By Anjana Sankar
“Can I pay €35 to attend a university party?”, the message flashed on my WhatsApp last Friday evening.
“Is it okay if I take a membership in a sports club? It costs €75. Hope you don’t mind.” This was the Friday before.
There were already quite a few pings during the previous weeks with clinical monetary demands thrown in. Every time I punched in a reluctant ‘Yes!’, my screen would abruptly go dark with an ‘I love you, Mom!’ riposte.
My ‘I love you too’ quips usually languish in the ‘delivered but not read’ special WhatsApp cell, like prisoners waiting for royal pardon and release.
This is the new communication pattern — with a few heart-warming exceptions — that has emerged between me and my son over the past one-and-a-half-months ever since he left for university in the Netherlands. His leaving in September was a celebration, a brag-worthy feat we both pulled off. An accomplishment of sorts. He said he could not wait to leave home and live in a foreign country. AI-enabled translations read, ‘Dying to get rid of you, mom’. I said I could not wait to retire from active motherhood. To get rid of the weight of parenthood I was lugging along on my own for 18 years. ‘Will have a blast after you leave, my son’ was putting it bluntly.
After weeks of hectic logistics and thousands of dirhams flying out of my pocket, he finally left. Then came the relief. Then the quietness. Then silence. Pain. Anguish. Tears.
Enter emptiness. It always marches in with a condescending self-pity. And arrogant self-assuredness. It stares at me as though I am an empty wall that has been ripped off its posters. It watches me with a scorn as I go about doing my chores.
It would not leave. Like a stubborn stain.
It is there when I wake up in the morning. In the night, when I come home from work, it is still there as ubiquitously as I left it in the morning. It does not make any noise knowing that I hate silence. The kind of silence that explodes in my ears.
Even my TV has become annoyingly quiet. The idiot box has certainly kicked its old owner to oblivion. The pizza delivery is not knocking on the door. The supermarket guy pretends he has no business with me when he walks past my door. The music has gone on mute. The fridge has become zero-tolerant to constant intrusion. My house is refusing to get messed up.
When emptiness is conquering my space, I am now busy befriending time. We never understood each other in the past. We were never mutually available. But we are making amends now. It waits on me and I dote on it. It takes my orders and I am eager to dance to its tunes. Such cozy bond it is turning out to be because we know we have each other to lean on.
And it is teaching me a few new things. To accept without explanation. To surrender without a fight. To own without possessing. And to wait unconditionally — for the next WhatsApp message.
Anjana is a journalist by profession, humanist by passion. Her cluttered desk is not an indication of her state of mind