When she opened her mind to the figures and structures, she transformed. She became one with them. The chemical moieties danced around her. They frolicked within her memory. They teased her, fascinated her, and imbibed a passion in her. She felt alive. She felt purpose. She felt her true calling. The other students never quite understood what kind “law of attraction,” she shared with her books. They never understood her attachment to them. As her intelligent eyes raced across the crisp dark print, the tip of her pen flew across the paper, she knew, without a doubt, that the board examination results would be a success.
Every 16 year old waited anxiously on that mildly warm July morning to receive the results of the exams they had prepared for nearly three and a half years. She remembered the day when she opened that envelope to see her grades. The warmth of the achievement. The pride in her parent’s eyes. 97%! Her father would proudly announce to his friends. That’s how hard my daughter worked! She also remembered the day they announced which students won the scholarship. And that crushing disappointment. That feeling of falling into that bottomless pit. Her stomach plummeted. Her throat went dry. She was crushed. Let’s just say that she began to spontaneously self-destruct from that moment…
Suddenly everything lost its purpose. There was no need for her to have that passion anymore. And why should she anyway? She lost her fire. Instead she waited eagerly for the buzz on her cell phone. She would call back with childish happiness. With anticipation. Her heart pounded to listen to his sweet nothings. His empty words. Those few moments of temporary relief. Her parents did wonder with bewilderment as to how a diligent, responsible daughter had radically changed into an easily bad tempered teenager. A teen who seemed to have physically glued her cell phone to the palm of her hand. For her, however, everything was a distraction. Her first love. Her college application (whether it mattered or not). Her bulimic eating habits. Her disturbed sleep. Her failed test papers. Her miserable grades. It was a distraction. Most of all, she did not care.
Life transitioned into University. She found it difficult to concentrate on her books. Deep in her heart, she longed for it. She craved the smell of the adhesive on the paper. Oh how she desired to pick up her pen and make those beautifully written notes! She missed it. She missed her pen flying across the paper. Making points. Highlighting facts. She missed indulging into that personal involvement with printed ink. But the buzzing on her cell phone made her forget it all. She listened to his empty words time and again and forgot about that very important test she had the next day. From an ‘A’ grade student in Physics she could not score more than two and a half out of fifty. Sometimes she would smile cynically and think. How did I get here? How did I become this person?
Every time she spoke to him, his words seemed like beautiful tinkling bells. She longed for them every day. It had more power over her than anything else in the world. But those sweet nothings did not last very long. They became cruel and manipulative. They hurt her. They felt like a thousand stones were falling on her. But she still clung to her love desperately. He displayed those narcissistic tendencies by putting her down. He enjoyed making her feel like she meant nothing. Deep down, she knew the sincerity of her feelings and the extent of her trust. It was one thing that felt she had a purpose. Sometimes he spoke of other women. She endured that too. She took the abuse. Her sensible self knew she did not have to. But somehow she had gone into such a terrible whirlpool of destruction, it was impossible to get out. What was even worse, she felt like a complete and utter failure almost all the time. Even when he never said anything.
Three years later…
She smiled as she opened her eyes that morning. It was a good day. The past was behind her. The future was going to be beautiful. She was going to make an effort to find her old self back. Yes. Today was the day. She would help dad with the packing and then play Caroms with Nathan in the evening. She smiled contently as she dismantled that computer table. She planned the rest of the day in her mind, without knowing that things could change within seconds.
Few hours later…
She was being wheeled into a long corridor. She had been asleep. Her eyes squinted, trying to adjust to the neon lights. What was that horrible ringing sound in her ears? She tried to recall what had happened. The desk. She was dismantling it. Where am I? She thought. What am I doing in this strange gown? Why am I lying down? Why can’t I feel my legs? She closed her eyes. It was a bad dream.
She opened her eyes, drowsily. It took her a few minutes to register that she was in a hospital ward. An IV was connected to her hand. What’s happened to me? Am I dying? She panicked. She began to cry. She pulled back the white covers and saw her useless legs. She tried to sit up but the sharp pain in her injured spine had her gasping. Then she began to remember. She was dismantling that desk when it happened. The paralysis. She had fallen on her hip and dislocated it when her legs betrayed her. She sobbed bitterly as if her heart would break. No. This can’t happen. I have to go home. I have to play Caroms with Nathan.
One year since the recovery…
She sat in the airy bungalow with a blanket on her lap. There was nothing to do. Her body did not comply like it once did. In all aspects she was broken. She regained the strength in her legs, but her mind, had shattered. She watched every day, her happy classmates. Graduating in black gowns. Adorning in jewellery and getting married. Once in a while she thought of him. He had a new wife now. Did he ever love her at one point? Perhaps not. She got up and limped painfully to her cupboard and pulled out a needle from her purse. She pricked her vein with a quick swift moment. Blood spurted out. Brilliant Red. The essence of life. She sighed as she watched it form a round red dot and trickle onto her wrist. The pain was a distraction. Self-Mutilation was a part of depression, after all.
Day after day passed as she watched the sun rise and set from the window. She was being cared for around the clock. Medicines came in time. A nurse came in often to feed her and change her. She had not stepped out of the house in an entire year. How could she? She could barely stand for 10 minutes. I wish I had died, she thought. Death is more merciful than this. She limped to the cupboard to get that needle. As she opened it, a magnet in the shape of praying hands, slipped off the steel surface of the cupboard. She bent painfully to pick it up. She traced the words engraved on it with a finger. “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears.” She smiled. It felt strange. She had not smiled in a long time. And then she noticed the newspaper that had fallen under it. She picked it up and studied it. She could feel that excitement returning. Yes. This is the answer, she thought. That purpose. The rush of belonging. The adrenaline. She knew what to do.
Those chemical moieties started to dance. It picked up her weak legs and made her sway in a steady rhythm. She experienced the covalent bonding. She challenged the ionic. She was lost in a spiral stairway of DNA. She watched proteins bind and dissociate. Her pen flew across the paper again. She had found herself. Yes, she thought. This is saving me. This is the only way I can heal. The proteins continued their synergistic trance. They bound and dissociated repeatedly. Sometimes they were constantly bound, drastically causing their synergy to be disturbed. It reminded her of herself. Her self-destruction. She traversed into the labyrinths of theory and concept. She indulged into the intricacy of nature’s design. She forgot her pain and her ailment. She was enlightened by the poetic methods of science. She understood that her detachment from what she truly belonged to had been killing her. She had been dying.
Picking up the broken pieces of her life was no easy task. Her overwhelming distresses and heart break made her see things through a better definition. She smiled as she looked at her Master’s degree. How did I achieve this? She looked up at the graduating class of Master’s students as she spoke through the microphone. It seemed like yesterday when I was bound to the bed unable to walk. But here I am, metamorphosed. She had managed to evolve from the state she was, by seeking the redemption she needed from her books. This was her second chance. Her new life.
As much as the reality of my situation tried to swallow me, one day I decided to overcome it. I had wings. All I needed to know was, no matter what life threw at me, all I had to do was decide. Decide when I was ready. Ready to fly.
– Evelyn Matheson Lewis