I sat in the dimly lit room, smoking my second cigarette. The transition from an occasional smoker to a chain smoker was quite smooth. I liked watching myself in the mirror while I smoked. The dense plumes emanating from me gave a sort of surreal touch to the high I felt. I could see her standing behind me. She is not amused.
‘There are quicker ways to die, you know’, she said.
‘Any other obvious statements you would like to make?’, I shot back. I couldn’t care less. This is a happy distraction for me now. I feel that I can hide behind all the smoke. And I am not about to let her rob me of it.
I was expecting more of her righteous lecturing but she didn’t speak for a while.
‘Why don’t you call if you miss me so much?’, she finally asked.
‘But you are here with me,’ I joke.
‘You know what I mean.’
‘Call you and say what?’
‘What if I want to talk to you too.’
There is a protracted, uncomfortable silence. This isn’t going to end well tonight.
I gather my thoughts and start speaking again. ‘You see me having these bad dreams. You see me lose my sleep. You have seen me toil for months altogether now, trying to piece my mind back together. Why would I want to burn it all down again? Why?’
She doesn’t reply. She just stands there, nodding sympathetically, with a wry smile carved across her faint features.
I continue babbling, ‘And what do I say if I do call. It is just going to be a lot of silence. Not the comfortable silence I had grown so used to. But the damp, dark, quietness of a void too deep to fill. I don’t want to put myself through all the trauma again.’
She begins to say something but doesn’t. It is almost as if she is trying to give me a glimpse of how the silence will make my skin crawl.
‘All I am trying to say is..’
‘Listen,’ I interject her, ‘Every memory has died a painful death and have risen again to haunt me. I am trying to reach some closure here. Every time I feel I am getting better, something like this happens and I am reminded of how hopeless this whole exercise is. How futile.’
I am breathing heavily now. ‘Take deep breaths’, my therapist had told me, ‘when you feel you are panicking.’ The damn smoke is making breathing difficult.
She wasn’t smiling now. I know she doesn’t like to see this. I can see that she is searching for words to mollify. ‘Look at the bright side. All this is making you write. The silver lining, like G said.’
I look at her, appalled, ‘Sometimes I wonder if you are actually evil.’
‘I am not evil, boy. I am simply a manifestation of your masochism.’
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t given in to this figment of my imagination. Loneliness seems a better option than to have a voice inside your head that encourages harakiri.
I hear my voice, raising in pitch, come out of me. ‘Do you really think I enjoy writing about this? I write because I would implode if I let it build inside me. I can’t even talk about this to anyone. People are fed up of the cliche. Why do you think you are here? It is because I need to let this out somewhere. I do NOT enjoy this masochism if you can call it that.’ I was almost shouting by the end of it.
She still managed to stay calm. ‘Maybe I should call you then,’ she said.
I smirked. ‘You can’t. You are nothing but a thought in my head.’
‘Does that make me any less real?’
I stand there. Numb. I want to stop her from whatever it is she thinks she is trying to do. A part of me knows she is just trying to rattle me. This is all happening in my head, right. Right?
‘Oh, and by the way, she loves what you write’, I heard her fading shadow whisper.
And the phone starts ringing.
Image courtesy: https://xkcd.com/817/