I stealthily walked across the white tiled flooring still wet from a round of careless mopping. The antiseptic walls were closing in on me and choking me with their odor. The stench of death it seemed! For I saw a stretcher covered with a white pallor being pushed away in hurry and a battery of relatives chasing it. Life wasn’t calling me. Only death was, fear of death. The fear of meeting my culprit. I always used to say, with a careless waver of hands, that I had forgiven him. But somewhere those wounds were still bleeding. And my ailing heart had handed him apathy as alms. No, how could I have forgiven an offender who was still stalking my shadows.
I took a deep breath and dragged across the earth beneath my feet. Clutching tightly onto my large black bag I ambled along. I could hear a drama of noises from inside. As I opened the door with a slight push, there was a screech. And everyone suddenly leaped towards the door. I was welcomed with smothering hugs and unwanted kisses, each gracious gesture seemed to thank me for having made it. There was my aunt, my deceased uncle’s widow, my nieces and nephews and my cousins, all welcoming me with applause as if I had just won a huge sum of prize money in a lottery. Oh their twinkling eyes, the thought of their shimmer still makes me go blind. While trying to balance myself on my two feet, I was barely able to stand straight owing to all the love being laid on me, my aunt leapfrogged onto me.
“I knew that you would make it.” She said in thankfulness.
“Yes, of course aunty. How is he now?” I enquired.
“He’s good. On sedatives as the breathing problem wasn’t allowing him to sleep since two nights.”
Although I had made that million dollar promise, the thought of staying on to meet the felon of fifteen years was making me shiver. The sight of his six feet body laying prostate on the hospital bed wasn’t passable to make me melt. All of a sudden, when this expectation was being made of me, I was being cloistered deep inside.
I was all of 11 and he might have been 19 when it happened. I remember that fateful morning when I sleepily got up and was moving towards the well to brush my teeth, as the water supply had gone off. And I was too late to have not availed its benefits. I used to wear shorts then, as they were comfortable and wrapped on me like my second skin. Lazily having got down the stairs of mom’s ancestral home, I walked towards the courtyard, all parched due to the absence of a good spell of rain. I slowly started brushing my teeth with a few upward strokes until the foam began tingling my tongue. That’s when I felt someone tightly clutch me from behind. I happened to spurt the residue from my mouth and too harried to react, I turned my neck to make a check. There was no one at home on that day, for a long journey all the elders had to go on. Only the servant girl stayed back and she was busy in the kitchen making breakfast for me. With more haste and greater speed this guy might have decided to take advantage. Hunted down by his hormones, he might have not known of any other person to answer to his desires. His hold on me fastened and I could feel him hardening against me. As he started moving his hands to pull down my shorts, which were plastered on my skin, I felt awkward. For once, I was trying to decipher what he really wanted of me. And by then, my shorts were slowly moving down to exhibit my young tissue. I really didn’t know how to react. All I could do was, either give up or show naked in front of my cousin. During those days, I was taught that nudism was dirty and no one except you or your mom should be allowed to see you that way. Thanking mom, for having instilled that basic sense in me. I decided to push him backwards with all the energy I had and kicked him on his groin, for I didn’t want to under any circumstance, allow anyone to see me bare. Too pained by the act of quick revolt, he was thrown back. I ran quickly towards the kitchen fluttering with a fly’s speed, to take refuge. Meanwhile in the course of my escapism, I hurriedly opened the wardrobe and wore a skirt on the top of what I was wearing. I was too ashamed to ever wear shorts or miniskirts again.
The events of that day replayed like a movie in black and white, too smudged yet very clear to have taken me to a flashback. I panicked and held on to my hands to not show any signs of nervousness. Suddenly my train of thoughts was broken by a female voice.
“Would you like to have some water?” asked his wife.
“No, thank you.” I said
“So how is research going on? When will you be through?”
“In sometime. I guess” I replied with disinterest.
She was holding on to her baby boy, now six months old, as she spoke to me. I was too cold to have ever gone and met the child when he was born and even then I was too disinterested to take note of him. I was too weak a warrior to stand guard to that dance of evil, ever again. Facing him and his family was a nightmare that I had been trying to shrug since then. And there I was, seated with them trying to come to terms with his illness. In a spur of a moment, the child coiled in his mother’s arms startled me. He held on to my little finger with his very tiny hand. I felt freedom besetting on me. It seems at that very moment I was absolved of all my hate. The apathy made way for forgiveness. Having patted his head, I blessed him. A careless act of charity finally set me free.