I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved
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Why does the heart bleed?
Where does this road lead?
Why do the tears fall?
Who does this soul call?
Why can’t we be gleeful as the uncorrupted child?
Or is it that we have become so defiled?
Why doesn’t the heart understand that the dark clouds always come with a silver lining?
Or is it not always enough with the sun shining?
Why doesn’t the heart grasp that the night is the darkest before dawn?
Or have we let this darkness catch on?
When does the heart realize never means never?
She was hearing this for the umpteenth time. At first, she thought that the owner of this voice was trying to memorize it but it was evident enough that he had this by heart a long time ago. With every recitation of the lines, the voice started quivering a bit more. She could tell that these weren’t merely a few lines for whosoever was reciting them. The quivering, the sighs made it clear that the voice was emotionally connected to the lines. In the past fifteen minutes, she had heard them so many times that she could recite them on her own now.
The lines were beautiful, more beautiful than any other she had heard in a long time. The quivering voice echoing on the walls of the almost empty room added to the rustic charm. She was so enticed and engrossed by the beauty of the recital mixed with the slivers of light penetrating the slit windows emanated from the orange sun that she had not moved even a single pace. Her breathing was calmer than it ever had been. She was at peace.
She hadn’t realized that the continuous and almost breathless chanting had stopped. She turned in her bed and looked at the source of her emotional peace for the first time. She saw a man, probably in his mid twenties. He had one of those warm, familiar faces with whom one always felt comfortable. Although the fact that most of the face was covered with a bushy beard making it a little less inviting but not cold. Realizing that he was being scrutinized, he took out the glasses he was wearing and looked up from his journal. That’s when she noticed it for the first time, those steely gray eyes which looked like they had seen death more than life. If you looked closely enough, there was some sparkle left in them, only noticeable to the curious eye. He was strangely familiar to her, he had the looks of a boy who had been rushed into adulthood and been made to see the horrors of this world. The bags under the eyes only made the gray and the hidden sense of longing more pronounced.
There was a sudden movement which caught her attention and she realized she had been staring deep into his eyes for sometime now. This made her look away in another direction out of guilt for judging a man she barely knew. She looked at him pouring over his journal once again. She could swear she saw a flicker of a smile blaze through his face.
There was a knock on the door and the door opened for Dr. White.
“So, how is my favorite patient doing? Is she getting along well with her new friend?”she asked in her usual drone like voice peeping over the charts she was holding in her hand.
“I’m doing alright I guess.”Amanda replied with a smile.
The man just looked over his journal and smiled at the Doctor and then gave a courteous smile to Amanda who was all of a sudden self-conscious
“Well then have you both been introduced?” inquired Dr. White.
Amanda shook her head. The man just looked on intently.
Dr. White said without even looking up from the charts,“This is Mr. Cruz. He was involved in a tragic accident last evening and was brought here. Mr. Cruz? This is Amanda. She has been with us for the last 3 months. I hope you two get to know each other soon as you’ll be sharing this room until one of you or both of you are whole and ready to face the world again.”
Amanda smiled at the eccentric man who returned her smile without any real fervor.
“Okay. So both of you seem to be as stable as possible in your condition. Now, Mr. Cruz, I believe you have a lot of questions to ask as to where you are and how did you get here.”Dr. White looked inquiringly at the heavily bearded man.
He still didn’t say a word. He just nodded his head but one could say that his eyes showed some interest now.
“Even I don’t know the exact details of how you got here. You weren’t particularly in a bad shape when you got here. You had dozens of small bruises and cuts all along your body but the worst affected organ was your brain.”Dr.White looked at him solemnly and said this with as much of sympathy as her profession would allow.
This sent a visible jolt through the man’s spine which made him sit up straight. In his eyes, one could see realization dawning. This made him speak for the first time.
In a low, hoarse tone, he asked meekly,”What’s wrong with my brain? How much is the extent of the damage?”
