This softness, this tenderness. This space between smiles, this laughter. This lightness in my chest, where the ribs expand, now holding more than room between heaving sobs. Where this mirror reflects more than darkness at the edges, where four pairs of eyes do not follow each two.
This is how you have known me – and it feels a little like insanity. Who is this person, who is she?
I haven’t known her this way. I do not know her at all. She laughs, her teeth flash in her mirth. She bares them, sure, but when, it is mock anger, not rage. They are no longer needles of frustrations, dulling their edges biting pillows in the night. They are no longer the inflicters of anger turned inward on her knuckles, her arms. They just… are. And they smile at you, they nibble at nails, they show in photographs. Where did she learn this? And how?
It shows, how it tears at me inside, that it shows, the rest, too. When did she become this soft, when did she learn, that it was permitted to be? That there was a world beyond guarding and defending, beyong being caged, beyond hiding. Who is this, who is this woman, she loves unabashedly, she loves with some perverse certainty, some confidence that I am secretly sure is born of folly- surely, it must be? Who told her that it’s okay to love this freely? Doesn’t she know, hasn’t she learned? She’s going to get her hands burnt- hasn’t she been warned?
These trappings, these trappings of normalcy, these colors, these hours, these are lies she’s stealing from someone else. She is someone else, someone I have not known, someone I dared not know. And now she is here, and she is loud, and she is loved, and I am terrified. I am terrified of her, and of you, and of all these people milling about in this dream. Because this has to be a dream, one that I will wake up from, one that you might wake up from, and then, and then, where will that girl who has learned softness be? She will have to go, and then there will just be… me.
I suppose I needed to vent my spleen, and this old haunt of chronic splenomegaly was the first that sprung to mind. Old habits, and all that jazz.
I’m currently beating myself up over having missed an extremely important class today. It had been scheduled over two months ago, I‘d paid through the nose for the sheer chance to have attended it, and there‘s no denying the fact that it would have provided me with a LOT of instruction that I invariably would have needed for the coming months.
And yet, I woke up this morning with the remnants of last night‘s headache, and a complete unwillingness to subject myself to the slightest exertion that would have been needed, in order to drag ny backside throughout the day. I contacted the person in charge, found that there was some way to back out of it, and that reinforced my already fluttering inclination to spend the morning in bed and sleep the headache off. I could have gone. I could have made it through the day. I know for fact that I could have managed it, and would have been much the richer for it.
Instead, I slept for three hours , woke up fresh and rested, and filled with horrid guilt for having giving up an opportunity of this magnitude for a little more snooze time. At the point where I sit typing this, I could have been done already. And I’m acutely aware of the death of my ambition, that somehow went unnoticed gentle into that night.
How on earth did I come to this? How on earth have I grown comfortable enough in the span of a few short months, enough to ignore such massive gateways and crossroads, simply because the path I‘m on will do fine for now? Whatever happened to my steely resolve of years, that constant rage and race for self improvement? Between hours of unvarying workdays and long periods of ample rest, I have disconnected from that constant, incessant burning desire for self betterment that drove all my conscious thoughts. Comfort apparently truly is the death of all ambition. I find myself staring at the clock today with an oddly focused, concentrated sense of horror and dim detachment: there was a time earlier today, where I had to take a decision. But this decision was taken by the ‚new‘ me, the one who is lazy, well rested, well fed- and not the stranger I thought she would be. The one who would have shucked all physical discomfort at the possibility of a seriously good opportunity is long buried- and apparently, I haven’t missed her for a while now.
It‘s with this unnerving knowledge that I‘m confronted with my own newly blossomed deficiencies. Indeed, they seem to be less ‚new‘ and more long in the root already. I find myself sorely in need of tilling the soil this late into the winter, when the frost has already set, with no one else except myself to blame for the tardiness. With no one else except myself to blame. Not for the harvest that I have already missed. With no one else except myself to blame, for when the results of my poor hard work grow again, weak and malnourished and poorly fed. And I will have no one else except myself to hold responsible for them. A ‚myself‘ that I have to now reassess, reorganize, indeed, to recognize. It‘s a late wake up call; one that I chose today to wake up to, turn off, and go back to sleep on. And I can’t help but be halfway between disgust and reproach, and an urgency to repair this to previously known heights again. But it’s always morning work. Here‘s hoping that I don‘t let the mornings after this one go to waste.
Once upon a time, an unusually tiny kitten walked into a yard. My yard.
