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 friend. Vasudha was student in a town far away. Chandini had never met her.
Vasudha had mailed her a painful saga of betrayal. Overnight, she had unwillingly been made to join the statistical pile in which the broken hearted jostle for space, their trust shattered. She was another emotional fool taken for a ride, her emotions becoming a torture rack over which she was flogged. She was betrayed in love.
It was the case of an online romance. It did not turn 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. Vasudha would go into withdrawal and a spiralling cycle of self-blame and self- loathing. In her pain, she would doubt her friends and suspect them ridiculing her behind her back. She might even pick silly fights and cut herself off from them. Having thus destroyed her support system, she would let go completely and wallow in her pain. Perversely, she would multiply her feelings of shame and inadequacy until her sense of worthiness 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-two. 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- 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 pulled a few strings and then sat back to enjoy the show, rubbing His hands together with glee. 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 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?
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, thrilled miles beyond happiness. She recalled that thrill now, cringing in shame.
Days became a breathless 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. 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 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. There 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 didn’t she 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 Vasudha 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.
Vasudha would need a friend who will help her come of the mire of pain she was drowning in. Having travelled the path herself, Chandini knew 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 would write emails to Vasudha, as many as were needed, and 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.
The betrayed support each other, don’t they..?
To be continued… HERE…
Picture taken from the Internet.
Note: I wrote this three part story five years ago at the request of a friend. It appeared in Sulekha titled Koi Jab Tumhaara Hriday Tod De… (When someone breaks your heart…). What thrilled me then (and now), is the way many people volunteered to write their own part two of the story… playing the role of Chandini and ‘speaking’ to Vasudha. That told me, like nothing else could have, how Betrayal has played its silent role in many lives. And I thought it was only in mine..!
In June of 2012, this story was published in Fried Eye, a variety feature e-zine under the name A Day In The Life Of An Emotional Fool.
With each publishing, there have been some cosmetic changes, though the theme remains intact.
The theme of this story is not betrayal. I wouldn’t ever be able to choose a debilitating emotion to be a theme for my writing. The theme is to learn how to deal with betrayal, to learn prudence instead of numbing yourself in an attempt to protect yourself from future pain. As Brene Brown says in her heart opening way, you cannot numb yourself selectively. When you numb yourself from negative emotions, you also numb yourself from positive ones.
That’s like throwing the baby out with the (dirty) bath water… rather counter- productive, don’t you think? There’s got to be better strategies.
If betrayal has ever happened in your life, how have you dealt with it? I would be very grateful if you could share the strategy that has worked for you. Thank you…