallu by her side. He looked up as she sat down beside him and then she turned to him and smiled.

Each and every person has a dark side and MX Steele says that is what she wants to talk about and bring out into the open. Not for her the sunny characters who skip through life but her inspiration is Darth Vadar.

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