January 25, 2009


He headed back to his desk after lunch, troubled. A younger partner had a two year old and was regaling everyone with stories of the naughty child. If he had not had any children, he would not have been so upset. But to have and yet not, was the worst.

He had never wanted children. His wife and he had agreed many years ago that they didn't want to. A few years later, he had seen his first love with a child that looked remarkably like he had, as a young child. He dismissed the notion. But it took root, and he wanted to know... After all, they had had their indiscretions. For a brief while, they had rekindled their romance. Both of them were married, and did not want to change anything. The risks were too great. Harmless, it had seemed at the time. He would always love her. Above anyone else, he knew. And so he hadn't been able to resist. And then, just as suddenly, she had put a stop to it. With no explanations. He hadn't tried to reach her, to reason or to find out why. After all, it was his fault they were apart.

He had fallen in love with her a few months without realizing his parents had their hearts set on someone for him. It was a different time from now, where children rebelled and led lives of their own choosing. And so he had done the honorable thing.

If only.

Life was full of if only's, it seemed. He had broken it off and shattered her heart. And then he met her again, a few years later, a beautiful delight. She was married. She was content, if not completely happy. As was he. And so it had begun.

He thought back to the day he had walked into her child's school and asked to examine the student records on a pretext. Surprisingly, it worked, and he saw that the child was seven years old. When he confronted her, she didn't deny it. He begged, but she wouldn't leave her husband.

It just wasn't done. Imagine the shame..my parents would be devastated, she had cried. And the child would be scarred forever. He had never felt so helpless in his life as he had then.

The boy was almost a man now. He had been to his college graduation, and hidden in the back.

Sighing, he went back to the papers on his desk. A few days later, at the local library, he saw the boy. His heartbeat quickened, and he strained to get a closer look at his son. If only he knew.

As the boy approached the checkout, he quietly slid behind him in the line. 'Thats a great book', he remarked, trying his best to sound casual and friendly.

The boy turned and smiled at him. They were the same height, and looked so alike. His smile faltered into a curious gaze. 'Have I seen you somewhere?'

'I am not sure'

'I have a feeling I have seen you many times..somehow on the periphery of things'

He had not expected this. Cursing himself for trying to talk to him, he bent his head and walked forward and placed his books on the counter. 'Maybe. I used to be friends with your mother a long time ago.'

He looked puzzled. 'Do you know me? I didn't say who my mom was'

When he received no reply, the boy resumed, 'I am sorry if I seem rude, its just that she is terribly sick now, and I have been so tired lately..The book is for her to read. They give her comfort. If you are a friend, maybe it would be good for her to see you.'

He nodded, unable to speak for fear of revealing how much the information affected him.

'Who shall I say I ran into?'

He paused, unwilling to give his name. Then he cleared his throat and said 'Tumo'

His son frowned, and then his face cleared. 'She gave you a nickname too? She has always done that. How did you get yours' he asked, curious.

Lightness filled him as he thought back to how he got his name from her. 'Well, I was on the plump side when I was younger, and instead of calling me motu she reversed the syllables' he said, glad that he was no longer plump, and thankful the boy seemed not to have inherited that gene from him.

The younger smiled, and it was amazing how his face cleared from the anxiety. 'Well, it was nice meeting you, I hope I see you soon' he said as he bid adieu.

The man stood staring after him. Wishing that things were different. That there was certainty that he would see his son every day, whenever he wanted to. Wishing she was not ill. Wishing they had made different choices. Wishing his life was set in a more modern time, unconstrained by old notions of propriety.

Oh, how he wished.

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