It was years ago that I saw her. Yet her distinct features are forever etched in my memory.
I was sitting in the waiting lounge at airport killing time when my eyes found her. She sat in the corner chair near the wall right opposite to me. A new mom completely engrossed with her new born, oblivious of the world around. There were bags under her rich chocolate colored eyes like someone had smeared ash around them. Her eyes that told stories of countless sleepless night she’d spent taking care of her baby. Her uncombed hair tied in a bun with few strands falling on her face, her cotton dress creased and stained, but she didn’t seem to care.
Photo Source: Hernán Piñera
I watched as she held her baby like a treasure, caressed her gently and then adjusted the blanket in which baby was swaddled. The baby seemed to be asleep. But she continued to sing lullabies and rock the baby. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and craned my neck a bit to get a peek at her treasure as well. It was then that she caught my gaze for the first time and for some reason she looked offended, rich chocolate in her eyes transformed into strong bitter coffee. Unsure of what to do, I smiled briefly and looked away. My cheeks flushed with heat.
Perhaps I’d been gawking mindlessly at them for too long. Perhaps it was just the overprotective streak of a new mother. Or perhaps she thought I was mocking her appearance. No, I wasn’t. And I didn’t mean to offend either; I was just admiring the raw beauty of motherhood.
From the corner of my eye I could notice her getting busy with the infant again and I let out a little sigh of relief. This time she sang the lullaby even louder and rocked harder. Even couple of passers-by slowed down for a while and watched her in amusement before picking up the pace again toward their respective destinations. The intensity of her voice and moving hands perturbed me strangely. But I stubbornly continued to gaze at my mobile screen attempting my best not to bother her again.
As a faceless voice announced the boarding for my flight, I gathered my belongings and stood up. And just then out of the blue something unthinkable happened. And it all happened in a blur of just few seconds. The baby slipped from her hands and I instinctively rushed forward with my arms open. I barely managed to catch her swaddled treasure in time. A train of rapid emotions—shock, fear, relief and confusion crossed my trembling self, my mind still struggling to keep along. She seemed dumbfounded and blankly stared at my hands with her brown eyes hazed by an impenetrable, incomprehensible steam.
Following her line of sight what I saw made me recoil and sigh. Baby! That baby wasn’t a baby! It was a doll, a lifeless doll, staring at me from under the blanket. It was a doll she’d been caressing all along. Without a word I kept the swaddled bundle back into her lap, adjusted the blanket, turned back and walked away. And the last thing I saw before turning back was the haze in her eyes slowly lifting to expose the ready to drip molten chocolate. I could feel her gaze at my back but I continued to walk without looking back.
Sitting in the flight I let my head fall back and closed my eyes in an attempt to brush aside the lingering image of that fluxed chocolate about to dribble. What did that fluid hold within? May be an unborn child. Or the one that was born and lost. Or the one that was never conceived. Whatever it was, the melancholy in those rich brown eyes constricted my throat.
I don’t know who she was, where she came from or where she was going. I don’t know her name either. For me her only identity was that of a mother. But was she one? I honestly don’t care. I still recall her as a mother, a real one—compassionate, protective, loving and oblivious of what the world thinks of her child.