Updated: Mar 23, 2021
It was cold. So cold that I could feel the essence of its emptiness seeping into me ever so painfully. I was enveloped by numbing darkness as if I had been robbed of my vision and dread was weighing down on me. All I wanted to do was let go.
I was standing in front of the entrance to the public library under the glorious rays of the afternoon sun. I have no idea how I got here but that wasn’t a cause for concern right now since I often dwell upon scenarios that I create in my head to escape the monotony of life and lose track of my present reality. My teachers diagnosed it as ADHD. My parents called it absent-mindedness. My classmates labelled it the freak show. And I knew it as an unhealthy coping mechanism, one which, ironically, kept me sane.
I walked inside the library, closed my eyes, took a deep breath of it’s distinctive yet familiar musky scent and sighed. This enormous grey brick building with its fancy arches, French windows, endless wood shelves of books of all varieties, and secret reading dens was the epitome of architectural beauty. It had this soothing ambience characterized by the warm smiles from the librarians, the quiet chatter of the various book clubs and the faint sweet notes of the piano that wafted in from the building next door. I had been coming here since I was 7 and over the years, it had become my safe haven, my happy place and my true home.
I shouldn’t have left home. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t. I hear faint cries from a distance. Cries for help. Everything feels so wrong.
I opened my eyes to see an awfully quiet library before me. The lights were turned off creating an eerie atmosphere. The tables that were frequented by the regulars laid vacant and the floors looked spotlessly clean as if no one had ever walked on them before. Had I barged in during break time? They usually locked the doors if that were the case but perhaps they must have forgotten today. All for the better though, because having the entire library to myself, even for a short while, was a dream come true. Taking great care not to alert anyone of my presence, I tiptoed towards the section designated for new releases but there was just one book on the shelf. A leather bound book, that bore a striking resemblance to the colour of blood.
I never realised how beautifully raw the colour red was till now. Its graceful flow over my body had captured me into an ineludible trance.
I felt like the book was calling out to me, as if my name were etched in it. The book had no title or any fancy names embellishing its spine which further piqued my interest. I sat down on the antique wooden rocking chair nearby with the book in hand and settled down, ready to hear the story that it seemed to want to tell me so desperately.
I could sense the aura of despair around me as I tried to cling onto whatever strength that had kept me going all these years. Memories flashed before my eyes.
As I began to read, my eyes were drawn to the peculiarity of the text. Contrary to the usual, the text was in longhand rather than fine print and took the form of diary entries. The entries were of a teenage girl whose childhood trauma was apparent from her views. She wrote frequently and most of her entries revolved around her dynamics with her parents, who were respectable individuals in their respective careers and rarely had time for her. All they cared about were achievements and she had none to her name. Consequently, her parents had grown indifferent to her and utilised every opportunity to call out her shortcomings. But only in the hopes that someday she would at least attempt to live up to their legacy.
Her teachers were harsh and her classmates ridiculed her. She craved for affection, for company, for someone to understand her, but she was denied even those simple comforts of life. The entries continued to speak of her sleepless nights, her muffled whimpers during classes, the flawless carvings on her legs when she couldn’t bear the pain anymore. She had found solace in jotting down all the thoughts that she repressed in the deepest corners of her heart, in her diary. Tears welled up in my eyes and I felt a lump in my throat. Her emotions resonated with me, as if she were some part of myself.
After countless entries of her torment, the tone of her writing took a sudden turn as Dr. Reed, the new school counsellor came into her life. Unlike the previous counsellors, Dr. Reed was the first person to listen to what she had to say. Within a short span of time, Dr. Reed became her closest companion and was the one who suggested that she actually open up to her parents about her problems. She laughed it off during the time but the thought of it felt liberating to her.
I turned the page curious to know what happened next only to find a blank page. I frantically flipped through the remaining pages but there were no other entries. How could a book end like this?! Did she take Dr. Reed’s advice? Did she open up to her parents? Did she find the happiness she deserved? I needed to know what happened to the girl and what became of her. I felt a throbbing pain on the back of my head and my ears began to ring as the ambiguousness overwhelmed me. No, this couldn’t be happening…
This couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t how I wanted things to end. If only I could go back in time and take back the words I said. The actions I did. If only I could erase time.
Without wasting time, I rushed to the computer lab to know more about this book and its author. I sat down at the first computer I saw and quickly opened the browser only to see a familiar dinosaur bouncing on the screen. Argh! There was no internet! I went from computer to computer, trying to find one that worked but they wouldn’t even turn on. I was about to leave when out of the corner of my eye, I saw my name on one of the folders in the first computer. I sat down again and opened the folder to surprisingly see hundreds of my photos—photos that I had never seen before in my life. Did I have a secret admirer? Or a creepy stalker perhaps? Wearily, I went through photograph after photograph. There were happy ones, sad ones but the one that caught my attention was one taken very recently, one where I looked angry.
“I HATE YOU!” I screamed at my parents. I was sobbing uncontrollably but neither of them made any effort to console me. I was delusional and attention seeking, they had said. I was wasting their time with my antics, they had said.
Tears stream down my face and I make no effort to control them. Everything was so clear now and I could fit together all the broken pieces of what my mind had been trying to tell me all this time. My dawn of realisation was disrupted by a whir as a single piece of paper came out from the fax machine. I took the paper with shivering hands and walked to the entrance of the library. I had two choices before me. I could either walk out of here without a second glance or I could read what was written in that fax. I stood before the glass doors which showed no reflection, and began to read. It was another diary entry written in very familiar handwriting. I knew it was the ending that I had been searching for. The one that I already knew.
The entry was written by her parents. The girl had talked to them, more than she had talked to them in her entire life. She told them everything, everything that she had buried all these years. The excruciating pain, the sadness, the loneliness. Everything. She let it all out in the hopes that her parents would finally understand her. Instead, they scorned her. They saw it as a regular teenager acting out. Unable to take their unsympathetic words, she broke down before them in rage and left the house. She didn’t make it far, she was hit by a drunk driver. They came to know of the accident and found her lying on the road, soaked in blood and gasping for breath. She was trying to say something but they couldn’t make out what it was in the frenzy of taking her to the hospital. They tried to save her but it was too late.
It was afterwards that they came upon her diary. Each entry pierced through their hearts as they realised the agony that their daughter had gone through all these years. They cursed themselves for not being there and for turning her down when she needed them the most. They couldn’t shake the guilt that they were the ones responsible for her death and were completely shattered. They wrote this entry in the hopes, that somewhere, somehow their daughter would read this and know how sorry they were for failing her. They wished that she would finally find the peace she deserved, something she never got while alive.
The paper slipped out of my hands and with a heavy heart, I smiled and did the only thing that would set me free. I said the words that I couldn’t complete when I had decided to let go.
And I finally found my peace.