The moon shone outside like there was nothing special about tonight. Its white, however, was quieter amidst other earthly radiance. The streets and stops; turns and terraces; houses and hotels, all were outlined with artificial yellow, blue, green. Even the insects seemed to have made way for the obvious merriment in the air – being nowhere in sight. But the picture wasn’t complete without an elegant layer of pure white; falling, and inevitably covering everything like icing on the cake.
Amidst this apparent excitement and bridal decorations of the maps, stood a house situated in the ends of the city. Melancholy, no more well-hidden, overpowered the red and green wreath decorations of Christmas, yet to be taken down from outside the house. Its walls were an off-brown, giving out the sentiment of what’s most important to the country the residents belonged to. But this just showed that even in a foreign land, with no direct sense of belonging, joy doesn’t take notice of your position or state to make you one of its own. Nor does sorrow.
Inside the house, behind veils of stereotypes and unsaid rules of being politically correct, sat a woman of thirty-seven in the quietest corner of her bedroom. It still showed clear signs of having been occupied by more than one person. Her husband. Her dark hair looked as though litres of hairspray had gone into keeping it in place, with just a couple of strands spilling from here and there – the messiest it had been in a long time. She stood with her knees drawn to her face, trying to hide from the humiliation and hurt she had felt merely forty-eight hours ago. Her heart cried out for itself, for help, every time she thought of the haunting image of her family leaving her, possibly forever. As much of it, she realized, was her fault, it really wasn’t.
This wasn’t the only time her perfectly maintained house felt lifeless – when there was practically barely any life in it – in fact, this was how it had been for almost a year now. Last year, Christmas had been as lively as it could be. But then again, there hadn’t been any signs of eccentricity in the house then. None loud enough, anyway. The gone year had taken a turn for the family for the worse, when the mother of the twins had started to fall under the category of what had been classified as “a bother.”
It had started with rearranging the various little boxes and jars in the kitchen every week, followed by the clothes in the cupboard, then the room decor and so on. Yet she never quite got the arrangement right. The number of times she did so kept on rising, so did her family’s exasperation with her. It was enigmatic to them why she did what she did.
As a few months passed by, the house seemed to get neater and neater every day; her life messier. She washed herself four times a day, the clothes twice and the floor once, every day. Yet there was something higher than their monthly water bill: the family’s vexation with her. They couldn’t decipher her condition.
Ten months later, her particularity had risen to the point when she lost track of time whilst cleaning the rooms, maintaining the house, putting every single thing where it was supposed to be. Her fourteen-year-old twins weren’t to leave the house without their bags being checked by their mother. Her husband couldn’t leave for work till she inspected if he was wearing the right colours. She certainly could not have exited the house without wearing the same clothes she washed every day; twice. Time ran thin when she did odd jobs around her abode, so did her family’s patience. It was unfathomable to them, as to why she did all the things so absurd.
In the twelfth month of the year, it was as impossible to find someone besides the mother in the house, as it was to find something out of place there. The residents lived with each other because they had to, not because they wanted to. All sense of affection had been lost. They only saw her as a constant obstruction in their lives, someone who checked the locked doors five times a night to make sure they were locked. They couldn’t understand her; and now, they no more tried to.
All they had done was pack their belongings, sum up every one of the fifteen years filled with love and spent together as a family , in mere sentences of not being able to tolerate her any longer. They left; without wearing the right colours, or getting their bags checked by her.
Her initial response was denial. All through the time they gave their speeches, she watched in shock and silence, thinking that her kin had been Americanised. But she knew. She knew that wasn’t it. And she didn’t want to.
For times like this, ignorance was so much better than cognition. Because the former lead to frustration; the latter, self-loathe.
She sat in her room thinking where it had gone wrong. She could clearly remember the time when an upset bookshelf wouldn’t bother her, nor would a mismatched curtain height. She actually wondered if she could find a way to fix them without much work. And now, it felt as though to fix was her job. Every time she came across a jar which wasn’t in a height-wise sequence, she had this feeling of anxiety building up inside her. It only got more intense with each passing second. It irked her, and she knew not why. The itch within her could only be lost if acted upon, and that was to fix the wrong.
She wondered if things could have been different had she had gotten help earlier. If she had told her husband what she had realized a month ago, she pondered, perhaps she would not have had to go through the loss of loved ones? Would things have been different or would her husband have dismissed her for bringing shame upon the family and the taboo of the situation? With all this, she knew that the problem lied not within herself, but the society. With the cemented walls of stereotypes that it had built, it was unimaginable to think of her condition to be freely discussed without judgment. Mental illness was looked at by the mass as though it were inhumane, something to stay away from. Why, it was a disease – all diseases were to stay away from, why give special treatment to the ones of the mental kind?
Amidst her deafening thoughts of regret and blame, she had lost track of time, sitting in the same position for almost two days now. It was trauma.
She looked at herself, the faint light coming from outside was almost gone now. The merriment that had been in the air for days seemed to be setting about now. But there was something that had found a new way.
She calculated that it was roughly the second day after New Year’s Eve. New Year was about new beginnings, but this one, she told herself, was just a resuming of a half-won fight against the world.
Getting up, she brushed off imaginary dust from her trousers. She opened up her neat Yellow Pages and looked for the letter P under the Doctors’ column.