Monthly Archives: September 2016

Everything’s Fine.

 

She sits next to me, staring vexedly at the purple sea. An expression more complex and perplexed than it was meant to be. For the first half an hour, no one talks; the only sounds we hear are the hollow murmurs of evening walks and waves crashing against the rocks under our feet. Then, after an eternity, she turns to me, breathes, and says “You’re the worst friend I’ve ever seen”. This hurts twice as much because deep inside, I agreed.

Soon, she gets to her feet with a swoon. Tears running free, glistening in the light of the moon. Like the salt in the sea breeze was singeing her wounds, she screams– Stop suffering alone. Stop hiding behind closed doors to trick me into leaving or believing that no one’s home, not when I can see you and your mess grieving through the fucking window. Stop telling me you want to make it on your own because you don’t need to. This isn’t the pact of friendship I agreed to, stop defending the pain it takes to keep you because this suffocation is unending and I need to breathe too. Stop leaving me at every turn because by now, I’m lost and blind. I’m tired of the million times you’ve said “everything’s fine” when I can clearly see I’m being lied to. For the sake of three long years of friendship that we’ve both been tied to, tonight, just tonight, I ask for truth.”

An overwhelming urge to purge all my regret is up till here now, but I don’t. I want to justify every action, reaction, every fear now; but I won’t. With a sharpened blade of quiet restraint, I slay every word in my throat as that little voice in my head goes – We don’t speak about our problems at home.

When I was a seven-year-old, my father was fighting a war when he crashed his plane. He jumped out in time, but the forces of nature weren’t kind on the day as he fell to the ground in the most excruciating way imaginable, as bleeding on a shattered spine. Lying and dying in abominable pain, his surgeon told him he’d be lucky if he ever learnt to walk again.

But even when consigned to a wheelchair bereft of the ability to stand, my father would hold take a ball in his hand, repeatedly pick it as his 8-year-old son knocked it back to him in a game of cricket. Come to think of it, 15 years on, I can’t write on a feeling as crippling as staring at the bedroom ceiling or the walls knowing your dreams were reeling and reduced to thoughts no one else would ever know. My father taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

When I turned 18, my father asked my cancer-stricken mother to choose between a house near the hospital and one near my sister’s school. Despite her weakened defences, the impending pain, the consequences, my mother chose the latter because she could deal with her demons at hand but not with the inconvenience her daughter would feel if we moved during her board exams.

I remember on hour long cab rides back from the hospital after rounds of chemotherapy, I could hear the muffled screams of her agony shake her, on every swerve, every turn, every speed breaker on the road. But for two years,  the only sounds I ever heard were those of silent suffering that torched her, but never a single word to describe the torture or the strain. Never a single complaint about a choice she consciously made on her own. My mother taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

I want to tell her this, the reason she can’t break my walls. Why every secret is a secret, and why I don’t believe I suffer at all because I have no problems. I’ve been raised by two people who’ve been cursed to go through a whole lot worse through fate’s decisions and they never let me understand what it felt like to nurse such grave incisions.

I want to tell her about the time I broke my shoulder, as I sat on my bed groaning and moaning in pain, my father took one look at me and said “That’s cute; but I fell out of a plane”.

I want to tell her about the mother who never cried because of a terminal disease, but broke down because being in a wheelchair wouldn’t let her cook for her family every eve. My parents taught me this- pain is a very subjective entity when you put the grievances of your loved ones before your own. My parents taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

But instead of the million words inside my head that I could have said to my friend, I offer her my first line of defence – an apologetic smile. I look at her, hold her hand and say

“Everything’s fine.”

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Superman.

Every morning, a Superman wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Eyes dead, bloodshot red from the fatigue tearing apart the insides of his head. His usually perfectly combed hair is a mess; mangled, tangled, strangled dense and untidy every inch of their previously lustrous lengths. He is fully aware of his steadily declining health, but is bent on telling himself to never wait to catch a breath because when you’re Superman, the universe doesn’t expect you to reach out for help. Superman’s supposed to solve problems. Not have his own as well.

On some days, Superman feels more human than he’s ever felt. But the ungrateful world still expects him to repay a recurring, fateful debt that out of his own moral consciousness hangs heavy above his head. Superman is a soldier who’s barely slept, because guarding the borderlines of conflict are part of a duty so firmly etched in his mind that he can’t forget, even when he’s a few inches away from death- standing, taking shallow breaths in a place where its 30 degrees below zero. On most nights, Superman doesn’t need a cape to be a hero.

Every morning, a Superman wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Awakened from a nightmarish fable, drenched in dread and cold sweat, emotionally disabled. The empty can of anti-depressants lies on her bedside table, just like her mental state; balanced precariously but barely stable. The pills ran out two days ago but she hasn’t been able to go to the corner drugstore to ask for more because you see, being a single, working mother of three is a full time job description and responsibility and she has no time to stand in line for a prescription to cure her depraving sanity. Now she’s slaving; craving answers from a mind throwing tantrum after tantrum and misbehaving. Maybe the world doesn’t realize that tonight, Superman is the one who needs the saving because every, single morning, a superman wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Looks disgusted in the mirror, shakes his head, at a disproportionate body and an utterly skewed ratio of length to breadth gifted to him by fate. Every night he weeps for his inexplicable state. Sheds drops of fears that flow into a river of tears, emptying it all into a reservoir of self-hate. A dam overflowing so bad, that sooner or later it’s going to break. By the age of seven, he’s so afraid, he’s questioning every decision he’s ever made- from full length pictures in his phone gallery, to every calorie he ever ate.

So every day, Superman makes it a point to stay away trying not to blow his fuse. Keeps a distance from the outside world, wary of becoming its ridiculed muse. Curls up inside his room with a blanket and a box of tissues. Too old to drown the demeaning words, too young to understand the meaning of the words “thyroid issues”. So before the end of the day, he prays for world to shift its gaze and just let him be; because tonight Superman is fighting an adversary they cannot see.

As the nights get colder, every Superman wishes he had a shoulder on which to weep. Prays someone kissed his head, tucked him into bed before he sleeps. Hopes he won’t wake from a deep slumber wanting to crumple into a heap, until he’s nothing but a dune of dust. The Man of Steel might be invincible, but he’s not immune to rust.

So the next time the Superman you know wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, remind them what they’re worth. Tell them that ever since birth, every single day was spent in learning to resist the hurt that threatens to punch them all down slowly into the dirt. A soldier teaches the frigid winds of the earth a lesson in defiance, a single mother of three forges with her depression, an uneasy alliance; a ceasefire, to relieve it. Just, just, so that she can look at her kids, tell them everything’s okay, even if she herself doesn’t believe it. A kid with a malfunctioning thyroid gland wipes his tears with his hand, steps outside his room for once and slowly understands, that everything he was ever fed was all a bunch of lies and that Superman suits are stitched and sewed for each and every size. Even one big enough to fit him right. A lot of Supermen woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but maybe they’ll sleep a little easier tonight.