The coffee was finished long ago and trivial chats were exhausted among the chanting of group of people. We, me and Sandhya, took the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator. I guess, waiting five minutes for an elevator was too much for both of us. Or maybe, stairs gave her some sense of security, the extended moments gave her time to sort out her jumbled thoughts. I don’t know, I’m just presuming after all. I guess, I overthink everything.
When we reached the second floor, there was an old fellow, fellow because I’ve never seen him before and he was smoking. Now before you say what is wrong with that, let me tell you there was a sign on the wall to his left that read, “No Smoking.” Now, see, he is the definition of a man, an individual who just doesn’t gives a fuck, whether they are rule, rituals, stigmas, or simple common sense. And here I am, whining like a little boy that I feel confused. Oh, my pathetic life.
You know, if you look carefully you can always find someone smoking in some isolated corner, hiding like it will do them any good. Two places I can think of, staircases and bus stops. Some smoke on corners of bus stop, some smoke behind, like that is going to change something, some simply smoke on the seat while waiting for their bus. Well, I hate them the most. I mean, you want to destroy your life, be my guest, just don’t fucking make me inhale the poison you are so stupidly enjoying. How fucking difficult is that to understand?
When we had reached our floor was when she suddenly hugged me and started crying. Why do people trust me? I’m no one special. I have same issues that they have. Yet somehow every one of them shatters their trust issue around me. They tell me their most basal secrets, their guilt, their shame. Sandhya did that too. A moment of weakness, vulnerability and then there we were, a married man and a lost soul, lost in a moment of confusion. There wasn’t anything casual about that.
Beliefs, stigmas, rituals, they are so vital to people that they end up dividing themselves along these lines. No one wants to be wrong, no one wants to think of themselves as less moral or less knowledgeable. I’m pretty sure, my silent friend, that you are already judging both of us for hugging, you are already thinking whether we kissed or not. First, let me soothe down your broken ego, we didn’t kissed.
In my terrible little life, there had been hundreds of moments when I tried to hold the tears, when I masked the anger, hid it, worried about the fact that somehow crying would’ve made me less of a man.
The pain of everything, the need to hold back the anger, it almost makes you want to cry. I have felt rejected my whole life, indifference from the people closest to me. I don’t know whether it’s true or maybe just in my head, but it hurts, no matter how much I hide it. The pain almost sends chill down your spine and there isn’t anything that you wouldn’t give to numb the pain, the throbbing of your veins in your hands, hands which tremble from the anger, extinguishing your sound.
My whole life I’ve felt suffocated that I can’t cry. And yet there she was, Sandhya, crying while utterly lost in my arms. Somehow it felt good, I don’t know why, the fact that she trusted me to be so vulnerable around me felt good. Her sobs seemed unnaturally loud in the confines of uncertainty.
Trust and intimacy, they are two very different concepts. Once I did asked Radhika why she chose me and she simply said, “Not every girl likes boys like you, you know, some prefer all the stupid pampering, moot dialogues, and things of that sort. I do not need to redefine myself in your image. I want you to walk with the real me. And you let me do that. Which is why I love you.”
Come to think of it, Radhika has cried maybe twice in eleven years of marriage, alright, eleven years of relationship. Somehow even she struggles with her weaknesses. I guess, that is quite evident when it comes to perfectionists. They cannot embrace weaknesses. I need perfect words, supported by evidence and Radhika needs perfect amalgamation of colors, pigments on overstretched piece of cotton. Do you remember that abstract canvas I talked of? It took her twelve days to paint that. Twelve days of high standards, twelve relentless days of living with Radhika the temperamental painter not Radhika my least judgmental wife. I guess, when we work on something we are passionate about, it changes us, one little layer at a time, piece by piece.
“My father died,” Sandhya said, still sobbing, her tears soaking the fabric around my shoulder.
“Huh, um, what, um, I mean when?” I said, stuttering like an overly anxious fool.
A confused cocktail of jumbled emotions was storming in my head. I was confused because she was hugging me, I was sympathetic because she was crying and I felt guilty because her father cried. Death makes me weird. I don’t know why I feel guilty when someone tells me that their closed one died.
“Three nights ago,” She said, with her head still on my shoulder.
“Then why didn’t you said something, shouldn’t you have taken a leave?” I asked, simply confused.
“I don’t need that, I stopped caring for him a long time ago,” She said, in her usual tone, the one I’d experienced for as long as I knew her. Her usual detached self.
There is a darkness in both of us, a darkness which didn’t confused us…a darkness we both understood. A darkness we liked. A darkness which I learnt in that detached heavy voice.
“Come on, Sandhya. We all have these indifferences with our elders, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay them respect when they die,” I said, clearly trying in vain to advocate the ideas I myself found repulsive.
“Why, does being old means you deserve respect? Shouldn’t it be earned? My father was many things, many horrible things, and he was never a father,” she said in an anguished cry.
This abusive father theme is quite common, isn’t it my silent friend? It depresses me beyond despair. To think that the person who is supposed to protect you, who is supposed to teach you the lessons of life ends up being the reason you start hating life. You start abhorring your very own existence.
It is strange, when you have a thought, a feeling in your head, everything somehow seems to be related to that. I guess, I was always able to assume the scars with which Sandhya lived. But I never could have imagined the horror she faced, the horror which gave her the scars. The scars on which the entire identity of Sandhya developed, layer by layer.
I was never there, so my words might not suffice to tell all that conspired in her life. I only have the accounts from that morning. The morning Sandhya cried.
“I want to shout my lungs off, Atul, but not because my father died. I want to scream because it makes me so happy he died.” There, the confrontation I was expecting, the confrontation with reality. We all have ugly stories.
She continued, “I know you judge me, I know you think I’m ugly and disrespectful if I feel happy by my father’s death. I’m sorry Atul, but I just don’t want to dignify his death. He never did anything to deserve that.” You tell me, my silent friend, how I wasn’t supposed to feel something for her in that moment. You tell me how.
Wait a second, you don’t know why I felt sympathetic to Sandhya’s cries, why I could see the darkness that embraced her heart in every moment. She wasn’t the only one with an abusive father. Like I said, this abusive father theme, it is too common.