The Dimly Lit Dining Table

I gave you your first phone when you were 12
I know it was late, but the coins only added up then.
When you were on it at our dining table, I put it up on the shelf
You screamed at me and shattered one of our two cups.

When I finally got the paycheck from my second new job,
I bought you a Netflix account.
That night you watched it under your covers
Awake with the sunrise, till you finally blacked out.

But that night, like the rest, I waited for you at the dining table
If you don’t remember, it’s the one with the two wooden chairs
that creaks when you lean back and makes you unstable
Funny, you’ve always complained about it, yet refused to let me buy another.

So it’s that one, dimly lit, only by the flickering of the yellow light
Here I wait, long after there are no rays left in the summer skies
Or till the outside is as dark as your once-played rented saxophone’s case
I wait with palm on my face, elbows on the table and closing eyes.

I wait here; long after I’ve eaten in case you decide to come down
And sometimes you surprise me and you do
To that, I smile, and say, “I’ve got all your favourite food.”
But you grab the yellow chips from the shelf instead,
“Yeah thanks, mom,” you say, and walk off.

At 2 am, when even the birds are asleep, you call me
And I know it’s you because the ringtone vibrates in its distinct dub-dub beats
I fiddle trying to find the Honda’s car key – once white – now a shade of grey,
And then I’m in the car, driving down the dark and narrow streets.

I’m on the phone with you, hearing you babble incoherently like you’re a baby again
But I know that you are anything but, for when Google Maps tells me to take a right,
I hear drunk teens and ear-splitting music
I see you at first sight.

And you run inside,
wearing skimpy clothes that I think I want to say something about
But instead, I ask “what happened?”
because you’re in tears, mascara rubbed from your swollen eyes
And you just say “drive please.” So I do.
I drive in the silence between us,
with the rain hitting hard against the windshield the only noise

At home, you run up those stairs that at a time you didn’t even know how to walk on
When you vomit, I hold your hair before it clings to your sweaty face
Once you’re done, you smile at me and this time it reaches your beautiful eyes.

That night, we cook dinner together – cheesy lasagna
We turn on pirated movies on our cracked-at-the-edges Samsung TV
And we look over the photo albums of baby photos of you
All at our dimly lit dining table

But when these nights are long forgotten and I ask for them again
For you to “spend more time with me” when you’re up in your room all-day
Sometimes you’ll sigh and say “I’m growing up, mom”
But you don’t realise that I am too.

Sometimes I wonder if after college you’ll ever come back
Or will you come back when I’m long gone?

I hope then you’ll sit down and
feel all the cracks
and stains and nooks
and creeks of our home
And remember me with love, drinking my favourite haldi ka doodh
At our dimly lit dining table.

Mehak Rajoria is a class 10 student at JPIS, Jaipur. When she’s procrastinating studying for her boards, you can find her reading books or writing poems. 

Featured image credit: Karl/Unsplash