Author’s note: After I finished reading “A Temporary Matter” in Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, I was unable to move. Not only did the ending shock me and upset me, but I was left with this empty feeling like the story wasn’t complete. I kept wondering “What happened to Shukumar? How does he handle this?” My questions will never be answered, but I knew I would sleep better at night having written my own form of answers. So for my blog, I continued Shukumar’s story.
Autumn quickly passed and Shukumar was getting ready for final exams. His students hated this time of the semester. Throughout the halls you could hear the constant complaining and whining drone on and on like a fan that’s twirling and twirling, too loud and annoying to ignore. The constant sound from the halls made him tired. Lately it seemed like he was always tired. He didn’t have the energy for anything. Not even to eat lunch. He had lost 15 pounds since Shoba left him. 15 pounds he didn’t have to lose. It wasn’t his fault. He tried to eat. He just couldn’t. Food lost all taste. Without taste, what’s the purpose of eating? He got by on coffee and a few crackers and maybe a free doughnut. Skukumar was staring at his computer screen in his office when the phone pierced his aimless thoughts.
It was his mother.
“Skukumar, how is your day going?”
“Fine, Mother, and yours?” He attempted to sound as upbeat as possible. He dreaded these calls. Since the divorce his mother called for more and more frequency. For moments at a time he contemplated changing his number. He could never do that to his mother, though. He felt sorry for her. And for himself. They were both alone.
“You don’t sound fine,” she replied, “Are you eating?”
“Yes, Mother, I’m eating. I eat all the time,” He was trying his best to conceal his lie. What should he say? “Actually, mother, I’m on my way out to grab lunch with Professor Lymen. You remember him?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” Now she was lying too.
Why does she always call when she knows we have nothing to say? Nothing has changed since the last time we spoke. He knew the answer. She was lonely. He was lonely too. He didn’t like to admit that small but crucial fact. His mother and he were in the same situation. Both lost without their life partner, their other half, their better half. However, his mother was widowed. His father died. His father never left her. His father never went off to live another life without her. He liked to believe that if it was possible, his father would have chosen to live forever with his mother by his side. That’s the difference. Shoba left him. She had decided to amputate him from her life and move on. She knew she could do better without a parasite clinging on, sucking life from her.
“Why don’t we take a trip?” asked his mother intruding on his self-pitying thoughts.
Was she serious?
“Excuse me?” he asked. Surely he misheard the question.
“A trip together. You and me. Maybe to
“You want to go back to
“Yes. I think it will be good for us. You’ve said before how much you’ve regretted not going more in the past. I think we could both use a break, no, a start over. There’s nothing to lose. I have nothing tying me here and you weren’t even sure if you were coming back next semester. It’s time for a new journey.”
There it was. The answer he had been looking for. It amazed him that his mother still knew him so well even after all of these years apart. Everything she had said was true. He didn’t have anything to lose. He had always wanted to go back to
“Alright, let’s do it!” he exclaimed. The instant and urgent agreement shocked and surprised them both. This was a turning point.