Few of you are aware of the flag-bearing, card-carrying toxic relationship I have with my father. I’m so quiet about it, it’s hard to spot (cue eye roll). If I ever need a reason to give up humanity altogether, I can just look back to anything he’s done for affirmation. There are few things the man does that even surprise me anymore. But, as it turns out, he’s still got it. and by it, I mean the cruel, vicious, merciless, sadistic streak that is the most of his entire personality – at home, of course.
Four years ago, on a very rainy night, my father had to catch a flight to the airport, and the driver had to take the car out of the driveway. The itinerary was being discussed when suddenly, the tiniest imaginable of kittens stuck his head into our yard from under the looming black gate. The head and huge bat ears were followed by a skinny body and impossibly small paws. This furball essentially let himself into our courtyard, waltzed up to where four full grown humans and two adult cats were sitting, parked his butt in the middle, and MEOWED. Insistently at that, at the people staring incredulously at him, because we had two litters at home at the moment, but this wasn’t one of ours.
He was so covered in dirt that you couldn’t make out an actual color. He tried sitting with the adult cats, and they hissed at him and scooted up the stairs closer to us. The kitten was not the slightest bit affected by the snub and kept meowing at us, unfazed by the fact that he was in a strange place, standing between complete strangers. And he was hungry. Loudly.
We gave him a little wet food, and after he’d eaten, let himself onto the sofa, and gone immediately to sleep, decided that he must have been abandoned by some disappointed owner, or over-enthusiastic adopter. It wasn’t unusual for people to abandon animals in our yard. And we had nine cats at this point, what was one more mouth to feed. Especially such a tiny, tiny one at that. And so, Tiny became a member of the family.
The next few days went by with a series of discoveries. Tiny was a girl, apparently, and grey, white, and golden tabby under all the dirt. Which she didn’t allow us to wash off before a lot of coaxing. She had an attitude on her, walking up to all the other grown cats and batting them and hissing at them from the first day. If you sprayed her with water, she’d get down from the table, but scratch you before she walked away, because how dare you. My father’s smacks with the newspaper or his shoes were also returned in kind, sometimes immediately, sometimes hours later. Tiny could hold a grudge like no cat we’d known.
She also had epilepsy. She was maybe two months old when the seizures started. And then she stopped gaining weight, like the other kittens.
We didn’t know just quite what to make of her. I took her to the vet, naturally, and the vet advised a lot of tests, none of which the shabby, covered in animal piss government hospital had to offer. A private vet clinic was out of the question- even I wasn’t permitted to visit a doctor officially, and I literally worked as one. The vet suggested that we take care of her general health and hope for the best, but not hope too much from her either. So we did. We took care of her, we hoped, and we watched her grow.
Tiny grew from a stunted, ratty little tabby to a skinny, bony faced adult with twice the temper and half the situational awareness her kitten self had – but she grew. She survived whatever spectrum of neurological deficits she had, because she had a few. She was always falling into open barrels, down holes, getting lost in tunnels around the house, jumping onto the road or under moving cars, hyperactive to a point of mania, and then exhausted – and then running again. It was a joke, that the cat was practically suicidal – except she never made the same mistake twice. Her intelligence and unpredictability led her to actually get some grudging respect from my father, who found the fact that she tried to hit back surprisingly entertaining. We didn’t give a shit about why he liked her as long as he did, because she was outgrowing her seizures, and we were scared that he’d toss her out before she fully did.
Tiny Cat got older, and got pregnant. Her first pregnancy was completely confusing to her, but she managed it through, with us. The days leading up to her delivery, we showed her how to nest in a box, helped her get used to lying there. She kept trying to walk off even during her delivery, and was utterly baffled by the fact that a kitten had already come out, and more were there. At some point some instinct kicked in, but our next few nights were spent sleepless, taking shifts with the mewling furballs and there pretty frazzled mother. Luckily, luckily, the kittens pulled through. I saw them before I left home.
I heard stories of their misadventures, of these kittens that basically thought that my mother was their actual mother. It was ludicrous and hilarious. Tiny never taught her kittens how to cover up after they’d done their business, so they’d leave little smelly piles in the sand. At some point the other cats got so exasperated. they started covering up after them. And then they gave up and started just teaching the kittens how to cat themselves. They were actually learning pretty quick, and even started babysitting the other kittens, as they grew older. At least they did, till when we left home, My father took advantage of our absence, and had the kittens abandoned far away from home.
The thing is, with the decreasing number of helpless humans to torture over the last few months, my father has been turning to the cats. At first, he had the older kittens abandoned at our construction site, from where they naturally ran away scared. Then, the ‘training’ of the cats stuck at home began.