Dr. White continued looking at him solemnly and understood that he had accepted that something was wrong with him. She answered,”We still don’t know the extent of the damage the accident has caused but I believe you’re suffering from Retrograde Amnesia. That’s why you haven’t been able to recall any memories prior to this. Now, you may recall some things in flashes later and your memory may get restored but we can’t know for sure until we know the full extent of your injuries.”
This didn’t come as a shock to him. That morning when he woke up, he knew something was off immediately. He had been in hospitals before but he had never felt this sinking feeling he was feeling at the pit of his stomach. He knew that this journal and the words on it were his own. He felt right at home when he uttered them for the first time. That journal was the only thing he had which tied his past life to his present.
“The Police found your driving license and the car’s registration paper. The car you were driving was not yours. The name on the license was Daniel Cruz. That’s pretty much the only information, we have been able to dig up from your past. The Police are investigating and you’ll be informed as soon as they find out something else. In the meantime, you’ll be a guest of ours.”Dr. White informed him.
She could say that he was processing the sudden input of all the information but he took it on better than most of her other patients.
He had a distant look as if contemplating his plan of action.
Dr. White said her goodbyes to Amanda and gave one last fleeting look to Daniel before reaching for the door. She stopped halfway and asked,”Is there anything else you would like to ask me?”
He looked at her, a little surprised and stared for a couple of seconds and then asked,”Where am I, exactly?”
Dr. White gave a laugh and answered,”You’re in The Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.”
He looked at her as if the answer didn’t really matter and had no particular consequence. She nodded and left the room, leaving the two.
He sat there and looked out of the solitary window in the room. The sun had just set. He could see a distant road past the field, the bed of rocks and the statues of he had no idea what. He held onto the journal for his dear life, he didn’t understand the reason but he knew it was important to him. He saw a car whooze past a couple of bicycles on the road which made him think about his accident. He tried to remember the road or the vehicle from the accident but all he could remember was a blackhole. Like his life prior to this had not happened. Like he was born on that day itself. Still, he knew somewhere in some corner of his brain were locked away all his memories. He tried his best to tap into them but without any result.
He had been staring into infinity for an eternity it seemed. He heard a strangely distant voice saying,”I’m sorry but was that something you wrote?”
He brought the world into focus once again. He looked at the source of the voice for the first time properly with the intention of looking and what greeted him took his breath away. He had never seen something so simple yet beautiful. He had never seen someone so plain but yet beautiful. He couldn’t understand how he had not noticed her earlier. She had smiled at him from underneath her blanket. Maybe it was because she was sitting up straight and looking at him with a sparkle in her eyes which he could only define as heavenly.
She questioned him once more. This woke him up from his daydream.
“I don’t remember, really. They found it with my belongings and reading them sure made me feel right at home. So I don’t know, maybe.”he said in his hoarse voice.
“Do you think I could have a look at it?”she asked with the dazzling sparkle in her eyes which was only visible to him it seemed. He could not look away from those eyes no matter how hard he tried. He could not stop staring at them. He was enticed by them, engrossed in them, captivated by them. He felt a little apprehensive about showing his journal, the only thing which tied him to his past life to her but he knew he was fighting a losing battle.
“I guess so.”he said with apprehension.
He handed her the ragged old journal with a trembling hand. She took it and ran her fingers through the spine of the journal. He somewhat felt comfortable, he felt warm. He had just showed a piece of himself to someone and the feeling seemed foreign to him but yet he somehow felt good about it.
“So you’re a poet?”she asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”he answered with a laugh. This made her look up a little surprised. He had laughed, not with his usual hoarse voice but a childlike laugh. She smiled at him radiantly. She wondered under all that rigor and roughness, maybe, just maybe, the child was still growing up.
“Wow! Some of them are really, really good. They just blew me away.”she said in awe after fifteen minutes of constant reading.
This made him grin from ear to ear. He didn’t understand why but he felt good about himself.
