She woke up soon. Too soon for it to be the morning, but too real for it to be a dream. She stared at the ceiling for a little bit and watched the rusty old fan rotate lazily. Her eyes felt heavy, and she decided to close them again, only this time, she woke up in a different place.
She fell prey to the cold sheets and the mystery of the night. The whispers of the wind carried a soft voice. It took her away to a world not so far from here. The ghosts of the darkest hours navigating her through the darkest times.
The place was different but familiar; it was her city home. Not a memory she looked forward to reliving. She remembered that outfit, and that day. It was the day that the lockdown began, the day her sad life became worse. She never imagined it would be the last evening walk, shopping trip or even her last break from reality in a long time to come. Just another reminder that the light was never her friend for the darkness, never forgot to embrace her.
In a hurry, she arrived at the grocery store. Empty. Unavailable. Out of stock. When did the situation get this bad? It seemed like a cyclone wiped everything out. This could not be happening; she knew she couldn’t walk back home empty-handed.
She stopped, store after store, trying to make it through the checklist to avoid the horrors awaiting her at home. Trying to find the resources to make it through the two-week lockdown, she had hauled herself all across the city. She recalled a different time of her life, a carefree younger, brighter version of her. She thought about the time when the city looked like an overflowing bucket of opportunities—a time when she couldn’t wait to leave her village. The grass only seems to be greener on the other side; the brown patches are grey areas.
The city was a hunting ground for scavengers. Unfortunately, she took the plunge only to enter what seemed like a cave of horrors.
She snapped herself out of those memories as she continued on her hunt, for she knew what awaited her. She knew the result of her attempts. She knew that, no matter how hard she tried.
Bruised. Battered. Discoloured. Those are the marks of her everyday life. This was her reality; one she couldn’t seem to escape. This was another reason she sought jobs. Every minute she spent outside was a minute less she spent at home. What wouldn’t she give to get out? What was the point of getting things, right? Why did she try so hard?
The blackened skin was her nightmares from yesterday—the ones that haunt, the ones that had followed her back to reality.
She woke early, but it didn’t seem soon enough. She couldn’t quite figure out what was happening. Slowly she realized she awoke in a place that seemed familiar; her children were calling. A distraction she welcomed with open eyes. The day passed by in a haze. She couldn’t quite figure out why she was taken back to that time, so close to the holidays when she had finally found her peace. It felt like a cynical joke, being haunted by the ghosts of the past.
She fell prey to the cold sheets and the mystery of the night. The whispers of the wind carried a soft voice. It took her away to a world not so far from here. The ghosts of the darkest hours navigating her through the escape she needed.
A completely new misery lurked around her conscious that night, filling the shoes of the nightmare yesterday. This one began with a sight of the fading red bruises. The chuffing of the train engines helped her remember where she was. Never had she imagined that she’d be heading back to the village, hat in hand—a hat filled with hope and ambition long forgotten.
The loss of her husband’s job had caused a devastating blow to their income. The looming question, how would they face their families? They had left assuring them that things would be alright, only to be set back by the lockdown and the hardships it brought.
She pushed the thoughts aside as she prepared herself for the day. Life here in the village was so much simpler—easier. Everyone knew each other and had synced routines. It was very different as compared to the fast-paced city life she was used to. The comfort that lied in people knowing her whereabouts had never meant more.
Was she wrong to feel relief when she heard her husband lost his job? Was she wrong to be enjoying this setback? The privacy of the city life hidden behind the draped saree. She didn’t know if it was the comfort of home, people she knew or just getting away from the chapter in her life that had caused so much harm, but the bruises didn’t hurt as much as they did before.
She woke, but in a trance. She couldn’t quite figure out what was happening but woke up to the mundane sounds of home—of their village. She couldn’t quite seem to put the finger on why her last two dreams had been so distinctively detailed; it wasn’t fear she felt anymore; it was nothing. Absolutely nothing. Blank.
As she got into bed that night, she hoped. Hoped to find answers to all that was happening. A turmoil of emotions, she desired an empty night’s sleep. It wasn’t much of an ask; considering everything that had happened this year. Little did she know that tonight was going to be different.
She fell prey to the cold sheets and the mystery of the night. The whispers of the wind carried a soft voice. It took her away to a world not so far from here. The ghosts of the darkest hours navigating her through the clarity she required to lead the life she wanted.
She wasn’t in a familiar place this time. She could see two figures in the distance that looked like older versions of her children. She tried reaching out to them but in vain. She saw bruises on their bodies too. One’s that reminded her of bruises she sees painted across herself every day. It was too late.
She couldn’t wake soon enough. She couldn’t quite figure out what was happening. She awoke in a place that seemed familiar, but now, hostile. She ran into her children’s room to make sure they were alright. Reliving old memories had been challenging, but it was nowhere close to the nightmares of last night. If wishing wells were real, she would toss the last penny she had to end this series of nightmares. She would dream of a better place. The warmth that enveloped the room, the sunlight that filtered in, shed a golden glow on her hopes.
She knew what to do; she had waited long enough. She knew she had to leave. The few months she spent with her husband in his family home; The few months with no privacy between the couple taught her everything. The few months without dying every day made her realize she didn’t deserve the fading pink lines. Packing her bags, prepared to leave; she finally put an end to the nightmare. She would find a place that would allow her to grow. A home away from him. She put an end to the ghosts of her past, present and future.
The 24th of December, it was Christmas eve. She finished her chores for the day and put her kids to sleep. She was at peace. Lamps lit the front porches of the houses as the calm wind blew by. For once, she agreed it was the most wonderful time of the year. A sigh of content and the last gulp of tea signalled the end of the night.
Written by Vasundhara Rathi and Archana S for MTTN
Edited by Sanjana Bharadwaj for MTTN
Featured Image by Ritwika Sarkar for MTTN