Repentance13 mins 477 13 mins 477
She reminisced those stolen kisses in the deserted corridors, those tables that had "Raj loves Simran" inscribed on them, those blackboards that had nail marks on them, and even those group visits to the ladies' room. Saumya was in *that* mood today. The mood which warranted the mandatory revisitation to her high-school yearbook. The mood which, by all means, reminded her of her perfectly preserved memories of the time which she deemed to be the best of her life. Life hadn't been the same since college ended; it took with it the dampening cushion which had made the realisation of the ending of school bearable for those four years.
Without it, the 'real' world let you down to its abhorrently honest depiction of life quite quickly. Although her job was refreshingly satisfying and her personal space was in good order, she still felt the need to crack open her little bubble of happiness every so often to remind herself about how that yearbook contained all the best moments of her life. She looked at the time and cursed at the audacity of the clock to run her life, realising she was running late. The yearbook would have to wait, as she flung her handbag around her shoulder and silently walked through the foyer and out the door.
She sat there behind the wheel, amidst horns blaring tenaciously at the red light, somehow convinced that the light would turn green if made angry. No, wait, that's the hulk; she chuckled at her own joke. She never honked if she could help it, being an environmentalist herself. Only if everyone in Delhi followed her example. The noise made her already assiduous self more conscious of her surroundings, and she loathed the people of Delhi for doing that to her.
"Saumya, look alive!" her boss snapped her fingers to jut her out of her daydream. "It isn't like you to be this distracted on the job. What's up?" Before she could enthrall her with the seemingly stupid reason that was keeping her mind elsewhere, her boss continued, "Never mind, I need you about your wits for this." Saumya gave a quick nod, and sighed under her breath, almost imperceptibly, "I miss being seventeen again."
After the kind of day that made her seem like a bit of a misanthrope, Saumya headed home. She just couldn't shake this feeling of missing out on something important if she didn't do something, and soon. Ravaging her yearbook, she flipped through those decade-old pages with the conviction of someone who's as determined as a person at the gym on the second of January. All those memories came flooding back as she fought back tears. She couldn't take it anymore: She had to get away from the shackles of the awfully perfect life she seemed to have weaved together and go back to where her impeccably messy life was infinitely more dazzling. One by one, she got in touch with people she'd not spoken with in over a decade, some of which were warmly welcomed with a pleasant surprise, while others were, well, just surprised.
"It was so great to talk to you after such a long time man," Saumya said as she put down the receiver on the last call. "Saturday it is. My place, at 8 o'clock. See you there!" She heaved a sigh of relief. That went much better than I could have imagined it to go, she thought. Humans have this tendency to question their decisions at the very last moment, right after you take the leap of faith. In this case, Saumya started second-guessing her decision of going down memory lane as soon as she dialed the first number. And it was an important one too. She hadn't talked to her in over seven years, not since that fateful night. She'd feared it might go roughly, and she braced herself for some unpleasant pleasantries. But, to her dulcet disappointment, it went to voice mail. After stuttering for a few seconds, she got it together, delivered her message and prayed for her to show up. So yeah, all-in-all, it went well.
Whenever you make grand plans for the future, time can be punishing. Saturday just couldn't come by fast enough. Saumya was a nervous wreck. Twenty-five people in my apartment and I haven't been in touch with any of them, what if we don't have anything to talk about and it gets awkward? She fretted over seemingly mundane problems. But the worst was whenever she thought about whether or not she'd show up; she ran into fits every time she did. But such is life, desires, and despair just go hand in hand.
She literally slammed the alarm down her bedside desk on Saturday morning. Getting out of the bed at nearly breakneck speed, she finished her chores at a record pace and busied herself with the preparations of what she best described in her head as an expectantly awkward social gathering of long lost people who promised to stay in touch but failed and are now forced to get together just to quench her whim of painting a façade of reminisces over her seemingly sudden need to see one person. But then, why did she think of school to be the best time of her life if she couldn't even commit herself to miss more than one person?
If so, was it really school that she missed or that person? Was the pain due to the realization that she'd never relived those days, or due to the abyss that cracked in her heart when the said person exited the stage of the drama that was her life? It seemed that over years, Saumya had created a cocoon of barrier to protect herself from the truth, and that cocoon had blossomed into a beautiful butterfly; her butterfly-of-a-high-school phase that made her adequate life seem shabby, all the while never realising that while she might escape the reality in her rabbit hole today, it was gonna make her life eventually miserable until she faced her fears. The conversation in her head was getting too real. "I've got a lot to do," she jerked herself out of her quite lucid daydream and focused on unfinished business.
"Great party Saumya," Rohit cheered. "It's so great to see you Saumya! It's been what, 8 years? Damn, time flies!" Amisha said wondrously. "Man, Saumya, you haven't changed one bit. Still the prettiest and the most kickass woman I know." Anuj winked. But of course, all of this was after 2 shots of vodka and a beer each, so Saumya didn't take any of it on its face value. Instead, her eyes lingered constantly on the door, hoping every time it opened that it would show her a reflection of her past. A reflection of what wa
s and what could have been, but didn't because of the sins of her drunk seventeen-year-old self. She stood there, beer in hand, thinking about the irony that made her loathe and miss her adolescence at once. It was almost amusing, but Saumya couldn't get herself to smile at it. "Hey Saumya, great party. We should definitely catch up again sometime. You're seeing anyone?" Vivek chuckled somewhat nervously. Her high-school heartthrob was asking her out, who had been so out of her league all those years back and she could have never imagined a scenario when she wouldn't have gone head over heels crazy if this ever happened, and Saumya was too preoccupied to listen. All of this was moot if she didn't show up, she was somehow convinced. She hated herself for her fixation. She loathed her inability to have fun that night.
One by one, the guests began to leave. All of them slowly bid adieu to each other and to their host, after thanking her for a quite pleasant evening, to say the least. Albeit she was a little inattentive, she had made enough arrangements to keep them occupied, and this house of merriments should have been called a moderate success, but alas, she wouldn't have it so in her head. She sat there alone, contemplating. "I didn't expect her to really show up," she thought out loud.
"After all, I did break her heart." She sighed, and chugged at the beer in her hand and threw the empty bottle in the heap of trash, leaving the cleaning for tomorrow; the environmentalist in her wouldn't let her just chuck all the glass bottles away which could easily be recycled. But that would have to wait, she was knackered. Deciding to call it a night, she got up, stretched her arms and turned to walk to her room. But her legs froze at the sound of the doorbell. Her heart started pounding. Could it be her? She slowly gathered her wits and walked upto the door, took a deep breath, and opened the door to the reflection she'd been hoping for.
A reflection in the most true and literal sense of the word. Saumya stood there, seemingly paralyzed, unable to communicate or move a muscle, as the mirror of her sins was finally shoved in front of her face, albeit voluntarily. She'd been thinking about this moment for a long time now. But now that the moment was here, she was dumbfounded. "Aren't you gonna invite me in, little sister?" The metaphorical mirror shattered and gave way to distinguishable realism which separated Saumya from her sister. Thirty seconds, still not a muscle twitching in Saumya's body.
"Did you invite me to just stare? You know, you could have just done that in front of a mirror." Her twin sister smirked. Saumya had forgotten how much they looked alike; but then, being a doppelganger was what drove them apart in the first place. "Hi, Sonya. Long-time no see," Saumya said, almost sheepishly. "Nice place you got here." Sonya's voice was spiced up and dripping with sarcasm. Saumya could feel the chilly fractiousness emanating from her in this Delhi summer. Not one to mince words, Saumya said, "I know you're still mad at me for that night, and I'm sor-" but was cut off before she could conclude her sentence and actually tell her with brevity just how sorry she was, and just how repentant she'd been over the years.
But it never got to that, as Sonya was evidently losing her cool sarcastic self and was losing it quickly. "WHAT? YOU'RE SORRY? YOU'RE SORRY THAT YOU SLEPT WITH THE LOVE OF MY LIFE IN COLLEGE WHILE PRETENDING IT WAS ME, AND BECAUSE OF THAT, EVEN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS OF DATING AND BEING MARRIED, WE'VE STRUGGLED TO FIND EMOTIONAL STABILITY AND OUR RELATIONSHIP TODAY IS IN TEETERS? Not at all, little sister." Her voice became eerily calm during the last sentence. Saumya had always hated when she was called 'little' by her ten-minutes-older twin sister. But now was not the time to get into trivialities. "I know I made a huge mistake. I have been regretting it all these years. But I was merely a kid back then, and I really liked him but you were already with him and I didn't know what to do and I was really drunk and I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am." There was a pang of guilt in her voice, which sounded almost genuine to Sonya. But she had also created her own cocoon over the years to shield herself from Saumya's weaved apologies if ever need be.
