January 23, 2018

Pain for Pain

short story

Pain for Pain

by Shahinur Islam

O distant traveler of light! Listen to my story then. On hearing, you might have said I didn’t do it right at all. Not right from any points of view: religious, moral, or spiritual. Yes, maybe, you’re right. But doing something else was beyond my means. I desired to live normally and sanely. This desire has led me into this state.

You might have known we can carry the weight such as luggage, which comes to use on our way, as we need it on our way, and get satisfied at the end of our journey. But the weight that only burdens or encumbers relationship day in and day out isn’t easy to carry at all. On top of that, if the relationship can’t be broken, then eventually there’s no alternative left but death. If not, that life is lived in unbearable pain. I desired to get rid of this pain. Desired to live sanely and sensibly. Desired to fly in the open air like a wild bird.

I even tried heart and soul. Tried in various ways for the last couple of months to control and convince myself. Nothing came to any use. The crisis was undermining me in the way as water turns back again and again into the sea. Preoccupying me unceasingly in my every work, every leisure, every talk, every sleep, every dream and nightmare. Pushing forward all my thoughts and feelings and standing in front of me like a strong swimmer reaching the shore through water. Setting me thinking, making me abstract-minded, and giving me a tingling pain like a snail shell sting.

I admit she’d built me little by little like nesting. Made me her own as a dearest one. Kept me in the deepest and safest place in the heart where only the fondest are entitled to inhabit. So she’d all the rights to exercise lots of things on me. I confess she loved me madly. Me too!

Despite our reciprocal love, I had to see my side selfishly. The only reason was I didn’t want to suffer the pain of the past any longer. A pain that only burns you in flames of a roaring fire. And didn’t want to live the rest of life like this, either. I wanted to forget everything and live a fresh life. As fresh as the new morning air. So I gave her a deadly blow.  After you listen to me all, you might say, “Damn it! You made it happen just for this?”

If you hate and condemn me this way, I’ll have nothing to say. I’ll acquiesce it. Because you also have all kinds of rights to do it. I can only recount the whole story so that you can find it convenient to understand.

Listen to me then with full attention!

She had all the sharp imprints of Abanti: the wide eyes, juicy lips as orange slices, the trembling, adorable smiles as the watery shower of moonlight, the oval visage as a fresh green grape, and the hair reaching the waist. But I couldn’t trace the resemblances before. I could trace them only after Abanti abandoned me. Whenever I saw her, it seemed I was seeing Abanti. In fact, she appeared as an incarnation of Abanti. And it was constantly stinging me as a needle of pain, though I’d enjoyed her intimacy, loved chatting with her, grown delighted in traveling with her before. It’s just the same as the wild fire creates a vacuum in the air, and oxygen around rushes to fill it up, but ignites the fire more, in fact.

From Abanti’s leaving to my giving the deadly blow, I couldn’t help seeing her. Couldn’t mainly because I tried to buffer my pain with her company. At the beginning, as long as I stayed face to face and talked with her, swear by God, I was calm. Calm as if she were a balm to my sore. As soon as I went away from her, the pain would begin to cock its thorny head to make my heart bleed. If I couldn’t talk to her in person for a day, I felt the whole day went in vain. Felt something big I couldn’t do. Felt a constant restlessness was chewing me. Chewing me like a gum.

Smelling something fishy? No, not that. You’re wrong. More wrong than you’re right in hating me. I didn’t have any sort of romantic advances with her. I didn’t even touch her hands that way, nor did she. But we were delighted in telling our tales. Nobody would listen to the tales of her life, mine neither.  Others were easily annoyed or more eager to tell their own tales. But we’d listen to each other attentively and responsively. Others would find an easy point to debate on, or bypass us toward something else. To talk to them, we had to ready ourselves for most of the time like swimming against the upstream. But when two of us talked to ourselves, we were like passengers on a boat drifting on the bosom of a river. Whether we rowed or not, we felt happy, no matter where we’d reach. What a peace two of us lived in!

