• mr. gupta •

• mr. gupta* •
Mr. Digvijay Gupta feels it is his time to die, and plans to do it well, just as he has done everything, throughout his professional life — and regards his death as he has, his life: romantically, with no small amount of self-appreciation. To his mind, he is a king whose time has come to abdicate his throne, but to whom? He had no heirs. (He and his wife of forty years are childless.) There is his wife, his only ‘loyal subject’, but really, he wonders, incredulously — SHE?
He had been tough on her in the first tumultuous years of their arranged marriage, though he had never laid a hand on her, in his years as a young man he had a temper. He regarded those early years of their marriage with a kind of obsessive ‘buyer’s remorse’: there was the insufferable business of the un-remitted promised dowry from her faithless father, and on top of that, the absolutely unforgivable: that physical flaw, on her person, that disfigurement — that she had proudly regarded as ‘the touch of Ganesh’, of all things ridiculous — the fact, of which, both she and her dishonest parents had let remain hidden, until the wedding night: that she had been born with this, this –vestigial ‘third’ nipple! Insupportable. The horror…
He had harped on his view that he should have been told ahead of time, and she had folded like a paper napkin, becoming completely joyless, lost to him, even to herself, or so it seemed. Of course, she had performed her duties over the four decades that followed, but joylessly — without a single moment of whimsy, of wit, of hilarity, all of the things that he had fallen in love with, when first they had met, during their brief engagement: now, sadly, she, and her — whatever, were insuperable, a lingering, mournful malady. Her — whatever, had been continual, relentless, pervasive, pernicious. It had affected every aspect of their lives together, so, yes, he had lost his temper, had lashed out, had said things. Purely out of frustration, mind you. Every day with her, henceforth, had been like having a mouthful of ashes.
Years went by, and every day had been the same. They had been transformed into Stoics by her continual suffering, and had gone through their lives together, stoically. What else was there to do? Life goes on, and waits for no man, provides no support for the weak, for self-pity: no room at the inn.
He had been a good provider, there was that, and he had prided himself on this fact; in fact, in a manner of speaking, actually and figuratively, it had sustained him. He had a successful career for thirty-five years as a mechanical engineer, with a top corporation. He had climbed the corporate ladder, and financially, he had done quite well. He had a good benefits package, and a more than adequate retirement.
Over the years, he had matured, and had learned to accept her shortcomings, and, he supposed, she his. He had learned to live with daily disappointment, well almost: he had eventually stopped altogether, looking into her empty eyes. It had become a part of their dry emotional landscape: a veritable, inescapable, lunar apocalypse. He had been as kind as he could be to his wife, considering — and they had settled into a traditional arrangement: he, as the lord of the household, and she, as his practical and pragmatic, if perfunctory help-mate. That he had stopped looking at her altogether, is how he had missed, altogether, her slow change, from an empty vessel, into an object of empowerment, into this self-loving smart-bomb, this guided-missile of malicious intent.
Now, in his ‘dying time’, he wants, and expects, at least a modicum of civility from her, to ease his passing.
What does he get from her, instead? Grief, yes, but of the wrong kind: accusations, invention, finger-pointing, curses…and pronouncements! Insufferable! Outrageous!!
~ Tim Burchfield
• woolybully •
a ten-minute tragicomedy}


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