First, the cats were being trained to remain in one yard and not step into the other. A normal person would argue that cats can’t be trained that way. But when a cat is trapped in one place, the doors shut on it, and then hosed down with a power hose till she’s fleeing, digging her claws into cement to somehow scale the wall vertically to flee with slamming water, yes- according to my father, now that’s how cats are trained.
It doesn’t matter if one of them falls off the wall into the street and breaks her hind leg, because of this. It doesn’t matter if this cat walks three-legged, dragging her twisted leg and mangled hip behind her. She’s been trained now, and if she tries to come into the yard from the other side, where she doesn’t have to climb, she gets hosed again. And again. And again. Till she goes feral and stops coming, because the household help has more mercy in their hearts than my father, and they started feeding her outside on the sly.
And then the other cats are taught lessons. Till even the cook, the meekest, most soft-spoken woman I know, couldn’t bear to watch anymore and stoutly protested that at least the cats be allowed to run through one door when the hosing begins. Obviously, her opinion doesn’t mean shit. When my father gets his manic attacks, even the help working in the yard got hosed. Why the heck would he care? They’re his servants, after all. It’s not like they’re real people or something.
Just like the cats aren’t actual livings beings. Or anything more than a temporary fixation for his cruelty. I’m not at home, he can’t make sure I’m waking up at 4 am anymore, or make me do sit ups at his whim, or monitor my food, or lash out as and when he wants at me. He tried with the watchman, but after two days of being forced to get up at 4 am, the watchman bluntly made it clear that he was going to quit under these conditions. The other household help scurry and tiptoe around his always-impending rage and righteousness, which is exactly the way he likes it. Besides, it’s Corona times. If they quit, he isn’t going to find anyone else to do the housework for him. They’re staying on out of desperation too, because it’s unlikely that they find another job with the way things are. He knows that, and he stops pushing them just before their breaking point. With the cats, he doesn’t need to stop.
The last puppy he brought home died about a month after I left. There’s another dog now, but she’s being taken care of, because even he’s starting to get a reputation among his friends who supply the dogs. And then there’s Tiny. Tiny Cat who got pregnant again, and isn’t allowed to stay at home this time. Who wasn’t even allowed to be in the yard- but she didn’t know that. She spent the last few weeks trying repeatedly to come home, and got slammed and hosed down with punishingly hard water jets each time she tried. She snuck in at night, and ate and slept in the other yard. She didn’t understand why she was suddenly cast out, and scratched at the doors and windows, asking my crying mother to let her in. The cook hid her under her arm and smuggled her out each time she could, before my dad could notice that she’d come in again. My mom stopped walking in the yard at all, for fear of attracting the cats, who’d flock to her if they saw her at all. My father would come running in, bolt the doors, and hose them down till they were scrambling around desperately in the mud. Till he was satisfied that they’d had enough of a lesson for today. But that stopped being enough, too.
My father decided last week that Tiny had to go. It didn’t matter that she was due any day. It didn’t matter that she was spending more time wet than dry. She was surviving his currently favorite method of torture, and persisting- and he doesn’t like that. Bear in mind that this is a man who used to trap rats to kill and pour boiling water over them, till my mother gave him proof that was Islamically forbidden. And nothing is more important than a pretense of holiness. But that pretense is still wafer thin. A heavily pregnant cat who had started digging holes in the dirt… wasn’t in any place to fight what was behind that. But help came from the unlikeliest place.
Our watchman caved and decided to take her away. He took her to that construction site, where he knows the family of caretakers, where he knew she’d be safe. It broke him, having to coax her away and leave her there, but she found a hidey hole right away. He went to visit her twice, and she seemed settled in. They leave food out for the cats, and there’s enough space for her to roam. My father was delighted to see her gone. Everyone else is relieved for different reasons.
I’m sitting here wondering who’ll be next, and what will happen when he runs out of animals. I keep thinking of her earnest little face and stubborn, stubborn refusal to give up, and am trying to reassure myself that this truly is the best that could have happened for her. But Survivor’s guilt is a potent beast. And I can’t help but feel, at least a little bit, that in choosing what’s best for me and leaving, I failed my Tiny cat, at least a little.
The smell of buttery peas hits me like a sock-full of nostalgia to the face. I’m seven, in Uncle F’s gloomy manor house in Virginia, and I’ve just discovered that salty, buttery peas make you warm from the inside on a cold day. I then proceed to eat a kilo of them.
Last night, I dreamt of cheese. There was cannelloni the size of actual cannons, lying artlessly strewn through what I think was a lumberyard. I came down to find mine, which had been lying in the middle of an altar – had been. I threw my hands up in the air and asked Patrick where it was. He threw his hands up too and informed me, in the most patronizing, Captain-Obvious-tone, that he’d eaten it.
