There are days when I feel a loss of equanimity. My composure dithers and vagrant thoughts of somber hue intrude my mind like invaders trespassing into a foreign land. Days when I itch to claw my enemies, scoop their flesh out bit by bit with my bony fingers scalloped with sharp, pointed nails or suck their blood out in primordial pleasure spluttering, splodging, spitting “REVENGE” on a whitewashed wall dripping crimson on virgin landscapes.
It was in one of these moods that I slashed my wrist one evening – a delightfully grisly craft-work of sleek knife-slits. I ogled at the blood oozing out in a steady stream coursing serenely down my arm before drizzling on the shining, white, marbled floor, vaguely reminding me of a snow-white casement on which I had once embroidered a macabre poem of satin summer flowers of similar shade. The fluid licked my skin like fire, came to a dead end at the elbows and suddenly decided to flow down at first in droplets and then with the force of a fully opened tap just like rain water pouring down the slopes of a mansard. The striking difference being the noiselessness with which the wayward, scarlet spring paved its flow as opposed to the percussion of the rains on the roof top clamouring to mate with the crusty ground below.
A film of mist rose deluging my retinal view with a velvety darkness. I waded through an endless tunnel where time stopped ticking. Stretching my arms I felt a row of jagged inclines, which surprisingly melted, like beakers of liquid paraffin poured during a hot wax bath, as my flailing fingers came in contact with, most probably, the rocky interiors of the cavernous pathway. Thank God! My sense of direction was absolutely sharp and accurate even in that enmeshed blackness. I could feel every bend, turn, gully and narrow passes careening through the entwined maze. If only it were not so dark, thought I, the uneasiness suddenly strengthening into a conviction that day was somewhere hidden in the lap of night, if only I could grip the opaque sheet and tear it apart, I would be able to embrace light. Yes, a hole gleamed at a distance which regressed as I swam across to it. “Faster! Faster!” Crooned somebody into my ears and my steps followed the song like a dazed spirit under a hypnotic spell. The lilt preceding me like a guiding star!!!
The song dispersed into babble. The babble rose and fell like waves of commotion as I approached. The commotion degenerated into noise insulting my ears. I wanted to run away from the frenzy. I now scrambled through the thick forest of thorny brambles and bushes where sun was a mirage. My legs felt stony. My heart palpitated as the adrenalin rushed through every pour of my body. The profuse perspiration was a witness to my exhaustion. Helter skelter staggered my legs. “Faster! Faster!” Said he. Somebody was singing my name. I hurdled forward as fast as the stumps of my legs could carry me till I lost my balance and fell headlong into the clearing washed with such blinding brightness that I feared my eye balls would get scorched. I shut my lids tight. Night was such a temptress! Day disturbed my cocoon of comfort.
The din subsided to a lower octave. Somebody kept on whispering my name in a sing-song rhyme, “Bella! Bella! Bella!” I reluctantly parted my lids. The moon had come down on earth. It was so close. Just above my head smirking with utter contempt. I felt naked. Embarrassed I shifted my gaze. A pair of glazed eyes, the dew drops hanging on the lashes, stared at me deeply lined with concern or worry? A forehead fringed with grey feathers and striking features ravaged by tell-tale lines of inner wars. Just next to it gradually came to focus a rugged contour with a pair of grim eyes and lips tightly stretched in a thin line. Or was it a line, perhaps a curl heavily laced with sarcasm, no, no, that was a snarl of the beast lurking beyond the sheath of clinical care? I could not delve more because the mirthless countenance walled his innermost self. His pristine, almost puritan, white coat dazzled under the glaring moon.
But I knew better. How deep the purity of thoughts trickled down the labyrinthine alleys of mind. Two figures stood side by side but solitary in pain and repose. Bosom friends! Two men in my life – one who patiently endured the vagaries of a crazed mind and the other who meticulously kneaded the venom of distrust and doubt, measure by measure, into the already fermented dough of lunacy, with such adeptness that delusion became the bedmate of reality and both hugged each other so tightly that one was lost unto the other. He thrived on his devilry. He said he loved me. He wanted to protect me from this cruel world. What he did in actuality was to shove me further and further into the bottomless pit of hurt and humiliation with his crafty insinuations of my husband’s disloyalty and stormy extra marital flings. When I hurled accusations at my “better” half in enraged protest the poor man looked aghast while the Satan cloaked his villainy in such innocent helplessness that it was proven beyond doubt that the scandals of my husband going astray were just concoctions of my convoluted imagination. Madness was such a glib excuse! I knew he reveled in my marital rifts whereas his friend elevated anguish to an indescribable height of profundity by his unassuming large heartedness and unfaltering endeavour to defeat my congenital melancholia with his dogged but quiet patience and perseverance. Squashed between the devil’s son and the angel’s devotee, my equilibrium tilted precariously. In frustration, I did what best I could egg myself to do – a failed attempt at extinguishing the already flickering candle of my life.
There was a flurry of activity around but I was not concerned. The Satan hovered in the background, in and out of my focus. A volley of instructions was carried out by his assistants even before these were issued. A man used to instant obedience. I wondered why he never took a closer look at the wreckage – a handiwork of his insistent and insidious prodding. Why did he, in the first place, not court my hand when he loved me so much? Why did he let his friend sweep me off my feet in front of his very nose? Most probably he knew from the very beginning that I was a hopeless case. Married to me, he would have been saddled with a life long burden like Atlas. But at the same time what vicious pleasure he must be wallowing in as he progressively worked towards deteriorating my marriage to a sham! Odd, how the so-called best and apparently most normal human mind “mal functioned”!
But the worried eyes never left my side and now heaved a sigh of relief. “All’s well that ends well”, I could hear him muttering, the incurable optimist that he was. He was just about to leave the room when I caught hold of the corner of his stained shirt sleeve and gave it a weak tug with my involuntarily shaking hands. The stains seemed familiar – blackish brown smudges of an aftermath. I could even smell its foul odour. No! A stern voice inside admonished me to concentrate. Worry had given way to surprise as he turned back. His amazingly strong fingers gripped mine in an immediate, supportive clutch, letting a rush of warmth surge through my veins and arteries. My lips quivered into his lowered ears and a soft, wavering note came floating from the faraway wilderness, “S-o-r-r-y!” The eyes now peered at me with something glistening in their depths. A pale smile touched his wan lips as they brushed against my cheek. And then he was gone. A little too brusque an exit! Sometimes, serendipity was unnerving too especially for a man who had wedded angst for life.
My face felt wet. I closed my eyes. A cold draught blew in from an unknown direction. A lonely leaf was drifting in space in search of a welcome branch. The leaf had traveled light years and felt excessively tired. One day I am sure it will find its lost hearth. One day faith will engulf its digressing heart. One day it will learn to trust with an unquestioning mind. One day it will, with its puny strength, overpower the ghoulish blizzard which distracted it from its mission. Till then it will battle on……….
A petite figure in a white uniform and starched cap came forward with a wad of tissue papers. She bent down and wiped my face with a caring hand and said, “No more tears!” I sighed. Her words kept on ringing in the nebulous sky. Yes, no more tears. Tears were such a waste. “Fear not and march on”, said a frail, fetal voice inside me trying desperately to stand tall and undaunted against the devouring tide of dementia. A bugle sounded a clarion call. The long awaited dual had begun.