Sofia was already “home” when her roommate had come, all exhausted.
Smell of cigarette smoke rushed in with her as she contemptuously kicked off her shoes before entering the lodgings she shared with Sofia.
Something felt disturbing, in her “Hello” itself. She thought how did she know but then they’d had many a topsy events and turvy nights. Seeing her eyes, Sofia knew that she hadn’t slept a wink in the past week.
It was him again, she thought, her face contorting into a frown set in stone, she knew that she was helpless neither could she enter her dreams nor could she change her heart.
She was trying to drown either her senses or her memories in good old Rum. She was trying to snort her way into a state of no pain. She was trying to stone herself to freedom from memories, of any and all kinds. She wanted to forget yesterday. Her pain increased with the sleepless nights she’d kept herself up, the timeless hours that she had to keep up every day with his memories, her pain was palpable in her eyes, looking but not seeing. Open but not watching. In her hands, moving but not doing. And in her smile, perfunctory but not real. After all, it wasn’t just another heartbreak. This was not your usual girl meets guy, they fall in love, have fights, separate and then live happily ever after in the end.
When girls around her were opening bottles and opening up all night, she felt like a stranger, she knew people but didn’t bother to talk, she knew when her friends ate but she sat alone in the corner. Her friends, too , did not let her know that they were worried, churling into peals of laughter before the inevitable tear welled and for her laugh, her happiness, her heart at her mind would force a yell.
She was scared of a man’s touch, of his kindness, of his lips lost in hers, of the smell of his after-shave which she smelled on her cheeks as he would whisper in her ears.
Sofia had searched all over the net, talked to her doctor friends and sought advice from her brother. When something like this happens, victim is affected on every level, every part of the being wants to end and every sense in the body is dull. A simple joke may not bring a smile but a sarcastic comment could open a tap of tears. Pain is funny for it presses odd buttons and oddly do people react to it. Odder still is the fact, no one wants to acknowledge it. Never, for a second , understanding that acceptance is the first step to a peace, a peace that had kept her awake, a peace that has raged around her, a peace she could not get a piece of.
Sofia was broken yet wanting to hide her pain she acted glib. Only letting her true self out in front of her closest friends. The ones she knew would understand, the ones she knew would not judge, the ones she knew were there to stay and the ones she knew would not budge.
That afternoon when news had come in, Sofia remembered how her friend had clung on , how she had sobbed. The tomboy had cried like a little desolate girl.
Few months later, when news seeped in of her daily drinking binges at the seedy college bar, Sofia was worried. They had a talk. Sofia said she understood but she looked at Sofia knowing she never could.
As the seasons changed and quilts were replaced by linen sheets, things had changed course. Sofia saw love happening twice. Also sometimes, talking into her phone all through the night and sometimes not touching it even once, the smile was back in the eyes, the smile which had been wiped off, after him, now returned without him. Life had gone on, a new day had shone. Hopes were flying around and dreams were travelling in the air despite their resolutions and sincere promises that they shall not dream together.
She’d often seen the way how men and women became wine for her water. She often marveled at how she mixed with new people like soda mixing into brandy. Not even waiting long enough for the rocks in his scotch to dissolve before she’d captured his attention. But Sofia was the spicy green chilli, a conventional accompaniment to the drink of the gallant.
Sofia often told her that she was better. That she had to fight. That she could defeat her darker self. She reminded her friend of life, who mattered what didn’t , what could be changed and what couldn’t be helped.
Sofia wanted her to play safe, to not drown or slip. She wanted her to have his head but hold her heart. She was scared for she knew that if she ever had to fall from her precipice again, she won’t be able to repair herself again.
As sunny days changed to windy afternoon, she saw their relation blossom. This was not a tizzy nerve-racking or nascent relation, Sofia often laughed to herself at how the two could bear each other all day, of how he took her blabber, of how she admired his silence and of how she hung on to him (both literally and figuratively).
How one might think it was a happy ending.
Life as cliché goes, does go on. We’ve all lost someone dear; a grandmother, a parent, a sibling, a lover, a pet and all of us grieve in our own way. Some never shed a tear. Some miss them. Some want them back. Some fight with God. Some become the incident that broke them. There are as many ways as there are people.
When she’d been breaking, all that most did was share a drink and nod at her abuses.
But now they abused her, they abused her of making a doubt, they abused her of dealing with it, they accused her of not loving him from her heart. Sofia didn’t know what was love and what it was. She did not know whether she had loved. She did not know whether her friend had loved. Yet, when Sofia sometimes finds her gazing at his picture, she knows that it was something and someone who mattered.
One never stops grieving a loved one’s death. It’s a part of self. One might decide when they don’t want to show the world, it still hurts. It’s like losing a pet you loved so much. Only harder. Cause there’s hate when you look back. Hate for the loved one who left you. And filth for yourself for ever loving him.
They say that those who leave us, never really leave. They say that one can live by a memory but they also say that they won’t be the ones doing it.
Survivors of suicide or major personal trauma, often look different. They act different. They are scared of loss.And drink a cocktail of emotions every time they sit alone. And the look they get in all those eyes which look at them. The “Oh, poor thing” look. The look which a young man, injured , and unable to walk, gets from people bent over double due to arthritis who were there to listen to ‘Nehru’s Freedom at midnight’ Speech.
There are people who say things. There are people who judge words. There are people who judge actions. They can judge. Of course, they will! For they are not the ones losing a part of themselves every time a word, a gesture, a call, a ringtone, a song that reminds them of their loss rips straight into the head. They are not the ones who can feel another voice when they are listening to another. They are not the ones who talked to the dead. They are the sane ones. They are the ones who will laugh. They are the ones who will question. They are the ones who have an existence as insignificant as to care for someone’s pain only to mock it.
As she saw her mumbling in her sleep that night, when, after weeks, she had a drink, Sofia knew that maybe she was imagining herself over him, her legs around his chest, knife ready to strike but him already dead. The left side of his chest throwing out blood and his heart lying on the doormat beside his left ear. But as Sofia had tried to tell her many times, it was not her fault, maybe he had hit something inside for he had repeatedly abused her, and not only verbally. For him, she was his property. For him, she lived for his whims. She existed to fulfill his rage. Maybe all of his ‘laundas’ were already exasperated. Maybe they did not care enough.
And when enough was enough. And when she told him that it was, he acted out like a petulant teenager, assassinating not only her character but her emotions and all but killing any love she had left in her heart. Maybe movies making fun of girls forget the times when their ‘friends’ listen to them. For hours on an end, when their friends kindly reject their advances. But I’m not a guy so MAYBE I won’t understand.
She had been there when he had flunked himself the first time. She was there with him when he repeated his inadequacy but all he had cared was that she was not his. Thinking of how he was, of what he did, what he often did to her, what he often said to her, of how he hurt her and of how she left him.
Maybe he could not accept failure. Maybe he was scared of what life held for the likes of him.Maybe he cared about what his dad’s friends would say, of what his cousin would make fun, of how the neighbourhood aunty would repeatedly point out the first division grades of both her daughters, maybe he was just a coward.
The odd thing about us is that as I narrate a story of someone far beyond, someone probably most of you did not know well but yet you might have read a lot about by now. Yet were he alive, you won’t have given him any time, any day and her friend, too, would have been just that, a friend.
As Sofia picked her up her pencil, she remembered he’d often call to ask where her friend was, that she’d often check on her, that he’d often use her to get a message through during her fights and even though she’d never acknowledged it, even to herself but she too missed a friend.
Also, she knew that her friend would never accept it completely. She would often talk to him. She would move on but we never leave those who have left us. Or do we?