I introduced myself to my daughter again today.
Her delicate fingers lie softly on the hospital bed, as I trace them with my hands – using every bit of energy that’s left, to stop myself from crying. The doctors tell me that she picks up on my energy, which is exactly why I try to stay as strong as possible around her.
More often than not, I wish it would all just end soon. I can’t bear to see her suffering like this. The machines breathing for her, the constant ER visits, the several shots of injections that pierced into her pale, anaemic arms every single day. And worse still, the cruelly faint glimmer of hope that she might come back to us only torments us more.
Every night, before I leave – I plant a soft kiss on her forehead, unsure if I’d see her again and abruptly turn towards the door. And every morning when I return, I take each step with dreadful doubt and frightening anxiety.
It’s only after I enter the room and hear the machine beep that I’m relieved.
I sit down next to her as I begin my daily routine.
I introduce myself to my daughter. I wish her good morning tell her that I love her very very much, try to suppress my tears, and I being her story.
I tell her how it was pouring heavily the day she arrived, seventeen years ago.
I tell her how she hates loud music, and how much she loves Enid Blyton.
I tell her about her first pet, and how he is still waiting for her back home, and that not a day passes when her friends don’t visit her or write to her.
And then I tell her about how she got to the hospital. I try to cut down the gory details as much as possible – she’s still my baby girl.
I tell her about the wonderful life that awaits her when she gets back, a vision that is slowly fading away with each passing day. I take more pauses these days – it’s hard, really hard to make her believe when my own faith is withering away.
In my mind, all of this never happened. In my mind, it’s a sultry March morning, and she’s getting ready for school -throwing the whole house into rhythmic chaos.
I still picture her gulping down her breakfast morosely, wearing her shoes, picking up her school bag and walking out of the door, her shoulders slumped and the pink pinafore swaying about gracefully as she climbed down the steps, and stood at a bus-stop outside the house, waiting for her school bus.
And I remember how some days, I would pick her up from school in the car, and when she saw me waiting for her in the school ground, her whole face would light up like a Christmas tree.
But this is our reality now. No more bright smiles. No more rhythmic chaos. Just the frightening old monotony of misery.
Each day, it’s the same over and over again – and yet I do not get bored.
I look at her, and pull a straying strand of hair away from her face and tuck it behind her ears. It’s mid afternoon. I’m sitting next to Arianna, reading out from her favorite book knowing full too well that that she can hear me, and was probably correcting my intonation in her head.
The Doctor’s kid walks by, and somehow, he reminds me of my nephew. I smile at him, and he enters the room with a shy smile. I beckon him too come closer, and he sits next to me. It feels oddly nice to be in the company of a child again.
I offer him a bar of snickers, an offer he gracefully declines. He eyes Arianna carefully, quite carefully.
My daughter always had a sense of style, and I try my best to keep that in place everyday as I brush her hair and dress her in her favorite clothes.
She is wearing her favorite red denim shorts, just the way she liked them. Short enough to make me mad and stop her from leaving the house in them. The scars in her thighs are showing, and I try to cover them up, but it’s too late.
He jumps up to the bed, and runs his fingers through her scars, my baby doesn’t stir. She doesn’t move. Although a part of me wishes she’d wake up, wincing in pain or crying out to me – but she doesn’t. She stays still. Ever so still.
‘Krish,’ I stop him. ‘Don’t. It might hurt her.’
‘I know how Akka got those.’ He said. I looked at him, half surprised, and half curious.
‘How?’ I asked.
He looked straight to my face, ‘My big sister had them. And before she left, she told me that mean people put that in her body and hurt her, I asked her why, she said that sometimes people just inflict pain to others for no reason. She told me she would be replaying the scenes in her sleep for the rest of her life, over and over again, like a dream where no matter how fast you run, the monster is always faster. My parents don’t like it when I talk about her. They get mad.’
‘What?’ I question him, locking away my worst fears at the back of my mind. ‘Why not?’
‘Umm….my big sister went away. I don’t know where she went. Amma tells me she is on a vacation, because it was too sad for her here, and that she didn’t belong anymore. But I hope she comes back soon, I miss her. She makes the best mango smoothie ever.’
‘Don’t make Akka go on a vacation too, please.’ He says as he walks out of the room, leaving me alone with my beautiful Arianna and petrifying thoughts.
What happened to Arianna wasn’t new. It had happened before, I was aware of that, I’m not an idiot.
Or maybe his parents were right. It was a way out. No more sorrow, no more exhaustion and no more defeat against the pain. It also put the moral conflict to an end.
I walk up to the familiar hospital room again the next day, and I introduce myself to my daughter.
I don’t know how I did it. How I killed the fear and cowardice that had taken refuge in my heart. To be honest, I didn’t even know how they got here.
But I pick up her thin, delicate fingers and kiss them softly.
I begin my daily routine, yet again as I introduce myself to my daughter.
I wish her good morning tell her that I love her very very much, try to suppress my tears, and I being her story.
I tell her how it was pouring heavily the day she arrived, seventeen years ago. I tell her how she hates loud music, and how much she loves Enid Blyton. I tell her about her first pet, and how he is still waiting for her back home, and that not a day passes when her friends don’t visit her or write to her.
And then I tell her about how she got to the hospital. Again, I try to cut down the gory details as much as possible – she was still my baby girl.
I notice that the scars in her thighs are still showing. The old me would’ve tried to cover them up in a blanket, but I don’t anymore.
I’ve surrendered. I’ve surrendered to the ultimate truth, and I’ve surrendered unto her. She was still my little girl – scars, wounds and all – she was still mine.
I’d do it a million times over until the end of eternity, if it meant my baby girl would just open her eyes at me – with her silver smile and burning heart – my little champ who finally outran her monsters.
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