I woke up feeling quite resentful of this.
Food is a theme I will probably never be able to tackle in a healthy way. Bursts of eating and lack of self control piggyback very comfortably on eating disorders that you haven’t shrugged off yet. I hardly blame my dreaming of cheese on this. The guilt lies far more squarely at the feet of The Bastard, and his flying monkey minions.
I remember, when I was still five or six, my similarly aged cousin Miriam would make a small swoop through the backyard whenever they visited us. A cursory shuffle through the trash bins would be enough to tell her if there was imported cheese in our house. The information would then be passed onto her mother, my aunt. Obviously, then it would be mentioned at teatime, and half the cheese would find a new home, before the day was done.
I saw an old picture of Miriam last night, us at a family wedding event. She was sitting next to the bride, looking absolutely scathingly at her. It made me think of the last time I saw her without a cold, bone-chillingly calculating look on her face. Or a conversation that had not involved some supposedly ‘subtle’ attempt to get family or financial information out of me.
I couldn’t actually think of a time, though. Couldn’t even think of a time that I wasn’t afraid of her, or her mother. The things they did in our house, the things they did to us… the word family seems to be a catch-all for the horrors of what humans can be to each other. Or to other people.
I remember Reshma, the little seven year old orphaned girl who used to work in their house. She had no one to take care of her, back in her village, and had been left with my aunt’s family so that she received shelter and food in return for cleaning my aunt’s house. There was either an uncle or a sick father in the village, who was supposedly given some money as reimbursement for her labor.
I remember Reshma only vaguely. She was a skin and bone, dark, jumpy little thing about our age. every few months my aunt would shave her head. She claimed it was to make sure that Reshma didn’t get lice. I know now, from experience, that shaving heads is some power move that each of these Bastard brothers and sisters like to pull.
Reshma would fill up my aunt’s water supply, from a tap in the courtyard. She would lug metal pots of water half the size of her body up the stairs, which would be the family’s drinking, cooking, and cleaning water. She’d run errands. fetching groceries, doing the meal prep so that my aunt could flurry about the kitchen and wind up cooking in the little time she was home. She would iron clothes and school uniforms, and polish school shoes for my aunt’s children. She’d wake up and not be allowed to rest till it was night. She’d sometimes sneak over to my house between errands, where my mother would hurriedly feed her as fast as she could, so that the girl had at least something.
When my aunt found out, they all beat Reshma to an inch of her life as punishment. Then they made her eat a fistful of chilli powder, to teach her a lesson. So Reshma ran away from home. Somewhere between her village and the city, she was caught and brought back. They declared her a thief and punished her again. In a few months, she ran away again. This time, they didn’t find her. Sometimes, I wonder if she made it somewhere safe, and is happy. Other times I wonder if anyone except us remembers her at all.
Buttered peas remind me of cold, rainy afternoons, high up the mountain, that year with my Uncle F’s family. The few peaceful weeks before my father joined us there. My uncle’s children grew up practically white, sheltered from their uncle,/my father’s penchant for cruelty. They knew him as the happy, jolly, loud uncle that visited their family with gifts, idolized their mother, and was coddled stupidly warmly by their father.
I wonder what they thought the first time we all met as family, and they soon found out, the noises coming from the basement were not the TV, but their uncle beating his family as often and as hard as he could. I wonder if they remember, because they certainly saw. And I wonder how much they understood, because they still treat The Bastard with affection and adulation.
Meanwhile, I resent their father for having died before I could confront him. Did he – the doctor, the brother, their father- regret, for even a moment, encouraging the monster who destroyed my childhood?
it’s been a while since we’ve spoken at any decent length. Sure, we’ve been having our fluff conversations and Band aid-on-stab-wound repair sessions, but the time is definitely nigh that we put some sutures there. As you love to tell your patients, better to heal the right way, the first time around. Have you been taking your advice? Not so much, not so much.
You’ve been keeping busy. One might add to that, with a little snark, you’ve been doing nothing at all. In the grand scheme of things, you’re still on your way in a journey you started eight months ago. Why have you not reached a destination? Why have you been crossing milestones on crossroads, instead of having picked one direction already? These are absolutes. These are absolute parameters of time and opportunity that you’ve lost. You need to hold yourself accountable for these lapses. Even though you know, as well as I do, that you’ve deserved this soft corner between the years. These few months of ‘the journey is the destination’ have done you so much good. It’s hard, to not begrudge yourself this space for a few well deserved breaths between pants.
It’s not a race, but you’ve had your breather. We have to run in place. Time to speed up now again, don’t you agree?
