By Terveen Gill
The dark glasses and the invisible cloak of ‘stay away from me’.
We all wore them in some way or the other when we first entered this white-walled hall. It was a cleansing ground. A place for gradually dismissing the burdens we carried – whiten those blackened souls.
Some did it better than others while some resisted, clutching the hurt so that it killed them even more.
Isn’t that the reason she and the rest of us had run into one another? Comrades in suffering had a nice ring to it.
Death had done what life was incapable of – bringing people together.
She was the newest member. Her loss merely two months and five days old.
That’s what the group head had told us in his soft yet meticulous tone.
Her name is Bella Townsend, a single mother who lost her daughter to suicide.
The silence that often followed such statements wasn’t disrespect or ignorance. It was the solemn tribute paid by those who had endured similar devastation. A loss so personal, shocking, chaotic, and unreal that pinching oneself every ten minutes was the only way of knowing that the nightmare was real.
She sat on the metal folding chair just beside the coffee machine. I always wondered why new recruits were stationed there. In case, shots of caffeine were required to break a crying spell.
I remember my first time and the sobs that had battered my chest. My husband had died in a road accident, run over by a car while jogging.
Exercise had literally killed him.
I wanted to laugh like a madwoman precisely the way I had when the thought had first crossed my mind. But today wasn’t about me and my unresolved trauma.
‘Hello. I’m Bella.’
Her voice was calm, sweet, enduring.
We waited, silent, expecting more, but her sharing was over.
She relaxed her shoulders, bowed her head, her eyes staring through the black lenses at her hands in her lap.
The group was adept at handling sudden pauses. Our motto – never let silence extend. So other members jumped in to express their thoughts and feelings. Next, would be the verbal accounts of progress and healing.
She hardly moved during the entire meeting. An hour of staring at one’s hands couldn’t be comfortable. Sorrow had a way of ushering in the abnormal.
When it was time to leave, I couldn’t let her go without saying something. A gentle tap on the shoulder made her turn and remove her glasses. Her eyes were red slits between puffy and swollen flesh.
I swallowed hard and crumbled inside. The words came to me naturally.
‘I’m so sorry. I don’t know what it’s like to be you.’