The orange vase is placed on the left side of the table right next to the lavender candles that you’ve always loved. It hugs three flowers- one is blooming, one is wilting while the third one has been the same since forever. Don’t worry, there are two mats under my plate. This time, the red of the wine won’t slide down my chin onto your spotless table. I still rub a cotton cloth over it every day, just in case.
I remember you said, “The best part of our holidays was that they were ours”. Ours. You, me, we, us. For you, they weren’t about something that happened millions of years ago but something that will happen in those few hours that we’ll be together. And how the memories of those few hours will keep us going for years. Such magic.
And after saying this you went on to occupy the chair that was closest to the kitchen so you could extend your tender arm and get the things you were sure I’d forget. It was one of the many things I could never change. I’d bring the bottles but would forget the glasses, I’d place the butter next to the salt shakers but would forget the knives in the drawer under the counter and sometimes, I’d fill the bowls but would remember the forks only after we had started the meal. I’ve always been incomplete, like a half that isn’t useful. Like a plant full of leaves that can’t grow any flowers. It was later when I realised that I wasn’t even a half but a much smaller piece. And for you, you were more than a hundred. Maybe that is why I deliberately let a few things slip by, maybe I wanted to see your face light up with a childish laugh again and again. Maybe I wanted to see your hair swing like a pendulum when you’d turn around to find the missing cutlery, still giggling on my incompetent table presentation skills. Those days I often realised how overrated the lavender fragrance was.
But I remember this time. I remember how your burger should have exactly one medium lettuce piece. Enough for the crunch but not too much for it to overpower the other ingredients. I remember how the tomatoes should be bathed with mayonnaise and cheese while the oval patties should have the equal amounts of crunch and juice. There is no place for diet on a holiday, right? I remember that one thing that you repeatedly mentioned- how the dripping sauce shouldn’t touch the black plate- “The eyes eat before the mouth does”. I even remember how the onions should resemble the Saturn’s rings and how the humongous Jupiter cake should have exactly three Pluto cherries on it. I’ve remembered it all this time. Come and see.
Your chair is still wrinkled since the last time you stood up, robbing it of the chance to hold you in its feeble arms. I’ve kept it as it is, protecting it from the guests like a soldier of our memories. The doorknob still has the scrapes from your wedding band, how could I repair it for it’s like a medal on my shoulder. Come back and give it another scrape, come back and relieve me of this duty.
I’m just waiting for the bell to ring. For it to blast as loud as it can and help me skip a beat. I may feel something at least.
I open the door, it’s her. I am looking at her tiny face- those same eyes, those same cheeks and that same smile that marked the inception of the sweetest hug that’d follow it. Such magic. We hold each other’s hands and we remember the God. I remember you.
Suddenly the silence is replaced by a familiar laugh, “Daddy, you’ve forgotten the spoons this time.” I place my palm on my forehead as she gets up from the chair near the kitchen. Tears try to slip down my face as I rub them to their death before they try to reach your favourite table.
The holidays are ours indeed. They’ll always be. As the memories fill us up to the brink, we raise a toast to the wilting flower in the orange vase, for it was the most beautiful of all.
Pulkit Khanna graduated from Kirorimal College, Delhi University (India) with a commerce degree. He is currently studying to be a Chartered Accountant. Since his school days, he had always been intrigued by the stories that people carry with them and how these very stories were capable of altering the lives of other people. Hence, he started writing. After being published by various magazines, he is currently preparing for the release of his first novel. Other than penning down his day-to-day conversations with numerous interesting people, Pulkit loves to write about human behaviour, philosophy of everyday life and about silence- the things people don’t say.