If we traveled somewhere or went shopping, our likings would sound almost the same. She liked the river that made us feel cool with its breeze, the blue sky that held our dreams, the roses that made us cheerful with their scent, the green grass that let us walk on, the sea that made us listen to the roaring songs of eternity, and the hills that taught us to be tolerant. I liked these natural scenes, too. Of the clothes, she loved the yellow, saffron, rosy, blue colors. I’d a weakness for the clothes of those colors, too.

We loved listening to the same type of music: soft and melodious. Delightfully, if I started crooning a tune, she could easily trace the song and sing with me. It never happened that she’d failed to identify the song. Of the movies, we loved romantic and art films. Every four months we watched at least one movie together.

I might have gone elsewhere without hurting and letting her know who I’d get so much peace with, who I’d mix with and like so much, who I’d had lots of similarities with. At this, she wouldn’t be hurt directly by me. But to go somewhere else permanently, you must have some final arrangement for livelihood. Without having this, how would you subsist? That’s why, I couldn’t leave.

Or without saying anything, I’d stop seeing her face. Then, she could have got rid of my direct hurting. But you know what? At that time, she’d call me, phone me. At this, I couldn’t but respond to her call and come close to her. And coming close to her means seeing the reflected visage of Abanti and enduring the silent pain. The same doe eye look, the same dulcimer style of talking, the same elephant-like gait would remind me of Abanti only. But Abanti was too far from me that time. She’d never return again. Her reflected appearance wouldn’t arouse anything else but an infinite, unbearable vacuum in my mind. But you know well that nature doesn’t approve of any vacuum. It either brings about catastrophe or fills it up with something else.

No, I’m not cooking up a story. I swear blind that it’d happen. At that little time, at the end to be specific, as many times as I went close to her or she came to me, I’d suffer unbearable anguish in me. But I’d never make her feel it, though she didn’t stint herself to sympathize with me. To sympathize, she even sobbed, hiding her face.

The pain of Abanti’s departure was buried as a heavy stone deep in my bosom. I couldn’t remove it, nor could I get out from under it. It’s heard that cries buffer a lot the pain or grief. But my cries seemed to be my stepmother who wouldn’t be my own by any means. At this, the pain would double. I wanted to forget this pain, so I tried to engage my mind in other activities. But whenever I happened to meet with her, … oh, the same unbearable pain!

As the counting of ‘one’ brings ‘two’ in itself, or anybody taking primary lessons of math can easily say how much is two times two, or the saying of ‘sky’ reminds unavoidably of the blue, or seeing ‘blood’ is also seeing red, or the thirstiness links to water, as her eyes, look, visage, and other features would remind me of Abanti.

It wouldn’t be such a crisis though, if it were limited here. But the crisis had spread its roots deeper. So deeper that it was impossible for me to uproot anyway. When, in every meeting with her, she reminded me of Abanti, I couldn’t let her know it. And she was socially and morally inaccessible to me. Otherwise, that time I felt like hugging her in deep passion. Felt like kissing and caressing her. Felt like smooching and wallowing with her. Felt like pacifying my mind. As I’d done with Abanti. Although I couldn’t sense such feelings for her before, although I wasn’t swayed like this before. Besides, she knew or realized nothing of these. I didn’t, of course, try to make her realize, either.

Despite my uninterrupted sufferings, I didn’t want to give her a deadly blow. Rather, I was looking for other ways such as going away forever from her, as I said a while ago. But it happened all of a sudden. Happened on a little thing, which I took for her misbehavior.

