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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.

 


The Invisible Man

Thank you so much, Fatima. I have no words. This is arguably the most amazing birthday gift ever. God bless you, and I hope you find all the happiness in the world.

The Vagabond Inamorata

I never met him. I don’t know him, I wouldn’t be able to recognize him on the street. I’ve never heard his voice, but I can imagine it. I can hear the lullaby my sister sang to me when I had bad dreams echo in his laugh. He doesn’t have green eyes, but I see in them the best friend I lost to death so many years earlier. I don’t know what he thinks about when he wakes up, I don’t know how he likes his eggs or whether he likes eggs at all. But I do know scenes from his life, little snippets of memory and grief and longing and self-discovery. He loves his family. He is loyal to his friends. He misses his mother. I wonder if it’s hard for him to sleep at night without her the way it is for me without my sister. He loves…

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What Japanese Women Taught Me About Love.

When the cold and pristine winter air first kissed my face as I got off the plane at Narita Airport, Japan, I opened my mind to a world full of infinite discoveries. I’ll be honest, there are certain concepts and elements I am yet to fully grasp as a writer; Love is one of them. I was hoping Japan would help me understand it a little better.

On the 8th day of my Japan expedition, a tiny house in one corner of Saiki Bay made a few revelations. I finally fell in love again, and I’m pretty sure I understand it a little better. So here’s what Japanese women taught me about love.

Who are you really? (Himino-chan, age 6)

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– Every relationship starts with a conversation, if not, at least with a feeble attempt at one. However, from time to time you’ll come across a woman who speaks a different language. She probably won’t share your obsession of sipping freshly ground coffee from your favourite mug. Maybe she swears by the subtleties of white chocolate while you choose the intoxicating allures of bitter dark ones; it doesn’t matter. Words are lost in translation, emotions are not. Deciphering her tongue takes exhaustive efforts; she’s met many who speak the same language but still never really understood her. She could speak Japanese for all I care; but does that mask the honesty inside her every time she starts to speak?

– Learn to intrigue every little part of her imagination to the point where it bursts at the seams. Don’t do the same magic trick over and over. You might have the upper hand now, but someday she will learn to play her cards better, or worse, learn to read yours. Be unpredictable. Don’t pull out a rabbit from your hat, pull out a cat; maybe it’ll claw at your fingers and embarrass you completely but your misery will be worth her laugh. The day magic stands still, the world will think it’s a trick; for it to remain a beautiful illusion it must be rethought, reconsidered and reinvented for what it is.

– Learn to forget yourself around her. You’re not 22. You aren’t someone who has seen more or less of the world than she has. You’re never too mature or too naive. So every time she tries to discover you, learn to blur your lines. For you to win her over, you must make yourself vulnerable to her first. Remember, no conquests were made from staying under defensive cover.

– Make a conscious effort to give her choices a chance. Don’t you already know most of what you love and prefer? Maybe it’s time for you to indulge in things that have always differed from what you’ve loved. Maybe she thinks fish tastes better fried than when it’s poached. Maybe she thinks an accompaniment of seaweed is more digestible than a helping of sautéed onions. It never hurts to try the things she loves. After all, you’re one of those things, aren’t you?

The things I never say (Tsubaki Chan, age 3)

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– When she looks at you for the first time, do not mistake her quiet, piercing gaze for aggression. Some women measure your worth before they grant you the privilege of a conversation.

– When she finally acknowledges that you exist, make every little gesture to tell her that you care what she talks about who she is. If she’s 3 feet tall and you’re 5’7, don’t let her crane her neck when she speaks. Don’t be distant. Don’t be out of reach. Instead, go down to your knees and look into her eyes when she talks. Her voice will be warm. Her smile will be warmer. You can tell by the tinge of pink that spreads itself across her rosy cheeks.

– When she pulls you by your hand (or even wraps three-year-old fingers around your solitary index finger), don’t stop to question her intentions. Let her lead you wherever she pleases. Live the quivering excitement in her voice with her, watch her eyes grow wide in anticipation when she opens the surprises she keeps giftwrapped inside her mind. She wants you to be a part of her wonderment, her emotions, her universe. Why would you even refuse?

