(Those who know me well can jump to the part in Italics and skip my banter. But if you have nothing better to do…. Then, listen up!)
Welcome to the third update of this series. For those who are wondering where the hell are the first two, don’t worry! ‘Cuz I’ve got the link right here!
So! Now that you know (or don’t really care about) the story until now, let’s get started with today’s short story.
Just a sec. Before we start out, I want you guys to know that this story is different from the earlier updates in this series. For it bears a true testimony to the nature of this site. Reflections and analysis of the memory pool. In fact the main reason behind me publishing the two previous updates was so that this story got a backdrop that seemed necessary. So in case if you were wondering as to why had I deviated from my ‘theme’ recently, I hope that this chapter will resolve it.
Yeah, she remembered the night very well. For it had been one of those nights during which she had laid awake for hours, pondering deeply over Chandler’s words. Yes, he had been right. They had indeed come together by pure chance. She had never really given much thought to it. But the facts were solid:- She had almost been engaged to a millionaire, had once given her heart to a well established ophthalmologist, never actually realising that money and repute weren’t the things she had been looking for all along. What she had been looking for was a person who could understand her, comfort her and be her beacon in her darkest hour. Something for which she really didn’t have to look farther than the door right in front of her own.
Why had she been so blind so as to miss a thing so obvious?
How the hell had she, the person who had planned every detail of her wedding, let things come to a chance when it came to choosing the most important part of her wedding?
Why had she been so careless?
Speaking about responsibility, that was what Chandler had named his next chapter in the book, something which she found out on flipping the page absentmindedly. She looked at the date. It was one which she could recollect only too well.
Honestly, I really don’t think that I’m the right person to talk about this, since I’ve always been that type of person who has been running away from it all his adult life. But then… I guess you can say it got me! And it wasn’t so bad. In fact, sometimes, it made me wonder out loud,
“Seriously?! Is that all I had been running away from?”
But there were times when it wasn’t so easy. Times which made you realise how tough it could actually get.
7th September 2009
“Aww, honey! You don’t have to feel guilty about it!” My wife said, cuddling our daughter, Erica, as she finished narrating one of her very first experiences in pre-school.
“I don’t?” Erica asked, her face brightening all of a sudden.
“Yeah. Because that was something that happened a long time ago! It was something which our grand-grand-grand… grandparents did. Even grandpa Jack wasn’t born back then.” Monica said, repeating the word grand so many times that Erica let out a giggle.
“He wasn’t?! But he’s so old!” Eri exclaimed, her eyes widening with wonder.
I let out a small chuckle at that. My father-in-law surely would have had something to say on this.
“History is even older, sweetie. It dwarfs us all.” Mon explained, smiling sweetly.
There was a pause as our daughter digested this new piece of information. But then, she said something which completely caught us off guard.
“Hmm. But still we were responsible, weren’t we?” was her response, with a bit of a frown upsetting her otherwise flawless face.
‘When did she learn that?!’ I thought, finding a whole new level of respect for our daughter.
For once, my wife, who always had an answer ready was tounge tied by the question thrown at her by our inquisitive five year old, as she helplessly looked at me for an answer. It was about time that I uttered something. Or it won’t be ‘me’.
“Actually, you know what?” I said, stooping so as to look at my daughter in the eye.
“I don’t think we were. Because our grandparents, your great grandparents that is, weren’t actually born here. So they were not here at all!” I exclaimed, my brain coming up with the best possible solution it could in those precious five seconds.
“They were not?!” Erica exclaimed, her frown disappearing.
“Nope.” I said, moving my head for better effect.
Eri jumped with joy, her face lighting up with that carefree laughter I always loved to see.
“Yay! On your face, Jacob! We weren’t responsible!” she exclaimed, punching in the air and hopping with joy.
Just then, the doorbell rang. I frowned.
“We weren’t expecting anyone… Were we?” I asked Monica, who nodded a no, frowning as well.
I headed to the living room and opened the door to see a pair of very anxious parents and a kid of about Erica’s age in between them. I looked at them curiously, intrigued as to their purpose.
“Yes?” I asked.
They looked relieved by my cool demeanor. Perhaps they had been expecting something rude. I wondered why. It wasn’t time for my afternoon siesta. I don’t get cranky. Not for the next couple of hours atleast.
“Hi! We are Jacob’s parents. And you must be Erica’s father?” the man said, extending his hand for a formal handshake.
‘Ah! That explains it!’ I thought, finally understanding the reason behind their nervous attitude and unannounced arrival.
“Yup.” I said, as I accepted his handshake.
“We are very sorry for our child’s behaviour.” his mother said, looking genuinely upset.
