It was not love at first sight.
Even after many sights, no love ever materialized between Sukanya and Mahesh.
When he was hospitalized for a minor surgery of his heart, Sukanya tended to his needs with affection. Still, his mended heart did little to fix their marriage. In emotions, he continue to reserve himself as a stranger.
Initially, Sukanya harbored pity for a man who lost his parents in a train mishap but that pity quickly manifested into repression of her own self.
She did as he instructed in every corner of the house, in particular, his bed. She had come to assimilate that his pleasure was of paramount importance. He groped her breasts for as long as he pleased, misconstruing her pain as her sense of being pleased.
One such night, Mahesh slipped his hands down her shirt and discovered an unusual lump in one of her breasts. He quickly moved it away, as a man retreats from a diseased being. Sukanya knew something was amiss. That morning, she felt her own breasts for the first time after being married to Mahesh for a little over 3 years.
A visit to a gynecologist confirmed the presence of a tumor in her left breast. Detailed scans revealed that the cancer had already metastasized to her right breast and lungs. A double masectomy was a necessary step to prevent it from spreading further.
More than the dim prognosis, it was Mahesh’s indifference that hurt her more. She bore no children with him but the removal of her breasts meant loss of an opportunity to perform the true function of that excess tissue.
Mahesh left behind some cash to help pay for her treatment and quietly exited from her life. She pawned some of her old wedding jewelery to manager her day-to-day expenses.
He was a parking assistant at her City hospital. Each time, Sukanya walked out to the front entrance, Anthony would assist her in calling a cab and helping her to sit inside.
The first time he saw her, he said, “Your eyes are beautiful.”
“Thank you, but they are just an ordinary black color.”
“It is not the color but the strength they convey. If you don’t mind me asking, what are you here for?”
“Breast cancer with mets to the lung.”
“Don’t worry. I have seen many walk out in remission from this hospital.”
They managed to exchange names before her cab arrived.
Over the course of her treatments, she needed more assistance to complete even the basic task of walking, starting with a cane and gradually advancing to a wheelchair. It was Anthony who would wheelchair her from her chemo unit and help her exit the hospital.
They began to eat their meals in each others company. Seeing Anthony’s joviality made her hospital visits tolerable and even worthy of anticipation. Their brief cordiality graduated to a close friendship. He even took the task of dropping her straight home after work. When he kissed her cheek before saying goodbye, she accepted it with a smile.
Her need for a wheelchair subsided temporarily as she started to walk again, like a newborn conscious of her two feet. Having experienced this newfound improvement in herself, she braved one earnest request.
“Anthony, would you like to make love to me? I won’t mind if you say No.”
“I have wished that since I first saw you.”
Sukanya had one minor condition — that she take the lead. She undressed him first, an experience almost foreign to her. She started to giggle when she couldn’t open a few buttons, her happiness matching with his. Her kisses began at the nape of his neck and moved down to his chest. She unbuttoned her own blouse and brought his hands to the incisions where her breasts used to be. He took the hint and kissed her over those same scars. In those gentle kisses, she felt confident of her own body with all its defects.
When they had settled down with all the kissing on each other lips, she let him lie down and moved herself on top, permitting herself to put her pleasure at equal importance with his.
In the morning, she found herself in his loving embrace. The real world had reserved more injections and painkillers to her fate and she wished she could forever stay in that state with Anthony.
That night, Sukanya stood naked in front of the mirror and appreciated her body for the fight it was being put through. She had come to love it, with or without her lady lumps.
Anthony was certain that she would get better. What the docs noted in improvements in her appetite and weight, Sukanya felt it in her happier outlook to life. Anthony was not a keen church-goer but he stepped in once again on the day of her CT scan results, praying for a miracle.
Sukanya’s oncologist did not have the heart to tell her the results. The disease was still very much prevalent, and there were new spots on her lungs that were previously undetected.
“I’m sorry Sukanya. These cancer cells can be very smart. They become resistant faster than we are able to treat them. I will prescribe another drug for you.”
The new treatment failed much the same. Anthony was heart-broken most of all.
“Don’t worry dear. I’ve already experienced a miracle.”
“Being able to feel real love in this lifetime. I thank you for that.”
What one betrayed in sickness and in health, the other remained till death do (one of) them part.
Writer’s Note: —
Oh look folks! — It’s a photo of a woman breastfeeding her baby (an activity still frowned upon in public). This is the true and necessary function of the breast post-delivery, for both the mother and the baby. The breast, itself, is nothing more than adipose tissue. Men have them too, just without the mammary gland.
We live in an ironical society where sex scenes are censored more if the woman is shown to be actively enjoying it (e.g. Blue Valentine film), and where lingerie catwalks are an annual business but breastfeeding is too taboo.
We love our breasts but our worth is more than their sexual appeal. Peace ❤