I don’t think I can ever forget the day when I walked into the classroom on the brightest Friday morning to see a friend of mine, fumbling with a bandage roll. As soon as she saw me walking towards her (she was my bench mate), she turned away and (secretly) pushed the roll into her bag.
‘Hi?’ I greeted her, unsure of whether I should ask if she was all right or not. Sixteen years of life had taught me one of the greatest lessons – people don’t want you to ask them anything, especially when they are desperately trying to hide something.
So, I kept quiet.
‘Hi!’ she replied back with feverish enthusiasm. Her smile was way too cheerful. Her hands came around me and pulled me into a quiet hug. And she giggled or hid her sniffles under its pretext.
‘I’ve missed you so much!’
When she pulled back, I couldn’t help but notice the streaks of blood that ran down the cuffs of her red sweater. I felt an uncanny chill run down my entire body on seeing that. Till then, blood had never made me scared. But it was a sight, so painful, that for a moment I felt a sharp pain bubbling through my nose and spreading throughout.
‘You know what-‘ she continued, least aware that I had seen underneath her pretence. Pulling my hand down, she made me sit beside her.
‘He is such a nice guy, I tell you,’ she spoke with a fake happiness. The smiles and blushes never reached her eyes and I couldn’t mistake the way she gritted her teeth every time she drummed her fingers on the table. She was pulling up a perfect game.
‘He offered me roses! And you know what? He told me that I’m the only girlfriend he’s ever had!’
Under the desk, my hands felt clammy and I clenched them into tight fists. For I knew those were lies. Lies. Devastating lies. At that moment, I didn’t know who to be angry with. I was furious with my friend as she was being such an idiot. On the other hand, I knew it wasn’t her fault for the guy gave her false hopes. And she was madly in love with him, nevertheless.
‘T,’ I interjected. ‘Can I ask you something?’
‘Do you really like him?’
Her face twisted into a frown. I had never wanted people to misunderstand me. It so happened between friends that often, they are so caught up in a web of lies and delusional hopes that they refuse to believe you. And I didn’t want that to happen.
‘Y-yes,’ her voice broke and at that moment I realized that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
For the next few minutes, I heard the most horrific truths. There were times when I felt like giving her a hug, but I felt so cold. It was as if I was standing there, watching all this happen to her, yet I couldn’t do anything.
He abused her. Each night. Each day. Them being neighbours, didn’t help at all. Instead, it worsened things. She lived in eternal fear that her parents might find out. And that was the last thing she wanted her parents to know. She told that she can’t let them go through all the grief and pain. So for months together, she kept every emotion bottled inside her. Hurt. Fury. Pain.
There was no one she could reach out to, for she knew people would judge. They’d blame her. And it wasn’t shocking, for both of us had seen some people doing just that. There were times, she confessed, when she wanted to give up – to slit her wrists and distance herself away from all the pain of the world. For months, she took antidepressants, and battled the darkest phases, but everything seemed to be coming back to her.
‘I don’t know what to do,’ she sobbed. Her hands clasped mine and the warmth on my wrists, snapped me out of my trance. Looking down, I rolled down her sleeves to expose the deepest cuts and scars. I gasped.
‘Why?’ I asked; demanded, in fact.
‘He made me feel worthless. He made me feel like I had no right to live.’
‘He,’ I said, ‘is no god! He has no right to decide who deserves to live and who doesn’t.’
An awkward stretch of silence followed and as I looked around, I realized the other students were slowly starting to stare in our direction.
‘Everything fine?’ another friend of mine enquired.
It took me a great deal of effort to nod. I wasn’t sure if shit could be called fine.
‘Do you hate me?’ she mumbled next to me.
‘I-I am not sure.’
Perhaps it broke her, but I knew that I was going to do anything to pull her out of the mess. I was going to do anything to walk her to the lighthouse that helped many a wandering traveller.
We are no angels. We make mistakes. Small mistakes. Big mistakes. But they shouldn’t define our future. They shouldn’t make us give up in everything and consider ourselves worthless. Each one of us has dark days. Cold days when blistery winds seem to cast a veil on the land. At some places, winters last longer. But when the summer comes, it arrives in all its pleasant glory. All we need to do sometimes is, wait for the summers. And we need to believe that they will be there, no matter what.
At times when we feel like giving up, we must not submit to the urges. The universe promises a wonderful life for each one of us. And what a pity if we don’t live it! Why shouldn’t we!
Today, my phone beeps to her message.
‘How are you?’ she asks.
‘How are you?’ I reply back.
‘You rescued me.’
And I smile in relief.
We all need something to pull us out of the mess; someone to rescue us in our darkest days.