“It’s alright. Please, come in!” I said, smiling reassuringly.
They looked at each other, surprised by the lack of hostility, yet again. ‘They seem like good people’ I thought, now feeling a little amused at their behaviour.
“Thank you.” she replied, as they entered the living room.
Over a platter of delicious snacks, the courtesy of my personal chef, Mon, the chain of events finally became clearer. Apparently, the previous night, Jacob had been told stories of atrocities exerted by the colonists on the natives by his grandfather, who lived in the reservation not far away. Jacob had taken them to heart and that was how he had ended up scolding poor Erica over it. Kids.
His parents were truly upset with the way things had turned out and assured us that they would take care that such a thing doesn’t happen again. Not much afterwards, Jacob humbly apologised to Erica, which she accepted immediately, being the kindhearted angel that she always is.
Around the time that we adults finished up, Erica and Jack hurried down the stairs to the living room, accompanied by an excited yet shy Jacob. They had been invited to his home, which it appeared had toys that we didn’t.
And that was how, an hour later, everything was alright and we had the house to ourselves, something which doesn’t happen that often if you have a pair of over-energetic five year olds running around all the time.
Monica shut the door and turned to look at me with a broad smile on her face. Well… that was until she noticed the expression on my face.
“Hey! What’s wrong?” she asked, coming closer and taking hold of my shoulders.
I sighed, a bit unsure of what I was about to say.
“You know, sometimes I wonder whether that is the right thing to do.” I said, being a little evasive on purpose.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You know, keeping them from the reality of the world.” I said, still going tangential. Honestly, I’m no fan of conflict. And debating with my wife is simply the last thing that I wanted. And not because of her temper, which by the way can be brutal if you get to her wrong side. Uh oh. I speak too much sometimes, don’t I?
“Oh come on! You honestly don’t think that we have a responsibility. Do you?” she countered, misinterpreting my statement.
“Actually Mon, we do have a moral responsibility.” I said, feeling glad that she had missed the true intention of my words.
On hearing those words, her frame suddenly shrunk.
“You are right. Maybe we do.” she said in a small voice.
“But she’s a five year old, Chandler! Can you imagine how much it would hurt her if we were to tell, Yes kiddo. You do have a ‘moral’ responsibility.” she continued, trying to make me understand.
I knew she was right. It really wasn’t right to expect a five year old to understand a concept so complex. Something which even most of us adults failed to grasp.
“I know. But that day would have to come someday. She’ll have to be responsible sometime.” I said.
“Now Chandler Bing is going to tell people to be responsible?!” Monica asked, her voice conveying the exasperation which she felt.
Ouch. That hurt.
“I… know what? You are right. Who am I kidding?” I replied, my shoulders sagging in agreement. I should indeed be the last person on this entire planet to teach ANYONE to be responsible.
Perhaps my expressions gave me away for Monica’s eyes immediately softened and she began rubbing my arm, looking genuinely apologetic.
“Hey, hey… I’m sorry.” she said, her voice sincere.
“It’s okay… ” I assured her.
That was when she finally realised what I had meant all along. Distancing from me just a little, she looked me in the eye and said,
“Today’s event is not what this is really about, is it?”
‘Gotcha!’ my brain said, admonishing.
“Well… it’s both. A yes as well as a No.” I began.
“Chandler…” Monica said, nodding her head.
Well, it was about time I ripped the bandage right off.
“It’s about lying to the twins that we are their biological parents. Sometimes… I really wonder whether that’s a good idea.” I stated, finally getting it off my chest.
“Chandler! We’ve been through this before! It’s not time yet.” Monica exclaimed in a low voice, as though afraid that the kids might hear us even though they were miles away.
There were very few issues about which Mon and I had completely opposite views. And this was the most important of them by far. And by that I mean really, really far. Ever since the twins had started calling us mom and dad, it has been something that has stuck me every time they did so, like a bomb ticking away someplace.
“It’s just that, I don’t want my kids to grow up like me. Afraid of responsibility and commitment. I want them to be like you. Able to face them with nerves of steel.” I reasoned, trying to make her understand as to why it was so important for me.
“You think too much of me, Chandler Bing.” she replied, blushing a deep crimson.
“No less than what you deserve, Mon.” I sincerely replied, pulling her close.
Our lips were about to meet when she suddenly backed off.
“I see what you are doing there, Bing!” she said. “You seriously think that’s gonna work this time?!” she challenged, with a look of mischief in her eyes.
“Damn it!” I exclaimed, upset that she had figured it out.
Okay, so I admit that I hadn’t been entirely sincere when I had complimented her. For lately, I had fallen into a habit of getting my demands fulfilled by a ‘failproof’ method suggested by my best friend, Joey Tribbiani. And anyone who knows him would realise that most of the stuff which was about to follow was a cliché ‘adult only’. Although… it had been working. Right until now, that is.
