Hope In Despair

As I lay under the dazzling yellow bulb of the operation theatre, my heart sank, life was so strange. I had just seen the light of my life fade away and here I was, braving this superficial source of illumination.

I closed my eyes and the past 30 minutes came reeling back. In the last half an hour I had lost much more than I had gained in all the springs of my life, I had been robbed of all feelings, emotions and sentiments that ever gained entry into my thickset heart. My status was like that of the uprooted leaf which is whirled by the storm only to be tossed up and down and then dumped flat on the ground.

I was in a state of complete disorientation, couldn’t think straight. Images, sounds, people were all getting muddled in my mortal organ. The realization that he wasn’t around any more hadn’t sunk in at all. I knew there had been an accident but that was about it. Obviously he would come to ask me, “How are you doing darling?” Of course he would come, he had to, I thought to myself. I refused to see the reality which stood staring me in the face; the ugly and painful truth was too much to bear. I needed to defy it to breathe; I needed to deny it to survive myself.

His mother’s wails unceremoniously shook me out of my make believe world. She came and hugged me tight and howled her heart out but not a word escaped from my mouth. I wanted to tell her that she was worrying unnecessarily, her son would come barging into the room at any time now and mock her weak nerves using his usual acerbic humor but somehow the will to deny her was crumbling, my being was shrinking.

Often it is silence which is more difficult to comprehend and tackle than loud wails or sharp words. His father’s somber, grieved eyes stunned and scared me. No, no, no! He couldn’t do it to us- I felt the baby move and a sharp urge to let my sorrow flow through my eyes overpowered me but I held on, still hoping out of the hope that nothing had happened to him. No, he couldn’t leave our child solely to me; he had always aspired to be the father his dad had been to him. I knew he was a survivor and that he would fight and struggle to be with me and our child; he had loved me more than I had known him to love anyone or anything in his life. We had dreamt of so many things together about the baby and now; now to believe that he had escaped from all of it seemed impossible.

My gaze fell on the blood blemished ring that he had given me before becoming….senseless- nah! He hadn’t gone anywhere, he couldn’t go, I thought with fresh determination and falling fortitude. The cryptic moment came frenzying to the treacherous ticking of destiny and shook me up yet again. After the ill fated crash of our vehicle with that of a drunken teenage, we had skid on the road and split apart. The impact of falling left me paralyzed to move a limb. Blood seemed to be gushing out of my body like a hundred fountains had been dug onto me, I felt movements in my belly, the entrails of my being were turning fluid, I knew the baby was on its way into the world.

When I looked at him, I froze. He was dripping with blood all over- his forehead, jaw (that I loved to kiss), his shoulders (my pillars of strength) and his arms (which so lovingly held me during the nights) were all smeared in blood but I did not cry or scream because I knew that it was just a mishap and that all three of us would be fine, tomorrow was another day after all, nights never lasted no matter how full of passion and wild ecstasy they had been for me. Through misty eyes I had seen him smile and heard him drawl out the words, “I love you baby and I love loving you.” I couldn’t help twitching the corners of my lips in the form of a smile even when the pain was seeping through me like poison. He slipped the ring onto my finger and kissed my brow and before I could know what had happened, I was involuntarily dragged into darkness.

On regaining consciousness I found myself immersed in pools of light and sympathetic faces. Panic seemed to reign supreme after the first few moments of absolute incomprehensibility. I shuddered at the growing sense of dread which was becoming evident with every moment that was passing away; I felt it in the air but tried shrugging it away with everything that was left in me. Looking at the ring had been the last straw; I couldn’t hold myself together after that and the ocean of grief that had been held back by the faint barrier of reason and hope unleashed and flooded my entire sense of existence. I burst into loud sobs muttering his name, gasping for breath and crying only “no, no, no!”

I felt a pound of pain pulsating from the centre of my being and radiating to the tips of my fingers, my lips and my toes. It was excruciating and my sinews ached as if I was being whipped but my mind was plunged into total darkness. I could sense the pressure of the air column above my head; I was being crushed under the weight, under the gravity of something as light as air and as heavy as my grief. I wanted to see him desperately, once, just once I thought to myself but he was nowhere to be found. It made me cry out in agony because I needed him and he wasn’t around, because I depended on him for my life, because living without him was almost a sin.

My hysteria increased till the time nothing came out of my mouth but incoherent, heart wrenching cries. The throbbing pain had increased manifolds and I realized that something fluid was being churned inside me. I felt the contractions, the movements and heard someone say,” Quick! She is in labor.” Feet shuffled, hands moved with expertise and orders voiced about me but it had ceased to affect me. I was detached and aloof, I was present bodily but my soul was searching its counterpart. It moved restlessly, impatiently trying to find a trace of him but with no effect. The failure disappointed me but I did not lose hope. I uttered a shriek as I sensed the baby move, it shook me from within. I so wanted to hold his hand and bury my face into his chest. Once, Lord, just once I prayed earnestly. There was nothing that I wanted more than his touch at that moment but he wouldn’t come, he wouldn’t hold me, not once, not ever now.

