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Pencils

By Nikhil Jain

He (hands her a letter): This one’s for you. Don’t read till I say so.
She (takes it): Hello. As always, I won’t.

He: I guess today’s our last meeting.
She: Our last professional meeting, I must say. A doctor and patient can always meet after the patient gets cured.

He (notices a long tattoo that issues from her sleeve): Nice tattoo by the way! Is it new? Did you get inspired by Prison break?
She (hiding it and smiling): Naah! It’s nothing like that. It’s been there for a long time now. Just reminds me of something. Would you like to have some coffee?

He: Yes, definitely. But…I would love to have it with you after our sessions end.
She: We’ll see to that too. But right now you should have some. (Hands him a coffee cup)

(Boy starts to sing)

She: Um… Even though you seem to be singing from the bottom of your heart, with the purest of intentions, I must say, it is terrible!
He (stops singing and takes a sip of the coffee): Oh sorry! I just got carried away. Aren’t you having coffee?

She: No, I don’t like to have it at this time of the day.
He: Okay. Throw that pencil. Use this pen to jot down your notes.

She: Why? It’s convenient with this. You know scientists could have used a pencil to write on zero gravity rather than wasting time and money on making special pens. And you are a student from Cornell, aren’t you? You would have used loads of pencils to draw.
He: Well, it seems as though someone has done their background research on me.

She: Momma says that it’s always good to do background research on unknown guys. Once, there was this one guy in my college who would just follow me everywhere. He would be there when I went to classes and back to the hostel. I would go the canteen and he would always be sitting there; staring silently. Then do you know what happened? In the library, he sat in front of me and... Hello! Are you listening to anything or am I just blabbering?
He: Yes, of course I’m listening.

She: What happened?
He: Nothing. I was listening; it’s my job to listen.

She: What were you thinking? You look a bit tensed today...What's the matter?
He: Nothing… it’s just general everyday stuff; A few decisions to make, a whole lot to ponder upon and decide.

She (looks at the photographs on the table between them): These photographs. They seem familiar. Who are these people?
He: Just friends. You know; Memories of the past that survive and still affect your present.

She: Can I be of any help? Come on! In the past ten weeks you’ve told me every single incident of your life. Have you been taking your pills lately?
He: Yes, I’ve taken them. Tell me how shall we start today?

She: I suggest the same way we did it the first time. Tell me the whole story?
He: It might seem funny and I can guarantee you wouldn't believe a single word of it. No one does.

She: Look at me. See, I trust you and I believe you more than anything in this world. Please, carry on; from the beginning.
He: I don’t think you have the courage to listen and even if you have it you’ll hate me as a person after listening.

She: Nothing like that would happen. Tell me your story.
He: Well it would seem unbelievable at all… I don’t know how to say it or explain it to you.

She: Keep it simple.
He: I don’t like pencils. I hate them and anything written by them.

She: So, you have a fear of pencils?
He: Do you know how fear arises in a human mind? Or should I ask you what exactly fear is?

She: I’d like to know your definition.
He: First, answer my question. Have you ever felt real fear?

She (becomes nervous and distracted): Yes I have… but it’s you we are talking about.
He (turns off the lights suddenly): Let me tell you what exactly fear is. Imagine yourself as a 10 year old child. Your mother is not well and so both of your parents are away at the hospital. Its dark out there and you’re at home alone. The home is quieter than you can ever remember. The front door is suddenly thrown against the door frame. You see it and hear it at the same time. A feeling grabs you, pierces your body and goes away. Your breathing speeds up, your heart races and muscles tighten but you are helpless.

She (turns on the lights): Have you ever been to Goa?
He: Yes, I have. How does it come into the picture?

She: Think about it! The calm beaches spreading till eternity and the aura of peace. Imagine sitting on the sand while the waves just touch your toes and run away. Think of the pretty ladies, the cold beer and the alcohol.
He: If this is an attempt to calm me down, I do appreciate it..

She: Thank you. I am glad it worked.
He: Fear isn’t your brain’s reaction to stimuli. It is much more than that. When you feel it then only you get to know about it, young lady.

