“You know you cannot give me the silent treatment forever!” said Noel, as he watched Dina glued to the television, wearing his brown, leather jacket. He smiled in the darkness of the room, knowing that she at least liked something about him.
Click. “North Korea has been…”
Click. “The idea of democracy is often…”
Click. “Thousands of people in this part of Syria have had to….”
Click. “There are traces of clouds in an otherwise clear sky here at…”
“How many times do you want me to say sorry?” said Noel.
Click. “Welcome, welcome, welcome! Tonight we have…”
There was a low creak as Noel got up from the old brown chair. “I can always have a beer and spend my time better than squealing at you for nothing.” From the corner of her eye, Dina saw the dent on the sofa rising back to shape.
Noel walked into the dining room and opened the fridge. The squelch of the old fridge door rang clear through the sound of quick succession of channels changing. “Why’s there no beer?” Noel spoke to himself. “WHY’S THERE NO BEER, DINA?” A talk show host was loudly welcoming a guest. “HUH?” Noel yelled again.
“Hello there, Jimmy.”
“Hi Matt. Welcome.”
“Thank you Jimmy.”
“When did you last come to our show? Two years?”
Cling, cling. The bottles shook as Noel moved the fridge door to and fro. “There’s wine. But there’s no beer,” Noel murmured.
“Why’s there wine and no beer?” Noel came back with a tall glass of Coca Cola, as she looked at the TV with glassy eyes. “Now that’s funny and spiteful! Just because we’re not talking, it doesn’t mean you get even with me over my choice of alcohol! Will you stop watching these silly shows and hand me the remote?” Noel said, extending his hand.
“I was at the Graham Norton Show last week and it was hilarious..” says Matt. Jimmy makes a face and everybody laughs.”No, I didn’t mean you’re not funny,” Matt laughs ruefully as the audience guffaws, with Jimmy shrugging his hands in denial.
“Unbelievable!” Noel shook his head and settled into his chair. He pressed his fingers on the glass and looked at the icy impression, when Dina switched the channel to National Geographic. “There… Thank you!” he acknowledged.
A couple of deer zigzagged across a wide stubbled field, with a cheetah sprinting behind them. Noel took a sip of the fizzy bubbles and let out a contented, cold sigh. The chair next to him sighed with him, as Dina’s body wound itself into the shape of an embryo.
“One of the deer gets caught in the spree. The cheetah holds on to its right leg…”
Dina snored softly, lulled by the familiar, monotonic commentary. The light from the television flashed on her face, lighting up the furrows of unwashed mascara streaming down her eyes, sticking her hair to her cheeks. Noel looked at the crumpled figure. For a moment, he swelled with love for her. She was always such a darling woman, cheerful and loving. Now… she looks like a pile of unwashed laundry.
He pursed his lips and whispered, “I’m sorry, Dina. I shouldn’t have fought with you before leaving…”
Ring, Ring! Ring, Ring!
Noel looked at her, as Dina woke up and took the call. “Yeah?” said Dina, her voice broken from long hours of heartbreak and silence.
“Are you sure you won’t come, honey? Look, there’s everyone–” Click. Dina hung up the phone. She held her breath and choked on a sob.
“Who was it?” Noel asked.
Dina covered her mouth with a hand and pressed her eyes hard, quivering in sobs. “What’s wrong, Di? Please, I’m sorry, okay?” Noel said, kneeling close to her. He put away his Coca Cola on the table. Dina looked at the glass, half full and out of fizz, with a fly sitting on its rim and dried rings marking its circumference.
Noel tried to touch her arm, but Dina instantly shrunk into a ball and breathed heavily. “Look, I know we’ve had our differences but you cannot just shut me out. What do you want me to do, huh? Tell me!” Noel insisted patiently.
Dina held on to the jacket she was wearing, as if in embrace. She slowly recovered, wiped her teary eyes and switched on the news channel.
A commentator was standing in front of a candle-lit procession. “People have gathered here in huge numbers to honour the deaths of the ML-3487 victims. The streets are lit with candles, as families and friends place the photographs of the dear ones they lost to this tragic plane crash. Sources say that it was a preplanned, motivated and condemnable attack.”
Dina looked at the solemn peace rally that is shown walking on the road, holding placards of “Stop Killing Innocent People” and “What if it was Your Family instead of Mine?” etc. Among them, she saw a bespectacled sexagenarian woman carrying a placard that reads: “If you’re doing it for God, then may your GOD be more benevolent to my Noel than YOU.” Above it, was a Facebook picture of Noel holding a beer glass with his friends and Dina.