Loosely based on Bindu’s own personal experiences, A Nice, Doctor Son is about the heartbreak of losing your first love, the importance of giving love a second chance, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, the 3rd time will be the charm.
A Nice, Doctor Son (Excerpt Two)
It was a beautiful evening, I thought, as I began the trek to Central, a park located just a half-mile from my house. If ever there was an evening for a proposal, this was it, I thought to myself. It was one of those magical nights where the sun, moon, and stars all seemed to be in alignment. Although it was dusk and the sun had settled, it was still eerily bright outside, reminding me of one of those Winnie the Pooh viewfinder scenes I used to stare at for hours on end when I was a kid. The sting of the summer heat had already subsided and a fresh breeze had further cooled off the evening, giving it a light balmy feel. The grass smelled fresh and crisp, reminding me of summer rain. I glanced quickly at the sky and noticed dark, menacing clouds in the distance. They were headed the other direction, I determined. Nothing was going to ruin tonight…because whether Armaan proposed or not, I knew it was going to be a special evening. Besides, even if it rained, the night might even be more romantic. Many a Bollywood love story had blossomed under the nurture of a summer shower.
As I made my way to the bridge, I could see the faint outline of a full moon. Yes, it was most certainly a perfect night! The humidity was low tonight, thank God! Otherwise, my summer dress and matching cropped cardigan would have been drenched in sweat.
Central wasn’t your regular kids’ playground park. Donated by Rudolph Holbus Wolfgang, it was 20 miles of everything one could ever hope to find in a park—a playground, a jogging path, a bike trail, a hiking trail, and a picnic area. The edge of the park jutted against a forest and Lake Juniper. As a child I had gone to the playground hundreds of times, but I had probably only seen less than one mile of what it had to offer. I vaguely recalled taking a kayaking ride with my Girl Scout’s troupe when I was in 5th grade. It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I even knew that there were miles and miles of unexplored wilderness just waiting to be hiked.
In high school, I had ventured beyond the playground and discovered that if you followed the hiking trail for a quarter of a mile and then veered off to the right, you’d find yourself in an empty meadow that in the summertime would bloom beautiful wildflowers. To the right of that was our signature spot—an abandoned wooden bridge that overlooked the most picturesque little creek. It was a place I had only shown to Reena and Armaan. It was one of my favorite spots at the park, and it reminded me of a scene right out of one of those nature calendars that we got from my parents’ car insurance agent, Jerry Knowles, every year. My family rarely traveled anywhere, and I often thought being here was like what I imagined being in upstate New York would be like.
The entrance of the park was the play area, complete with a swing set, jungle gym, monkey bars, slides, and a merry-go-round. The rest of the park was modeled after Central Park in New York City, and the outer back edge of the park was more of a forest. The park wasn’t your typical park. It was 20 miles of undisturbed nature.
All my most significant moments with Armaan took place in this park, right here at the bridge. It’s where we had our first date…and then shared our first kiss. And if Reena’s hunch was right, it might also be where he was going to propose.
By the time I arrived, dusk had settled in. Tall black cast-iron lampposts were already lit throughout the park, making the evening even more magical. I glanced at the sky again and saw that the clouds seemed to be ever so shifting towards us, rather than away from us as I had initially thought. The sky had darkened a bit more, making me wonder if it weren’t going to rain after all. But I wasn’t made of sugar, and I certainly wouldn’t melt. I buttoned the last 3 buttons on my cardigan and straightened the skirt of the dress, wondering again if the outfit wasn’t overkill. Reena was still convinced Armaan was going to propose, but to avoid being too disappointed if he didn’t, I was being cynical and trying to have low expectations. I was trying my best to look casual but still dressed up, just in case our reunion date was more than just that. I pulled out my compact mirror to do a final check. Eyeliner, lipstick, base and mascara were all still in place. I had even spent some extra time to emphasize my best assets—shaping my eye lashes with an eye lash curler I bought a few weeks ago. My eyes, he had always told me were always his undoing. Bedroom eyes, he would always say.
I arrived at the park, quickly walking towards our favorite spot, just in front of the bridge, and to my surprise, Armaan was already there. He was leaning against the railing of the bridge, with his hands clasped behind him, deep in thought. He was wearing his Stanford polo shirt and jeans and his hair was cut very short but his bangs had grown and he wore them neatly combed to the side rather than his signature Caesar haircut. It was a simple haircut, making him appear more traditional than I knew he was.
I tried to sneak up on him and catch him off guard, but he heard my footsteps in the grass and immediately turned around, looking slightly startled. When he saw that it was me, he broke into one of his signature heart-melting smiles. I lunged into his arms, and his arms pulled me tight as my feet dangled just inches off the floor.
“Hello, stranger!” I said, squeezing him and breathing in his deep musky scent that mingled with his after-shave.
“Hello yourself!” he said. He then loosened his own tight embrace and once he placed me firmly back on my feet, he leaned back to look me over. He had a way of looking at me that made me feel as if I were the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. “You look cute. You cut your hair,” he said smoothing an unruly curl. “I like it. It suits you,” he said.
“Thank you!” I said, as I lightly touched his hair and affectionately squeezed his cheek. “You look cute, too…just like a good Indian boy who listens to his mommy and daddy.” I said the latter part of that in a thick Indian accent. He laughed.
“So how are you?” I asked, looking up at him, the adoration evident in my eyes.
“Good…I’m good.” he said, smiling into my eyes. He was still holding me loosely in his embrace as his eyes then dropped to my lips. Armaan was a good looking man, but even I forgot what a strong effect he had on me. I closed my eyes and leaned in for the kiss that I was sure that would follow. But he abruptly pulled away from our embrace and held my hands loosely for a few seconds and then dropped them altogether. He then shoved his hands into his pockets and began pacing up and down in front of me, occasionally raking his hands through his hair.