She: So are you afraid of other sharp objects? A needle or anything of that kind…
He: No, no… it’s not like that. I am not suffering from achimophobia, the fear of sharp objects; only pencils. It’s just pencils that I don’t like; anything written or drawn by it.

She: It’s curious and peculiar too. Do you see the painting over there? Go ahead. Have a look at it. Tell me if you like it.

(He moves and smiles on seeing the painting)

He: It’s very beautiful. You know, I also used to paint as a child. I remember once I painted me and a friend of mine: An open bridge along which there was the dawn over the desert. The other side was raining. Two utterly not so good scenes but when the rays of the sun from the right combined with the raindrops from the left they formed a beautiful rainbow over us.
She: That seems wonderful and familiar too. Do you still have it? And, how’ll you interpret this one?

He: This one... A pacified sea as if it is the silence before the storm. The dull colour of the trees suggests destruction. The old rustic house as if it’s abandoned for ages. No sunlight and so no ray of hope.
She: I never thought of it that way. For me, it’s just a normal winter scene. See, how from a constructive mind you’ve changed into a silent admirer and a critic.

He: Change is the only constant in life and change is inevitable.
She: Amen to that! The paintings you see, once they were made initially by a pencil only. And see when things changed they were made more beautiful. Why would one see the darkness and not the overall picture? 

Photo credit - Manushree Gangwar

He: If you stay in the dark for a long time, you get adjusted to it and then the light pains you. It’s as simple as that and the same happened in this case.
She: So where does this darkness come from?

He: Transition from being the sufferer to the one making others suffer. The only difference is that while I was innocent others weren’t.
She: I guess everyone thinks of themselves as being innocent from their frame of reference. Someone has to take the vantage point to sort it out.

He: What do you expect from a 10 year old kid except innocence?
She: I know it is difficult for you; to live through the pain, the suffering all over again. But try trusting me. I am here for you. Please try.

He: Will you help me?
She: Yes, I will.

He: It’s a long story. I cannot block out the sad memories of my childhood. It contains an abusive mental person. People used to say that he was very creative. Our society hailed him as a genius. He taught me drawing and painting. I was very close to him and trusted him. My parents trusted him too. When my mother was ill, they left me with this person. He would ask me to make tea for him.
She: What was his name?

He: He’s no more alive so it doesn’t matter anymore. I used to hide in my bedroom, feeling helpless, scared and alone. I remember not being able to bring any friends over at my house. When no one was around, he would prick my body with pencils saying that he would paint beautiful picture on my body. He never touched me with his hands but he molested me with pencils. I don’t know what pleasure it gave him. I can’t forget. I can’t forgive. No matter how hard I push myself, I cannot look back without feeling heartache and misery. I still can’t move forward.
She: Did you ever try to run?

He: The thought came to my mind many times but I didn’t have the courage to run or to tell anyone. I thought that I wasn’t strong enough to run and that someone would grab me from behind.
She: Come with me, I’ll walk with you.

He: Where?
She: Somewhere, where there will be no pain, no fear and no grief, only beautiful pictures that we’ll paint with your colours. Where there will rainbows all over the picture and not only over the bridge. Some place only we know and where no one else will come. We’ll make our own world, free from the burdens of this world. A place where I’ll make coffee for you and you’ll write for me. And then we’ll walk into the sunshine, collect the rosebuds hand in hand and sleep in the moonlight. A place belongs to you and me - Only you and me and happiness.

He: It’s tough coming out of it. Thank you.
She: It’s beautiful to think how things will change after this session. I am so excited about the idea of us being together.

He: Walking into the sunset seems and feels too good to imagine. Do you know why? It’s because one sees the sky and the sea meet at the horizon. But does that happen in reality? No, never. It’s just an illusion.
She: No dear, it isn’t. I won’t let it happen this time.

He: I am not yet finished. There is more that I need to tell you. Now I would like to tell you about my sins - The ones people think I should be guilty for, but I am not.

She: Is this some sort of confession?
He: Kind of.