– One day, she’ll let out slivers of thoughts you won’t be able to grasp. She’ll say words with a weight you cannot comprehend, or maybe she’ll just sit across you and break down into quite sobs from beginning to end. At times like these, let her know that you’re listening and hanging onto every thing she spills. A gentle nod, a reassuring nudge, an encouraging word; little gestures to remind her that everything she said is heard. She could speak in rapid Japanese for all you know; in the end, what you sense matters more than what you take in.

– When it is time to say goodbye, give her something to remember you by. Embrace her, leave her with a little kiss; like you want the warmth on your finger tips and your skin to fill her empty depths with happiness. When people leave, all that is left is memories; so give her one that she can go back to time and over. Be the book she never gets bored of reading, be the song she replays in her head when she’s breathing in emptiness; when she needs something to remind of reasons to keep existing. That way, if you find yourself living a day when you have to leave without knowing when you’ll return, at least you’ll say good bye knowing you did everything to be a part of something she’ll cherish all her life. She’ll grow old, she’ll grow up with them; one day when she gets to where she wants, she will remember you.


Letter to a Lifesaver.

I performed this letter last night at a Slam Poetry event in Mumbai. I had a few moments where I got overwhelmed and forgot the lines; so I feel pretty incomplete because this memory deserved better. I hope to perform this again, very soon.

Dear Tsubaki-chan,

This letter I write to you, I believe it is rare to find.

Maybe because you’ll read and understand it only about ten years down the line,

but that is fine; because life has been kind enough to give me memories that have left the deepest impression on the realms of my mind.

To begin Tsubaki-chan, I would like to tell you a little tale of me, as a young man.

At the centre of this story, are the game of football and all its glory,

something I’ve come to call my one and true love.

I say this, because all the women I love,

are imaginary, committed, lesbian or all of the above.

Jokes apart, this game is immensely close to my heart,

and when you love something this fiercely, it harbors every tendency of tearing you apart.

That is just what happened,

when I was a 19 year old boy sprinting down the field during a football match.

I dribbled past two players for whom I was too fast to catch.

As I kept running, I felt a heavy tackle with the force of a little boulder;

I lost my balance and fell horribly, the entire brunt taken by my right shoulder.

It was as if the world was growing colder,

on that dry, uncomfortable ground.

I could see my team mates run towards me as they slowly gathered around.

I was drenched in sweat and it felt like I’d drowned;

I couldn’t breathe but I could hear quiet murmurs and these faint whispering sounds.

This was the first serious injury I’d sustained in all the time that I had played,

and it resulted in my shoulder moving two and a half inches away from the shoulder blade.

The doctors told me they couldn’t really help with the dislocated bone,

and that I could either go for surgery or leave it alone.

I chose the latter, despite knowing its implications,

also considering that surgery came with its own set of complications, and I didn’t want that.

Since that day of that horrific knock,

I have lived with a shoulder that is permanently crocked.

Sometimes I can’t wear my tee shirts, because it hurts

when my bone gets stuck in its joint.

That isn’t the only point;

I can’t do pull ups, or throw things or do other stuff you’d include in athletic hustle,

all because of a shattered bone and fragile muscles.

Since then, I have never been able to do a full sprint when I play,

because every time I try, my mind replays that one day,

when I broke my shoulder beyond repair.

That incident has held me back a countless times to save me the pain;

and inevitably I have never been the athlete I was ever again.

Three years after that, last December, I was part of this unexpected plan.

I was invited by the government of Tokyo to explore the country of Japan.

And I will always thank God for this, because that is where I met you, Tsubaki-chan.

I remember how graciously your family let me into your home,

how you and your six sisters treated me like a brother and just wouldn’t leave me alone.

I loved how you’d take selfies with my phone,

hard to imagine a three year old girl doing that all by her own.

Those two days are the happiest I’ve been in recent time,

even though I couldn’t speak the Japanese language, and you couldn’t speak mine.

But I loved how you’d mumble random Japanese lines,

and expect me to understand what was on your mind.

Like sometimes you’d point to my phone and say “Sore wa miniukides”

and I’d take a wild guess or return a confused smile at best.

