The day was already getting over, and my house was still a mess! My new house. I remember the day I saw this place, we were hunting for a house for myself as I had to be shifted to this town for my project and that’s when we saw this- the quaint little individual cottage, built in British style, with huge French windows, yellow walls, a cute little garden and white picket-fence… there was a huge oak tree behind the house which stood erect and proud, as if it’s guarding the house against enemies, nature and fate. As if the house was a delicate beautiful woman and the tree its protective lover… my husband laughed at me that I live in fantasy and that I am falling in love with the concept of love.
Me and my husband- we had a tumultuous affair which culminated in a beautiful marriage but every once in a while, it pops into my mind that with marriage being the priority, love has taken a backseat. The affection was there, the longing was there, but life ultimately took priority over love. And now our works were taking us on separate paths- me shifting to a faraway small town and he remaining in our faraway base town. Seeing my longing for this house, hubby darling decided to lease it out for me- The property dealer told us that this house belonged to a childless widow who passed away recently. A distant nephew opted to put this house up for lease. And within a week- after my essentials were delivered- my husband left, promising to come to me regularly. The excitement of new house eclipsed any pangs of separation, I joyfully bid him adieu.
As the day waned away and as tiredness seeped in, I decided to explore the bedroom thoroughly. Though it lay bare as of yet and though I had my sleeping arrangements in the living room for the moment, there was one huge wooden weather and time beaten chest. The metal ornamental handles were now rusted and the dark brown layer of first coating of the wood was now peeling away from the corners. There was a huge rusty lock on it and in that bare room, it reminded me of the Pandora’s Box. I had no inkling that this box would turn out to be the Pandora’s Anti-box – where Pandora’s Box unleashed misery and anguish and hope as well – this box will unleash my emotions, my long forgotten love and my jest for life and of course the fear that I might lose all of it again.
I sat for a long time in that room- contemplating and debating with myself if I want to open up this chest and violate someone’s privacy or should I open up this chest and bring alive the life of those whose secrets are buried in this box. Curiosity won over the ethics and I ended up with a hammer and one stroke unhinged the lock. With a deep sigh I heaved the top of the box open and laid my eyes on myriad of memories.
I dug into the box and one by one admired the treasure. First there was bundle – some photographs, dog eared and faded, black and white photographs of a tiny, petite woman in a tunic and a tall man… hands around each other or sipping tea or of the lady sleeping or of the man gardening or of the lady on the swing with unabashed laughter and wind in the hair… the photographs were a treasure in itself…. and then there were few accessories each being a gift probably- symbolizing some occasions and then there were some shells and smooth rocks and then there was a carefully packed, beautiful white wedding gown… except for the veil which was moth eaten, the whole wedding trousseau was intact and ready to go. It was a full sleeved slender wedding dress with a train and satin shoes, gloves and a set of blue earrings… just looking at the dress brought back my own memories, my own wedding day… the anticipation, nervousness and the excitement….
And lastly there was a tiny shoe-box which contained few letters. The yellowed crisp letters must have been read and reread as the letters were now almost torn from the folds and there were thumb marks and tear smudges… I tentatively opened up the first letter, it was not merely a love letter- it was a letter of devotion, of commitment, of longing, of passion. It was not merely a letter – I was handling a piece of life in my trembling hands…
April 22, 1950
I miss you, I miss your laughter. You know yesterday, just before dawn, I went to a place which locals here say is the most beautiful place here, but you know Pat, this place is an empty beauty. I could not enjoy the so called beauty as you were absent from my side. And then I closed my eyes and imagined you next to me, Pat you would not believe- the air there smelt of pine and salt and crisp freshness and there was a scent unique to you. And when morning arrived above the pine tree, you merged with sun and dew… you touched me and went away… I felt a sharp pain… Pat can’t you come here? Can’t you come to me and take away the pain and to give new memories?
Come to me Pat, make me whole. I am waiting…
I don’t know yet what I am to you.
Though this letter was a short one, but I could feel the pain of this James, I rummaged through the box and saw only Jamie’s letters to Pat, who I figured would be Patricia. There were no responses- may be those were with Jamie instead. I picked up another letter.
June 30, 1954
My Pat, My own sweet Pat,
After four years you accepted me! After four years to pining for you, finally you will be mine! Oh My Pat! I am eagerly waiting to embrace you! You know Pat, I can never have enough of you. Yesterday when you said yes to me, I thought my life’s ambition is fulfilled, I am complete.
When you held me in your arms and hugged me to your bosom, and whispered all those words that you wanted me, those words were woven around my dreams of you, Pat. I have earlier been in love Pat, but I did not know what it was- you taught me the meaning of love. I was walking alone till yesterday, and now I have you. You tormented me for these four years- you hurt me. And I had my own share of doubts but I also had the conviction that without you Pat, I am nothing.