Look at how far you’ve come. So many life lessons, so many discoveries. Who would have thought that you, that ludicrously social person, would revel in this enjoyment of your own company? Who would have thought that you would endanger yourself to the extent that you did, to try to help someone who did not at all deserve it? That a month would teach you such a lesson on your father not being the only monster out there. That not everyone could be saved. And that your job never was to save anyone except yourself. Would you have imagined that you would find yourself in this situation? I couldn’t have. I’d never realized that you were capable of being this selfless- and this stupid. Your safety takes priority. No man has the right to touch you. And no amount of disease or illness, can be accepted as excuse for trespassing your boundaries. And I’m sorry that you’ve had to learn it this way, As I am grateful, that you’ve learned it at all. You need to choose your friends more wisely. You need to give yourself to people who prove themselves deserving of it. You’ve been confusing giving love with sacrificing self respect for too long. The chronic hemorrhage over the years had dulled your senses to how much you were losing. But that acute fall, that was the one you needed. Even you were not immune to recognizing the meaning of all that blood. You will not forget the bruises. That nightmarish sequence of events. That shift in tunnel vision from wanting to end it all, to end that moment. to wanting to change it all, to end that moment. It was a hard earned lesson. One that all those bruises and all these nightmares have been a price for. But I hope that you won’t forget it ever again. You’re slow to see things, but quick to learn. Don’t forget this one.
Don’t forget this one.
Look at how your life is changing. Look at the sheer number of people you’re meeting who like you, who seek you out to talk to, to spend time with even when they don’t have an emotional vent to open in your direction. (Look at the number of guys who find you attractive. Who the heck saw that one coming. You’re almost starting to believe them!). This business of responding to ‘I like you, you’re amazing’ with ‘I like me too. I *am*, indeed!’ is a bit of genius, by the way. Sure, you might come across as stuck up or full of yourself, but screw that. It’s a polite way of letting someone know that their compliment is accepted, while simultaneously not giving them too many green lights. And screw that, too. You need to say that a few times. You have spent far too many years with a mutilated self image.
(By the way, good on you for turning guys down. It wasn’t your style to begin with, but I’m still so proud of you of not saying yes to people simply because they seemed interested in you. Look at how far your sense of self has come, from being that little girl who just wanted to be loved. I won’t tell you to be proud of yourself. But I do think that you should be happy with this change).
(Oh, and good on you for saying yes when you did. He’s practically teaching you how well men can treat women. You deserve this. And more. Good on you for making this chance possible for yourself).
You are not an airhead for loving art. You are not cold or calculating, for being this good at dealing with death. You are more emotionally stable than people who have only been touched by trauma as it flew them by, instead of being dragged through in in a choke-hold, kicking and screaming. You survived that. You begin every process of healing reminding yourself of how. fucking. unbelievable. much. you’ve survived. You’ve practically already received professional confirmation of how strong you are. Don’t forget this. Don’t forget this. You are capable of giving of giving so much love that it ASTOUNDS people. You are rare in that. (You’ve learned from the best. It’s in your blood). And you deserve the same love. If not in the same quantity, then in the same effort. Don’t forget this.
At the same time, you need to move your feet faster, too. You’ve come through far too much already to not know the uniqueness of your situation and opportunity. This window is closing far. Already sticking your foot in going to cause a little pain. But do that. You know what happens when the window closes. When you miss this train. When this ship sails. When this dragon flies. Take any metaphor, take them all. You know what’s on this side, when you’re locked out. You know better than to stay. Recognize that fear in you, of being back in that cage? Remember that.
This letter was only intended as a reminder. The Universe falls in love with a stubborn heart. And you know, how stubborn yours is. It refused to die. It refused to stop loving. It refused to give up. Remind yourself, what it did all that for.
It’s strange, to look at yourself in a mirror, and not know what you look like.
I’d like to think that I understand. Of all days, of all times, now when I know better, when I’m better. But I wonder, if there’s some things you never know about yourself. Ever. If you spend your life burning through your time, trying to get where you’ll be ready, for understanding or realization. And it never happens- does it ever happen? Do we ever simply open our eyes one day, and just know?
I go days without looking at myself closely in the mirror. These are the same days that I sit in front of my old fashioned dresser and comb my hair for minutes together. It’s hip length, and tangles easy, so I used a fine toothed comb. Always over the left shoulder, and then half that time over the right, to get that one fluffy spot I can’t reach otherwise. It shines when I comb it. I take care of it.
