“Tear-stained” - Elena had heard this phrase countless times, in movies, in books, in artsy plays. It was a difficult concept to grasp. Ink stains, blood stains, all of these were quite easy to understand. But tears were a transparent liquid, a bodily expulsion of translucent emotions. How could tears stain?
Like some sorry romantic movie, the clouds hung low outside her window as she contemplated what had transpired in the last few days. The rain never depressed her, and the gloomy skies only worked towards making her smile. Yes, she had a tear stained face today; the deep welts on her makeup which revealed the true dusky color of her skin. The clear marks, once her dark mascara had been washed away.
It was cleaning day.
There was so much she had to clean. It's funny how a 500sq ft house could house a lifetime of experiences, of memories. Well the house was still mighty big. She even dreaded opening her tiny brown wallet. She hated brown. That was one color she never warmed up to. But then this wallet, it was full of expensive treasures, and no money. An adage from a self-help book echoed in her ears, " What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Money would come…
The wallet was full of scraps of paper - bills, credit card receipts. So many things she had even forgotten existed. A crumpled bill from Nov 20th: hot coffee on the roof of a 12 storey building. The wind messed up her hair so badly, stray strands tickling her nose and her eyes; the "You're so pretty" whisper. There was a massive altercation they had later that evening, but then she could hardly remember what that was about.
Airport parking ticket stubs, from the first time he picked her up at the airport. There was still a tiny kohl stain on the side; fluid emotions because no one had ever done that for her before. With a great deal of effort, she crumpled it all up in her tiny hands and let out a feeble whimper as the paper cut through her skin.
Letting go was hard. She could throw away the trifles so lovingly collected. It would take some effort obviously. But what was harder was to change herself. The long waits, the daily rituals. How does one wipe those off?
She couldn't scrape the perfume off herself, the fragrance that he adored so much-her lucky perfume. Or the daily morning rituals, bathe first, brush next. She had become adept in getting out that exact amount of toothpaste on to her toothbrush, covering exactly 3/4th of it. She had used the same brand of face wash for over two years, and worn her makeup in the exact same sequence because that's how she did it on the best day of her life. If she ever digressed from her routine, it would be a bad day, at least in her head.
The last few months, no matter how much she stuck to the routine, the days would be grey. She tried so many combinations, slight changes here and there, hoping that things would fall in place. But that was simply resisting the changes - the changes within her, the changes within him.
She was tired. She hadn’t slept in almost a week. She looked at her watch. The hour hand gleamed on the number two in the dial. She smiled in her head. She had automatically tuned her brain to the new settings of the watch – ten minutes ahead, because she didn’t like to be late for dates. The movers would come at 3; seventy minutes for her to sort everything out.
The cleaning was nowhere close to done. But she needed to clean her mind and body first. Get rid of the imprints that she had so patiently tattooed on herself trying to hold on to what was so dear to her. There would be love, yes there would, and new rituals created, new experiences had. It would present itself at the most opportune moment. The memories were hers, to keep and love. But the time was ripe to make some more.
Her tears - of care, of insecurity and of envy, were really the tears of beautiful times. She looked at her tear-stained face in the mirror. Maybe, just maybe, tear stained wasn't such a bad thing...