You are my home, my place to go
My faith returned, you told me so…
Don’t you ever leave me Pat, it took me so many years to hear these words. Love me again and love me always, open up your heart to my faults and mend these broken parts inside me.
Now I am yours!
And this letter was testimony of joy! Reading this one made me as happy as Jamie might have felt that day. And then the third letter…
October 15, 1954
My Sweet Pat,
I know that you are just a room across, and I know that tomorrow you will be mine in the name of God, tomorrow you will be mine! Wow! I have been waiting for this day and the day will be finally here! Still, Still! Still it pains me that I can’t see you today- you being so near… I know that you are feeling the same anguish, the same longing…
Let the light of your memories
Come to me…
Slowly and gently, let them
Caress me, touch me…
Let them touch me and
Make love to me…
Let your shadow come and
Kiss me… gently…
Gently and softly let it
Come to me…
Let your shadow, your memories
Bring you to me…
Come and sit beside me…
Come and untangle the satin
Satin which covers me…
Touch me, touch me and
Let me feel…
Feel your fingers on my back…
Let me feel the ecstasy…
Come and embrace me,
Hide me in your soul…
Take me away from me,
Waiting for you!
And this letter unleashed the passion I had stowed away… The next letter brought the fear of losing…
May 23, 1967
You must be wondering that I am being so formal. But I do not know how else to start Pat! Pat, though you reign my heart, but I find myself lost. I know that I need to be back, back to where I belong- to you! You are my home, Pat. But there is something amiss. You know it. I know it. I never wanted to betray your trust, your faith in me. But I have done that. And I can’t silently let throw everything under the rug. I did, whatever, I did, willingly. I willingly chose to forget you, I willingly chose to astray. I willingly challenged the fate. I always knew, though you won’t believe it, that whatever I do, you won’t go away from my heart ever.
Why it so happens that when you want to go ahead in life, you are faced with invisible obstacles and whatever you do, you cannot breach that wall. You can never go beyond it. You can’t even transcend your soul above it… It happened with me too Pat. I wanted to go away but realized that I can’t! And when came the time to turn back, and when I did turn back, I found that I am standing at the end of nowhere. You were not there Pat. You could not hear my desperate call. I could not find my way back on the path I traveled.
Where should I go now, Pat? I know that path is nothing but my ego. Hit me… Right where it hurts, right on the old ego… Hit me, hit me so that I realize myself. Push me, push me so that I fall deep deep in my soul…
Accept me again Pat,
Lost the right of being called yours.
This letter was so full of pain and so heart wrenching that I could not control the tears. I was not feeling as much for Jamie, as I was feeling for Patricia. She must be so guilty that somehow she pushed him away. My thoughts wandered to my husband… and I scolded myself for even harboring those silly thoughts. I picked up the next letter…
October 15, 1968
My darling, darling Pat. I once again have the right to call you mine… As I write this, I am looking at you. Sleeping. Did anyone ever tell you that you look so beautiful when you are asleep? You look amazingly beautiful. Tomorrow, we are going to celebrate not only our 14 years of existence but also the fact that you rescued me from myself. You rescued me and hugged me and promised to always cushion my fall. I shall be ever grateful to you.
I am not a very good person Pat, but I am not that “cold-hearted”. I know what I am, but with you- with you, I am someone else… The memories of moments with you will last forever. With you, I always seem to go from high to low and back again to high… in no time… you know, though you are overall a beautiful person, it’s your voice which has the capacity to capture any heart. As I am looking at you, I think about your voice… almost like the breath of a passerby on a crowded city street.
You have a special, very special heart and a mind so adventurous! Pat, promise me that if I ever go away, though I promise nothing other than the Almighty will ever make me go away from you, but still promise that you will be happy. Promise me that you will cherish my bitter sweet memories….
Pat, after so many years together, I realize that you were made for me and I was for you. The paths may not have been so easy, the happiness may not have always been permanent, but contentment was always there, wasn’t it? Together is the best place to be. Happy anniversary, wife!
Thank you for loving me.
And I smiled. Jamie won her again. His love was strong and Pat’s love was even stronger. This was the last letter in that shoe-box.
I rummaged through the Chest, but there was nothing more in it. I stacked the letters carefully back in the box and kept everything in the Chest. The curtain-less window showed the red sky peeping in. I looked at that old chest and smiled. This was my own Pandora’s “Anti-box”.
I rushed down and checked my cell phone and saw 6 missed calls from my husband. A smile played on my face. I called him up. And I heard his frantic scolding and I laughed. I laughed aloud and shouted that I love him. I told him about that Chest and again he said I am living in fantasies but I could hear the smile in his voice.
Throughout the evening I had that smile on my face and before I slept, I had made up my mind. I wanted a family, this was the time. I decided to email my office about my latest decision and to prepare them for my departure. I decided to resign and to be where my husband is. Work and life do matter, but love precedes all. I realized that I can’t stay away from my husband.
Thank you Jamie and Pat.