Is it physiological or is it psychological – the process of aging. Age is just a number, we’ve either heard or said at least a few times in our life. But is it though? Is age just a number? May be to a few of us who truly feel young at heart and mind, the number of birthdays gone by makes not much of a difference. But what of those, who with every passing birthday, collect with them experiences that weigh them down and slow their gait like that of an old person.
Her face became her journal
One tale for each wrinkle.
This is the story of Sheila and Trisha, who meet fifteen years after college, get to know about each other’s life and end up reflecting upon the choices they have made in their own lives.
On a slow afternoon, as Sheila made her way out of the market towards the car parking, having bought fresh eggs and her favorite garlic foot long from the new bakery, imagining how she would poach her eggs for brunch as soon as she got home, trying hard not the think about the things she had promised herself not to think about, her eye maneuvered towards a woman who she had a hunch was her classmate from college, but she was not sure; this woman looked forty something, which was at least ten years older than herself. To get a closer look at her, she walked up to the bookstall where she was and pretended to check out the Readers’ Digest’s April issue, while secretly placing the woman from the corner of her eye. Yes, this was definitely Trisha. They had been study partners in college and often studied Economics together. Trisha was better at the subject than she was, but she made up for it when they studied World Literature together.
Trisha was the pragmatic one, while Sheila had an arty edge. Trisha was definitely the more methodical one and knew what she wanted to do after college. Sheila on the other hand had no idea of what she wanted from her life. While Sheila preferred wearing longer flared skirts with boho elements in her attire, Sheila was mostly dressed in efficient clothes that yelled professionalism. They had not much in common, and were brought together in a college activity a year ago where students seated in the left row had to pick one student from the right row and they would have to engage for a month of co-study of their weaker subjects. A month later, after the activity ended, all pairs dispersed, but Sheila and Trisha stayed and maintained this ritual.
It worked for them, studying together. None of them pried too much, nor were interested in the other one’s life. Sheila found Trisha quite boring and homey, while Trisha was in some ways intimidated by Sheila’s boldness. There was only once that Trisha dared to ask Sheila about her goals in life. Sheila, with her nonchalance had contorted her lip, squinted her eye, looked up at the ceiling while rummaging through her thoughts and said “I don’t know yet”. Sheila did not ask back the same question.
Right now, fifteen years later, Sheila secretly gauged Trisha who was reading the synopsis of a book titled “How to handle a difficult child”. Typical Trisha, she thought. She must be something of a wizard by now, going by the number of motivating books she was and apparently still into. She must know how to sail through difficulties even if it came in the form of a rogue child. She wondered if she should address her and say hi. Why the hell not.
“Oh my God, Sheila? Hiii. What are you doing here”
“Oh nothing, was just grocery shopping for the week. What are you doing in this neighborhood, do you live here?”
“No, I had a dentist’s appointment here which got canceled at the last minute.”
Short awkward silence.
“What’s up in life? I figure you have a kid now. Uh, the book you were checking out”, Sheila broke the silence with her usual ease.
“That? Yea, Robbie is seven and is giving us such a hard time. We’re thinking of sending him to a boys’ hostel. And you? What’s up with you?”
Even in a normal phase of life, Sheila had found it difficult to answer that question. And now, with everything in her life ripped out like pages of a book, she didn’t even come up with her usual breezy “ah, the usual”. Instead she went for a smirk followed by “how much time you’ve got?” and passed it off as humor. They both giggled and Sheila noticed how much older than her age does Trisha look. Her teeth had a bit of yellow tint and gums didn’t look healthy. Her pale skin seemed dull and wrinkled. She looked worn out despite being dressed to the hilt. Her eyes, though never sparkly before, looked more tired than ever. Her Gucci glasses did not much to cover up the exhaustion, and she wore her heeled Steve Madden’s like she would rather be wearing her comfortable crocs. The expensive black dress she wore accentuated her stoutness rather than camouflage it.
An hour later, they were on their second glass of Merlot and were half way done with their meals – Sheila had ordered an antipesto and Trisha a caprese salad. Sheila would poach the eggs for brunch tomorrow; she had a lot of free time these days since she had lost her job three weeks ago after a fall out with her boyfriend of two years – who also happened to be her boss – when she found out that he was cheating on her. She was fired before she could resign.
Trisha’s life, on the other hand, was in the order she had planned. Married at 26, a difficult kid at 28, a high flying job at an investment firm, uncomplicated relationships and a secure foreseeable future. Sheila found herself wondering what it would be like being in Trisha’s Steve Madden shoes. Would she be willing to trade her experiential, albeit bumpy life for Trisha’s security and stability? And is Trisha truly happy in the choices she made for herself? Does she have any regrets, any wild oats to sow? Why does she look so trodden if she has everything she had ever desired?
… to be continued