I Don’t Know What it’s like to be You

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.’

27 comentarios sobre “I Don’t Know What it’s like to be You

  1. ‘I don’t know what it’s like to be you’ – the best thing the person in your story could have said, Terveen. I hate it, when folk say ‘I know exactly how you feel, been there, done it’ – loss, trauma, are always personal and need to be acknowledged as that. It’s not a game of ‘my loss was worse than yours’. Your story deeply resonated with me. You’ve got a gift of leaving your readers with things to ponder, long after that last line.

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    1. Thank you so much, Britta. We all grieve in our own ways and there’s never a right or wrong to it. There are no comparisons, so let’s just be real and express it. I know that your feelings and understanding on such topics is logical and deep which is remarkable. Personal experiences are hard lessons that leave us with much learning. Let’s not be lost in emotion but flow with it…

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  2. It’s a beautifully painful write, Terveen. It reminds me that while we can empathize with each other, and show each other compassion, we can never truly know what it’s like to be another human being, with their specific blend of conditioning, and life experience. Sad, illuminating, and excellently crafted. 😊

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  3. A story that’s high on agony. Isn’t it something that you don’t write often Terveen? I am accustomed to expecting a twist in your stories (and plenty of humor) that I was very keen to know what twist you had this time 🙂 But this one is different. High on emotions with the agony captured effectively. Well written Terveen.

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    1. Thank you, Vignesh. I’m often caught between my brain and heart. It just depends on which one wins the tug-of-war. Sadness is something I relate to quite well. We all probably have our own experiences. Will return with humor too. 🙂

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      1. Dhanyavaad Terveen.
        Yes, we were close. We spoke once a week at least. I knew she was not well, but I didn’t know the signs then. Now I do. And I think I may have helped a couple of people get over it. 😀
        The darkness is always there lurking. But once you know about the darkness, it’s easier to stay in the light.
        You too stay in the light… 🙏🏻

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  4. As I read this, a silent stillness descended upon me. There’s a tremendous weight attached to sorrow, and only the person affected by it can carry it. The last line is the truest of truths: we can never know what it’s like to be someone else. Your approach to this tale is beautifully and delicately done, handled with such compassion. When we hurt, that’s what we need: compassion. Sorrow isn’t a competition, that’s for sure. We all suffer and we all share the human condition. Sometimes we overstep boundaries when trying to comfort those we love or even those we’ve only just met. Good intentions, of course, but it can cause more pain. Goodness, Terveen, you have a magical touch. This story will stay with me for a long time. 🙂

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