I walked over the barricade for probably the tenth or twentieth time that night. The anxiety was slowly taking over the numbness in my veins, while I tried my best to keep my tears at bay. I knew I was going to break down on my knees and weep the clogged sadness off my heart anytime. I knew this whole scenario was just a phrase away yet it felt like chapters away. Vaguely, I was back in my struggling days—days when I struggled to get myself together, when everything was a challenge and days were only worse than the previous ones. I felt someone tap my shoulder and turned around only to find his pitiful eyes boring into me.
"I couldn't find you. What are you doing here?" He asked, his voice stern as ever.
"I needed to breathe. I needed to...think." I stammered.
"To think about more gloomy endings? You know you will just age yourself with all this overthinking and stress. It's going to be fine. Trust me!"
"I'm not repeating that mistake again."
"Ouch! That hurts."
"I hope it does. Because that's how I felt years ago. I needed you then, and you weren't there. When I don't, you suddenly spring up before me. That too in the most difficult times. Just leave me alone, once again."
I thought this was enough to drive him away, but I forgot how stubborn he can be, even after all these years.
"I saw her. She's breathing. And she's breathtakingly beautiful—like you. She has your eyes, your skin."
"And your blood, unfortunately." I mocked at him.
"I'm sorry. I know it's such a small word but, I feel guilty. I wasn't brave enough then, and you couldn't be the one playing coward. I'm proud of you. You made her. All yours though."
"That's what good parents do. Unlike you."
"Don't worry I can't be one now."
"My wife can't conceive. Not even after two failed attempts of IVF."
For a while I felt a smile creep over my face, only to be vanished later. Though I never had any ill will against him, not even in my craziest dreams. And sometimes, just like we can't love a person, we can't hate a person no matter how much we want to. I didn't love him any longer. He was like one of those old cities to me, that you grow up loving naturally. The city that you thought you would never leave, but you do, because that's the only way you can move ahead. Its every road, every turn holds memories of you and happier times, though you never want to visit them again. In case you find yourself trace your hands over the stone pillars that hold the city's charm, you do it mindlessly, because it means nothing to you now—the pillars, the carving on them mean nothing. And he was that old city to me. Beautiful, reminding me of good times but no longer worth visiting.
"You should be besides her. She needs you." He said, breaking me out of my reverie.
"I know what to do. After all it wasn't you who spent weeks amidst the gloomy atmosphere of hospital wards and incubators, and around ventilators and beeping equipments. I was the only one to endure all the pain and sadness. JUST FUCKING LEAVE. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU." And that's it. That was my break down moment. I couldn't tolerate his presence any longer. I wasn't sorry for him, nor thankful for his pity. Out of the whole world, it had to be him. Again. 18 years back, when I was pregnant with his child, he left me. He left me for all he had, except me and the baby. I couldn't bring myself to the thought of aborting the baby. If anything, it was mine too, only mine actually. I had slipped in and out of depression, NGOs, jobs that made me survive on bare minimum and anxiety attacks. I would curse him one minute and next minute sing lullabies for my baby. I would be asleep one second and typing and backspacing messages addressed to him the next moment. 8 months of bearing the happy pain and fake smile over my face, I gave birth to a merely breathing life. She looked like an angel then, she still does. When I saw her covered in tubes and glass, it dawned on me that her mother's suffering has passed on to her. But now I realize she has been passed with her bravery too. Yes, she's a brave one like her mother. I know she will survive this too. She will have to. She's all that I have to hold on.
"Listen, I'm sorry. I will leave. I won't turn up again. But just let me see her for the last time. Please? And it was me who found her lying on the other side of road. I have the right to see her, don't I?" He asked.
"Okay." I sighed. It would mean he would be out of our lives sooner. We got up and turned to leave when he suddenly stopped.
"Sometimes I think, what this world would look like if we didn't exist. Of useless men like us didn't exist." He said.
I was briefly reminded of the days when I would spend hours looking at Yahvi through the incubator. I would keep muttering to myself again and again, "Another world isn't possible, she's on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe." It was an assurance to my own self that she was alive and kicking and will be here soon, with me, to share everything.
"It wouldn't make a difference except, you could hear women breathe and make the best of the world without any interruption. I know we can't be mothers without you men, but surely god would have found a better way then."
He kept quiet through rest of the way. It wasn't a victory, but those words were indeed satisfactory. We headed towards the general ward to find Yahvi sleeping. The doctors had confirmed about the worst—her gangrape. But she was there, breathing and alive, she was there for me. The years of practice to mask pain behind smiles kicked in, and we said our goodbyes. He was gone. Yahvi was here, surely up for another battle in this cruel world—quiet but breathing. Isn't that how a storm is—quiet and approaching?
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