For me, it’s not that time of the year without the usual nightmares. I’ll be fine throughout the year, but when October rolls around, I wake up at 2 am, screaming, bathed in sweat, fists clenched tight.
I’ve tried everything – medication, counselling, and even hypnotherapy. When none of that worked, I tried drowning myself in a bottle. But, even when I’d passed out from the booze, I still woke up at 2 am, shrieking like a banshee. Of course, I have no memory of the screaming. It’s just that my nosy neighbour called my mother after she heard me screaming for the third night in a row, and I realised that I had a problem.
Well, two problems. Even with the complaining neighbours, the nightmares only torture me in October. The other, bigger problem, hangs around for much longer. It, or maybe I should say she, never goes away. I’ve tried everything. I’ve changed four jobs and three cities in the past three years. Yet, she always finds me.
It always starts the same way. On Valentine’s Day. Just like the first time.
Every year, for the past three years, I’ll be sitting at a table in the cafeteria on Valentine’s Day, and she walks up to me, saying, “Hi! Can I join you? It’s my first day at work, and I don’t know anyone.”
The first time it happened, I had just resumed work after that horrible October night. Yes. It took me three and a half months to recover from my ordeal. But, does she even care? No! She’s selfish, just like she always was!
I was pushing some rice around my plate when she spoke to me out of the blue. I looked up into her smiling eyes and blacked out into my plate of rice. When I came to my senses, there was a group of people around me, one of whom had splashed some water on my face to revive me. I opened my eyes and looked around. There she was, at the edge of the crowd, grinning at me.
For the next seven months, she would make me relive every moment I had spent with her, every clandestine little touch, every stolen kiss and even the quickie in the Ladies’ loo of the office that almost had us fired. It drove me nuts, but I just couldn’t get her to stop. Until October. Once we were past that date, she just disappeared and I tried to pick up the pieces of my life, until the next Valentine’s Day, when it started all over again. That’s when I moved to another job. But she can follow me anywhere – to the ends of the Earth if she wants to.
Just try to imagine the horror that my life had turned into. A beautiful girl that I had once loved, who wanted to betray me, now doesn’t want to let go of me. Ironic or what? No matter where I go, she turns up like a bad penny, recreating our love story. Our story began and ended in a span of seven months, and now it seems like I have to relive those seven months over and over again, for the rest of my sorry life.
It is such a twisted mind-fuck, and so typical of her. That’s exactly what drew me to her in the first place – her twisted way of looking at things. It doesn’t seem so attractive now. Not when I’m on the receiving end of it.
I don’t know how to break the cycle. I play my part, knowing fully well that this is… well… weird. Everyone, from my family to my therapist, everyone tells me this is not normal. But, no one knows how to make it stop.
Well, it’s October now. So, it’s time to brace myself for the double whammy.
My nightmares have one consistent theme – the crazy October night that changed everything. It all builds up to the anniversary of that night. Slowly. Like a slide show of memories, with entire scenes that are engraved on my mind. Gradually, it turns into a slide show of still photographs from that fateful night, fading from colour to black and white, and back to colour, again. At times, as bright as a wedding picture, and at others, as stark as a crime scene photo.
On the particular date that it all went south, I get to see the whole movie in my dream, from start to finish. My mind reminds me of how we bought matching saris for the office party, how we dressed up at my house because I had a full-length mirror, and everyone knows you can’t drape a sari properly without a full-length mirror. I dream of how she kept undraping my sari every time I tried to drape it – the laughter, the moans and the sighs.
And then, the fight on the way back home. I was driving and trying to keep an eye on the road while screeching at her.
“I came out of the closet just because of you! My family almost disowned me when I told them that I was a lesbian. How dare you do this to me now?”
“Will you calm down? It doesn’t mean anything,” she said, trying to placate me.
“If it doesn’t mean anything, why didn’t you tell me? Why did I have to hear of it from some random stranger?”
“Hey! That random stranger happens to be my fiancé,” she snapped.
“Umm, excuse me? Where was this fiancé of yours a few hours ago, when you were sticking your tongue down my throat?”
I was livid, and she…. she grinned at me. That crazy, maniacal grin of hers.
“That was such fun, right?”
“Wrong! How the hell can you marry a… a … a man? You like women,” I screeched.
She shrugged insouciantly.
“Actually, I think I want to experiment a little. See if I’m missing out on anything, ya know,” she said, with a wink.
“What about me?”
I hated the little-girl-lost tone of my voice, but I couldn’t help it. My world felt all up-side-down.
“We’ll still be together. He won’t have to know,” she said, patting my knee.
I turned my head and looked at her, wondering how it was possible to love someone so much and hate them at the same time. I had fought with my parents for this woman. I wore my rainbow so proudly, just for her, and now, she wanted to experiment.
Umm, heck no!
“Watch out,” she screeched.
I turned my head and swerved the car just in time to avoid the huge truck coming towards us. We were on a narrow winding road, with a deep valley on one side, and a mountain on the other. I took a deep breath and pressed my foot on the accelerator. One way or another, I wouldn’t let her betray me like this.
I could hear her pleading with me to slow down and I turned to grin at her. That’s all it took for me to lose control of the car. I heard a bang, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with my ears ringing and my head throbbing. My car was wrapped around a tree. The passenger seat was empty. I dragged myself out of the car and went looking for her.
My car was precariously close to the edge of the mountain. Slightly closer, and it would have fallen into the valley. Suddenly, I heard her calling for help.
There she was, hanging off the edge of the mountain, holding on for dear life. She begged me to grab her hands, and I did.
I see all this in my dream, every year, on the anniversary of that night.
I remember how I looked into her eyes and smiled before I lifted her hands up and shoved her off the mountain.
I dream of this, every year, on the anniversary of her death.
Image credit: Rene Asmussen on Pexels