Fiction Park

The living nightmare

  • How long does it take for someone to get over a trauma?
- Aaswini Gupta
There were some days when she did not think about the night at all, and there were other days when one thing or the other kept triggering her memory and brought it all back to her again

Nov 5, 2017-The alarm woke Neelima up just in time from a dream that she was seeing with her eyes wide open. The nights were only getting longer, while the days weren’t getting any better. 

“Neelima! You’re 16 already. Could you act a little responsible and help yourself in the kitchen?” she heard her mother scream.  

Sleep deprived and late, she scurried like she’d been doing for some time now. 

Neelima wasn’t always clumsy and slow. Her perpetual distraction was a result of an incident that took place a few years ago. But, nobody knew what she had undergone. And nobody had cared to ask. 

***

When her parents decided to go out on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram for the family’s well-being, Neelima and her little brother were left back home with their uncle. The uncle had promised her parents that he’d protect the kids with his life.  

With the parents gone for a while, the kids were relieved. They knew that the uncle wouldn’t flood them with rules like their parents always did. All they cared for was the fact that they could cling to their gadgets and TV screen for endless hours. 

Neelima and her brother were beginning to enjoy the new routine. The uncle would come home late at night after a long day’s work with bags of take-away food in both his hands. The three would eat till they were full, watch some TV, and call it a day. 

It was all well and fun until one day the routine steered away from the usual. Neelima and her brother were just snuggling in, when the uncle appeared at the door, “Neelu, could you come out for a sec, I need to talk to you about something.” 

What could he possibly want to talk about, Neelima wondered. As far as she knew, the only mischief they had committed for the day was watching three hours of TV. 

The uncle put his hand on her shoulder and led her to the guest room. “Sit,” he made Neelima sit on his bed before he started the conversation. To Neelima’s surprise, the uncle repeated the same questions that he had already asked her earlier that night, “Is everything okay at your school? Have you been handing in your assignments on time?” 

As she answered sincerely, the uncle stroked her hair and caressed her cheeks. If he wanted to talk, why was he not paying attention to anything she said? Neelima’s instinct told her something was wrong and odd about the conversation, but she couldn’t put her finger on what.

In no time, the discomfort amplified and before she realised, his hands were moving all over her body. He was looking right into her eyes, as his hands slipped under her vest. He was giving her a very warm smile, as she sat there petrified, unable to move. 

Neelima was 12 years old. She did not like how the uncle touched her, but she couldn’t protest. She couldn’t tell if it was love or something else. 

When her eyes started dilating, the uncle stopped for a brief second, and Neelima dashed out of the room and went right inside her blanket. Even though she was sweating, goosebumps covered her body.

The room was filled with pin-drop silence when she felt her bed squeak a little. Somebody had climbed on her bed. And that somebody was now under her blanket. 

She couldn’t tell if it was a dream, but if it was, it felt worse than a nightmare. It was him, again. As she lay there petrified, he moved his hands across her body in the same pattern and whispered, “It is okay, just go to sleep.” 

She didn’t remember when she felt asleep, but when she woke up there was no sign of the uncle. The sparrows had started chirping outside her window and the sunlight had filled the room. Everything, except for her, felt exactly like the last day. Even the uncle seemed unaltered. He too behaved exactly like how he did the previous day—like nothing ever happened. 

But when he said, “It’s okay Neelu, just eat your breakfast,” she realised, something had happened, every little thing had happened.

What she felt the other night clung to her all day long, and every day after. But, no one ever asked her why the once chirpy girl suddenly started keeping all to herself. 

...................

How long does it take for someone to get over a trauma? Four years were definitely not enough for Neelima. There were some days when she did not think about the night at all, and there were other days when one thing or the other kept triggering her memory and brought it all back to her again.

She never stopped questioning if it was a nightmare, but it was all too vivid. Every time she relived the night in her head, she felt like she was going to explode. She felt dizzy in the head. Some nights she soaked the pillow with her tears. And when the uncle showed up at home, she just disappeared into her room and shut everyone out. 

Her parents often complained that she was being impolite, but little did they know that she was horrified. 

If only there was a way she could get out the truth. If only there was a way she could punish the uncle. If only there was a way she could pour her heart out to somebody. But there wasn’t.

So she lived on, sleep deprived and fumbling through her day, unable to shake off the past. There was a time when someone asked her what she wanted to be in life that she jumped with excitement and began listing off all the things that she would do, all the places that she would go. But now that very question seemed like a mockery—Neelima didn’t care about tomorrow, surviving today was daunting enough. 

Published: 05-11-2017 09:53

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