There’s something seriously wrong with my new neighbors. Ever since I have shifted to this new city, I don’t find one of my neighbors good. There’s this one elderly couple that lives diagonally opposite my one-bedroom flat. I often spot the couple walking hand-in-hand in the streets. There’s something odd about them.
Or probably, with the old man. Yes, it is him. Though they always walk together while holding each other’s hand, they don’t seem to be in love. The old woman seems to be distant and perhaps, she feels uncomfortable when the old man holds her hand. I have seen her sulking and trying to free herself, whenever the man clutches her hand. Seeing them, I often think, “Is this man trying to force himself on her?”
I just can’t help wondering if the couple has been like this ever since. Oh God, just imagine, the pain that woman would have gone through to have a man who forces himself on her. She must have felt disgusted for all her life. Maybe he would have married her against her will or he has always been this dominant.
I wonder if the couple has children and their children ever feel bad for their mother. Have the people in the neighborhood noticed that the man often holds his wife’s hand against her wish? Have they never asked him to leave the woman alone and all by herself?
Whatever it is, I just can’t let injustice happen to that woman. My morals and values can never allow me to watch this and do nothing. The woman deserves her freedom and comfort. So I thought about confronting him. Therefore, I stood there in the park so that if he troubles her, I would warn him. But the couple didn’t come today to the park. I waited for another two hours, but they didn’t turn up. After it grew dark and the chance of the couples coming to the park seemed low, I went to my place.
But today while I was having my coffee on my balcony, the man seemed to be scolding his wife. The woman was just trying to go out with a grocery bag in her hand. Maybe she wanted to buy some groceries or maybe she was trying to flee from his clutches. The man was holding her by her right arm and was nearly dragging her. He was also scolding her and asking her to listen to whatever he says.
I came to the kitchen and threw my coffee into the sink and kept my cup. I wore my slippers to go out and locked the main door. It took me hardly 40-50 seconds to come out of the 4-storey building. Soon I was standing in front of the couple’s house. I was determined to bash that man and ask him to let the woman go.
I saw that the door was left ajar. Though I didn’t feel like peeping in, I just couldn’t control myself. With fear and determination to help the lady, I pushed the door slightly. Now I could hear the voices of the couple. I could hear the woman say, “why do you always keep me here? Let me go. I want to go away.”
“You’ll just stay right here. I have promised that I’ll be taking you to the park every evening. If you behave well, I’ll take you to a restaurant too,” the man said, this time in a soft voice.
“But why don’t you let me go on my own? What’s wrong with you? You make me feel as if I am a baby who would be lost,” I heard the woman saying irritatedly.
I chose to stay right at the door of their drawing-room. I guess I stayed there for 15 minutes thinking of the possible discussion I would have with the man. Soon, the man came towards the drawing-room. At first, he seemed a bit surprised to see an unexpected guest at the door but then he welcomed me. He seemed to be polite and I was a bit apprehensive.
“Hey young man, what brings you here? How can I help you?”
“Don’t try to be a gentleman, I know you are a shrewd person,” I snapped at him.
“But what have I done? I see you are accusing me in my house.”
“Oh, don’t try to be so smart. I have seen the way you behave to your wife. Or maybe she isn’t your wife but a poor woman you have kept captive in your house,” I told him while throwing a glance at the drawing-room. It was pretty comfortable and well-maintained.
“Young man, she is my wife and we have been married for 59 years and counting,” he replied while beaming proudly at the photographs kept on the table in a corner. I could see the pictures of the couple when they were young. They seemed to be happy and deeply in love.
“Married for all these years and still, mistreating your wife as if she is your slave. Are you trying to fool me? Listen I am here to help that woman go away from your clutches and you can’t stop me.” I told him with full confidence and determination.
“I think you are accusing me of no reason. You don’t know anything about us.”
“Then, explain it to me, why do you always hold your wife’s hand, even when she tries to free herself.”
“Because if I don’t hold her, she will go away and probably never come back to me,” he said with a blank longing in his eyes.
“So, you want to chain her up for her entire life?”
“No, I can never think of keeping her chained. I love her with all my heart.”
“If you love her, then why do you make her feel uncomfortable?”
“It’s because she doesn’t remember anything. She has Alzheimer’s and she doesn’t even remember who she is. If I don’t hold her hand, she may walk on the roads and never find her way back to our home. Where would I find her then?”
“We have been living our lives so happily and peacefully. We loved each other for all these years. But soon she was diagnosed with this disease.”
“Initially, she was forgetful about a few things. But then the disease started spreading aggressively. There was a day when she forgot we were married. She couldn’t recognize me and our love. That was the day when I felt helpless and lost.” He stopped for a while and wiped his tears.
“I could never imagine my life without her. I always fear, what if one day I wake up to find her nowhere in the house and the main door wide open. What if she gets hit by a vehicle and isn’t able to recall the address? How will I find her with my feeble and shaky knees?”
“We don’t have enough money and our kids live in another city. We don’t have anything but each other and our love. And I just can’t help clinging to this love. She is the center of my world. Every time I hold her hand with the hope that she will recognize me. Only I know how it feels when the love of your life doesn’t remember who you are.”
After listening to the story, I really felt guilty for judging the man and accusing him without knowing the truth.
“I am so sorry for being rude to you. But how can you live like this?”
“I know she doesn’t remember us but I do know who she is to me. I can’t let her go. She is all I have.” Saying this, the man got up to comb her hair. I stayed there for another hour watching the man feed her with a spoon while the woman said, “I wonder if I have a family.”
Also read: The Separation I Couldn’t Accept
Prerna loves to write and shower love on animals. She enjoys reading and exploring places. Though sweet in her pictures, at times, she is difficult to understand. Being a strong believer in hard work and karma, she loves solitude and peace. Apart from this, she loves petrichor and harmony and wishes to achieve her one and only ataraxia for a lifetime.