As I sit down to lunch with her today, there is nothing out of the ordinary. It is five past one. She orders the pasta, and I order my Caesar salad.
We talk about work as we eat. She sips on a glass of pepsi, while I enjoy a chocolate milkshake. We split the bill in silence. She grabs her beige purse, and I sling my messenger bag over my shoulder. She walks behind me to the door. She hails a cab. I begin to walk back to the flat.
Her name is Lara. We are both thirty five years of age. She is a kindergarten teacher, and I am a psychiatrist. We have known each other for three years; she is not my best friend, but she eliminates the loneliness, and makes me feel like I am socially active. In the years since college ended, I have not attended many parties, and have declined invitations to a few weddings. My friends from different time zones call me often, and I cherish those days which we spend together. I miss my mother everyday, desperately, even though I hear her voice and see her face through short Skype calls. I know life is meant to be tough, but I was never a happy child, and I am not satisfied. Today, I decide to take a little detour.
The grass glitters under the shyly emerging sun, traces of the rainy morning making minute rainbows on the green blanket on the ground. The park bench is still a little damp, but I ignore it; I’m wearing black jeans in any case. Sitting down, I wonder if I was supposed to simply accept the monotony of my life. No; monotony isn’t the word. I work with mental illness- my job is never monotonous. Routine? Regularity? – those are just synonyms, I scoff at myself. Perhaps my job isn’t monotonous, but I can predict my day when I wake up. My life is a bit monotonous.
I always wanted to be dynamic. People always called me dynamic. They said I was going places, and they frowned when I told them I was becoming a doctor. But those were my peers. My entire family applauded me and celebrated when the news of my acceptance to college reached them. That was to be expected. Why did I choose this? Because I wanted to please those who loved me. Because I was afraid. I was terrified. For a brief moment, I allow myself to fantasize about what could have been, had I chosen differently, but then that moment is over, and I am rising to my feet. Even as I walk back, the familiar cloud of depression and self-pity looms over me. I shove my hands in my jacket pockets and quicken my pace when it begins to rain heavily.
When I get home, the news channels are running wild. My forehead wrinkles as I take in the display. Bewilderment turns to dread as I hear about the cars and the buses and the faulty signal. I dig out my phone from my back pocket and choose the familiar contact. She answers on the third ring. “Lara?” I demand.
“I’m fine, I knew you would call”, she says before I can continue, and I hear a smile in her voice. “It just missed me.” My relief is palpable through the connection, and after a few parting words from either end, I hang up. With a sigh, I sink into the leather of my well-worn couch. Life reminds us of things in the most amazing ways. And maybe today, life was reminding me; that sometimes, monotony is a gift.