“Well, thank you. I hope I really did write them.”he said with a dazed look upon his face.
“Yeah, it was found in your possession. So there’s a high probability that you did write these.”
This was followed by complete silence. Daniel kept staring into infinity and Amanda kept reading his journal.
They didn’t even notice when the nurse came in and gave them their dinner along with the proper medications. Amanda put the solitary pen present on her table between the pages so she could read from where she left off. They didn’t utter a single word while eating the lousy hospital food.
After taking their medicines and Amanda protesting against the taste of the pills, they returned to their own beds.
”So uh… what is up with you? Ummm… what do you have?”the hoarseness in his voice had returned. He fumbled and asked her never making eye contact.
“Sorry?”she looked at him all confused.
“Umm… Why are you here? What’s wrong?”
“Oh oh. Yeah, I have this type of amnesia or so I was told in the morning. I can’t remember what happened yesterday or the day before but I remember what had happened ten years ago. It’s called… wait… I have it written down here. Yes, Anterograde Amnesia.”she said very casually.
It moved him how much it didn’t matter to her. Maybe it was because she knew she was going to forget it tomorrow. He couldn’t think of anything to say. He just looked into her eyes and tried to convey that he was sorry and he knew life had been unfair to her. A silence followed.
“Why isn’t the poem you were reciting complete?”she asked sounding very interested.
“I don’t remember writing it. So pardon me but I guess some things are best left unsaid, some stories best left untold.”
Let's hold hands,
Become an oasis in this desert and it's burning sands.
Let's get lost in each other's eyes,
Be done with all the deceptions and lies.
Let's have those soul bearing conversations,
Over burden ourselves with our own thoughts and expectations.
Let's just sleep under a starry night sky,
Talk and talk until our throats run dry.
Let's hear the same music,
Dance on the same tune,
Let's find solace in each other arms,
Find magic always in each other's charms.
And when the lights go dim and the path is not clear,
Hide away all our feelings and name it 'fear'.
Let's just pretend to believe in forever,
Let's just make the same mistakes until our last breath,
Let's just keep cursing ourselves until death.
“Why do you have to mess up the conclusion every freaking time?”Amanda asked, looking at him with a sense of amusement.
“I don’t know. I think because in life there’s now guarantee that everything will be okay in the end.”Daniel said not even looking past the newspaper he was holding.
“You know when you say things like this, I wonder whether you are smart enough to have been able to write all this.”she said in utter bemusement,”I mean that’s the reason why we look for happy endings in books.”
This made him fold his newspaper and look at her in disbelieve. He just couldn’t fathom how someone who had no memory of the past week remain so calm and be optimistic about their lives. He just couldn’t understand how she woke up everyday with no memory of what she did yesterday or the day before. She obviously remembered that she had had some sort of life in the past and had probably experienced love and trust but she couldn’t even remember what was her dinner last night. Maybe that’s what worked for her. She was stuck here with no memory of ever getting here or living here for more than 3 months. Maybe that’s what was troubling him, obviously he couldn’t remember his past, he didn’t know whether he had a family or where they were, he wasn’t even sure what was his name. Everything was a big black-hole except for the past week. Him stuck in this damned place for a week without any idea as to who he was, how was he here was the only memory he had about his entire life.
“You’re doing it again.”she broke his stream of thoughts and added a tch tch.
He smiled with guilt. This was one of the things which she adored about him. He had those rare moments when he would let his guard down and the little child would be visible to her. She couldn’t even remember why she felt good about him letting his guard down or who he was but she felt he was someone she knew and felt incredibly warm when he was around.
“I am Daniel. We are in Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and stuck in this damned room. You are Amanda. You have been here for more than 3 months now. Do you want anything? You could read the thing you’re holding, you like that.”Daniel just enchanted this in one breath.
