Before her, after her

I am happy, so blissfully, carelessly, temporarily, happy. It was close to midnight, again, as many interesting things happen close to midnight. I was surrounded by love. People in love, people who had lost love and people who sought love, endlessly, compassionately, selflessly. Like a seething horizon disappearing into the sky, love flowed through our veins, like alcohol or electrons and love was present in the air around us. There is love in the most absolute, insignificant of places, and I had forgotten. For a fleeting second, I had forgotten that the world is good and that it will continue to be good and that there will always be sadness. There will be sadness when you lose someone, unexpectedly, unfairly. When someone decides that it is enough, and everything changes. Everything tumbles out, lose and disobedient. What changed? She got lost, and I lost a part of me with her. At times I am okay. I am alive, and I am happy, going about my day and focussing on my things. But at other times, and these times are rare, I sink in. I sink into a hole inside me and I think I will never come out. This is a hole inside my chest, where my heart used to be. I can feel it sometimes, existing within me but when I fall, I can feel it beating and I relive that day, horribly, irreversibly, unforgivingly.  Like rewinding chapters in my favorite book. We are back in school, and we are buying elvalu roti, vegetable roti. We don’t have money, so we ask our teacher who loves us just too much but doesn’t say it out loud, and we buy elavalu roti and head back to class, elated that our prayers have been answered. We head back to share our prized possession with everyone, vowing to ourselves that when we grow up, we would have plenty of money to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Our bubbles burst when suddenly, out of nowhere, a crow swoops in, pecks at our hands —we scream—  and drop our food, only for it to be carried away, hopefully, to feed some starving crow babies. And that was the end of that. I am here again, in the present, and there is happiness all around me. The fondness of the memory fades away slowly, and while I try to cling to it, I can feel it slipping through my fingers. No matter how hard I try to hold on to its innocence, I can’t. Our lives seem to have a “before and after”. Before her, and after her. I have unknowingly categorised my life’s memories into two parts. Before her, after her.

When I recall something from my past, I would wonder if she was there somewhere in the world and if yes, this memory would be innocent. A carefree, peaceful time. A time when I didn’t know of sadness. No matter how much emotion that was involved in it, this is a memory of innocence. But if she is not there, this memory is somehow, cruel, dirty, ugly. Regardless of how happy the memory was, how passionate it was, or how exciting — if she was not present somewhere, there was no innocence. And I can feel myself falling into this hole, and it is that day all over again. I feel tired and I can’t move. I hold myself, wrap my arms around myself so my pieces don’t fall out and spill across the grass. Slowly, gradually, I allow myself to sink in and see her. I see her at school with us, being a pandithaya, a “know-it-all”, I see her buying jeans at Kelly Felder, I see her wringing her clothes after a dip in a pond, I see her on my back as I carry her and she clamps her hand over my mouth because I am saying something naughty. Laughing, eyes closed as she always blinks exactly at the wrong time, and she is asleep in almost all our pictures. Sometimes, I wish I had more memories so I can visit them again and again and it is beautiful again. I wish I had paid more attention, recorded them in a mind cassette somewhere. And other times, and these times are rare, I wish I did not remember anything at all.

When I am with her, I notice her neck, and I craddle mine in assurance. She is wearing a beautiful necklace — it goes right around her neck — and I am standing next to her, watching her sleep in her wooden box and all I notice is the missing neckless. She is not wearing it, only a small gash on her right cheek to remind me that this is the memory. The memory that I will never forget, and yet, the one I will always want to forget. This is the reminder that I am not Alice, and this is not Wonderland. When I wake up, there will be no fairy tale, and I will be empty even though I feel alive, so. very. alive.



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