I use three different lotions, for my face, body, and hands. I moisturize every morning and night, and always put lotion on my skin while watching a movie on Sundays. I try not to think of Silence of the Lambs when I do that. I always end up doing exactly that. The same, repetitive, calming motions every night. I stand in front of the mirror and moisturize my face, before I leave my ponytail loose, strip in front of the mirror, and get into bed.
I have three mirrors in my room.
And I have no fucking idea, what I look like.
I want to know. I fucking want, to fucking know, what I fucking look like. I’ve spent the first half of my life convinced that I was ugly, because that’s what I was taught, so earnestly, so utterly without a lack of certainty that I was ugly, ugly, ugly, that I’d never be loved. My version of rebellion was shouting at myself inside my head that I wasn’t. I wasn’t ugly, even if I wasn’t beautiful, and I was good enough. I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t ugly. I told myself enough times to make up for every time that I was told the other.
And then I outgrew both. Those sets of understandings, of different halves of my lives. Because people came into my life who convinced me that I was both. That I was one, because I was the other. I was beautiful, because I was ugly. I was a good girl, I’m a good girl, because I can’t afford not to be. _She’s not pretty but she’s so nice!_ _I fell for you because you were sweeter than the other girls I knew. I thought that’d be enough. I’m sorry, I thought it’d be._ _My friend thinks I can do better. So I told him how intelligent you are_. _I Love you. I just can’t be with you. It’s just how things are._
And I don’t fucking blame you, any of you. Who didn’t see me any more clearly than I ever did. I don’t blame you because I don’t care anymore. You didn’t. You cared about your conveniences and your images and not about what it’d leave me with, when you trampled through my self image with your big muddy feet and out the same way. I didn’t know where I was going before, but I’m still more lost now.
I have no reason to be, now more than ever. I’m the closest to my ideal size I’ve ever been, have a good job, and a life ahead of me, with the chance to finally close a chapter of horrors I’d given up on leaving behind. But I’ve been so engrossed with eyeing what I want to escape, and that that walked away from me, that I never stopped to realize I had no idea who I was walking with. The face in the mirror that I wash with water, cleanse with Neutrogena, and pat dry, not rub, is a stranger, a stranger I can’t objectively decide is beautiful or ugly or completely nondescript, nothing at all. You’re too familiar for me to judge you one way or the other. You’re too alien to me for me to accept you, one way or the other. Who even are you? And when people call you beautiful, or ugly, or simply let their glances slide off your face… which one of them is lying? Do you even know?
Can you even know?
Why did you spend so much time working on your scars? You spent so much time on your arms to make up for cutting them open, hugging the scars close to compensate for making them, and then learning to love them, and all the time, you forgot to pay attention to your eyes, or your nose, or your lips, or anything people look at you, when they look at you. If they look at you.
I’ve never been afflicted by Writer’s Block. I never woke up and had a day that I couldn’t write a little more. A day where nothing happened that could provoke me to write. But all the same, my writing habits became disjointed and slowly, crippled to the point where I didn’t even want to think about writing. I’d mentally shove the idea or the inspiration along. Tomorrow, I’ll chronicle this tomorrow. And Tomorrow never comes. Because there’s no today that has ever stopped itself in time for the day before it.
The problem, I think, is Deja vu. And I don’t mean a flash of disconcerting recognition, that I’ve been in this very combination of place and time, that glitch in the matrix, so to speak. I think that the same things have been happening to me over and over again, with very little variation. And that’s slowly ingrained this indifference. Why should I write about this now? What purpose will it serve? It’s only going to happen again. It does, it always does. I go back home to the same house. I’m serving my sentence out bonded to the same slaver. The names and covers of books and authors change, but six hours a day, I sit at the same table I’ve been sitting at since I was eight. I wear the same clothes in nondescript succession, tie my hair the same way, mechanical movements and systematized behavior.
This is the pit. The pit of all things lost and forgotten, never to be rescued. I walk in circles. The same words are thrown in my direction, and I respond to them, because when I don’t, something worse will follow. I sit on the dining table, and eat – eat – subserviently. That means that you eat in intervals. You are not on that table to eat, but to serve food, serve water, run errands to and from the dining room, listen to an hour and half’s worth of sermonizing, and god help you if you don’t acquiesce to whatever is being discussed and whoever is being maligned. You listen to a steady stream of minutely honed observations, a calculation of all your short comings, all your perceived and apparent flaws and defects. You collect a list of things-to-do for till the next meal, where you’ll invariably be held accountable for them. You take all the abuse and all the anger and all the narcissism-tipped barbs thrown your way- and the food, that you have to be grateful for- and you swallow.
Three times a day, every day. When he’s not home, he calls home to make sure you don’t miss a dose. Venom needs to be administered just as carefully as medicine. You swallow it all.