For a brief second I thought that I saw him, I was exalted. I involuntarily spread out my arms to touch him but he just stood there smiling. I looked at him through murky eyes muttering, “Please baby, please, come here.” But he did not move. His eyes held the faint look of resolution that I had seen in them and I knew that he wouldn’t come to me no matter how hard I tried. It broke me again, how could he do this to me at this point of time? How could he leave me when “our” baby was gaining entry into this world? He was trying to escape when our love was butting against all odds to make its presence felt. Despair overflowed through fresh tears from my eyes, it was killing me and the inconsiderate motions of the baby were constantly drawing out my strength. I felt that I would die, that I wouldn’t hold out any longer. My eyelids were giving way to gravity and I suddenly felt too weak, pain did not bother me and my breath became erratic. I was almost slipping into the heavy state of indifference when I saw him smiling at me once again and saying, “You’ve got to pull through. You can’t let me down; you can’t do this to the child, not now, not ever. He is ours.” I tried protesting, tried telling him that I couldn’t bear to live without him, that I wasn’t that strong, that I wanted him and that I was coming to him and no one could stop me now. He smiled his calm but stern smile and said,” No! I am not taking you with me and you have to bring the child for me because the child is me.”

I hadn’t really believed in talismans or mantras but that one sentenced seemed to have worked wonders evoking a thousand emotions in me at once. By a sudden jolt I was brought back to life and fought feebly against my own wish to give it all up. I knew I had to bring out our child and I decided that I would, come what might come. I mustered all my failing strength and did as the doctors told me, I pushed, even though I felt as if I was going to burst, I gritted my teeth and I clenched my fists and unwillingly the memory of that night surfaced in my mind. The night, when we had decided to bring to this world an evidence of our togetherness. I shuddered at the lucidity of the memory; it was so fresh and alive, as if it was almost breathing in every atom of my body. As I closed my eyes in effort I saw his face, tensed with excitement but dotted with a strange anticipation. I had never seen that look before or since and hence it was etched on my brain explicitly. I almost felt his breath hot against my face, his fingers entwined into the mass of my hair and his body pressed hard against mine, hurting me, punishing me and yet loving me with all his soul.

I wondered whether it was love or loath that made him do so, that made him cannibalistic so much so that it made him tear me apart with a violent urgency and unfailing intensity. His muffled words resounded in my ears as I uttered another cry of pain, “I can never show you how much I love you baby.” Tears sweat, longing and pain encompassed me. A sudden convulsion of muscles and a nascent cry proclaimed that I had gained the last remnant of his physical presence though I had lost him, and a part of myself that came to life because of him and died with his death, forever.

Days passed after the birth of our son but I could not get over him. In spite of the huge relief that the little boy had been to me, I had been fighting and I still fight a lonely battle against the ghost of his memories. There is a strange hollowness within me, a kind of vacuum where nothing stirs except the desire to be with him. It is after his going away that I realize what he had meant to me. I knew that he was my life but now it seems that he was my soul as well. Often on full moon nights when I sit at my window during those late midnight hours, my gaze never fails to rest upon the moon. The bright radiance of the milky celestial body drowns me in an ocean of peace and beauty and I see him again, smiling at me. He looks young even now, after ten year of being away from me. He never calls out to me; perhaps he doesn’t want me anymore. The thought stones my heart and before I know I start shedding tears- tears of desperation for not being able to live with him, tears of longing for the sight of his face, for the sound of his voice, for the touch of his skin, tears of pain for having to continue breathing for so long without him.

I sit poignant with my head on my knees still looking at the moon till the first rays of the morning sun touch the tear drops glistening in my eyes and shout out that a new day has come. I rise up with effort, reluctantly, cheerlessly, dwelling upon the futility of my life, the gnawing nothingness and meaninglessness of my existence but then I hear a subterranean, loving voice and for an instant my heart swells with joy thinking it is him! I turn around to discover half opened eyes of my little son- he has got his eyes, his nose and his voice and is the strongest reminder of him for me than any of our commemorative material possessions. I get a little disappointed at not finding him there but in the next instant I wonder at my insanity, at my capacity to search for him even after ten long years and then I am gripped by my child’s love, his innocence and his needs. I shake away all the fatigue of my memories and of the long restless night and try finding my own life in that of the little boy. I hug him tight and promise myself that I will do whatever I can for him and never leave him the way I was left. I tell myself every morning that he is the sole reason for my being alive but even in this confession the man in my life is all pervasive….I look out from the window and speculate if ever I will come out of him and live my life for myself and myself alone. It seems a distant possibility for he seems to be encapsulated in every iota of my being for so long a time that even eternity seems short…

Swati Verma