I loved how these haphazard conversations made perfect sense.

Although some gestures you made, were easier to understand.

For instance you’d walk up to me and you would hold my hand.

Then you’d extend both your arms to the skies,

and give me the warmest of smiles;

a sign that you wanted me to pick you up.
I’d hold you by your arms and throw you up into the air,

and I was astonished by how much faith you put in stranger’s care.

I loved how the entire experience made me feel,

your childish laugh and your innocent squeals, as you flew though the cold winter air.

You loved it so much, that for the next two days it became a routine.

I didn’t mind, this was the happiest that we both had been.

I kept throwing you up over and over, until suddenly, my shoulder bone slipped, again.

I immediately put you down, grimacing in horrifying pain.

The rest of the Japan trip was so painstaking, it drove me, insane.

But you know, Tsubaki-chan, I didn’t mind this pain at all.

Mostly because it erased the memories of a terrifying fall.

Every throb of pain no longer reminds me of a 19 year old boy screaming in despair;

it reminds me of a fair, three year old Japanese girl smiling and flying through the air.

Even though I’m back to India now and the injury will never heal,

those memories with you have changed the way I feel about this injury.

I’ll never forget this and your crazy antics whenever I’m alone,

and the thousand times you pointed at my phone

and said “Sore wa miniukides.”

 I just couldn’t guess what that meant.

Anyway, I know you won’t read this for a few more years yet.

Maybe by then you’ll remember me, maybe you’ll forget.

But I hope you read this and remember those moments we spent,

because to me they meant so much that I’ve turned them into a permanent, emotional vent.

For those two days I felt like something between a proud father and an elder brother,

I wish I could tell you this in person, but we just couldn’t understand each other.

I know for a fact that you’ll grow up into an absolutely beautiful girl,

I think you already are. I hope I can tell you this in the future face to face, and not from afar.

I apologize for those clueless expressions when you spoke in Japanese.

But hey I finally figured what “Sore wa miniukides” means.

Apparently it means “your phone is ugly.”

Anyway, I have given this letter to Daddy Okuma San,

and I hope he’ll give it to you the day you learn English as fluently as you can.

I miss our time together in your beautiful country, Tsubaki chan.

I miss you and love you, I hope I return soon to Japan.

PS- I know you love my beard, so I’ll try and keep it for as long;

if not always, I promise to keep it on whenever I perform.

Keep smiling,

Love,

Shamir.


The Perfect Man.

Found something I wrote when I was 17-18 years old. Until something better comes along. This one is dedicated to all the girls I know. And Shambhavi, thank you for the beautiful idea, I hope you like your little birthday gift.

I’m sure that when I came into this world, your face was shining with glee,

You were selfless enough to stand aside, to let Mom have the first sight of me.

Since then you haven’t stopped sacrificing, you did everything to keep me going,

From being a toddler, to girl, to woman; you silently filled all the gaps that were showing.

You gave me every little pleasure I know, and you found happiness in every squeal,

You trusted me to sit on your lap and drive, when I could barely hold the steering wheel.

You were always there- my strongest protector, the first and most trusted line of my defence,

You raised me carefully with everything good, and the bad you meticulously cleansed.

Of all the times I  was found begging for support, you blindly offered to be my staff,

You did silly things (like rub your stubble on my face), just about anything to see me laugh.

You lay the whole world right at my feet, and made it so embarrassingly simple to walk,

Your gentle yet strong presence always around me, quietly negated life’s infinite shocks.

You surrendered your life all to my cause, attached yourself to everything within my sights,

No wonder I loved being Daddy’s little girl, (not just because you took my side in fights.)

You’ve been an inspiration and a hero too, rescuing me every time when I sat down and cried,

Brothers, boyfriends or husband for that matter, can’t match your greatness if they tried.

You groomed me for life’s bigger stage, and you did it relentlessly without a single pause,

You watched me perform from behind the scenes, even when YOU deserved all the applause,

God knows the million times when I fell, you managed to make me fight another day,

You were there on all the big occasions, to hold me steady whenever I would sway.