And you become sick. The days and the nights become repetitive milestones on a road going nowhere. Some hours you have the patience to analyse what you’re seeing. Other times, you barely have the energy to keep your head out of the mire you’re sinking in. Occasionally you get enough time to indulge in a little philosophising, about the state of life, the meaning of it, the whys and hows of the tangible and perceived world that exists outside your cage/bubble. You experience it as though through a semi-permeable membrane. But you can’t swim through. Or even look in that direction too long. You’re not allowed to.
At a certain point, a life like that is little more than a lab record. The Adventures of Two Mice Being Experimented Upon in a Glass Box. Running on a fixed wheel, eventually the most stalwart of your dreams begin to gasp for air. You slow down, reserve your energy for the barest of essential tasks that you must do. You account for every iota of mental and emotional energy, and bury the rest deep inside, for when you can afford to feel, without consequence.
You stop hoping for things to change. You stop dreaming.
You stop writing.
That’s why I stopped writing. It began to feel like a lie I was telling myself. Lies of love and lies of better days to come, even though good things were happening to me, they washed off the minute I set foot back into my pit. It has a gravity of its own and I fight it, but the words escape it with more difficulty these days. Just as I do.
I hope to get out with the rest of my sanity. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve given up on all possibilities of justice here, for karma or the law or the fucking Flying Spaghetti Monster to teach the keepers of the pit a lesson. I don’t care, I just want to get out with what’s left of me, and what I can still write.
And even if I don’t make it, I’m going to keep pushing my words out with my back to the last wall. Or I’ll try, anyway.
It’s been a bad day, and it’s been a difficult night.
Dad’s home again, and given his new ‘injured’ status, the mood swings have been worse than ever. He couldn’t find any other reason to, so he made me read a document out loud to him eight times. Then he screamed at me because I don’t walk straight, I do my laundry twice a week, because my sister didn’t take his call, and because my brother was up till two last night. Neither of which I knew, but he says that apparently I should bear the brunt of his wrath because he doesn’t want to disturb them. Apparently I’ve made thirty years worth of bad decisions and ruined my life. Which I don’t understand, because I’m not thirty years old, and everything in my life, including where I was born, has been his decision every single of the significant number of citizenship and monetary problems I face today are direct consequences of his decisions. In addition to everything else, i am also convenient to blame
And while this yelling match was happening, I kept calm. I kept my cool, I didn’t cry, I didn’t break down, I kept my temper under control, and mom kept needling to shut my mouth throughout. She can’t stop, she can’t control herself from hovering in the middle, and I can’t. I can’t handle two so unstable people at the same time. I can’t handle all of her emotional needs and support her and console her, and handle this bastard at the same time. She didn’t let me breathe for two minutes after the fight before following me to my room and starting her nagging about rewriting an application because of some completely nonsensical reason. And the minute she left my room, the wretched cocksucker came back inside to yell at me some more. And then like a switch going off, the minute he’d vented his spleen, he started joking around again
And now when I’ve finally finished the chores, locked everything and turned the lights out, mom comes back into the room and switches the light on to check if I’m crying.
I can’t cry in this house anymore. I can’t think or breathe in this house anymore. They are eating me alive, bit by bit. I can’t live here, I can’t get away, there’s no escape from these monsters, they won’t leave me alone they won’t leave me be. I’m going to go completely deranged, completely unhinged, I can’t, I can’t do this anymore, I don’t know what to do.
It falls, like unwanted feathers, like sweat. Restless and stifling, the promise of rain like salt on my tongue. Luckily, I know how to wash away the salt.
They’re kissing, god knows which number they’re on, getting more bodily, the couple in the balcony across my window. He fists his hand in her hair, and they push with the reckless of people who know no one is watching. I shift, to dangle my foot more freely across the window I’m straddling. I ash, and keep smoking. She sees me first, in one of her twisting glances. They slow down, glancing at me with obvious unease. She whispers something into his shirt, and he shakes his head. He goes on kissing her, and I keep watching.
I light another cigarette. I turn back and he’s waiting for me to look. He blows me a kiss, with a cocky grin. She doesn’t like that at all. She fidgets against him, while he waits for a sign of approval or encouragement from me. I give him none, and stare back at his deadened eyes with my own leaden stare. He will carry me to the ground. For now, we tread the air. The girl is going back inside. I pour another drink.
He comes back out, a bottle later. He’s buck ass naked, and evidently dissatisfied. There’s a splinter in my thumb, and I worry it with my teeth. He’s the one watching with unconcealed interest now. He rests his hip against his railing, and lights up, nodding at me. I stare, and slosh two fingers into my glass, and raise it to him. He smiles half heartedly, and turns fully towards me, watching. We watch each other. The sky dies.