I had expected him to ravish me in an unforgettable kiss, so I was a little thrown-off when he pulled away. I sensed his slight restlessness, almost like a nervousness. I smiled as I guess the underlying reason for it. Plus, we hadn’t seen each other in 3 months, so even I was a little nervous to be around him.
“So how was your trip? Tell me everything!” I begged, eager to ward off the awkwardness.
He smiled boyishly at me, “Everything, huh? Well, there’s a lot to tell.” He walked over to the bridge, staring at the water, and then looked back at me with a wistful look in his eyes. I waited for him to say something, but he just stood there, staring at me oddly and then turned back to stare quietly into the waters of the lake. I joined him, standing close to him, expecting him to put his arms around me, but he didn’t.
Even a small brook could be so magical at night. The moonlight shimmered on the still water, and I could see hear the sound of the brook as it trickled down the rocks before it eventually joined the seemingly bottomless waters of the lake. The smell of fresh cut grass was now getting stronger, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the rain started. He was once again looking at me, and my heart quickened in nervousness, but luckily the night shadows hid my blushing. Not wanting to break the magic moment, I remained silent even though every part of me wanted to know why he was being so aloof. He could be so enigmatic at times, but I was sure it was the jet-lag that made him seem even more so…or maybe it was being in India for three months. Our motherland had a way of changing you, of seeping in your bones in the slightest way and making you for a brief time into the person you would have become had you never left her shores.
The moon was full and round tonight. A true Harvest Moon tonight and for a few moments we just continued to stand on the bridge watching the moonlight play against the soft current of the creek. Finally he spoke.
“Sarai, there is something I have to tell you,” he said. My eyes widened and my throat constricted as I nodded in reply. I inhaled deeply as I tried to steady my nerves. This was it.
He cleared his throat and then rephrased his statement. “Actually, there is something I have to ask you.”
I know, you do, I thought silently to myself. Reena had been right. He was going to propose.
He reached for my hands and held them. “You know how much I care for you, right? And you know I want you to be happy, right?”
My heart thudded louder against my chest, almost drowning out his words, which were undoubtedly a preamble to his proposal. Did he realize I knew what he was going to do? I still couldn’t believe he was going to propose. Maybe it was being away from me for 3 months that made him realize that he wanted to be with me forever and that we did belong together.
“Yes…” I whispered. I was partially expecting him to get on one knee, but the poor boy was probably so nervous that he had forgotten about that one tradition.
“Okay, what is it?” I asked, smiling, suddenly feeling giddy. I reached out to smooth a non-existent wrinkle in his shirt. I just wanted to touch him. He had gotten a little leaner, I realized. He glanced down at my fingers, and then with his left hand, he clasped it over my hand. “Sarai…”
“Yes?” I asked gently, my voice tender, almost like a whisper. His face was so beautifully lit up in the moonlight. It was so good to see him. I thought of him every day, every hour, and at times, every minute when he was gone. Knowing he would be coming back to me is what kept me from missing him too much. But being around him again made me realize how much he had become a part of my life and a part of me.
He was quiet again, and said nothing for a few seconds. I could hear the hesitation in his voice. “Sarai,” he began again. But then he paused and looked away. I noticed the reluctance to speak. I looked at him questioningly, wondering why he was struggling so much with the words. Was he that nervous? Although I had expected him to be nervous, I hadn’t expected him to be so hesitant and unsure of himself. He had to know how crazy I was about him! He cleared his throat a couple of more times, and I held my breath, waiting in anticipation for him to say the words.
The night sky stood in the backdrop, providing the most unbelievable ambiance. It was now dusk, and between the smell of rain and the light fog that seemed to cover the ground like a sheer blanket, there was an undoubtedly a dream-like quality to the evening.
“Sarai…when I was in India, something happened…”
You realized how much you missed me and need me, I thought.
“My father had a heart attack, and he was in a coma for a few days.”
And you realized the importance of not waiting…but seizing the moment.
“And I vowed to Vishnu that if he brought my father back, then I would do anything required of me.”
And Vishnu told him to marry the Christian girl he was dating.
“And a few hours later my father woke up from his coma, and I made the same promise to him that I made to Vishnu.”
And you told him about me and how much we were in love.
“And he told me how his wish was always to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor and someday take over his cardiology practice.”
And you’re on your way of fulfilling that wish, I thought, proudly.
“And then he said there were only two things more he wanted.”
A wife and kids.
“He said he last wish was to see me married to the daughter of his childhood best friend, Sumas, and give him grandchildren.”
My heart quickened. What an odd thing to say, I thought. But then you told him about me and how much you loved me and could only be with me.
But then he looked at me, and I saw his eyes, filled not with anticipation but apology.
“And things happened so quickly…the family came to our house, and I met Sandiya and…” His voice trailed off, and he finally raised his eyes to me. They were sad. Those weren’t the eyes of someone who was about to propose. I began to brace myself as I tried to follow what he was trying to tell me. Somehow I knew that whatever it was he had to tell me also was not something I would want to hear.
And you told her how you could never consider her because you were already with someone else.
My heart must have stopped beating.
For most of my life, I have been a writer in one form or another. Through high school and college, I worked on and contributed to the school literary magazines as well as the school newspaper. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in English and Mass Media and a Master of Arts in English Literature with a specialization in technical writing, I have been working for the past 15 years as a business analyst/technical writer in various fields, from IT to healthcare. While I have written a few short stories, A Nice, Doctor Son is my first novel.