25 years gone…

Grandmother gone too soon

Every year I tell myself I will be fine on this day. Time should have done the healing job by now. It has been 25 years. Yet the failure of Time’s healing hits harder every following year. The hurricane of memories flood very ounce of my being despite the resistance I keep putting up to avoid the inevitable implosion that mark the 16th of April, year after year. As I put these words down, I am failing at stopping the stream of tears that are clogging my vision. I keep wondering if I will ever get over this feeling of abandonment, or stop wondering about the million ‘what-if-she-was-here’ moments or ever make peace with the fact that she is gone never to return. Will I ever move past the 10-year-old-me standing shocked at the sight of her lifeless body, and letting the numbness wash over her fragile emotional self? I never handled that grief well and keeps hurting more and more with each passing year. I wake up, on this day every year, and ask no one in particular – if it is ever going to be okay? And the only response I get, is an echo of my own question. My emotional self battles with all its might against the rational side not to accept the void. As if the very acceptance would be a complete betrayal of my love for her. 25 years and counting…. Doesn’t hurt any less than like it happened 25 hours ago. Yet I live in that distant hope of attaining a balance between the grief of her loss and living with her memories.

The adult in me tries to tell the 10-year-old-me to bottle it all up and move on with the innumerable meeting to attend for the day and endless to-do list piling away. The emotional tussle becomes tiresome until I slam the door on the outpouring pain and walk away to deal with life. I keep repeating it to myself like a mantra – I cannot bring her back and the memories are all that is there to hold onto.

But I cannot come to terms with it. May be one day I will. Today is not the day for it.

Lost and never found

The mist hung around, dense and impenetrable. There was a deafening silence to the place, like that of underwater. In addition to that, numb fingertips made it three non functional senses – vision, hearing, touch. The absence of smell hadn’t dawned upon her yet. The non functionality of the senses made her surrounding appear still. She tried looking through the mist for some clue of what this place might be. Her memory of how she landed here was non existent. She couldn’t remember what was the last thing she was doing before she opened her eyes to the present scene. She continued digging into her recent memory to trace some connection to her current state. Her efforts met with more silence. The lack of any sound on the inside and the outside was unnerving. She was clawing into her memories for a thread of recognition. 

The dark grey wall of mist made the scenery appear endless yet a claustrophobic restricted space. It did not help in figuring the time of the day. At the slightest noise of a cloth flapping, she turned around with a start, only to realise that it was her own skirt fluttering in the breeze. There was nothing else moving to indicate the slightest of the winds. Absolute silence enveloped her, along with the chilly damp breeze. It was as if the breeze was only around her body and did not extend to anything beyond. Her senses adjusting to the surroundings made her crave for some visual cue. She looked around for some sign of life… some sort of movement. Nothing obliged. The place didn’t feel right. She wasn’t sure what prickled the back of her mind but it gave her the shivers. 

Questions and doubts flooded her mind. What was this place? And more concerning, what was she doing here? How did she get here?

The only information she had- she was standing on hard ground. At a certain height, the mist started. So the ground had a wider view than at the eye level. The ground appeared damp and dark in patches. 

“Is that blood?”

A scream rose from her stomach, silenced at the throat for the fear of whatever had spilled blood here. Invisible beyond her nose, the mist hung around close… too close for comfort, blinding her from anything and everything around. She gathered her courage and took a step in some direction. She had to crouch to get a closer and clearer view of ground beneath her feet. Her hands found a cold wet metallic mound-like object which needed a slight tugging to pull it off the ground. A soldier’s helmet! Dark and shiny with the condensing dew on the metal. As if her popping joints might give her presence away in a hostile environment, she stood up as slowly as she could, and began to investigate the helmet in her hand. “But dew isn’t sticky”, she thought to herself and flinched at the realisation that it wasn’t condensed dew but blood. Partially dry, the blood along with grime stuck to the surface of the helmet. Reflexively she dropped it and followed a loud metallic clang. She froze at her place, anticipating consequences of her carelessness. Few moments later, the silence was back with a full blow.

