The Pigeon that Flew
~ Based on a true story ~
~ April, 2014 ~
I woke up to someone shaking my shoulder. It was her.
“What?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.
“Do you hear something, baby?” Yana asked, placing her palm on my chest. With my head raised from my pillow, and the weight of my upper body on my elbows, I eyed the doorway of our room, blinking, trying to figure out what was wrong.
“No baby! What is it?” I was confused. She pulled me closer, and turning my face away from her direction, placed my ear on her belly. And then the metaphor hit me. Like a splinter of serendipity. As if a thousand fingers had just poked and tickled my heart.
I still remember the way Yana burst out into a silent laughter, the way she stared back at me, the way my head bobbed up and down on her belly, to the rhythm of her laughter.
~ 21st January, 2015 ~
“Is that, why you haven’t allowed us to… to…” I asked the doctor, struggling to swallow my saliva, “… to see the baby till now?”
“Yes. Look, you will have to take a decision together; with Yana,” he patted my shoulder gently.
“Why didn’t we know about this earlier? Last week you told us the baby looked perfect on that… that… whatever you call it… black and white screen.” I said, rubbing my sweaty palms on my jeans.
He took a deep breath, nodding while he did so.
“Right,” he said, staring at his shoes, “There are rare cases when we come across it only after the delivery. I am so sorry, yours is one of them.”
And then I took an unending walk back to her cabin. The walls of the corridor seemed to have grown darker than before, the air heavier, and my steps, shorter.
A nurse sat by the bed, scribbling on her clipboard. She looked up towards me. I nodded briefly, shutting my eyes for a second or two. She patted my shoulder, and left the room without a word.
I knelt down beside Yana’s bed and took hold of her hand.
“It is a baby boy,” I said.
“I can’t wait to see him. They said they will bring him here, on my lap, a little later. Where is he? And how big is he? Did they tell…” her voice faded in the background, as I gazed outside the window. A couple of pigeons fluttered their wings rapidly, and hovered above a branch while trying to perch on its edge. Both had lost some feathers while striving to alight on the edge, until one of them finally did. And the other pigeon; it just flew away as if nothing had ever happened. I craved to figure out why.
“He has Down’s,” I let it slip out of my tongue.
Her fingers slid down my palm, and fell clumsily on the bed.
“Down’s Syndrome, Yana,” I cupped her cold palm again, rubbing it with my cheek. “He is in the Newborns’ ICU. And…and they will bring him here soon. On your lap. We just need to tell them that we are not…Er…not giving him away for adoption.”
She averted her eyes from my direction, and looked outside the window. Her nostrils inflated sporadically, and the edges of her eyes shimmered.
“I will go tell the doctor then. We will bring him here. And listen, keep your eyes closed until I ask you to open them,” I got up to leave the cabin, still holding her hand. She pulled me back with a jerk.
“What?” I asked her.
“Give him away. For adop…”
“What do you mean?” I punctuated her.
“I don’t want to see him,” her words smacked my ears like pounding hammer blows. She looked away from me, out of the window by her bed. The pigeon merrily ruffled it’s wings as the branch swayed with the wind.
“We will give him away. For adoption,” she said.
“We just cannot handle it. Not a Down’s patient. You don’t understand. We don’t earn that kind of money,” her gaze remained glued to the window.
“I will work double. Or as much as it takes. We will have him. He is OUR son,” I said, realizing how the conversation had taken an unexpected turn; how I had to convince my wife that he was our baby no matter what he was born with. And all she did was narrow her eyes, shaking her head in denial. Like you wake up one morning and just like that… just-like-that, you are convinced that your eyes are yours no more. So you refuse to see. Forever.
“You can keep the baby. Without me. I am just not ready for this. I’m sorry, baby. I can’t…” she continued. Or maybe not. I don’t remember what she said after that. Her voice faded under the silence around me. As if someone had ripped off my nerves, and my eyes lifelessly wandered around the room. From the rising and plunging red line on the monitor, the patient drops dripping from the bottle of I.V, the sea green curtains behind us, to the window across Yana’s bed. And she just gazed blankly outside the window. For once, I wanted to her to look me in the eye, and say it again. But some words are never meant to be repeated. They convey it all, the first time they are spoken.
Minutes later, I stood a few steps away from her, with our five hours old son in my arms, my eyes skipping all over him; his fingers too small to peep out of his yellow sleeves, those upwardly slanted eyes yet to blossom, his little tummy heaving up and down. He made subtle moves; sometimes making brief cooing noises, kicking the air with his tiny legs or making a ‘tak’ sound with his tongue and making tiny bubbles with his lips.
Yana never turned towards us. Just stared vacantly out of that window.
~ 30th January, 2015 (Today) ~
Our divorce papers lie scattered on my table. I pick up my pen to sign on them, but my hand stops midway; the tip of my pen, hovering millimeters above the paper.
A piercing cry cuts through the air. I rush to his room, and lift him out of his cot, carefully placing my elbow under his tender neck. He makes the ‘tak’ sound with his tongue. I tap the round tip of his nose, and he starts laughing with a spit reverb. The kind of laughter that would make cookies sweeter.
Tonight, I will sign the papers. For now I know why the other pigeon had flown away just like that.
Because it never knew that the tree had plenty of other branches too.
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