Short Story: Waiting for Dawn

Short Story

Waiting for Dawn

The pain of lying in bed in the quiet of the night with a mind scampering everywhere yet not discovering sleep anywhere is a familiar one for Meera. Yet, some nights always seem longer than others. Tonight was one such.

Tired of hearing the dogs barking intermittently in the distance, Meera got up from bed at one point. She hunted around on the bedside table for her watch or her cell to know the time. Her fingers found the watch first.

Ten past Two

The glowing hands spelt ten minutes past two. So, it was almost an hour of her frantic search for some sleep. Meera went and stood at the window. One of the perks of an eighth-floor flat is the view. Meera climbed into the box window and hunched up, looking down below through the grill.

If you are concerned at this point – wondering whether Meera is neurotic or suicidal: rest assured, Meera isn’t contemplating ending it all tonight (it would anyway require her to breathe fire or shoot lasers from her eyes to melt up the metal grill – and as it happens, Meera is capable of neither). It was merely the rare quiet of the metro night that she found soothing. They say the best things like happiness or peace are best found when one stops consciously looking for them. Meera had been advised at multiple times that the case was the same for sleep. But, advising is one thing and suffering another. Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.

No, Meera had nothing dramatic in mind. She was merely soaking in the void of activity in the dead of the night. The occasional bike horned away. A car or two streaked through. The dogs carried on their communication from time to time. The cool breeze brushed against Meera’s arms. Meera was never fond of air-conditioning. She had enough of it at office anyway. And hence hadn’t got one installed at home. It helped with the bills too, of course.

She just sat there, staring at the yellow haze of road lamps through the swaying trees. There was a sort of beauty in it all, Meera had to admit to herself. The night, for all its cruelty to her, could not be denied that beauty.

Half past Two

Meera knew that this sleep-deprivation would exact its pound of flesh in the morning. The day would be sleepy and would test her temper. It is difficult to predict how the mind will feel in a particular situation. On some days, a bad traffic can cause you to go mad. On others, you can just go with the flow. Sleepless nights have often caused terrible anguish to Meera, when the minutes simply don’t pass by and the night refuses to end. But tonight, her mind was at peace. Meera begun humming one of her favourite rabindra sangeets, Amar nishitho raater badol-dhara.

O my torrents of the deep night, coWooden roseme thee in secret

Lost in my dream-world, wandering afar.

O the treasures of the dark, envelope my soul and heart –

I care not for the sun, nor the star.

When sleep rules over everyone’s eyes

Away from my eyes, my sleep may you prise.

Alone, unseen, come to my nest; Shrouded in tunes, be my guest –

My tears call out to thee,

Respond, I implore, to my plea.

Five minutes to Three

Meera climbed down from the window. She went to the washbasin, splashed some water on her forehead, her hair and her eyes. You could wonder why would a girl trying to get some sleep would try such a counter-productive trick. Well, it’s hard to say. Perhaps Meera wasn’t thinking.

Feeling the cool breeze on her wet face and hair, Meera ambled back to bed. Lying on her back and staring at the ceiling fan, she wondered if there was any point in even trying to sleep now. The cold-water-splashing had obviously freshened her up.

Meera pulled her laptop and switched it on. Her tapping fingers unwrapped folders within folders. Soon, images from a time past were smiling back at her from the screen. He was smiling back at her. Images from a time that were once hers, moments that would never again be hers. From a time when Meera actually cared about the colour of the strap of her sandals, about the hue of the polish on her nails, about the shape of the kohl around her eyes. Meera clicked through the images, one set after another. One folder after the next. Her eyes were dry. One photo actually brought a shadow of smile to her face. It was as if Meera were going through a stranger’s snaps. People she knew once, but had forgotten long since. But did that girl still live within Meera? Why else was Meera looking at her pictures at this unearthly hour, sitting cross-legged on her bed?

However hard you might suffocate them, some hearts still breathe. No matter how long you starve, some dormant emotions refuse to die. And no matter how casually you deny them, you have thresholds which prick and draw blood if you try to step over them. Nearly half an hour into this trip down memory lane, Meera abruptly shut the lid and lied down on her side. Drawing up her knees into the foetal position, she bit down on her lower lip. Warm tears flooded her cheeks as warm memories stabbed at her from all angles. Meera shrivelled in pain. The number had been deleted from her phone long ago but these folders had evaded that fate. Even after hope had long turned into fossil…

O my torrents of the deep night, come thee in secret

Lost in my dream-world, wandering afar.

O the treasures of the dark, envelope my soul and heart –

I care not for the sun, nor the star.

One past Five

The harsh cawing of the crows waked Meera up. Perhaps on a perfect planet, it would be the cuckoo or some equally musical bird which would do the honours, but on Meera’s planet, it were the crows which had the claim to fame as the early risers on the trees. Meera usually drew the curtains but as they weren’t drawn when Meera’s aching had finally borne sleep last night, the dawn light was streaming into the room with the wake-up call of the crows. Meera was too groggy at first for her mind to register the overflow of inputs. Once she half-opened her eyes, the combination of light and sounds told her the time as clearly as would a large clock if it were hanging on the wall. These were familiar inputs for her. Last night wasn’t the first, after all.

Quarter to Eight

Feeling pure and (somewhat) fresh after bath, Meera looked at herself in the mirror. A smile rippled over face in spite of herself. She couldn’t deny that she liked what she saw. Having failed to find the kohl after some search, Meera had pulled out on her orange kurti from the bottom of the wardrobe pile. For all the symbolism of a new start, she had to anoint it with some tangible mark. She did not remember the last time this bright orange had been kissed by sunlight. Perhaps it would raise a couple of eyebrows at office – being a couple of shades apart from Meera’s usual attire – but Meera didn’t really care.

After all, she was feeling light, having shed more than just a couple of GBs of baggage from her life.

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