Amanda laughed. It wasn’t her usual laugh. This was something else. Something foreign to the walls of the room. This laugh contained genuine mirth and happiness which was not easy to come by within these walls. Daniel could just admire her, he had forgotten the magic and melody of one true laugh but she had made him realize there is light always in the darkest corner of the world.
“Thank you for repeating what you said fifteen minutes earlier. I don’t get what you say at one go anyway.”
“It’s just my voice.”he said in his most hoarse voice sounding like a troll.
They both laughed and looked at each other with wonder in their eyes for each other. In a world of machines, needles, pills and barely recognizable faces, they had found some solace in each other’s company.
“Hey, do you hear that?”she asked with childlike excitement with some sparkle in her eyes which didn’t seem to belong to this planet.
He looked up from his newspaper and gave her a look of complete bemusement.
“Come here.”she said and almost jumped out of her bed and skipped towards the door. Daniel followed suit.
She opened the door partially and motioned Daniel to come over. Now, he could hear it. He could hear the softest music playing at the farthest of corners. He could just barely decipher the words being sang. He tried to find the source of the music but couldn’t be sure. He concluded that it was probably a staff member listening to the radio over at the Reception’s Desk. He turned around to look at Amanda to find her on one knee raising her hand towards him.
“May I have this pleasure of dancing with you tonight?”she asked barely controlling her laugh.
“Are you out of your senses? I can’t dance. People will think we’re nuts…”
“What people? And you could have been a dancer in your past life for all we know.”
“You first get up from the floor.”
He took her hand and she stood up and in one swift motion positioned them as a couple waiting to waltz.
“Just follow my lead.”she whispered in his eyes. They started moving in unison.
“See, I suck at this. Don’t make me do this, please.”he said but never stopped moving.
“Shut up and dance.”she stated blankly.
The music never stopped. Their bodies didn’t move apart. They were just floating a few inches off the floor. For one moment in both of their temporary life, they had found something they could cling onto. This wasn’t merely a memory. This was much stronger.
The past week Daniel had felt the darkness which descended outside every night engulf him and his life completely but tonight, he had found his moon.
“I just wish we could live in this moment forever. Preserve this and remember it whenever we want.”she said in a barely audible whisper.
This broke his heart. He had always seen her optimistic about her condition. Maybe because she didn’t remember it or maybe because she didn’t let it control her life but this was the first time he was looking at her, this vulnerable. He understood that her laughter didn’t mean she is devoid of pain. She just disguised her pain well enough.
He looked into her eyes, pointed at her heart and said,”It will be here always and forever.”
There’s a reason why I suck at goodbyes,
It’s just something that I had difficulty to recognize.
The smile never wavered from that simple but beautiful face,
I just stood there stuck to that damned place.
She kept on waving until the final calls were made then she got up from her seat never to look back again,
I was frozen there hoping, begging and praying, all in vain.
Yes, I would always blame you for ruining goodbyes for me,
But that last fleeting smile made it all worth it to a certain degree.
She read it in her same usual voice but somehow it felt like it meant more this time. Her words reverberated around the room. Daniel could feel her voice penetrating his ears and piercing into his heart with a blunt force. He had been dreading this day since the last week. He had known it was going to be painful. He was sure that if he didn’t walk away right now, he might never leave this place.
This place. This damned place, he thought. Why couldn’t he be admitted somewhere else? Why couldn’t he be allotted some other room? Why did he have to meet Amanda? And if he met her then why did he have to get so close to her? Why did he have to become so vulnerable to her?
Why did he dedicate himself to creating memories for her in the last six months even though he knew she wouldn’t remember any of them?
He could see that she was trying her best to remember what they had been through and how much she meant to him but she couldn’t. She realized that Daniel was leaving her today but she didn’t understand why it seemed so solemn or why did she feel so much. She had experienced goodbyes before but this was something else. She couldn’t put a finger on it but she knew a part of her was going and nothing would remain the same.
“Daniel, they are here.”an attendant came in them and informed them. This made Amanda look up from the journal and she saw Daniel looking at her intently, teary eyed.
