He looked down at his faded tee. It seemed more stretched around the chest and stomach, certainly more since the day he wore it first for his college farewell celebrations, under a jacket he bought especially to go with it. The M and A of the rubber print were shedding off, like old plaster, leaving behind a -CHO.
He used to be that, or certainly imagine himself that. Seemed like a long time ago though, those days that were and time that was gone forever. The shirt, however, was yet to meet its threadbare fate. It was still worn under sweats and sweaters, not because it was worn out but because it was like second skin to him. Just like the idea of being macho was to his mind.
He was proud of his masculinity.
He was proud of his masculinity.
But marriage had changed him, and more than just his waistline. Days of gay abandon were over. The days when he would keep a comb in his back pocket, a few buttons undone, metal tacks on his belt and in his front pockets his two thumbs. The rest of the fingers dangled free. He enjoyed a swagger, and especially accented it when pretty girls he passed. Run fingers through the gel in the hair, and send over a side-ward glance. A half-a-smile too, maybe, but nothing too cheesy really. He had a busy social life. Very busy. Even on the farewell day, actually.
They had eaten the free food on offer, danced with their batch mates all evening, and retired in the girl’s green room behind the auditorium stage to mist up the glass windows. The thick curtains kept the squeals away from the ears surrounding them. Her sari he had to help drape back on, after he had dusted his shirt clean of confetti strewn around. The logical-next-steps of life had followed that youthful night. A night which they both whispered was ‘good’.
After 4 years of wedlock and a baby girl, he was with the woman he fell in love with on that last day of college.
Not much had changed between them. Why, they had a lovely angel at home to seal their love with a living evidence. But like the tee, he seemed to be fading in his own eyes. He was giving the roles of father and husband everything that he could. Even more, sometimes. But, for the last few times now, he felt he was failing her, disappointing her and not living up to his image rubber-printed in the message on the tee. Especially the last time, when he could not even hold on for three seconds. He had seen the watch. Exactly 3 seconds. He panted, perspired and that was it. And another letter seemed to powder off his tee. Leaving a half-beaten CHO behind.
So he broke a law. A home-made rule to be precise. His promise to share his worries and his vow to not hide, anything. Not do anything strange, or hidden from her eyes.
Home alone, with the wife away and his daughter at the grandparents’, he opened a bottle. Too ashamed to ask the chemist for instructions, he had quickly picked two of them and hurried home. He was 35. Thirty-five! Trying to walk briskly, almost running home with the brown packet tucked in his pocket. Held tightly with one hand, as if it was the last straw to get the M and A back to the CHO. The sweat and breathlessness reached home in time. But there was no spare time to lose. She will return soon. And she had her expectations of him, why not. So here he was now, staring at 2 pills lying side by side on his hand. They looked pretty, the pills. But like a couple sleeping facing away from each other. Without saying their ‘good’ nights. He wondered why the image popped in his head.
He stood still for a while, half expecting an explosion of sorts. Will his stomach churn and sends waves of electricity up his spine and down his legs? He looked down, and then at his feet, refusing eye contact with the CHO. Almost mumbling, 'macho macho'. His heart was certainly pumping with an excitement he did not understand. Like a little child’s, or a young lad’s, who could run the football field five times and lose not his breath. He moved his toes and then his fingers. Not much there. Perhaps, one is to wait a bit. No pill is an instant dose of magic is it? And this is a 35 year old body we speak about! Father to just a four year old but alas!
In she came with excited footsteps, filling up his married home with her angelic presence. He knew what she would want, soon as the hug was gone. She would demand it, almost like a schoolmarm. His mind raced with an anxiety about his performance. Three seconds, the last time. No more. At 35, that is all he could manage? The watch seemed to frown already. Come what may he will not disappoint her this time. The 2 pretty pills silently dissolving in his insides seemed to nod vigorously.
Up he heaved her and held her there as she squealed in delight, asking him to let go but wanting to remain. Higher, she screamed and let me fly, please. He, with the faded tee screaming against the out-stretched seams, could feel the end coming. Already. In his legs and in his arms. In the lower back too. Had it been more than 3 seconds? Oh, he had to let go now! He just had to! His body was wriggling to breathe and the tee looked glum with a big wet patch around the neck. And then he did let go.
Down she dropped. Giggling but happy. A little girl. A wow escaped his lips, and hers too he hoped. He tried to read her face for any signs of disappointment but could see none. He stood up straight and stretched his back with a moan and his arms in the air. His belly peeped out from under the tee and roused her curiosity. She suddenly exclaimed with glee, the ribbons on her plaits dancing with excitement – "Papa, you are a superman. I went zoom like an aeroplane. Oh now look at that, your belly button is so deep!"
He looked down again, not at the tee this time but the belly protesting to come out of it. Revital is not what he needed to be a fit-and-fitting father at 35. He needed to start jogging again. Exercise too, maybe. Tuck in that belly. Feel good, feel young and even feel his dearly-held version of macho.
His favourite tee smiled, as if in agreement. The M and A should be back soon.
[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was Breaking the Law - Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?]