There was nothing else I could’ve asked from life, you mapped everything out before I knew it,

You made sure no opportunity slipped me by, even if I was naive and stupidly threw it.

You won this woman’s heart, right from the start, in a way that will never again be won,

With all that you’ve ever done for me Dad, you left God’s wildest expectations stunned.

I love you for all the uncompromising love, which flows from your blood and every bone,

Thank you for giving me all this happiness, even before you thought of your own.


Peace in Pieces.

When she was six years old, I remember both of us standing in the street outside our house, looking at her birthday gift. A beautiful, brand new bicycle lay basking in the pale sunlight, the golden lustrous, metallic gleam of its body glowing soothingly on that summer morning in May. She stood transfixed; one tiny, petite hand clasping my index finger tightly, as she looked at the bicycle, almost petrified. “Where are the wheels on the side Daddy?” she asked me, her meek voice quivering and struggling to hide her anxiety. “Love, you’re a big girl now” I said, kissing her quietly on her forehead. As she warily clambered onto the bicycle seat, she looked at me; eyes swimming with tears but not a drop on her flawlessly, white cheeks. “Daddy, you won’t let go, will you?” she asked, while gazing continuously at me. “Never” I said, as I smiled at her, knowing perfectly well that sooner rather than later I would have to break my word.

Two days of skinned knees and bruised elbows later, she had finally learnt to find her feet. As she pedaled, smiling as the gentle breeze ruffled through her hair, I slowly let my hands slip off the bicycle. Unaware, she kept pedaling and then, she turned back. Her expression immediately turned from one of immense peace to morbid paranoia. Deserted by balance, abandoned by composure, her bicycle swerved dangerously to the left and she collided against a brick wall. Horrified, I sprinted by her side, as I saw the tears from two days ago flowing freely from her innocent green eyes. “Why did you do it daddy?” she asked, life’s first lesson in betrayal clearly shaking her steadfast beliefs in the ways of the world.  I told her “Until you learn to let go, my love, you, I and us will never find peace or purpose.”

When she was 16 years old, I stood outside her bedroom, one day after her birthday. I gently knocked on the locked door, and heard a gentle click in return. The door quietly swung open, revealing a dark room, dimly lit by pale lights. The bed sheets lay strewn all over the place, as she stood by the door, traces of tears all over her face. “Why did he do this Daddy?” she asked me, her voice quivering like that day ten years ago. Gently letting my finger wipe her tears, I said “Love, you’re a big girl now.” I kissed her forehead and she hugged me and cried, broken emotions and gasps trying to soothe what was dying inside. I slowly slipped my hands onto her and clasped it, as our fingers reveled in each other’s familiar, warm touch. “Daddy, you won’t ever let go, will you?” she asked, her probing, green-eyed gaze searching the depth of my soul for any lies. “Never” I said, as I smiled, knowing perfectly well that my body was aging faster than my child’s.

Just as my eyes silently moved about her room, they immediately rested on a pile of papers on her bed. Instinctively, my fingers reached for one of them, as I opened the folded sheet to reveal an almost illegible, scrawny handwriting. Seeing the words “love” and “forever” repeated in every alternating sentence, there were no doubts in my head as to who these letters were from. I reached into my pocket, and pulled out my cigarette lighter. I flicked it on, and let the flame consume the paper; as the room grew a little brighter. As the black, carbon remnants disappeared into thin air; she looked at me and asked “Why did you do that daddy?” I just returned her gaze and repeated that lesson from a decade ago “Until you learn to let go, my love, you, I and us will never find peace or purpose.”

Two days after her 23rd birthday, I think she received the biggest birthday gift of her life. Her mellow, green eyes shone ever so bright; her enchanting, white wedding gown looked like it had been dipped in moonlight. Her laugh echoed in every corner of the church, her smile was the centre of the universe’s rapt attention. Of all the times I had told her to keep her tears at bay, I couldn’t keep mine away as they moistened my eyes. She walked up to me, as she saw me overwhelmed; she put one arm around me and asked “Why are you crying Daddy?” I fondly kissed her forehead, and said “Love, you’re a big girl now.” She smiled in relief, her beauty in the world, unparalleled. She held my hands together in hers and said “Daddy, you won’t let go, will you?” I used every ounce of restraint to stop from bursting into tears, as I managed to utter “Never.” In the midst of this atmosphere of harmony and tranquility, I knew I had lied because starting tonight, she would also be another man’s responsibility.

