She stopped a taxi and gave her address. I was really scared now. It took twenty minutes to reach. She was silent the whole time. Twenty minutes of silence. Twenty minutes of uncertainty.
Her apartment was in an old building. We entered the apartment. It was small but neat and tidy. There was one long sofa and a small divan at the other side. She asked me to sit on the sofa. She slowly locked the door.
She quietly went into the kitchen and brought two cans of Diet Coke. I clicked one open and had a few sips. She sat on the sofa at an arms length from me. Her hands were shivering and her skin had gone all pale and white. She held the can tightly as though thinking and deciding something.
I reached out to her. Her hands were colder than they were outside. “Susan, you needn’t tell me anything if that worries you so much. Just let it go for now. Don’t worry!” I comforted her.
She didn’t look at me. Her voice shook as she spoke, “Simon. I wanted to tell you this sooner. I can’t let you think of me in some way unless you know me completely. And today I want you to know me. Completely” She stressed on the last word while a tear fell on the back of my hand which was on hers.
She stood up. She was wearing a black zipped top. A scarf around her neck which covered her shoulders completely. It stopped just above her black skirt. She kept the coke can on the table and stepped away. The room was well lit, but she switched on another light.
She went a few steps away. She removed the scarf. I saw her slender neck. Only then did I realize that she was always wearing a scarf. She had never been without it even in the hospital. Something was strange.
She threw it down. Before I realized, she unzipped her shirt fully and let it fall on the floor. When I raised my head, I was speechless. Standing before me, with her chest uncovered was Susan, looking as pale and bright as the moonlight. Her face in total pain being there. Her body shivering. I saw the slender neck throbbing with cries, it held back. And on her chest were two long scars. Surgical scars. They were replacing her breasts. Her missing breasts.
Seeing my utter shock, Susan turned away. Her back towards me as though she wanted to undo everything and hide away.
It was as though someone had pressed a pause button for long. I could hear her silent sobs. Slowly I stood and stepped closer to her, I took her scarf and wrapped it around her. Her skin was cold and shuddered when I touched her.
I turned her around. Her eyes were flooded with tears. I freed her hair from the band gently and let her hair fall over her shoulder. Her brown soft curls made her look so innocent and vulnerable. I raised the end of the scarf towards her shoulder. She looked at me with those blue eyes. And then she fell into my arms. She let the ocean of tears flow.
She cried for a long time. I let her do so. I felt she needed to get it all out of her. And then she told about herself.
She was born in a poor family. She was ten when she lost her parents. They were killed in an accident. She knew of no other relatives and so she was put into a foster home.
She learned to read and write. The foster house had recognized her abilities and helped her in that. She was soon allowed to leave the foster house and she needed to look for work.
One of the women told her that one of her aunts needed a girl to take care of her daughter diagnosed with cancer, a home nurse. And then began her stint as a nurse. After the girl succumbed to cancer, that woman helped Susan. Seeing the girl die had made Susan realize the unfairness of life. She decided to use her efforts to give some relief to people effected by it.
When she was about 24, Susan had felt a lump in her breast. She had kept herself engrossed in her work. No affairs with doctors or anyone for that matter. If she wasn’t a nurse she would have become a nun. She wasn’t a bad person, she hadn’t wronged anyone, so nothing bad could happen to her, she felt. She prayed and prayed that it would be nothing. But the Lord wasn’t happy with her prayers. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. And the doctors advised her mastectomy.
In this world of looks and fashion, of synthetic boob-jobs and lust, she had to decide to remove her breasts. And with that left her wish to love someone. Her dream for a family. Her desire for children and her hope to be loved. She decided to live as God wanted her to. Without her assets, her breasts.
We were sitting on the floor, she clung onto me. Her cold body trembling. It was heart rending to see her like that. The strong woman who had such a tender heart and loved all around. Her life had been so cruel to her. She was so innocent, so vulnerable. So alone. She had poured it all out and was silently breathing.
Finally, she looked at me and said, “Simon, I never told anyone this. I have no one to tell all this. I have lived all my life alone. It was after you came in. I could never remove your clown face from my memory. And then when you came with that fractured arm, I wished you would like me. And slowly when you started coming there often, I felt I would have a friend in you. Then you asked me out. I was only looking at keeping it platonic. However tonight when you kissed me, I had to let you know this. I can’t bear a heartbreak Simon. This is too soon, this thing between us. So, I wanted you to know me fully before you think anything.”
I kept looking at her. I knew each word of hers was true. She didn’t let me go ahead with anything unless I knew her completely. She was so hurt, so alone and so distraught. She had no one. I wanted to kiss her again but something was bothering me. Some thoughts. What was I to do? I did feel pity for her, but can I go ahead with this relationship on the base of pity. A kiss now would have a different meaning for her. Was that his answer?
As though she had read my thoughts, Susan said,”Simon, we remain friends as long as you want. Don’t wallow in pity for me. I feel blessed to have you in my life, even if as a friend, my only friend!”
It relieved me somewhat. It did make me feel guilty too. A few hours back, I had kissed her and wanted to love her. Was that not love then?
I stayed for an hour. After she felt better, I left her alone. She seemed so much at peace. She was no more pale or cold, as though the storm had passed. The storm was now in my mind and heart.
I needed to think over. I did not meet her for the next few days. I knew it would pain her, but I had answers to get from myself. I had felt she was the woman for me. I knew I could have been wrong but her heart was so pure. She was such a divine being. So special. But a woman who was incomplete in terms of today’s definition of beauty, a woman who was scarred for life. Was she someone I could love? Did I have what it takes to stand up to her? Was I brave enough to accept her with such a huge flaw?
P.S.: This is going to take up another day I guess. Thanks for reading and regret the inconvenience. I am really bad at keeping things short!! 💁