“But what if someone comes and pulls a ‘Chandler’?” I asked, something that had been nagging me ever since Eri told us about Jacob’s accusation.
“Someone pulls a Chandler?” my wife asked, amused.
“Yeah! Remember the time we had visited a couple who had adopted a child? And how I had ended up telling the kid that he was adopted? What do we tell our kids then? That yes, we have been lying to them from the start? Can you imagine how devastating that would be?” I said, my voice becoming a little too high pitched and desperate towards the end.
There was a definite pause as Monica realised that I was right.
“I… don’t think that would happen.” she said, sounding unsure.
“But what if it does?” I asked, almost pleading.
That was when the dam broke.
“Do you REALLY think that such a thought hasn’t crossed my mind?! If it isn’t someone from the adoption agency then it could be our parents! Or our neighbors. Or… or someone like Jacob who says something inadvertently.” she said, the words coming in a hurry as though they had been waiting to materialize all along. Which, perhaps were, now that I think about it.
“Mon…” I began, trying to calm her.
“Or.. What if the kids get up one fine day and notice that they don’t look like us at all?!” she exclaimed, with a hand on her forehead.
This wasn’t looking good.
“Mon…” I tried again, a little alarmed this time.
“What if they start asking us questions first! What if they reject us as their parents! What if…” she said, now beginning to shake with fear.
“MON! I need you to calm down and take a couple of deep breaths.” I said, finally succeeding in breaking her chain of thought.
She relented as I settled her down on the couch and got her a glass of water as she shook visibly, her breathing increasing remarkably.
“It’s freaking me out, Chandler.” she finally admitted as she gulped the water down and looked at me with tears in her eyes.
“Yeah… I know.” I said, taking the glass from her and pulling her into an embrace which she gratefully accepted.
After a while I gently broke the hug and taking both of her hands in mine, I said,
“See… This is exactly why we should tell them! Not telling will only increase our anxiety and their misgivings. For we simply have to tell them. It’s just a matter of time.”
Slowly, she nodded and a wave of relief passed through my body.
“I know. It’s just that… I don’t think they are ready.” she said, her voice filled with concern.
“They? Or is it us?” I challenged.
“I mean, you saw Erica today. She sure is. And as far as Jack is concerned… Meh! I don’t think he’ll care either ways!” I continued and we both chuckled as we fondly thought of the fiercely independent nature of Jack. Honestly, that boy might actually start living a life all by himself if we let him.
“But what if they take it to heart? What if they don’t understand… or worse… they never talk to us again?” she said, mirroring my worries.
“That part is always going to be there, Mon.” I replied, looking at her with half a smile. “And they will come around. I don’t think we are such bad people!” I continued, trying to cheer her up.
Her face brightened momentarily before she said,
“I really don’t think I can do this, Chandler…” her body language radiating uncertainty, a trait which was my homeground but almost unseen in my wife.
“Then may be it’s time that I took the lead.” I said, feeling a confidence that I didn’t really know I had.
“You sure?” she asked, with a look that made me feel as though I had volunteered to participate in the Hunger games or something.
“Yeah. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?” I asked, expecting atleast a snicker from her.
It didn’t come.
And so we sat, simply holding each other, almost dreading the arrival of our kids, an emotion which we hadn’t thought we would ever feel towards them.
That evening, the roles were reversed. Probably for the first time in my entire life, I was the one who took responsibility even when I had a choice not to. I was the one who slowly explained my kids while Monica simply stood by, looking at me with admiration, something which had been my department since time immemorial.
I’m not going to go into the details and describe everything that happened. Let’s just say that the words ‘soppy and emotional’ would suffice here. Thankfully, our kids neither ran away from us nor did they stop talking to us because of it. They were simply confused and unhappy, but that phase didn’t last long. Soon, things were pretty much back to the way they were. Kids. Their quality of being able to forgive and forget is something that us adults will always envy.
It wasn’t just the kids who learnt a lot that day. We did too. Running away from responsibility isn’t really the right way out. Because in the end, you might always feel…
“Seriously?! Is that all I had been running away from?”
By the way, the main reason why you guys were getting such quick updates was because I already had the material ready. Like I previously said, it was just some minor editing. From here on though, it’s going to be completely uncertain. (as it always has been. Gone are these good times of regular updates…) I hope you stay tuned though.
Note:- By the way, Monica’s memory lane isn’t over. I’ll be continuing that in the next chapter. So if you had been worrying that I had suddenly swapped the story, leaving Monica’s part incomplete, don’t worry!