When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
- Lao Tzu
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I'd like to say that we had a momentous fight, and I defeated her.
But that wasn't the case.
And i won't say that we have made peace. She just is!
Sometimes I see her, the grey old lady.
Translucent - you could look right through her, a ghost of a being.
I see her more often when i am surrounded than not. She fears me when it's just us.
But otherwise, i am afraid of her.
Her hair grows fairer every time i see her.
Strands of moonlight emanating from her head.
In a crowd, she laughs at me - a crazy, threatening laughter.
Her body shows years of neglect. Pale and worn, she closes the distance between us. Why can nobody see her other than me?
You'd be petrified on looking at her, imagine having her consume you! She has engulfed me. But good God, isn't she beautiful
I am taken aback on learning that she can talk. Yes, my language.
"Why do you always come back?"
My rhetoric, never expected the answer.
Her figure is frail, opposite to her strong presence. And she just trails, somehow. I don't know where she ends. It's like trying to see in the fog, i see a solid head and torso, but where she ends, my eyes fail to see.
The wind is howling, the lone dry leaf on the sidewalk flies in the air. A healthy green one which was attached to his mother quivers once and joins his brother in death. Everything dances along with the symphony of the air, but not her. She is out worldly, unimpressed by the petty things, not one of her moonlit hair flutters.
She holds up her bony, fleshless, gray hand and pressing an icy finger accusingly into my chest says "because you call me back"
I sat with my head on my knees when there's a tap on my shoulder. A rough finger- sandpaper on my skin- sends cold shivers down my spine and my body shakes once. One quick, acknowledging shake. I don't need to turn to figure out who it is; unmistakably, it's Her!
I do not want to look at her, but it's like something stronger than myself ties me to her, a shameful, formidable bond.
I turn my head ever so slightly.
"What happened to you?" I ask not out of concern but out of curiosity. She examines herself bitterly, bonier than ever, greyer than i last saw her, parched!
"You've been wanting me less", she confides, famished.
I look into her eyes - baggy but a certain almond. I can't see the whole of her, I told you. But judging from her proportions, she shouldn't be much tall. Her hand still rests on my shoulder- grey and worn but smallish. The hollow where her neck meets her collar bone much like my own. A tad too much.
Greyer than death, a million years old. A slightly yet drastically different version of me...
Upon this realisation, a heat floods through my chest. That heat could've been a golden, liquid warmth or a scorching fire, who knows? But that made her go away. I don't want to think about her, so I constantly keep distracting myself. But every now and then the uncanny resemblance between the grey, old lady and me shakes the very core of being. She glances at me sometimes during the day, but then fades away as quickly as she comes.
Once, she came to me in the dead of the night, appearing out of thin air. Says nothing, just stares at me, examines me with her baggy, curious eyes. She sits, rather hovers above my feet.
"Are you my future?" I ask.
She shakes her head in negation. "No, but I am...
For days i kept doing things mechanically. Waking up when my body told me to, eating when I wanted, skipping meals when i didn't want to, wiping the droplets of sweat on my upper lip when i felt the need to. Just going down to the simplest degree. What she said kept crossing my mind; crossing my mind but i wasn't mindful of it. Like those blots of colour you see when you close your eye lids after looking at a bright light. It seems like you see them, but you don't actually think about them. A blissful hallucination.
A couple of days passed and i grew quieter with every second.
"You're thinking too much"
A perpetual noise, the most frustrating of jingles. "You are thinking too much"
One night when sleep had left me miles behind, i tried something i wouldn't have ever dreamt of doing. A sudden madness, an impulse made me close my eyes and call Her. Beg of Her to come to me with such sincerity that she had to come. The lights in my room were turned off. But the dim light of the lamppost shone lifelessly through the sole window. She appeared through that light. Recalling the last time she had come to me
"Are you my future?"
"No, but i am your past".
She sat right next to me. Our arms touching. Mine bare to the elbows, supple; hers covered in rags till her knuckles, they could smoothen stone. It felt like sitting next to ice. But sitting next to ice on a burning, miserably sunny day! "How can you be my past?" I had never looked like her-grey and worn.
"But I am. Your past. I am everything you've tried to disprove. I am all your hopes and dreams that never came true"
"How do I let go of you?" I ask.
"Think. You haven't been thinking at all!"
Following her advice, i started thinking. Thinking of every despair that had ever crossed my path. Every silver glow that had turned to dirt. Every opportunity, every chance that had ended up in grave. Every breath i thought would stay. All that i thought would lift me up, but had forgotten me there on the ground. I had been thinking my days through. It burned my soul and i exploded into a million pieces of ash. Every single time.
All the while, her cold sunken cheek rested on my shoulder. Mouth facing my neck, an icy breath on my veins. Her frost was a comfort to my burns. She never left me-a faithful friend, my only companion in paucity. She would perch on my shoulder, a perpetual, sepulchral gloom weighing me down. But i liked the grey old lady who was so much like me. So addictive was her presence, i couldn't say goodbye- my comfort!
I woke up from my sleep, a grey glow in the unlit room- she was hovering above me. Her moonlit hair wrapped around me like a blanket, snug. Her left hand was on the hollow where her heart should've been, right, deep inside my chest. A cold seizure arrested me. But then she smiled a reassuring smile. She was consoling me...I hoped so!
Every day i had been thinking that she had been, but she had been devouring on my soul, freezing my heart to produce her own. I said goodbye to her the moment i realised it. She couldn't eat me away. I'd be happier without her, i thought. But seldom is the truth synonymous with your thought.
When the grey lady left I felt like someone was ripping the heart out of my chest, i felt my ribs being crushed by a thousand tonnes of weight. I felt every inch of my skin being frozen and broken into a million shards. All my senses amplified by a thousand times, making the pain much worse than it must've been. I lay there, unmoving, unblinking, an occasional twitch that was to replace what had previously been my heartbeat. I was broken into fragments and none of those fragments felt, smelt or tasted like my organs. She was essential to my survival but how i hated her!
You hurt, you bleed and with time a scab forms on your wounds. Those wounds don't hurt-don't hurt unless you scratch the scab. Despite knowing it, you still do. By mistake or knowingly. Sometimes an unavoidable encounter with the memory, or sometimes you just want to. It's mad what things we get attached to; pain being the least unconventional!
The grey lady taught me a lot. For long, the naïve side of me thought I was living my life. But it was borrowed, in a way. Stolen or given forcefully, i don't know. For when i got accustomed to it, it seemed like i had been waiting for it. I kept believing it until i made myself accept that i welcomed it with open arms. But did I? Truth is, she forced herself on me, little had i known.
Till now, i can't say that I've said goodbye to her. The last time i checked, one of her moonlit hair was growing on my scalp. She has become a part of me, won't let me go.
For how long, that remains to be unknown!