It's been insistent, persistent in an almost irritating way...I say "almost" because it was not all ugly...but that particular scene keeps popping out of nowhere...and I feel a particular bitterness every time it knocks on the doors of my memory...
It was years back...sometime in winter, I had just lost my dad, it was all fresh...my mother was with me...she was particularly fragile...she had just lost her mate and her support.
He on the other hand, was always cheerful, he wasn't polished by life yet...he had it quite easy, well cushioned background, well off, tall, dark and handsome...he was a nice guy, charming, with a killing smile -- he was the perfect gentleman.
We met through a common acquaintance. I was still unsure of myself, my father's death didn't help much, I was vulnerable on so many levels, particularly in comparison to him. My family was not rich, it believed in investing in education instead of stocks and bonds...
So I had my education, some good looks and a meager salary as my supporting pillars. But he liked me and I liked him too. Not that we discussed this issue, it was way too early...but somehow he insisted that I meet his mother over a cup of tea, asking that I bring my mother with me. I don't know why but I went along with this proposition...traditionally he's the one who should come over to visit us and bring his mother with him...not the other way round. I do remember saying - why don't you come over with your mom ? He replied - not it's best we meet in a neutral place. The neutral place was a hotel lobby. So we did.
I sort of dragged mom along, asking her to make her self beautiful in spite of the black she had been wearing for some months now. We arrived at the hotel lobby, and we waited till mother and son appeared. She was dressed in a lovely silk dress with row upon row of pearls around her neck, she had her hair up...she walked across the room with an air of disdain, an air I could spot miles away. She was the exact opposite of her son. Cold, distant, contemptuous.
She checked my mother and I, out...studying our details...trying to suss out our net worth.
The son ordered some tea, that came in fine porcelain cups, cups as fragile as my mother and I felt. She hardly spoke, she picked up her cup and drank in small sips.
I remember the seating - she was on the heavy sofa, almost reclining with her cup in hand and mom and I were on the chairs opposite, nearly seated on the edge, as if tending our hands for a bit of conversation, anything to break the blizzard ice cold wind that she carried with her. I remember the son, he was also seated on the edge of his chair, still smiling, but his smile was somehow frozen on his face, as if he had been paralyzed -- with it, plastered on his lips.
I don't know how long the meeting lasted -- it felt like ages, interminable, suspended in time, heavy with non verbal messages, messages of strong disapproval. She would just keep sipping from that cup and give a faint em, em em, while her son was trying hard to go past an elementary introduction...she wasn't interested. She had figured out from "our details" that we did not belong to the right class. Education, travel and culture didn't impress her much, she saw no diamond rings on our fingers, no designers hand bangs and no row of pearls to speak for us...our humbleness, modesty, was a liability.
I don't exactly know when, at which point, in the silence that reigned between us, that I noticed her raising her eyebrows to her son, as if to say -- No.
The son went silent like his mother. My poor mother looked rather lost. I must have been swallowing my shock with my lukewarm tasteless tea...the mother fidgeted in her seat, redressed herself as if to say - the meeting is over. I put down my cup. I remember my hands were very cold, I could see how tightly my fingers had been gripping that cup handle and now they were free, leaving blue marks where the blood had stopped flowing...
I stood up and said "nice meeting you Mrs x", gestured towards my mother who was still on the edge of her seat, waiting for something, trying to make sense out of this cold aborted introduction...
We left the hotel lobby, and as we walked out in the fresh air, a chilly wind slapped our faces, hard.
Years passed, I saw Mr.Nice again, he still had that charming smile and he was still a gentleman, and I still saw that eagerness in his eyes, the same eagerness when he asked me to meet his mother that very first time...but him and I knew by now, it was a -- No.