“Maybe Soon if Not Now” by Rashmi Agrawal

He kisses me deeply, his cardamom-flavored saliva mingling with mine. Cardamom disgusts me; I like ginger tea. Yet he refuses to add ginger to mine. Is it too much work to make separate cups? How do you feel about the news? I ask, and he repeats the kiss. More passionately this time. A sensation tickles every pore of my skin. And I abandon the idea of leaving him. Maybe soon, if not now.


I can eat a whole one-pound plum cake right now. He brushes off my craving, saying I think about plum cakes too often. And that I should have carried apples with me. Apples! To the clinic? He strokes my belly and presses his ear on it, listening to the heartbeats, trying to feel the kicks. Just four months more; so, be careful with the raging sugar levels, the doctor warns us. I drool at the sight of a confectionary shop when he stops our car to pick milk packets, but he’s oblivious to my desire. Despair hooks and squeezes and wrings my heart. I complain to my mother later about him being heartless, and Maa advises not to linger on it because sometimes husbands are indifferent. Maa knows better. And I abandon the idea of leaving him. Maybe soon, if not now.


Whenever I propose to watch a late-night movie these days, he makes an excuse. Work call or pending documentation for a client. Else he’s too tired and says, I should sleep better and not invite anything that can erode my erratic sleeping further. But after I half-sleep, he watches the web series I’ve been craving for. All night, all alone. And enjoys the sensual scenes, every second of them. Keeping my eyes shut, I toss and turn and moan, pretending to be waking up soon. The doctor says I should try to rest more for being energetic in the third trimester. So, he complains jokingly (or jokes complainingly?) about how bravely he pampered and curbed my cravings to binge-watch A-rated flicks. Pampered? You deceived me, you traitor. I complain to my mother later about him being a nagger, and Maa advises not to chide because husbands sometimes grumble about nothing. Maa knows better. And I abandon the idea of leaving him. Maybe soon, if not now.


As I try to take a turn in the night, my eyes sleepless and throat burning with acid reflux, I ask him to make me something tangy, preferably tomato soup. Instead, he makes me a banana shake and cuts an apple. “Anytime in the next week now,”he says, cuddles with me and drifts to sleep, feeling the occasional kicks. While he snores lightly by my side, I trash the apple slices and flush the half-drunk shake away in the toilet. I message my mother in the morning and ask her for the tomato soup recipe, one of her best. Who cares if the kitchen gives you nausea? Cravings need to be satiated. But I throw up twice and dump tomatoes, chilies, garlic pods, carrots, and vegetable stock in a bin when the chimney makes no effort to digest those peculiar smells. I complain to my mother later about him being uncaring, and Maa advises not to overthink because husbands don’t care unless necessary. Maa knows better. And I abandon the idea of leaving him. Maybe soon, if not now.


When the first wave of spasms, just a tiny tickle, hits me, I ask him to take me to the hospital. He says to wait for three hours, and I hate him even more, wanting to leave him after my twins arrive. How can I not go now? I huff and wait and rant and sulk. A while later, he calls me, his voice a clink of coins. Fragrances hit me, a myriad of them, alleviating my throes. Our dining table is loaded with soups, cakes, pastries, and all the food I have been craving for. He plays my favorite movie and asks me to relax for two more hours because the doctor says we can wait and I should eat what I like. Also, the hospital is just ten-minutes afar, he says. Time to worry about your gestational diabetes is over, he adds and pours me a cup of tea. The wafting smell of ginger admonishes my fickle apprehensions. I call my mother to tell her the story, pangs of pain writhing my insides and a nurse consoling me while pushing my wheelchair through the spirit-washed corridor. Maa advises I should enjoy his pampering while it lasts because husbands pamper little beyond honeymoon and pregnancy. Maa knows better. And I abandon the idea of leaving him. Perhaps that’s how marriage is; part denials, part approvals. She has survived it for thirty-three long years. I’ll learn too; maybe soon, if not now.