She didn’t know when it had taken root in her heart, this darkness that grows day by day, snuffing out all the goodness and light. Was it the broken promises from the parents she should have been able to trust? Was it when she hid under the covers trying to escape the violence of her father towards her mother, all the while weeping her heart out and wishing he’d disappear, or that her mother would just shut up and not make everything worse? Was it when the lecherous men showed up at their door pursuing her mother when her father left and never looked back? Was it the man who took advantage of her teenage innocence and preyed on her naivety and need for a strong male presence? Or maybe it was the time she finally gave a man a chance to be the father she needed and he tried to kill himself without a thought to those who had grown to depend on him.
It was not one moment it seems; it was a series of events that crushed her, one small heel on her heart at a time. The humanity and imperfections of those around her destroyed her spirit completely, till all that was left was a hollow shell that stopped believing, in the goodness of the world and the goodness of those who inhabit it.
She knows in the deepest recesses of her soul that her light is not completely extinguished, but after a lifetime of disappointments, she no longer had the will to believe and to hope for a better future. She goes through life neither fully alive nor dead, made worse by the loss of the father that she never got to make peace with. The one aim in her life that fuelled all else. With his death and the lack of closure, forgiveness and redemption she truly lost herself to the darkness. It converged and engulfed her in its choking grasp, crushing the hope and optimism she possessed till it was a meagre sliver of a thing, that had no power.
She knows that there are people around her who love and care for her, but for too long had she lived with the expectation of disappointment. The one aim of fixing her relationship with the man she once called daddy was now beyond her reach and she no longer has a will to care for herself, to guard that tiny speck of light and fan it into the brightness that it was meant to be.
Her days are spent just barely living. It’s obvious in the way she eats, for nourishment alone, not for enjoyment; it’s obvious in the way she looks after her health, with an attitude of if I die, well then I die. It’s obvious in the way she dresses, with no care to how she looks, she hardly looks in the mirror. It’s obvious in the way she lies in bed doing nothing, no job to succeed at, no social life to speak of, no goals or dreams to work towards.
The darkness is a constant friend to her now, it has hollowed out her heart, her spirit and her will. It has crawled into the spaces where these existed, burrowing into the deepest recesses and rooting itself in them and intertwining and interlocking till she is choked from within. She tries at times to weed it out, but its hold is too strong.
So she just is, barely alive, existing but not truly living, without hope, without a future to look forward to, resigned to a fate she didn’t choose, but had thrust upon her by circumstance.
An image though is stuck in her head, one of a woman, smiling confidently at her, happy, joyous, accepting and acknowledging the love around her. She sits in a garden, beautifully dressed, a laugh on her lips, a twinkle in her eye, a mischievousness and sense of fun to her that is obvious. Confidence and purpose exudes from her and the air around her is alight. There are no shadows in her eyes, no hesitations in her actions, no self-doubt and no second-guessing.
The woman looks her straight in the eye and lifts her eyebrow as though to ask, “well, what are you waiting for?”. A part of her seems to recognise this woman and she takes a hesitant step towards her, but she sees the skies darkening in the horizon, rapidly moving towards them from the corner of her eye. She hesitates, afraid that another step would bring the darkness crashing in on them. Fear roots her to the ground she stands on and she shrinks away from everything she could be, retreating, letting the darkness win. The woman sits unfazed, she can notice the horizon, but she keeps her eyes fixed on her with belief shining in them, but she is too much of a coward, she turns away, to the familiar darkness and lets its cold embrace engulf her. The tiny bit of light that still remains inside her shudders and sputters but holds on.
“Next time,” it thinks to itself, full of the optimism and hope that she believes she no longer possesses.
“We’ll try again next time.”
She doesn’t hear though, not with the blanket of darkness that is her shield and curse.
Written by Chathurika Jinadasa
Illustration by DRG