Broken China

It was time for our ritualistic Friday night dinner.

Last week, we watched a travel documentary on Tuscany and were suddenly filled with nostalgia for unknown Tuscan cafes in which we envisioned ourselves surrendering to gluttony on account of pasta.

I chopped the bell peppers, diced the onions and sliced the tomatoes finely, it was a harmonious rhythmic concoction which commenced a night of great dining. I put the pasta to boil involuntarily even though I knew it was his responsibility to do the boiling and draining. By now, I knew it was the fifth time he was going to come home late from work this week.

I hear the familiar voice announcing his arrival from the hallway.

He’s home.

I know the drill.

First, he’s going to kneel down and pet the cat as it lurks and rubs its furry body along his legs.

Second, he is going to hang his coat on the rack and pick some imaginary lint off of its shoulders.

Third, he is going to complain about the cruel traffic and assure me he is going to join me on what’s supposed to be “our” cooking spree after a 45-minute shower.

That’s what five years of marriage does to you.

Today, he drops the coat casually on our leather couch and ignores the cat as it trails behind him. I am taken aback as he absent-mindedly plants a sloppy kiss on my cheek.

I notice our wedding ring is missing from his finger and catch a whiff of perfume which smells like pinecones infused with peach.

He is in the shower now and his phone is on the marbled kitchen counter. It keeps buzzing incessantly and I fight every muscle in my body to constrain myself from picking it up.

I turn on the faucet in the sink and let the sound of the gushing water cloud my thoughts, as I pick the phone up.

It is Sara from work.

They had a great evening together and she asks if it is too early to miss him.

In my mind’s eye, Sara has porcelain skin and auburn hair.

She smells like peaches and her sweet laughter fills a room up.

I think about all the kisses they stole by the isolated printing machine in their office.

I think about how they made love under the tangerine lights of a cheap motel.

It starts feeling too familiar and all of a sudden, I am 15 again, standing by the doorframe watching my mother’s mascara running down her face while she breaks the dishes and my father repeats the words “it meant nothing” and “I am sorry” like a broken record.

I fell asleep to the sound of glasses shattering against the drywall that night and woke up to a grim silence which my mother broke at the breakfast table by announcing we are going to be a perfect family from that day.

I was 21 and I stayed home that day, missing a test on Modernism, while my mother rested her frail head on my shoulder and wept the whole day because it happened again.

He did not go on a business trip.

Instead, it was a romantic countryside getaway with a woman he met at the golf club.

There were not any more dishes left to throw, we ran out of all the china after a while.

So, like a perfect family out of a ’90s sitcom, we committed ourselves to life-long silent dinners and being emotionally polarised from one another.

The question of leaving never came up because we would rather be lonely with someone than be alone.

I left home way too early in an attempt to escape the ill-fate that followed my mother around all her life and would soon follow me too.

I married somebody who hated golf as much as I did and I made sure the dishes always stayed out of my way, on the topmost shelves.

But I find myself dragging a chair and mounting myself on it, to take a bunch of plates out and allow them to glide through my fingers, as I watch them break into thousands of pieces.

I do it a couple of more times until the cacophony of china breaking brings a smile to my face. I shake myself out of my hysteria and sweep the shards off the floor.

I am 35 now and he is standing before me, wearing the same look of detachment as my father had worn when I was 15.

I notice the wedding ring is back on his finger and I instinctively smile and hand him the pasta he had promised to boil and drain.

Rituja Ghosh is an aspiring writer who is currently doing her Master’s in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. 

Featured image: CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash