The Ocean Lady
The Ocean Lady
For quite some time, I had been living with someone who wanted nothing more than my life. My name is Dr. Girish Raj. I disclose it to you for reasons I won’t disclose. Ok. That someone was a lady.
She came in everyday, wandered around the room, touched the furniture, sat on the same seat on which my patients sit. I found strands of her hair on my floor. In the evening, I walked out of my door and along the path. When I stopped by the pine trees at the gate, my mind also wandered. I turned to look at my window… and she would be there, hair tumbling over her back. Like ocean waves.
I do not go to the ocean because the feel of water against my feet increases my pulse rate. Still, that winter, I fell into a trap which, unfortunately, had nothing to do with the lady in my house. It was a patient called Mohini. She kept reminding me of someone I wanted to forget. For some reason, Mohini was suffocated in my visiting room. It would have been a mystery to any ordinary person. Since the clinic shut down, I have been using one of my own rooms where I keep the five-feet tall windows at least half-open.
“Take me out in the street.” Mohini pleaded. I took off my glasses and wiped them carefully. Mohini was suffocated by her desperation for more love, not air.
My one-way smile broke over my face, “Are you not scared…?”
“If someone sees you with me?”
“Good!” I nodded. I do not like nervous patients. Mohini and I went to the seashore for a few days. We giggled like children. Logic told me she was taking my intentions wrong. And that was very upsetting. I have never felt attracted to patients of any age and type because I know their illness.
Mohini had her last appointment two months ago. I had no other appointments that day. After she was gone, I had pressed my face into a pillow and wept most childishly in my adult life. Psychology says that weak people find it harder to break down. But as a psychiatrist, my mind is more like ordinary people. I am ashamed of crying.
Mohini was fifty-one. She had taken the news of her recovery melancholically –I was ending our association. In my thirteen years of career, I had never seen more self-control. People come here to get angry, shout, scream. Mohini walked out without doing any of it. Ever. Her eyes were like the eyes of dead people.
It was the second week of December. Cool air rushed in from my bedroom window. I forgot to shut it that night.
By next morning, I had a fever. The lady of my house did nothing except walking past my door now and then. For two days I kept moaning and fainting. My body was listless after the fever broke. By then, my only need was rest. Each part of me was aching. But I started seeing patients again. The only trouble was that dark shadows would suddenly fall on the floor and distract me during the sessions.
For ten days, a slight fever remained. Then things went further downhill. While I was brushing my teeth, my stomach churned. It was ten at night. I tossed away the brush, bent down and made myself sick over the basin. Things became hazy. In that condition, I turned towards my room. That much strength was not left in me. My hand felt the bedroom door… but my eyes did not see it.
In such cases, time is immaterial. It might have been a few minutes –or hours– before something brought me to my senses. The unmistakable touch of a woman. And rose perfume. I was lying facedown in the passage. “Who are you?”
“I am nothing.” She replied. “Mohini will die. You want this?”
“Mohini has recovered.” I hissed. I could not raise myself enough to look but her sugary voice was enough for me. “What do you want?”
“I want your life.” She replied. I was overcome by deep sleep.
Patients kept coming to me, without noticing that I was not Girish Raj anymore. I was a different man. My eyes were more unfocused and I said the same things over and over. I don’t know why my patients placed such blind trust in me. That was my only strength. If you trusted me for that one hour and paid me for it, I could also trust myself.
My house was not my house anymore. It was a cage where I was the slave of someone. That ‘someone’ kept repeating to me, “Mohini will die. Mohini will die.” She knew that I did not agree. Mohini was getting over-dependent on me and I thought I had taught her enough to let her free. It was my way of doing things.
But ‘someone’ did not let me free. One day, she called me up on the landline number at three in the morning… just to say that Mohini will die. “She won’t.” I replied and slammed down the receiver. At that very moment, I decided not to pick up any calls after eight in the evening. I more-or-less held on to my decision. Only to court more pain I had suffered in my entire life.
Well. It is not as if my patients have never committed suicide. Several have. I have even been to their after death rituals and cremations. But what is seemingly same to everyone else, was very different to me. Mohini had called me at two in the morning, an hour before she died. I had leaned forward and picked the phone for just a second. The moment the voice reached me, I hung up.
When I called back next morning, Mohini’s brother answered the call, his voice broken by tears.
Mohini had written a two-line suicide note-taking all responsibility for her decision. I was expecting to go to a crematorium but ended up at a burial. Mohini said religion was personal. She never told me she was a Christian. As I saw her face for the last time, a chill crept over me. Her face seemed to transform before my eyes into the intense, slightly duskier face of Anna.
“No!” I screamed in the middle of a crowd. “No.” I rushed forward and fell over someone. That was all.
When I woke up, I was chained in an asylum. The ocean lady was wandering around, soothing me with her soft voice. Finally I knew what had happened. Anna’s eyes were a trap because they did not express a single thing. She was the only patient I ever fell in love with and she gave me the prize for it in her death, two years ago. The ocean lady was Anna.