I found a box underneath the bathroom sink. I don’t know how long it’s been patiently sitting there but I’m pretty certain they didn’t mean to leave it behind. They wouldn’t; they’ve seen me fall apart at the smallest of things.
I’ve fallen into a routine. I go to work, come back, eat my meals on time and stare at the empty spaces on the wall where photo frames were hung once. They’re all gone now, as are all the trophies, the sports magazines, the multiple cricket hats. There are only my shoes in the rack by the door.
They’ve tried so hard to remove him from my life, from my home; a life we promised to share, a home we made together. How do you so completely erase a person’s presence from his own place? You cannot. But I don’t tell them that because this is hard on them too.
They ask me if I’m okay, because they don’t know what else to do. I say I’m fine, because I don’t know either.
I found the box this morning when I was looking for a band-aid. I didn’t open it then. I simply put it away from my mind for the rest of the day because I was not ready to deal with whatever was in the box.
It’s night now and I’m sitting in my bedroom, at the dressing table. The lights are turned off in the whole apartment and the only sound I hear is my own heartbeat – erratic and deafening – and I am still not ready.
Very slowly, I open the lid and place it to the side. I reach into the box and my fingers brush against something smooth. I pull back immediately, as if the thing inside hurt me somehow. My fingers are tingling. I reach in once again and take it out.
It’s a tube, a medium sized, chubby tube. For a second there, I feel stupid and tamp down the sudden urge to giggle – it could be one of my many tubes of face wash or some other such product. I unscrew the top, squeeze a bit out and –
It hits me. I take a deep breath and as I let it out, it comes to me. The memory of that early morning, of him standing in front of me, freshly showered, with a towel wrapped around his waist. Of me, uselessly giggling as I shaved his face with delicate strokes that failed miserably at the task at hand. As I sit in the dark room, breathing in the faint fragrance of his shaving cream, I remember that day so clearly it could’ve been yesterday.
Even in the darkness I can feel myself blushing as I think of how that morning shave ended.
I reach in again into the box and out comes a bottle. It’s a rather irregularly shaped bottle and I’m curious as to what it could be. I try to open the top and realize its already open. It’s a perfume, I think.
But I am afraid. Afraid of spraying a spritz in this now bare, lonely room which holds so many aching memories and wonder whether it can withstand a fresh reminder. Hesitantly, I raise it to my nose. A very faint scent still lingers around the mouth of the bottle, as it usually does. Aftershave. It’s his aftershave.
I don’t make any effort to quite down my sobs because there is no one here to hear them. I clutch the bottle to my chest, but do not spray it. I cannot; I dare not. I don’t want to know anymore what else is in the box.
I don’t turn on the lights as I make my way to the front door, box in hand. It is tightly shut now, with all it’s belongings safely hidden inside. I open all the locks and eyes closed, place the box gently to the side, next to the dustbin. Without opening my eyes, I turn back in and lock up behind me.
The garbage man comes early each morning; it will be gone before I wake up. I crawl into bed, curl into a ball and keep telling myself over and over again not to retrieve the box. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I suppose I do.
When I wake up, it’s late morning. I can tell because the sun is far up in the sky, shining cheerily through the window and I feel a moment of peace as I think of this new day. There is always that moment when you wake up, a fleeting moment of blessed ignorance wherein your mind is not yet fully awake. In a blink, its gone and reality fastens its hold on you once again.
I throw back the covers and rush to the front door. I throw it open and look down: there’s only my dustbin, now empty.
The box is gone.