There she lay in front of him, her face dry from death. She seemed to be at peace, a nonchalant expression in her face. He sat beside the body, remembering the days that had been and imagining the days that will be. Always a loner, he didn’t even remember the day when his last surviving parent had died. While he eschewed the trappings of a family life, devoted to the seemingly purposeful raising of the offspring; rather surprisingly, he had taken up the lonesome job of a primary school teacher. With no God, no lover, no children, and no friend in the true sense, he was free to live what he considered an ideal and moral life. His only objective was to leave as little a trace, whether in the positive or the negative sense, on this world. And when he was done for the day from the tasks of his profession, he spent the rest of his time teaching poor children for free, tending to his small garden, and reading as much as he could about the world he was being forced to be born in and carrying out the burden of living.
After retirement, he became a traveler, to let a constant stream of new experiences take away the focus of his mind from the realization of the pointlessness of it all, the curse of old age. And on one such trip, in the Indian city of Varanasi, he had found this old lady, lying crookedly in one dirty corner. She looked the same that day as she looked today except for the faintly recognizable heaving of her chest, a sign of life, for him too. He brought her home, in this small town.
She was a widow, left in this city of the Gods by his young son, who brought her here with the bait of a pilgrimage, and let go of her hand in a crowded city. She still remembered the grief and the fear of the future she had felt then. After ten years, hunger and dirt had become acceptable to her. Being born a girl, humiliation was part of her life, anyway. So she was not used to this sudden rain of respect, of unselfish concern, of what is fantasized as humanity. We, the town people, called it love in the time of Alzheimer’s; some called it last minute lust. As always, he was least concerned about majority opinion of his life. Unable to accept gender role definitions, he taught her the letters and the sciences, he took her for shopping and to the bank; they were inseparable. He had found a new meaning and purpose to his life. They were the happiest in our small town.
And now, as she lay dead, he felt the fear of the future for the first time in his life. But as he recollected the lovely days they had spent together, he couldn’t help feel satisfied that she had died happily, the only good outcome possible in our lives. It was now his time to wait and he felt assured that the memories will see him through. He gently caressed her dead face.