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Women’s Day-Offs – Stories of Perfect Storm in Teacups

Sticking By

The room looked ravaged by a storm. She looked around, her sharp eyes quickly taking in the half-eaten plate of dinner from last night that lay forlornly on the bedside table, clothes thrown around the room, and the tissues rolled up and scattered all over the floor. She knew they would still be wet from all the tears. Almost unknowingly, she let out a sigh. She needed to make that call now.

The complete stillness inside the room felt suffocating for a minute. Despite literally no solid reason at all, she would have a day off at work notched up against her name. She had recently been promoted after years of vying for the position, upsetting a considerable number of contenders. Bottomline, the absence will not go unnoticed.

She wondered if she would be the first individual in the world to skip work because her sister, always more emotionally volatile, was struggling with a breakup! She shook it off, picked up the tray of half-eaten food, and sauntered out of the room. She would make her sister a strong cup of tea and wouldn’t mind a cup herself. She had a long day ahead of her, with all the hysterical lamentations she knew awaited her.

She put the kettle on to boil and strolled back towards the bedroom. As she peeked in, her heart melted into a soppy mess, like the balls of tissue on the floor. Her sister, three years younger, was sitting in bed clutching a pillow and staring at her phone in desperate anticipation of a ring. A day off for the sister she loved most dearly—perhaps wasn’t entirely unjustified after all.

Too Polite to be Rude

From the corner of her eyes, she watched her sister-in-law talk nineteen to the dozen standing next to her. Her mind drifted to the new art project she had been entrusted with. She had started working on it only last night with feverish excitement; freelancing had turned out rather well for her. She loved being her own master. Her clients vouched for her sincerity and commitment. A reputation she had worked hard to attain over the years. But soon, it will be put to the test. She is about to miss a deadline. Not the end of the world, but for her, it is, nonetheless. Unannounced guests, a substantial team of two, a sister-in-law and her husband, with a penchant for overstaying.

Her phone buzzed as her nimble fingers sliced mushrooms at an impeccable speed. Perhaps it’s the client wanting to set up a meeting, she thought, as she glanced at the heap of meat and vegetables piled on the countertop behind her. Or perhaps it was one of the sponsors. Creativity requires time. She won’t turn in sloppy work! It will be several rounds of sidelong glances, animated whispers, battle of words, competition of urgency, before which the vanquished husband would find it reasonable to take a day off and take things over. She looked at the dishes cluttering the sink. She sighed long at the reasons for her day off. The perfect storm in a teacup!.

Can’t turn one’s back on

Speaking of storms, the mechanical whirring of the phone pulsated through her sleep-addled brain. On any other day, this would have qualified as one of her favorite morning sounds, galvanizing her into action as she got ready for a long day ahead. But today wasn’t any other day. Today her throbbing temples felt like the insides of the pounding coffee maker, and her half-asleep consciousness was little more than the pulverized beans. The rich aroma of the freshly ground coffee crept up to her nostrils, ensnaring her senses. For the slightest moment, it seemed to animate her almost lifeless limbs. She poured out the hot coffee, took a sip, and let the warmth of the caffeine course through her. With a sigh of great satisfaction, she placed the mug on the table and fell asleep.

When she woke again, it was already past noon. She hadn’t made it to the office today Unavoidable circumstances. A sleepless night as it were. Sleepless because of the snoring. The earplugs didn’t help, nor did pulling the covers over the head, or parading into the room next door, lugging a pillow behind her. The snarling crept through the walls as she tossed and turned in the guest room adjacent to the bedroom where her husband snored. Peaceful yet determined. The shrill trilling of the phone spiraled into the depths of her sensibilities until it jolted her out of her stupor. She had to inform the office. She was supposed to send in the weekly report today. But that could wait. For now, she switched her phone off, collapsed on the bed once more, and had before long turned into a slumbering log of wood. Some nights are difficult when the snoring is loud, and the sleep is light. She needs to face the challenge. Noise cancellation earphones will save the night, perhaps.

Author: Surangama Guha Roy
[Sociology; Goldsmiths College, London; Presidency College, Kolkata; Research & Writing]

Illustration: Edited by TDLM Design Team


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