December 5, 2020

Kismat

(c) J. Singh, 2016

Jessie Kaur clasped her hands before her as her husband, Sukhjit walked out of the
double-doors leading to the diagnostic imaging center in the hospital. She had been sitting restlessly on the sofa in the waiting room, riddled with anxiety. Sukhjit was tall and thin, and he walked slowly across the hallway, one hand carefully placed on the right side side of his abdomen. The pain hadn't subsided in weeks. His doctor had ordered a blood test, urine sample, and now a CT scan. They had already ruled out appendicitis, to Jessie's great relief. But the cause of the pain was still a mystery. Jessie feared the worst, but could not bring herself to talk about that dreaded C word - Cancer.

Sukhjit had a dark complexion which made him look as if he had spent one too many hours in the sun and gotten an extra layer of tan. His beard was graying on each side, betraying signs of his age. His bright yellow turban made him stand out amongst everyone else in the waiting room. But to Jessie, it also made him characteristically who he was.

She stood up and ran to him. She hugged him and her blue eyes looked up into his soft brown eyes. Those same eyes that she had first seen more than twenty years ago, back when they were both in college. She had never met a Sikh before, and it was an entirely new experience for her. She had been intensely curious about his culture and traditions from the very start. But it was his personality that really caught her attention. His way of thinking and looking at the world. Most of all, and this is what made her fall in love with him, was his kindness. She had never met anyone like him before, he was unique. They married shortly after graduating, and began their new lives together. They bought a house, started a family, and had barbeque's in the summer. Everything was going well until he started experiencing these mysterious abdominal pains.

And now, Jessie feared she might lose Sukhjit to any number of dreaded diseases that the strange pain could be attributed to.

"Is there too much pain?" she asked, concerned.

"No," he smiled and caressed her cheek. "It's alright. The scans are done, we can go
home now. I'll get a call from the doctor's office with the results."

"Hopefully they will be able to tell us what's causing this pain," she said, and then took his arm as they slowly walked out of the waiting room.

Jessie found it difficult to sleep that night. Her over-active mind kept racing from one thought to another, jumping from scenario to scenario without pausing or stopping. What if it was cancer? How could she live without Sukhjit? How would she raise the kids alone? What if he was being misdiagnosed? Maybe they should get a second opinion? How would the kids handle the loss of their father? Could she handle it? Was Sukhjit not telling her how bad the pain was? Should she take him to the Emergency Room? Thoughts swirled and churned in her mind, each one with a panic scenario more severe than the last, vying for attention. At one point, she realized that she was clenching her jaw tightly. And then came realization that all the muscles in her body were tense. She took a deep breath, consciously relaxing herself. She didn't realize how exhausting all this thinking had been. She yawned, fatigued, and turned to look at Sukhjit, who was lying next to her, asleep. He seemed so peaceful, breathing quietly as he slept. She wiped a tear and then curled up next to him.

"I don't want to lose you," she thought, "Please, don't leave me alone."

And then, her thoughts became an appeal. "Dear Vaheguru, please save Sukhjit from any terminal disease, please don't let it be cancer or anything serious."

Her fatigue and exhaustion caught up to her. She didn't realize when she fell asleep.

The next day, Sukhjit got dressed as usual, and they dropped the kids off at school as they always did, just like any other normal day. They had one car, so after dropping the kids at school, Jessie usually drove Sukhjit to his office and picked him up at the end of the day. Sukhjit and Jessie had decided not to tell the kids anything until they knew what the doctors diagnosis would be. Their son, sullen in his teenage years, didn't say anything as he stepped out of the car. Their daughter smiled and waved and blew them kisses before running off to her class.

"They are so different," Jessie remarked, as they drove off.

"Daughters will love you forever," replied Sukhjit. "Sons, maybe not so much."

She looked at him lovingly. "Please let me know when you get the call from the doctor," she said, trying not to cry.

"Of course," he said reassuringly, "Don't worry Jessie, I am sure I will be fine."

"You better be!" she said playfully, and then she couldn't hold her tears back anymore. She started crying.

Sukhjit pulled the car over to the side of the road and spent the next several minutes hugging and comforting her. When the tears had dried, they continued on to his office, where she made him promise her again to let her know as soon as he got a call from his doctor.

The rest of the day was filled with anxiety and worry for Jessie. She tried to distract herself by doing grocery shopping, calling up her friends and talking with them, and cleaning up around the house, but all to no avail. Minutes turned into hours, and the agony of waiting for the unknown was starting to weigh heavily on her.

Finally, her phone rang. It was Sukhjit.

"Did they call?" she asked eagerly, clutching the phone tightly. "What did they say?"

"They want me to go and see the doctor," Sukhjit voice was calm, measured, "this
afternoon, around four. Think you could swing by and pick me up?"

"Yes, sure," she said quietly, "I'll be there."

Her mind immediately conjured up the worst-case scenario. Why else would the doctor want to speak to Sukhjit in person? Surely, if it was good news, they would have just given it to him over the phone? Just as she began to lament in her despair and thoughts of being a widow were starting to surface, she caught herself and chided her mind for playing such cruel tricks on her. They didn't know anything for sure yet. She was going to wait and see what the results were before allowing herself to fall into the black pit of despondency. Sensing her firm resolve, her mind settled down and stopped broadcasting the panic-stricken thoughts.

After Jessie dropped the kids off at the library with each of their respective tutors, she drove to Sukhjit's office and picked him up. They drove to the doctor's office in relative silence. Before he stepped out of the car, she hugged him tightly and kissed him.

"Everything will be alright," she whispered.

They didn't know how long the appointment would take, so she drove back to the library to pick the kids up and take them home. While they did homework and watched TV, she made them some snacks to distract her mind, which seemed like it might spinning out of control. She had been holding her phone in her hand since she got home. Finally, she set it down on the granite kitchen counter-top. She let out a deep sigh. What was taking so long?

Finally, Sukhjit called. His voice was light, he sounded relieved.

"The tests were normal," he explained, "it's not anything serious. The doctor has some ideas for some things I can try, there is this OTC medication he suggested, we can get it from the pharmacy. Doesn't need a prescription."

Jessie sighed in relief, collapsing onto the sofa.

"Thank God!" she said, feeling all the stress and tension being lifted from her like a
heavy burden. "Thank God you're okay, honey."

"I will be fine!" Sukhjit said cheerfully, there was a smile in his voice, "Don't worry. I'm going to walk to the pharmacy, it's only two blocks away, can you pick me up from there?"

"Yes, will head over now." Jessie hung up the phone and noticed for the first time her kids staring open-mouthed at her.

"What's wrong with Dad?" her daughter asked.

"Nothing!" Jessie put on her best everything-is-ok-with-the-world smile, "He's just fine. Come on, we have to go pick him up."

They never spoke with Sukhjit again.

They had gotten as far as the nearest major intersection to the pharmacy when they were stopped by police, redirecting traffic. They were told that there had been an accident, and they had to take another route. That's when Jessie spotted the bright yellow turban lying in the middle of the intersection. What type of accident? she frantically asked the police officer. She explained that it was her husband. The police officer took her aside to speak with her. It was a hit and run. Vehicular homicide. A pedestrian had been killed while crossing the street. Witnesses had provided a description of the vehicle, and they were searching for it now. What about the man they hit? The police officer shook his head sadly, the pedestrian had died at the scene.

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