One afternoon when I got out of my home, I could find she was rushing somewhere. But I didn’t find her talking to me cordially as before.  She just talked as if to talk to me no more! If she’d gone somewhere, she’d have usually urged me to accompany her. But that day I had a feeling that she ignored me. Ignored as if I hadn’t been ever intimate to her. I didn’t say anything to her, but I felt a lightning of pain flashing on the deep recess of my mind. Maybe, she’d read my recent behavior, so she also behaved like this. At that moment, I only realized that the negligence made by the loved ones brings a mountainously heavy pain. A pain that’s enough to make things fall apart. I also experienced its long term effects on our relationship.

I suppose my pain voided my common sense. But I can’t claim I was insane then, and so I’m not to blame. Rather I think I continue to be completely responsible for it. I know I’ve to bear this responsibility.

I couldn’t think of anything else. When someone turns to someone else again and again just to forget the past pain, and it’s the latter who arouses it in the name of sympathy, the former can’t think sensibly. The same thing happened to me.  After a whole day of mental crisis and anguish, I made up my mind to give her a sharp tongue. A tongue that she was fit for. I thought I didn’t need to stomach the pain silently. Now I realize my reading of her conduct as careless and ignoring was simply an excuse. However, I don’t deny my responsibility on any account.

I phoned her. The call was transmitted to the voice message box, but I didn’t leave any message. The second time it happened again, which made me bristle with rage. It didn’t ever happen to her phone before. This was the first time. I drew a conclusion that she was avoiding me, for sure. I tried for the last time, but found the same thing happening. Then I left some message on her message box to avenge on her conduct. Some of the message was true, and some wasn’t. In fact, I wasn’t concerned about the true-false question. Only what I was concerned about was to avenge on her misconduct, so I sent such messages as, ‘You know how to play the part of Abanti’ and ‘know how to pull beard sitting on the bosom’.

Two days passed since then. Passed as smoothly as a river flows. I didn’t contact her, nor did she. For the first two days, I didn’t feel her absence. An absence that had drawn me close to her before, again and again. Whatever I did was right—this kind of attitude belonged to me. And I thought I didn’t have to see the carbon copy of Abanti anymore. The thought made me feel relieved of the pangs.

But, to get rid of scorching heat if someone dives into water, they feel relieved as long as they can hold breath. Once the breath runs out, it feels how necessary the air is for life. For the third day, I couldn’t breathe in like this. I fidgeted desperately for air like a strangled animal. And it added the pain of her vacuum to the pain of loss of Abanti. And it struck me that the very absence makes us really feel the need of presence. A presence that we always cherish in our heart. The absence also made me feel how more horrifying a few words might be than even murdering.

No sooner had the sun reached the mid sky than I only went on missing her. Went on missing her every moment, every second. Went on missing her as a thumb-less person misses their thumb, when trying to hold something. I couldn’t think of anything else. As if my earth were moving round her axis. All the thoughts and reflections about her were eclipsing me little by little. My mind turned. Turned as a bullet returns from a hard rock. While I was walking the road in the afternoon and musing over it, a strong and deep realization flashed in my mind like sudden lightening—What I did! It was unjust on any account to hurt her.

I was trying to feel how painful my conduct might be to her, imagining myself in her position. All the cries that got locked in my heart after Abanti’s departure seemed to start storming in a blink. I was blaming myself and breaking into sobs. Sobs that could have made you cry, too, if you’d seen me.

I decided to phone her at once and make an earnest apology. Tried on her number two or three times. She wasn’t answering. I tried from another number. This time she answered right away. I said my name. When she heard it, she shrieked by my name. Shrieked as if peas had popped out of pod on the searing heat of sand. I kind of prostrated myself to offer my apologies and wanted to see her at once. She said nothing but ‘OK’ after a minute of silence. A silence that seemed to say a lot to me. A deeper realization struck me again that she was overwhelmed with my hurting. She wasn’t able to say anything for loads of pain given by me. This realization was only doubling the pace of my cry.

