Freedom : A short story

    07-Dec-2022
|
Susmita Chowdhury
The beginning of something is inherently the end of something else. The voice announced. And with that I opened my eyes...except that I didn’t, really. I thought that my heart would shoot out like a bullet from my chest, the way it was bouncing around. But there it was again, the thought that it would...but it didn’t. I tried to focus my mind, find out why my heart wasn’t bursting out into pieces like I thought it would. One, two, tick, tock...slowly, very slowly, I realized why. It’s because I don’t feel my heart! “Rubbish!” is not the word you’d generally think of after you find out you don’t have a heart. But it was ridiculous even to consider! I am thinking, aren’t I? I thought that the damn thing would explode, didn’t I? Then, what am I missing? It’s pitch black. I do remember waking up, so I must be blindfolded. I tried moving my eyeballs, and nothing. C’mon girl, you’re just having a bad trip. You must have done the worst of the shrooms at Andy’s party and now you’re just tripping your balls off, probably swimming in your own puke in his toilet!!
I wanted to say out aloud, but in tune with my eyes and my stupid heart, of course, I couldn’t. Probably because I don’t have a voice now either. Alright! I mastered with all my abstract and only strength, “Let’s go Kill Bill! WIGGLE YOUR LITTLE TOE!” I waited and tried to feel my little toe. Nope! Again, “Wiggle your pinky!” Nope! “Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle...” I’m sure if I could feel my face, there would be two snotty waterfalls on either side. After what felt like the 100th time I begged, threatened, and pleaded with any part of my anatomy to play, I stopped. The first tingles of paranoia started to creep in, because this is either the worst trip I am having where my mind is stuck in a limbo and my body is dead, OR...I couldn’t figure out the other alternative. Maybe this is what Death feels like?
I have no idea how much time has passed. A strange feeling, not knowing time. I couldn’t decide if it was stranger than not being able to see or feel my own body, but retired this strain of thought for another time. I am still hopeful that there will be another time, when I’d be sitting on my window sill, in my favorite pajamas, with a hot cup of coco, watching the trees whisper in the light breeze in the middle of the afternoon. That magical time when the kids are out playing, parents either at work or taking a lazy nap, it’s serenely silent except for the odd chirping of birds. I am still hopeful that I will be recovering from this trauma. Then would be the perfect time to ponder about the philosophies of time vs existence. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write a book! “But now is not the time to give up”, I thought to myself. If I could feel my mouth I’d probably have a chuckle at this thought, since Missy, that’s all you can do now...think! Either way, my mind is stuck in a place without my body. So, the first thing I need to do is, find my body. I imagined taking a deep breath. Tough going, but this is the closest I could get myself to back on track. What is the last thing that I remember? I remember getting dressed up. Yes, that’s it! I remember getting dolled up for a party! Talia’s party! Talia, my wonderful friend who always tells me to be happy, was throwing her butterfly themed celebration. She’d finally saved up enough to go on the table, and it was her first time flaunting all the pretty dresses and beautiful gowns and expensive make-up to everyone who would show up and share her sparkle. I wore the dress that I used to mark my own butterfly moment, although not quite as literally as Talia. I didn’t feel the need to go on the table, I didn’t feel insecure enough, yet. I remember getting in the cab, my usual chauffeur who’s always there when I book through the app and then I remember getting out in front of Talia’s porch.
 What else...? A bright light, the brightest I have ever seen was the next and only thing I could recall. “That cannot be it!” I thought, “That simply can’t be how I died, IF, I died!” “Come.On!” I urged whatever amount of living energy I had left in whatever it is that I am now, to come together and help me make sense of this madness. Tick tock, tick tock... Tick tock, tick tock. “A MAN!” That’s it! I vaguely remember a man in a blue overall. Could’ve been gray as well, I can’t tell. Although I don’t remember a face, slowly but more certainly, I am remembering there was a man in overalls, standing and watching me. “Why was he watching me?” The next thought, though, didn’t give me much peace. Am I making all this up because, well, I don’t really know what happened?
I chose to focus on the thought that was proving useful, as made-up as it may be. “Why was he watching me? More importantly, why was I letting him watch me?” Growing up, I was always told that I was ‘strong’. The meaning of the word and the premise varied as I was navigating through life, but the base, I guess, remained the same. I never let anyone belittle me, or push me around. Probably why I never made a lot of friends in high school as I was coming on my own. Probably why I made such great friends at college. Probably why my Dad and I don’t talk anymore. So, you see, the problem is, why was I letting him watch me? Again, I tried to focus all my energy to remember, something...anything! Why couldn’t I tell the color of his clothes? Then it happened! The one thing that was nagging me (I would have said at the back of my mind) now came to surface, like a flash in the pan. With that, clarity came rushing like the waves do at high-tide.
Ms Kirk was the coolest grown-up I knew when I was a lanky, awkward teenager. She joined our school at the beginning of our 11th year, and up until then I loathed and carried every sort of disdain for the study of nature’s laws, Physics. I simply did not understand the natural laws of the Universe, translated into formulas and equations by humans. It was all just a jumble of numbers and letters to me. Until Ms Kirk and her first class. She had a way of making things simple and easy to understand. In words that made sense, or in examples that resonated with us. She was also the most easy-going teacher we had, although admittedly, my next-door neighbor’s cat would have been the easiest going creature compared to the stiffs we had as teachers. And THAT cat was a snoot! But Ms Kirk had an unnerving yet calming charm, so, not surprisingly, she had a following of various groups of students, always competing for her attention. And she treated everyone equally, even the school bullies were nice to her! I think that’s why I admired her so much.
One day, I stayed back in detention, trying to finish an assignment and as usual, life seemed uninspiring. Me being in detention wasn’t anything unusual since I would, almost ritually, get in fights with my peers. What was unusual was Ms Kirk minding the detention room. Guess her popularity with the students didn’t go down well with her colleagues! She could see that I was struggling, quite literally. I am known to pull faces and grimace when things don’t go to my liking. She came up and sat next to me and asked me what I was finding so hard. My response would have been a teenage mess of angst and impatience, a response which would have garnered intense scowling or utter indifference from most adults. But not Ms Kirk. I remember her kind eyes and reassuring smile as she said, “Remembering things is like putting your own little sticky notes over everything you see, hear, feel. Try and remember how it made you feel, the angle you were looking at it, the other things that you saw in the perimeter, the sounds and taste and feel of anything else that may have happened at that exact moment.” Ms Kirk, you may have just come through for me now.
The man watching me wasn’t at my eye-level. Rather quite elevated, as if I was looking up at him. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t looking up at him because I didn’t have to. Because I was lying down. I was bound and tied to a table. I was naked, and I was definitely alive since I could feel the throbbing pain at the back of my head. And the table was as cold as death. I realize now that there were a number of times I had to regain consciousness. The first time I came to was when I saw the man watching me from a distance. The only light in the room was hanging above me, the focus of the beam perfectly aligned with my belly button. He was standing just enough in the shadows for me not to be able to make his face out or see the color of his outfit. And then he had taken the first step into the light. I remember not saying a single word, though I was free to. Up until now, my experiences of similar situations have been purely and entirely self-inflicted. Situations I either paid good money to get into, or simply volunteered to endure.
To be contd