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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Only if he knew how...

He could hear it approaching, slow and steady…He closed his eyes, braced his knees to his chest, and firmly placed the wet towel roll between his jaws. It started getting louder, the vision got blurred with streaks of red neon flashes as he placed himself on the bed and waited. Beads of sweat turned into patches of sweat as he shivered uncontrollably on his bed, trying hard not to clench his fist, bit his tongue or throw himself off the bed. He felt his skin tearing apart as the whips came crashing down on his tender arms, his eyes throbbed as the headache settled itself in between his eyebrows. He scratched at the wooden plank that guarded the windows, counted his breathes and waited for it to go away. It returned with more vigor as his father kept hitting him with a whip and his mother’s cries resonated the closed walls.

A traumatized childhood, watching his mother battered to death by a monster he called father are the reasons for his attacks tells his therapists. He does not know what the truth is anymore. The cries are true, so are the streaks of light across his retina, truth is the pain that numbs him from the whip lashes, everything else is just a blur! The faces, were they really his mother and father? He cannot recall anymore as he lies limp on the bed wet by his sweat, arms and legs disabled by the fury his own body unleashed on itself, senses torn by the flashes from the past. He will lie there for two hours, before he can get up and start his day.

A routine he now remembers for last 20 years. Decades of therapy, bottles of pills, years of confronting his past but the ghosts still hover around, they still come back with immaculate accuracy every fortnight, reap through his body, his senses and his soul. Once every 15 days, he knows that he needs to warn his colleagues, keep his calendar free, order his breakfast home, keep his phones charged and pay his bills ahead of time. He braces himself for what follows, endures the onslaught, and deals with his past on the days that follows. 

Disturbed sleep, nagging headache, frequent imbalance that follow every attack had helped him define his days and nights, hour by hour, for last 20 years after that fateful night when he was 10 years old and found himself towering over a limp body sprawled on the floor. His father shouted, “Get away from her, she is dead, your mother is dead”. He remembers a sudden hit that darkened his soul and his senses till he regained his consciousness in a hospital where they said his parents were missing. “She is dead”, he had murmured. Nobody listened to him then. He never saw them again. His school friends said that they were both dead. His foster parents said they were missing.

Over the last few years he had initiated many investigations to find the truth. Often jeopardizing his own safety, but all had ended in a naught. Finally, last evening he received a call from one of the prominent investigators that there might be some lead. Struggling his way out of the bed, he wondered how soon will he be capable again to get in touch with the investigator to know more…

Fifty days since that morning, two attacks later, he sat at the window of his room sipping his morning tea. His parents were in the living room talking. Several manhunts, thousands of miles later, he finally found his missing parents, he reconstructed his childhood memories; the assault of his father’s business partners on him and his parents, the physical threats and tortures that eventually led his parents to believe that he was safer without them. He sat there, sipping his tea as he looked outside and untied the knots and let go of a sigh that he had not, for a very very long while.


He stepped in. Closed his eyes, braced his knees to his chest, and firmly placed the wet towel roll between his jaws. He crawled into his bed and waited for it to unleash. Minutes turned to an hour, it did not. It was time. But nothing happened. He called his therapist. She told him it is probably because he now knows his past, he has untied the knots. He was, therefore, free from the torment. He looked at the telephone blankly. 

He stared at his bed, his towel roll, his medicines, his routine. He had planned his life around it. For twenty years he had learned from one fit to the next how to cope and how to survive. Without it, how, he wonders, will he be able to live his life normally? Only if he knew how...

4 comments:

siddhartha chatterjee said...

In love with his pain. He was one with it. Take that away from him and it's as if he's without an identity...

Suddenly he's like the Lear, stripped of his being, staring into the abyss of Nothing...

Well written, Durba...very powerful indeed!!

Navoneil said...

I hurt, therefore I am! A good story capturing the essence of the human condition: we get used to everything and then build our life around our habits, we even crave for it, whether good or bad. We love to get addicted - it gives us an anchor, something to hold on to in a chaotic world, a structure to return to periodically for rest and for reassurance. Sorry, this has become too long! Didn't mean to get all philosophical - but your story's to blame :)

Unknown said...
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Upali said...

As Keats said, "Pleasure is oft a visitant, but pain clings cruelly to us."

@Durba - a difficult sentiment well expressed!