I set off for her home right away. I had a realization that I’d lost my access to the inside, so I’d asked her to wait for me outside her home. I was sobbing and hastening my steps. I couldn’t stop crying however much I tried. After fifteen minutes, I arrived downstairs. At some distance, I saw her standing alone. Saw her long hair quite disheveled like trees after a storm. It seemed to me that she was looking at the other side so that she couldn’t see my face.

After a few seconds, I appeared close to her. She was still looking at the other side. I came closer. So closer that I could smell her breathing. I hugged her without saying anything. Again, I offered my apologies in a cracked voice. My tears seemed to break into the stream of an ocean. Where was the stream? Who on earth had held it so long with which embankment?

For the first time, I hugged her like this. But she seemed not willing at all to hold me in her bosom. Her hands dangled numbly in either side like the shirt sleeves with a hangar. Dangled numbly not for the lack of strength but for the lack of willingness.  I apologized to her again, while hugging. But again, she couldn’t forgive me.

Tears were rolling down from my two eyes in torrents. Streaking my cheeks with two streams. After a moment, she only asked, “Anything else to say?” I gazed at her and felt that all my tears, all my entreaties didn’t work in the slightest.  She just asked me the question, but didn’t wait for my answer. Didn’t wait to give me enough time, and began to step home. Didn’t look back even for once, either.

I tumbled down on the place, staring at her way out. I was still sobbing and sobbing like an insatiable child. Suddenly a strange feeling struck me. I began to feel like boiled rice. Began to feel all the liquid of my body evaporating like camphor. I was getting thin to thinner.  Getting light to lighter.  So light and so thin that the earth seemed unable to hold me anymore, or it didn’t want to hold me in her lap.  I felt that something was pushing me up gradually. I grabbed the corner of the brick-built bench where I was sitting. This way I tried to brace myself, but it didn’t work. There wasn’t any other way, either, as to move from the place to another and clutch something else. I craved to clutch because I’d sensed the danger. Sensed that I’d vanish upward, for sure, once I happened to loosen my grip with the bench.

After lots of trials and tribulations, when I couldn’t stick to the bench any longer, I cast the last helpless glance around like a dying man. I wished someone had just pegged me to the bench out of pity. Wished someone had, at least, superglued me to it. Wished someone had been sincere enough to pull me back. But all were the vain tries and wishes!

At one time I felt light like cotton. Felt like I was slowly growing lighter than that, and began to drift all alone toward the space. Afterward I started to lose more weight little by little. Got light to lighter and turned into a coil of smoke. I drifted more upward. To say more precisely, the earth was gradually moving away from me. At one point I went beyond the view of the earth. I’d no accidental chance left, either, to be glimpsed by someone on earth. Then I got somewhere devoid of gravity between the earth and the space. This is the place where I’m still drifting.

From here, whatever I say is devoid of weight. In fact, I’d lost my weight the day when I hurt her unimaginably. And I’d gained it at the time from this point backward to Abanti’s departure. Now it seems I’m trampled by the weight of the space just in the way of buffering my anguish.

So my life here doesn’t go with the earthly life. Here my words are weightless, so are my pains. Here there is no morning, no noon, no evening. Only darkness and darkness!  A darkness that is toothier than a saw, more clawed than an osprey, and thornier than a porcupine. From here how many times I tried, how many times I wished to regain my weight, to sense the time difference! But once you lose your dearest one, you’ll have no chance to get back.

I always see darkness here in space. In this dark field, innumerable planets, satellites, asteroids, stars, comets, meteors, nebulae, and galaxies are moving as light particles. As if someone were constantly sifting light from all the corners into the round sieve. And in their midst I’m nothing but a wretched, worthless, invisible, untouchable, and tiniest particle. Sometimes one or two meteors and comets taunt me on their way and snigger at some distance. And the other rotating, busiest, bright light particles around me, can’t afford time to listen to my story. They don’t feel my pain, either. Only when I look back to the earth of soil, I sense an echo ringing in my head—there’s a pain for pain, too, as there’s a love for love.

copyright © 2017 by the author

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