She: Okay. Tell me…
He: I have a request.

She: What is it?
He: It’s too bright. Please turn off the lights. I don’t want you to see me while I speak of my crimes.

She (nervous): Don’t you see a ray of hope in your crimes?
He: It’s only in darkness that it takes over me.

She: Why don’t you feel guilty of your sins?
He: Because people say that an extended period of grief causes mental illness. Switch the lights off now.

(The lights are switched off)

He: I grew up with all this fear. But it made me stronger. The fear turned into fury. Anger developed in me gradually. All I could seek for was revenge. I planned out things. It was unbelievable how the person, whom I had trusted, had done that to me. I purchased numerous pencils of vivid colors that day. The…

She (interrupts him and takes over the narration): The very next day when he came, revenge had taken over my pain. I decided that I wasn’t the one being the canvas this time - He would be the subject matter and I would decide his fate. They say that poison is the weapon of the ladies and I agreed.

I put rat poison in his tea. In a few moments, he was drowsy and fell asleep on the couch. I had already covered the pencils with poison too and made him swallow them - 73 pencils exactly. I remember how I put them inside his mouth. He has no chance to survive at all. Nobody knew and I dragged his body to the society dustbin late in the night. It took four hours of hard work but it provided me with relief for several years to follow.

He: If you felt relief then why didn’t you stop there?
She (furious): What do you mean that I didn’t stop? What are you trying to say?

He: You see these pictures. These aren’t my friends - They are yours. This young girl used to work at your call center. And this young guy had just been promoted. What wrong had they done to you?
She: Ohhh. That guy cheated on me. He said that he would be with me for ever because I was his life and he made me all sorts of promises. When I told him of my past and the pain I had endured, he stopped talking to me. Then he dumped me for my best friend leaving me to pick up all the pieces. And that girl - she didn’t had the courage to tell me. When I found out about them they didn’t even talk to me. But I was nice to them. So you know how this modern generation is crazy for alcohol? I called them for a party and the alcohol was diluted with rat poison and painted with pencils. This tattoo which you see, it’s not prison break stuff. It was a reminder for me to destroy those two people. That’s why I had it painted it on my body.

He: Calm down. Think of yourself as a bird flying through the blue sky filled with balloon - like clouds. Feel small droplets of water falling, brushing your skin while you head for the horizon to meet someone who’s waiting there for you with a bouquet. It has been a beautiful end to a painful journey - An end which will serve as a new beginning for you and for that someone special.

(He turns on the light)

She: I guess our appointment is over. Shall we plan further?
He: Not yet. You’re not alright yet. I can’t give you a clean chit. You have to continue your pills for two more weeks.

She: Looks like someone forgot who’s the doctor here?
He: I am in charge here and you have memory problem - for some reason you tend to remember the bad memories more than the good ones. It’s me who is the doctor from Cornel University. See this card? And what you’re holding in your hand is not a letter, it is your prescription. You still aren’t yourself and you need some more time.

She: But this picture of yours – Did you paint it? And those memories... how do you know them?
He: It’s a long story. Your aunt brought you here 10 weeks ago. You’ve told me all these stories during the past sessions and that’s why I never knew the minute details. You’ve progressed well and you’ll be fine. It’ll just take some more time. Believe me. Trust me. Have faith in God.

She: But once this is over, you’ll be mine? We’ll still have our own world? Say yes. We’ll go far from this world and have our own wooden house with a balcony.
He: I am sorry but I am not sure if that will happen.

She: You liar! You bastard! You cheat!. You used me and broke my trust like that bastard who spoiled my childhood. Like my ex-lover. Like my friend. You’re just another one of them!
He: Calm down and listen to me. This was all for you. You’re a wonderful person. And I...

She: Lies! All lies! I trusted you like a fool. I loved you and you played me.
He: I keep telling you and I said this to you in the last session too… (He falls suddenly)

She: Get lost. Get lost from my life. You liar! You said that I remember only bad memories. Guess what? I remember the last session too. You filthy liar, that shall be the last coffee you will ever have.

He lay dead on the floor.

 

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