Promising herself to be careful yet helpless in the face of curiosity, she bent down to see what is it that the helmet fell on as it hit the ground. And there it was. Glazing metal and partly buried, as if it had been there for more than a few months, lay a hip flask. The initials “B. D.” scraped on the side. She wondered what was the owner called, or was it a loved ones initials that he held onto. Momentarily lost in her imagination of what life did the owner of the hip flask might have had lived, she took the risk of indulging in weaving a life of the man, she assumed was referred to as BD. Unfortunately, possessions do not help in placing an identity to the respective owner and her sense of unknown geography didn’t help assuming a face. But the life of BD might have been similar to what a typical soldier’s life is like. Prolonged periods of absence from the family home and the sword of uncertainty hanging over his head at all times. More scenes danced in front of her eyes from the innumerable movies she had watched. Unsure of whether to leave the flask back in its place, she chose to carry it forward onto her next step. 

She stepped on something. A buckle. Probably, belonged to a helmet. It had bloody fingerprints on it. She ran her fingertips along those, that gave her goosebumps. Did the man survive or perish after he pulled this buckle off him? Did someone respond to his call for help? Did they bury him or never found him? But if they never found the bodies scattered in this place, where did they disappear? There was no sign of any life yet she knew all kinds of life forms had crossed this place. Fear of the unknown crept into her being slowly through every pore of her skin. “What is this place?”, she wondered. 

Calling upon the universal forces of bravery, she took a few more steps picking up a ring, a blackened disfigured coin of some sort, frames with shattered glasses, a torn wallet with creases of prolonged use but empty otherwise. None of those things gave her any confirmation of which part of the world she might be. Or what timeline was it? “How did she come here?”, the question was nagging her louder now.

A battlefield of sorts. That’s where she stood. A battle long over and she walked around rummaging the remains of the men who fought it. The mist seemed to fade away into distance with time. Yet all she saw was possessions of possibly dead soldiers scattered everywhere. The fact that men had been killed at the spot she stood, made her uncomfortable. Thankfully, the place had only belongings and not the corpses of the owners scattered. The very thought of dead bodies around made her knees wobble but she held onto whatever strength she managed and kept her senses wide open.

She racked her consciousness to remember news of any recent wars that she had come across. Though there was no logical explanation of how she had landed wherever she was, the threads of information were sewing the place for her bit by bit. The images from a visit to the World War II cemetery in a corner of the country surfaced up in her memory. And came along the overwhelming sadness that she felt while she knelt beside the graves of the men whose names stood evidence as their presence in the battlefields. Everything else lost. How did they identify bodies? She knew for some they had only put names because they couldn’t find anything else that belonged to them. How did the families react to not knowing where their sons or husbands had disappeared? When so many men died in wars, how did anybody know which side the body belonged to? Not the soldier but by the time they were discovered, it was a stiff cold body.

The silence that she thought had been following her suddenly started jarring her with the image of what had happened here. People running from every possible side, some wounded, some ready to charge, some battling for the last breathe, some waiting for help, some looking for shelter from the destruction. “Oh dear lord! Where have I landed?”. She didn’t know where to hide. She heard non stop firing from somewhere close. The vibrations that followed the explosions made it all feel more real than ever. Her heart clenched like a fist, the pain unbearable as if she was trampled by emotions overwhelming her of the loss and the tragedy. Her knees gave away and she shut her eyes tight hoping that this is all an illusion. Nothing happened. She screamed for the fear that she was drowning in. The chaos around her threatened to crush her and her paralyzed self struggled to pull her hands onto her ears in an attempt to shut the noise. It seemed to die away instantly. Except a distant hum which seemed familiar. Yet she didn’t dare open her eyes for the fear of what she might witness, for the fear of what she might not be able to escape, for the fear of the scene that she has no recollection of walking into, for the fear of dying and not being able to let her loved ones know, for the fear of being lost to an unknown cause, in an unknown world, in a battle uncalled for. Is that what the soldiers fighting here or any other battle felt when they knew they would never see their families? The concern of lost individuals and their lost identities plagued her…

(more later)…