Poor bastard. Guess we’re both staying lonely tonight.
Some days, I am a hundred percent sure that I won’t make it out of this hell hole. Other days, I bristle with enough rebelliousness to want to walk out right this moment, no heed to sense or money. Some days- most days- I retreat to my corner and lick my wounds.
We had a party yesterday. Twenty five people came over for lunch, two of whom I know at all. Just more people to show off for. My aunt brought the entire troop of her in-laws with her, each woman wearing at least four gold chains per flabby neck, and four fat gold rings per stubby fingered hand. And I truly hold them no grudge. It’s not like they showed up, we invited them formally. They were nice enough and simple enough, in fact some of them were downright sweet. The husbands, who I spoke to while serving the food and seating everyone around, were so normal that it threw me for a loop. I’ve literally forgotten how normal people can be, how normal families can be together. They kept insisting that we join them for lunch too, instead of scurrying around and serving. Because they don’t know the ground rules of our existence in this shithole. We serve. We clean. We usually dress up and keep the paper thin illusions alive. Usually.
Except facades tend to tear, as they are wont to. Two girls, one of whom isn’t twenty yet, can only fake so much after they’ve been forced to get up at 5.30 am to go for driving lessons (because if not at 5.30, then you don’t have enough dedication to drive a car, and so don’t need to learn anyway). After that you have to come home and pretend that the lessons were life-changing and/or you had the time of your life, because otherwise you too ungrateful to take them again, or study anything else, really. And if it’s just one or two things every day, you still manage. But things, in this godforsaken house, they tend to keep coming.
We wanted to shower and get presentable enough before the guests came, because between the house cleaning and helping the maids with the cooking, we’d gotten pretty dishevelled and food streaked. Obviously, we’d have to take turns, because we share one bathroom. We got our clothes ready and were putting the last touches to the living room, when the Decree came. Go to the Supermarket and buy soda. Okay, fine. That’d take half an hour but okay. Since Dad is always ‘busy’ on Facebook and Skype, we’d obviously have to. He can’t have us getting ready for a party now, can he. So we took the car and went.
Except ten minutes in, at the Supermarket, I turned a corner walked into my father. He’d followed us to the supermarket and spent the entire time eavesdropping on what we were talking about (specifically, whether or not we’d been talking about him). He jumped when I spotted him- clearly, he’d not thought that we’d spot him so soon. He babbled some nonsense about having forgotten to tell us to get chips, threw literally the first bag in front of him into my cart, and walked out again. When we came back home, mom told me that he was concerned we might be discussing him being unfair or something, and decided to go watch us.
And since guests had already shown up, there was no time to get dressed. In fact one of the grandma types even told us to go freshen up, but dad quickly interjected with a ‘my girls like to stay simple’. Or bedraggled, I suppose. We didn’t have a moment of peace till the guests left, the extra food was all packed and frozen for him just in case he has to leave soon, and the house scrubbed down to remove all traces of a party. Even then, even though I was dog tired and ready to pass out the minute I lay down, I couldn’t sleep.
I cannot tell you how disturbed I’ve been since yesterday afternoon. I keep replaying the exact moment I spotted him over and over again. It is just so viscerally disturbing, so bizarre. Even with the absolutely fucked up household I live in, it’s still way off the radar. When will this fucking nightmare end? I already double bolt the doors to my room before I sleep. I don’t shower or change when he’s in the house because I just can’t be sure. How am I supposed to spend every moment even away from home looking over my shoulder, to see if he’s come to spy again? Because now that he’s done this once, he will do it again, for sure. This man has a pattern. Once he loses his inhibition for something, it becomes open season on that front. And for the life of me, I cannot imagine more rules and restrictions that I already live by.
I barely have time for Facebook anymore, or for writing. I’m working the whole goddamn day doing nothing of consequence and everything of obsequience. I’m working like a slave, rinsing out bowls that are ‘still damp’ turning sofas upside down because my dad suspected ‘there might be some food under the cushions’. The three meals we sit down to eat are piles of food that would do a restaurant proud, but we can barely swallow down, because we have to ‘serve’ him while we eat and listen to him criticise everything from our faces to our personalities, the rest of the time. As if none of this were enough, he keeps clamping down tighter and tighter because he’s so sure, we’re trying to rebel on some front.
I.. don’t know. I’m twenty seven years old. I’m a doctor, and have an IQ that sits in the genius spectrum. I have love and friends and family but more than anything, I cannot breathe here anymore, and I’m afraid.