The Table Cloth

She stood at the table filling her cup of tea; careful, not wanting to spill a drop anywhere. The white table cloth with little flower prints was her favourite. She glanced at it while pouring tea. For so long, she had not looked at something so pure. It calmed her. The thought of composure kept her at peace.

Those tiny flowers with red petals and green leaves. She had seen it at the market a few weeks back and had bought it instantly. The white so pure; the red so lovely; the green so fresh. Suddenly, she felt something hot on her hands. She had filled the cup to the brim and tea overflowed. The black tea, now appearing a shade of brown, was all over the table, running down its sides, doing exactly what she had not wanted. Quickly removing the cup from the table top, she put some sheets of old newspaper on the cloth. They absorbed the dark liquid to an extent, but, could not prevent the stain. Her mother always said that tea stains could sometimes become almost permanent, that they were hard to remove. She took a closer look. It did not look the same; even the parts without stains. She looked harder. A yellow streak here and a brown blot there. The flowers that bloomed from a distance seemed to be drooping, the leaves withering away. She had not bothered to check these earlier; from a distance, it looked just fine. She had not cared about those little spots on it till the big brown patch of spilled tea marred its beauty. Now it looked dirty, even from a distance. She sat on a chair, still staring at the cloth, her vision slowly becoming hazy. Like the table cloth, her life, too, looked just fine from a distance. Calm, composed, orderly. But a closer look revealed what she neglected. Or maybe, she just procrastinated the concern, thinking there was enough time to think about herself, that now, was not the right time for self-indulgence. Little blows, little stains, a tiny heart; then a big blow, a big stain, but still, a little heart which could not rest, because life had to move on or time would overtake it and she would be left behind, running, gasping for breath, trying to catch up with the world speeding past her.

Her sub-conscious mind hunting for conscience. Or, perhaps, her conscious mind attempting to decipher the sub-conscious. And then, a drop of tear; the final stain!


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