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unasked for defeat

published: 2012-01-28

A woman sweeps her balcony. There are no leaves on the trees, it is Winter. She glances over to an adjacent house, the house without curtains. The lady who lives there often sits in front of her laptop, eats a sandwich while working. Sometimes she dances and puts on music really loud. It’s always dramatic music. Or she sits in a chair next to the window and drinks a cup of coffee early in the morning. And sometimes there’s a man. They unashamedly embrace, unaware of the rest of the world. Or simply not caring.
Today, the lady is in front of her laptop again. She is not working though. Her head rests on her arms, face down. The woman studies the lady and recognizes the jerky movements that reveal she is sobbing. The lady then sits up and drops her face in her hands.
The woman slips on her jacket and runs out. She counts windows and doorbells and floors. Number 12, 3rd floor. It takes a while for the lady to answer.
“Hello?” says the lady through the intercom. Her voice contains the careful tingle of hope.
“It’s your neighbour,” says the woman. “I was wondering… if you happen to have any… any sugar?” God does she sound pathetic.
“Yes sugar.”
“I think so.” The lady opens the door. She is smiling radiantly. “I thought this only happens in sitcoms,” she says and laughs. The woman studies the lady’s face which has smudges of mascara on it. So she was right then, the lady was crying.

“Are you all right?” asks the woman.
The lady turns to her, still smiling.

“Why do you ask?”

The woman glances at the window and the lady instantly understands.

“Well,” she says, and after a while, “I never knew having to admit defeat is so hard.” Still, she smiles. She bites her lip, but smiles.
The woman nods. Her mother once warned her she shouldn’t give up on school and trot off to do weird soul-searching stuff in India. The woman is now almost fifty and is still soul-searching. She also lives in the same tiny studio she lived in when she was twenty. Moreover, she is no longer in touch with her mother.

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