The clock had struck twelve and as usual, he was being scolded by mom for being up at midnight.She tried to put him to sleep in their single rented room by switching off that light humming like a bee. Something was not letting him sleep. His movements, restlessness and that act of looking for the door to open with the eyes of a thief; all of them spoke for him. In a low and hesitant voice, he asked,” Mom, when will dad return from the party?”
“Dear,you know that parties run late. Go to sleep as you have school tomorrow.”
There were bigger questions still unanswered but none bothered to change the conversation to an argument. It was twenty minutes past twelve. Except that fan, all noises and movements dead.Total silence. The kid slowly whispered ,” I know dad will come in a while.He will keep his promise.” She did’nt say anything just caressed his forehead and went out into the corridor.After a while, she peeped through a hole in that door only to find her little one, gazing at the fan.
She went inside.
“Your dad just called the landlord uncle to inform that he will come tomorrow morning. Did’nt you hear the footsteps? Your aunty specially came downstairs to tell me. She knew that you would be waiting for him.So, now….”
Her words were lost in the air.Her husband was drunk again. The kid jumped out of his bed to welcome his father with complaints and questions.He shouted and punched his dad.
“You told me that you would be on time. You promised I won’t drink again.But, you did that all again!”
Meanwhile, she made her shaky husband sit on a chair and served that lime water she had already prepared. She snatched a polythene bag from him, looked into it and walked away into the kitchen.The talk continued..
“I am sorry dear! My friends requested..me…to give them company…and I taught you naa…”
“…that we don’t say no to friends. I know dad.”
“But, see I kept my promise..Did’nt you check the poly bag..??
“Dad! you brought ice cream for me? Vanilla? I told you I hate strawberry.”
“Yes dear..where’s the bag darling??”
“Mom…Mom…give me the ice cream..I will go to sleep then.”
He went to the kitchen like a rocket. She was standing with the refrigerator at her back, as if, she was trying to hide something.Unable to notice those moist eyes, he demanded for it again.
“Baby,I am so sorry! You can’t have it now. It has melted.I have put it in the freezer, so that you can have it in the morning. And, I will not make you drink that milk tomorrow..only tomorrow..okay..So, go to sleep now”
The Sun being out, it was a new day again.She picked up her bicycle: perhaps, the only thing that gave her wings! And, rushed to the nearby shop. With each pedal she pedalled, her heart pumped harder and the intensity of prayers increased. She knew it well that what a heartbreak meant! It is something which is’nt experienced exclusively in love.The closed shutter gave her a sarcastic smile as if it asked her:
“Babe! where in this pea sized town, can you find an ice cream cup at 6 O’clock in the morning?”
She pedalled back home, thinking of answers to her child’s questions.As she thought of waking him up, she saw him humming and brushing his teeth as if it were a hobby to him.
“Good Morning Mom!”, he greeted as he threw some foam out.
Busy preparing the breakfast, she could’nt stop looking at the refrigerator. How could she tell her little one that the polythene bag had no ice cream but remains of what his dad…
How bad it was?Her husband though drunk, still remembered that he had to bring ice cream for his kid.Yes, he loved him.He committed those mistakes again and again, but still she could’nt doubt his love for the kid.This time someone at the party, may have played this prank with this drunkard and handed over that polythene bag.Yes, society wants fun and it can be, rather it has to be, at the cost of others because it’s cool! She could imagine her man asking to pack a scoop or two for his kid..and….this..
“Mom, where’s the ice cream.Come on,serve it fast as I am getting late.”
She goes down on her knees.
“Son, I will bring an ice cream brick for you, that too vanilla! Yesterday, after you slept, there was a power cut. So, whole of it flowed down into the fridge. I cleaned it up just now.And, it was strawberry not vanilla.So, you would’nt have bothered to even look at it.”
“No..No..I don’t want any ice cream now. Is the fridge working? I hope that dirty strawberry did’nt turn it into a defective one.”
“The fridge is working fine baby! And when both of us return, we have the ice cream together! Now, dear drink that milk that I’ve put in your favourite glass.”
“All right! and mom, someday we will have our own big house and there will be no power cut as we will own a generator too! and a big big car!”
She smiled as he hurriedly drank the milk and rushed to the bus stop.He was gone now. She wondered for how long her child will console himself dreaming of good days. Lost in thoughts,she picked up that polythene bag and went out to dump it.It still smelled of puke…