"I didn't come here to listen to your fake apologies, little sister." She sneered. "I just came to tell you to your sorry face that none of us needs you in our lives, not mom, not dad, and the least of all, Aryan and I." The mention of her sister's husband brought back some questionable memories to Saumya. Even though she jolted out of it pretty quickly, she couldn't shake away the realisation that she hadn't spoken to her parents in over five years as well. They'd barely kept contact with her till she graduated college and then had entirely gone into a communication blackout. She knew her mistake was unforgivable but was it so great that it warranted a life sentence away from all her loved ones? Of course, she didn't think so. She now realised why she missed her school years so much, and why she'd gone through so much trouble of preserving those seemingly perfect memories over the years.
It wasn't the stolen kisses in the corridors or the vandalised desks. She missed the time when her family was still in her life. She had created that cocoon that metamorphosed into a butterfly through which she duped herself into believing that she was missing those glorious years. But in truth, she just longed to be back in a time where she hadn't wronged her sister in such an irreparable way. "Please don't say that," she tried to make her case of loneliness one last time. "I miss all of you so much. I love you and I need you in my life."
Sonya's cocoon loosened a little, but she focused her energy on her hatred towards her twin sister, and said, "Too bad we don't need you. Look at you. Who needs someone who doesn't even have the guts to apologise to someone without inviting them over to a fake party filled with strangers? And you actually thought I'd come to your stupid charade? Grow up, little sister." Sonya turned around to leave, and said,"Don't contact us again. I won't be this nice next time." With that, she walked out the foyer and slammed the door to her sister's face.
Sonya heaved a sigh of relief as she walked to her car. She knew this was gonna be difficult. But she had needed to be strong and do this once and for all. She had been convinced that if she could watch her sister's face when she said all those things, she'd finally be able to get over the angst she'd caused her for all these years and she'd finally be able to trust again. But facing your own worst self is always difficult, and her twin sister was precisely that to her - her own worst self. So she had to be strong, and she had been, in her eyes.
Even when she felt that her sister actually meant what she said. She couldn't let her love for her sister that was stashed away somewhere in a corner of her heart lose focus of why she was there. I did the right thing, she told herself. Starting the ignition, she drove off into the polluted night. It was when she was halfway home that she began to have second thoughts. She should have felt better after this encounter. That's what she'd convinced herself. And that's why she'd not let herself get weak in front of apparently genuine repentance. But then, why didn't she feel better?
And more importantly, why didn't she feel at peace like the way she should have? Her mind began to meander to different things. She thought about what her husband had said to her so many times over the years. Forgiveness is the best way to move on, he would say. But her tenacity to hate her sister far exceeded her will to forgive her. But now, after the face-off that she was sure would make her feel better, she was somehow feeling worse. Was her husband right? She began to wonder. Should she atleast contemplate on the possibility of beginning to forgive her? Maybe.
Oh the turmoil! But that uncertainty was enough to make her turn around and drive back to Saumya's place. Still not sure what they'd talk about, she put her car in park and walked over to the door. She rang the doorbell and waited. No answer. She rang it again. And then she noticed the door. It was almost imperceptibly ajar, but it was unlocked all the same. She pushed it gently. The door creaked ever-so-slightly as it swung and made way for a sight that would haunt Sonya's memories forever.
There she was, her twin sister, her mirror image, her own worst self, amidst the heap of the recyclable beer bottles and the oh-so-famous yearbook, hanging lifelessly from the ceiling with a crude noose made out of a dupatta. She gave a horrifying shriek that pierced the silent starry night, and as her eyes focused on the wall behind her motionless sister, she gasped in appalling grief as she read what was written in big black letters across it - Tell my sister I'm sorry for everything.