Chandini logged out of her email account and closed all open windows on her laptop. She stared fixedly at the desktop wallpaper that she must have seen a million times before. It was as if she was seeing it for the first time.
There was nothing extraordinary about the picture. It was a landscape showing an uneven terrain, dense foliage dripping with rain, black rocks peculiar to the mountains of her town and a swollen turbid brook tumbling impetuously over rocks and vegetation. A mist stood still over the scene like a veil; it made everything look wetter than wet.
The tree sweeping low over the water had big leaves of a deciduous tree… she didn’t remember the name… but the remembered aroma of the tree’s crushed leaves filled her nostrils. The ferns at water’s edge hung tenaciously on to their precarious foot-hold. Moss covered the rocks in bright green blotches. The black looked even blacker because of the glowing, vivid green.
The picture always sent a delicious shiver up her spine coaxing her imagination away from her dry life. She felt soaked to the skin with a cool wetness whenever she watched it.
Tears coursed heedlessly from her unblinking eyes. In a sudden flash of rebellion, she wiped them away.
She sat thinking over the email she had just read from an online girlfriend. Another case of trust too hastily reposed… another case of a broken heart… of shattered trust. Another emotional fool taken for a ride, her emotions becoming a torture rack over which she was flogged.
It was the case of an online romance. It neither turned sour nor gasp out its last unable to cope with the reality of the long distance. It simply, silently, collapsed upon itself. There were no rocks in the foundation, just a gooey muck of lies.
Chandini knew what would happen next. The girl would go into withdrawal and a spiraling cycle of self-blame and self-pity. In her pain, she would begin doubting all her friends. She would imagine that her real friends were ridiculing her. She might even pick fights and cut herself off from them. Having thus destroyed her support system, she would let go completely and wallow in her pain until her self-esteem tethers on the abyss of extinction.
Reading the mail had reminded Chandini of her own similar experience. The only difference was, with her it had happened offline… live… in the flesh. There the difference ended… and the similarity began.
Chandini recalled the heady rush of first love- at the ripe old age of thirty-five. She fell all the more heavily because she had never really believed in love. When she saw lovers in the movies, she felt like closing her eyes. Just to spare the actors the forced display of utter hogwash. She was sure it was as painfully embarrassing for them to portray as it was for her to watch. She was scornful and incredulous of love. “What utter bullsh*t…!” just about summed it up for her.
It was a bait God has been known never to resist. With His utterly infuriating sense of humor, He had set her up to ridicule. She met him at a mall- the man, not God. She was now hazy about the progression of events until THAT day six months later. That day, the day she came to the conclusion that she likes nothing better to do with her time than to talk to him on the phone… or in person… or in her imagination. He was with her every second of every day. No opinion mattered but his… her world began and ended at him. The final evidence…? She SO loved the romantic movies… and wondered at her crassness at not having understood them before. If that isn’t the definition of an emotional fool, what is?
That day she knew. She was in love.
The avowal came from him. It was as if he was waiting for the realization to dawn in her. Or maybe something in her changed on the outside… giving him the cue that it was time to strike. She crumpled at his feet… and was thrilled about it too. She recalled that thrill now and cringing in shame.
The days passed in a whirl… it seemed she could neither find enough ways to show her love nor enough words to express it in. She was delirious with joy. Months raced past.
She tried to recall now. “Was it that I was over the first ruptures of love… so I began to notice the lies… or was it the lies that broke the halo..?”
She wasn’t sure now. Anyway, the sequence of events is hardly the point.
It is pathetic how eagerly the human mind likes to hang on to its delusions. When she began to see his lies for the lies they were… her first strategy was to cover up for him… and spare him the pain of her accusations. But evidence piled inexorably on more evidence. It began to stifle her. She then turned her rage inward. She blamed herself for being disloyal… for doubting him. Then came the day when there was nowhere to run. It was all there in her face. He had been lying to her all along.
She got up from her chair in the agitation of relieving the past. Once again she felt the despair… the utterly humiliating pain… summed up by the statement, “But why did he have to lie…?”
She remembered now, the process she forced herself to go through. She made it more brutally deliberate to compensate for the time she had volitionally closed her eyes. She examined the entire edifice of lies. All she found was a lie cemented to another lie. This, then, was the foundation of a love she had thought was her anchor. She delved under the cesspool beneath the edifice. Here she found him… arms akimbo… glaring accusingly at her… hating her impotently for having found him out.
Even now she vividly remembered the strange detachment she felt the day she called him and told him she wanted to talk to him. When he came, he knew something was very wrong. She coldly laid the facts before him. Gave her proof… patiently heard him out. She wondered now what held her up that day. Why she didn’t scream and shout and tear him limb from limb. She heard him out in a silence that reached all the way into her soul. He was exhausted at long last… and sat looking her in malevolent loathing.
She told him to leave. He left. Just like that. No apology… not even an attempt towards one. He left.
She shuddered now, remembering the last look he gave her. She had sat numbly for the rest of the evening and night. When she got up, it was morning. She wondered now what she did that day. She wished she could recall something dramatic that she had done that morning, something symbolic of the devastation of the past fifteen hours. She could recall nothing. She did nothing out of the ordinary… she just made herself a cup of tea.
The next one year was difficult for her. She went through the same process of self-blame and loathing that she knew her friend was going through right now. In three weeks she was a nervous wreck… and then one day she passed out in the office from sheer exhaustion.
She looked back at the period of recovery. She remembered with gratitude the two friends that held her together in that time. She squirmed when she remembered the way she would turn on them in her rage… followed by utter contrition… followed by requesting them to stop wasting their time with someone as worthless as her. But they stuck by her making sure she got rid of the poison running in her veins. She owed them her life.
The trilling cry of a kingfisher brought her back to the present. She knew what she had to do.
She’d stand by her online friend. Having travelled the path herself, she was adequately equipped to guide a fellow traveler blinded by pain. She’d hold her friend’s hand and be her eyes until she regained her own vision.
She wished it were possible for her to talk to her friend in person but shrugged the momentary thought away. She knew it wasn’t possible. She would write emails to her friend… as many as were needed… to get her out of the pit. The thought cheered her up. She logged into her email server again and began to write the first mail.
Emotional fools support each other, don’t they..?
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