“Don’t give them too much trouble. This room won’t be the same without you.”she said.
Daniel couldn’t say a word. He just looked at her. He couldn’t believe that she didn’t remember anything. After everything they had been through, the dancing under the stars, the recital of the lines, the mindless talks through the night, the intimacy in sleeping under the starry night sky. He knew that he had a life prior to these six months but he was sure that these were the best six months of his life.
“Complete the last poem. I’ll come back for it someday.”he said in a broken voice.
She got up from her bed, stumbled on towards him, looked him in the eyes and asked,”Someday? Are you sure you’re going to come back?”
He gave her a smile and said,”Yes. I will. Take care of yourself. This room will be the place where I was the happiest and you will be my happiest memory always and forever.”
Been a while since you held my hand,
I wish it could have remained forever grand.
Been a while since I looked into those beautiful brown eyes,
Oh! How the time flies.
Been a while since I heard your voice,
I swear it gave me so many joys.
Been a while since I saw you smile,
I swear I could have walked that extra mile.
Been a while since I held you in my arms,
You still have that charm.
Been a while since you walked away,
I swear I haven't not missed you a single day.
Been a while since you stopped talking,
Me? I stopped living.
Daniel closed his newly bought journal and look outside the window. It had been years. 3 years to be exact since he had seen these roads. He could almost see the building where he had spend those six months which he still held the closest to his chest. It was the most beautiful and powerful memory he had.
The car pulled over in front of the building. He hesitated but eventually got down from his car. He waked through the entrance and a wave of familiarity hit him.
He walked upto the reception and asked,”Can I see a patient here? I was a patient here. I would like to see the patient who I shared my room with. Her name is Amanda. Where can I find her?”
The receptionist smiled at him and checked something on her computer. She asked,”Was Dr. White your doctor when you were here?”
“Very well. You can find her in your old room. She is with a patient there. Do you remember where it was?”
He nodded, smiled and walked away.
He remembered all the paths in and out of the hospital. He had spent countless nights exploring them with Amanda. He could hear his heartbeat when he was walking towards the room. He saw Dr. White standing outside the room where he formerly lived.
She saw him approaching. He smiled at her and then she realized who he was.
“I am glad to see you. How have you been? How are they treating you over there at Washington?”her drone like voice hadn’t changed.
He gave her a hug and said,”I’m doing good these days. I just have to attend those weekly sessions. I still haven’t got my entire memory but being at home has definitely brought back some flashes.”
She smiled and replied,”It’s good to hear that. So did you come to visit Amanda?”
This brought back the shine in his eyes. He said,”Yes.”
“Well that’s great. She deserves a visit after everything she did for you.”
”Didn’t she tell you she was the one who informed us about your family and they were in Washington?”
He looked at her in utter disbelieve and asked,”But how could she have known?”
“She had come to us with your journal. She said that it had a stamp from Washington or something like that. We contacted the agencies there and found your family.”
He had trouble registering any thoughts. He choked up and asked her,”Where can I see her? Is she in this room?”
“Her condition worsened. We shifted her to solitary. It’s on the other side of the hall to the left.”
He walked as fast as his legs could carry her. He almost tripped himself and bashed into the door. He saw the face, the face he had craved for three years, still as pristine and beautiful. The smile still hadn’t lost his magic. The eyes still had the usual sparkle.
“I’m sorry. You can’t come in here.”she said in the voice which had haunted all his dreams.
“I am Daniel. We are in Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and stuck in this damned room. You are Amanda. You have been here for more than 3 months now. Do you want anything? You could read the thing you’re holding, you like that.”he said with tears in his eyes.
She still looked at him puzzled. She said,”Do you want this? I don’t know whose it is. It’s always here. It’s good to read.”and handed him the journal.
He took it in his fumbling hands and turned over the pages to the last poem he had written and with a smile and tears in his eyes he read the last line which said:-