As I walked her down the aisle, I could see him standing at the end of the hall. She took tiny, nervous steps; just like when a bicycle stood waiting for her all those years ago. As I reached the end, I saw him take a few steps forward. I touched the silky, ebony coloured, tailored tuxedo he was wearing, gently squeezing his arm to try and make him feel the concoction of emotions bubbling inside my head. As he smiled at me, I raised my hand and slowly pulled off my wedding ring from my finger. As his expression changed to one of perplexed amusement, I handed him it to him. The weight of loyalty, the burden of responsibility would now be his. Today, I would give away the last fragment of a memory I could never make peace with. She looked at me in bewilderment, and incredulously asked “Why did you do that daddy?” I let my thumb caress her beautiful cheek, as I said “Until you learn to let go, my love, you, I and us will never find peace or purpose.”

At the age of 27, I remember standing outside her bedroom door. Same dusty walls, same musty floor. I knocked, and heard the familiar click I remembered from 11 years ago. She opened the door once more, dim room, heavy gloom hanging heavy inside it. The bed sheet was tidy though, as she stood in silence by the door. Black, blue, red and purple marks scarred her face and marred her beautiful skin; she sobbed and breathed heavily, like she was breaking from within. “Why did he do this daddy?” she asked me, the same question, wrapped with the weight of a million emotions. “Love, you’re a big girl now” I told her, as I gently brushed my lips against every scar on the realms of her skin. I could see her twitch in pain every time her hair fell over her face; so I brushed my fingers through her hair, holding her in a warm embrace. “Daddy, you won’t ever let go will you?” she asked me, breaking into exasperated tears. “Never,” I immediately quipped, despite knowing I had let her fall willingly, into a wife beater’s grip.

I let my hand slip over her hand, as it touched the wedding ring I gave her. I let my fingers grasp it, as I pulled it off her fingers. I put the ring in my right hand and asked her to walk with me. I helped her up as she rested her arm on my shoulder, hobbling on one foot on the cold marble floor. I opened the bathroom door as she let out dull moans and leaned against the wall. I walked right in, making sure her eyes were on me; as I stood right above the toilet. As she stared aghast, I dropped the ring into the toilet, as a faint clang shook both our hearts. One ring would flush down two memories now a distinct part of our past. Still numb from what I had done, she asked “Daddy, why did you do it?” Somehow, I felt she knew the answer even before I told her. “Until you learn to let go, my love, you, I and us will never find peace or purpose.”

At the age of 36, I remember both of us sitting on a bed facing the window on the street. The same street where 30 years ago, our little lessons all began. A saline drip lay attached to the bed’s base, the black, purple, blue marks from nine years ago, etched deeper and darker into her face. “Why did this happen daddy?” she asked him, with a hollow, resigned expression on her face. For the first time, in so many years, I did not have an answer to this.

She let her cold hands slide over mine and said “I’m a big girl now daddy,” gently rubbing my fingers against hers. In that moment, after 36 years, we finally found peace within the definitions of a curse. “Daddy, you won’t ever let go, will you?” her voice now reduced to a faint whisper. “Never” I said, as I finally broke, the floodgates within finally opened.  “But you have to let go, daddy” she smiled at me, as her hand pulled out the drip attached to her vein. I looked on in terror, as the words in my throat died as quickly as they came. “Why did you do this love?” I asked, faltering for breaths; everything around me now slowly crumbling. “Until you learn to let go, daddy, you, I and us will never find peace or purpose.”

For the rest of the night we sat and we talked, about 30 years worth of memories. Of lines crossed and time lost, in the depths of our insecurities. At three in the morning she took that one breath, for which I spent an entire lifetime in dread. But today, I live my life in peace because she finally understood everything I’d said. The only thing that hurts me now is emptiness which I alone, have to nurse. All until that one day, when I learn to let go too, and find my purpose.