Ever since I lost him, I have never failed to remember him every single day. Like I said, I returned to normal, if this state could be called normal; I started talking again, then I resumed smiling, and finally I got back my laughter, too, but not without paying a price: hundreds and thousands of times, in the act of smiling, I’ve only been able to give a weak grimace, for even this simple act, reminds me of him. More importantly, for the rest of the first eighteen years of my life, I never again had the courage to make friends. So I remained aloof, and let everybody around me think that I was an arrogant pest, and I didn’t feel like doing anything to dispel the illusion. For I still had my memories of him. I won’t deny that I tried falling in love, if only to drown my sorrow somewhere, a couple of times, but my heart wasn’t just into the thing. As I grew into a young girl, many of the other girls started going out with their boyfriends, boys who were students of his school (his school and mine were the two best schools in our city; both were convents, his was a “boys only” and mine was a girls’ school; and the liaison between the students of these two schools was an accepted thing, from before I was even born), and all their stories, only helped aggravate my pain and deepen the sense of loss. So I cocooned myself in loneliness, and while others fear it, I’ve had it as a comforter. It was not until I left home, to continue my studies in another place, that I again made friends. And in each of them, I tried to find some part of him, just to convince myself that those few months, so many years ago, hadn’t been just a drawn-out dream. Of course, I met with failure, because no two persons can be the same, as I came to realize later. But this realization didn’t help me much; I continued with my futile attempts, and with every failure, I grew more taciturn and determined. That was the start of the second phase of loss. I dived head-long into studies and hobbies, leaving hardly any time for anything else. I put a stop to outings, parties, picnics, romantic movies and books, even music; in short, everything… even to sports, after a few unwanted incidents, when, in every little instance of cheating, I only saw somebody trying to cheat me out of my happiness. So I reasoned with my blinded-by-loss self, that by giving up sports, I was robbing everybody around me of their opportunity to hurt me. Much later, because I started missing the activity of sports, I tried to compensate in other ways, by going in for action movies and suspense-thrillers. I also came to realize that my tears had dried themselves, somewhere along the way, and that no amount of hurt, could now wring tears from my eyes. From then on, I started writing: to give vent to the unshed tears, and to revive his memories, inside me, I started writing love-poems, prose, satire; anything that made me feel a bit better. Writing fast turned into a fever, and I would, more often than not, be found scribbling in note-books or sheets of stray paper, in-between lectures, during practicals, at dawn, in the middle of the night, or right through the long summer day or the bitterly cold winter night. My roommates soon got tired of that, and there were regular and bitter fights, and still I fought to write, because writing made me want to live again.
One other thing happened during this time. As is usual in our time, our entire batch of girls became very intimate with our male fellow-students. I had some few such friends of my own. But having been burnt once, I dreaded the fire. So whenever any of them tried to express an interest in me, I made sure that I drove him off, with my sardonic smile and my dry excuses, but, above all, using my arrogant exterior, which I diligently nurtured, so as to keep my vulnerable self safe. And so, the number of my friends dwindled some, but those that stayed, I was glad to notice, had accepted me as I was then. And I would absolutely agree with you, if any of you were to tell me, that not all men hurt, that they are often much more than nice, that it means the world to some of them if they can bring a smile to your face; but no reason was good enough to persuade me to try again, maybe because I wasn’t ready to test my fortune again.
Fast-forward some years, during which my life went through no discernible change. And I was 26 years old. My parents had been trying to find a good match for me for the past couple of years, but to no avail, as I wasn’t interested, and I had been showering them with all kinds of bizarre excuses for declining the proposals. Another lesser reason might have been that, this thing entailed making compromises. And I was not ready to do that. I was ready to be alone for the rest of my life, nursing my bruised soul, than make compromises to try to be happy. I had watched so many other women around me doing that, and I never did find out whether or how that made life better, because when I looked into their eyes, I could still read the pain there. Meanwhile, I was once again into romantic movies and books, I had resumed singing, but what was most interesting to me, I had started noticing people, looking into their faces long and hard, trying to see whether, in one of them, I wouldn’t suddenly discover him. Because I still hoped, and in all these years, I hadn’t been able to give up. So my vigils continued, more intense than before.
And, then, I saw him. A look-alike of A, who called himself Pari, an IITan, who had been to the University of Wharton, an immensely talented young-man, not much older than me, whose accomplishments were fit to drive anybody insane. He was a killer guy, I’ll give him that. And no wonder, I fell for him. He so reminded me of A, that unknown to myself, I attached myself to him. Quite prematurely, as it turned out to be, I started dreaming of a happy life, with a family of my own. I felt as if all my years of prayer, had not gone in vain; that there was hope for me yet. Of course, I had forgotten that I still had my unusual lack of good fortune to reckon on. It so happened, that, when I expressed my interest, it met with the most supreme kind of indifference that anyone can conceive. Not even an answer in the negative reached me, past that wall of indifference. And how I hated being spurned! No wonder, I took it uncommonly ill. But I am being only honest, when I say that I tried hard to not take it in that manner, or when I say that I still regret doing so. And so, that was the last lesson on relationships that I allowed life to teach me.
I never, ever, gave love another chance. I had been badly hurt. And I decided to end it forever- this vulnerability which was nothing more than a liability. And, worse still, was the realization, that this last loss had poisoned me: that I was no more in danger of falling into darkness once more, for I had well and truly escaped; but that, now, I was the darkness; that now, I had the power to wreak havoc; that, if I so wished, I could suck up all the happiness and light from the people around me, lock it up in a box and drown it in the darkness inside me, and lose the key somewhere. I was more afraid than I’d ever been before. I started going out, each time praying that I wouldn’t have somebody’s blood on me, or that I wouldn’t rip the smile off somebody’s face. For the entirety of the time that this lasted, I was in a fever of fear, feeling like a person who was being haunted by an evil spirit.
I still cannot imagine how I overcame this stage, and settled into a kind of normal pattern of things and events. I don’t mean to say that all is well now. Far from it. The darkness is still there inside, boiling; but reined in. So the poison hasn’t affected anyone else, yet. But if I had to make a guess about what it was, that brought a part of me back, bruised and half-alive, and at the same time helped stop the darkness from spreading and taking control outside, I would hazard saying that, it was the memory of a very short-lived happiness, an even shorter love-story, and a boy, whose image had been etched into my heart since for ever, from my childhood, eons ago.