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9 December 2010

Silent Night

Night falls. Dark, relentless, gloomy night. It brings no solace, no rest for the weary. My eyes are shadowed; grief and lack of sleep make a potent combination. It is bitterly cold outside, and I go for a walk, miles and miles without knowing where it is I am going. The dog pads alongside me, stopping once in a while to wonder what it is his mistress is doing. My excuse is that with my husband away and my older boy ill, my dog needs his walks. And indeed he does, but not necessarily at the dead of the night. I have put my younger one to bed, telling his brother to keep his eye on him, and the dog and I, we walk past the football fields, dark houses, a graveyard, the darkness of the lane broken rarely by the gleam of headlights.

I keep to the side, head bowed against the sharp, bitter wind, but not as bitter as my own thoughts. It does not matter where I go, fast or slow, they follow me, round and round, keeping up with my frenzied pace. I need to rest, my lungs are fit to burst, the cold knocking my breath, swirling it away in wreaths of white mist; my tears freeze on my lashes, the ones that escape are dried by the wind in salty, white stripes down my cheeks; it whips the colour of my face, until I look like the ghosts that perhaps reside in the graveyard, even death not giving them the peace they seek. I need to rest, yet I walk, faster, faster, as if stopping will be the death of me. Beside me, the dog patters on, knowing with that inner sense that animals have, that all is not well in his human's world. He pushes himself closer, trying to offer solace in his own doggy way, his breath warming my hands for an instant before the chill takes over again - that chill, however, is nothing compared to the chill in my heart. Suddenly, I see lights waver, hear the squeal of brakes, as the driver, seeing me too late, dark figure with a dark dog, anxiously tries to manoeuvre his way around us. The hound rears on his hind legs, barking wildly, knowing the danger that faces us all. Luckily for him, and for me, and for the driver, the oncoming lane is empty and the driver was able to go his way, unharmed, unharming. He honks his displeasure as he passes, scared out of his wits no doubt, and the dog speeds him on his way, barking insults. I, alone, am calm, the only visible sign being the tightening of my hands on the leash. Dying holds no fears; my fears are for the living. The dog slows me down, standing absolutely still until I am forced to stop, my breath whistling harshly through my partially open mouth; it's hard to breathe. Now that I have stopped, the cold chills my bones, entering though every pore of my clothing, until I think I will remain frozen where I stand. Now, he pulls at his leash, gently, leading me at a gentler pace, the chill is daunting. I look back and see that I have walked far, very far from home, and the thought of the walk back makes me quail. He senses my tiredness, a tiredness of the spirit more than the tiredness of the bone, and he refuses to stand still, pulling me along, sometimes, pushing his wet nose into the back of my knees, persuading me to put one leg before the other to make my way back home. I stumble along, slightly angry at his persistence. I do not want to go anywhere. We are back at the graveyard now, and I want to sit for a moment, to rest my weary spirit - what better place to rest in peace than among the dead? There is a sliver of a moon tonight, casting its paler than pale glow on the headstones, but the dog pushes on. Does he sense the restless spirits of the dead that people the place? It is those very spirits that call to mine, kindred souls that they are, like calling to like. I walk away reluctantly, pulled along at great speed by a dog who senses that to let me stay would be a grave mistake. I am walking mechanically, my brain taking no notice of where my legs are going, step by step toward the lights and warmth of my home.  Faithful hound is happy to be back. I remove the leash, and let him drink and he nuzzles me before heading off to the warmth of his bed. I stand for a moment, looking at him. If that is a dog's life, I want that. He is already asleep, tail tucked under his legs, curled up into a tight ball, the heating coils keeping him warm. I can hear him snuffling in his sleep, probably dreaming of chasing a squirrel up a tree in the morning. I sigh; daybreak brings me no solace, just more heartbreak. It is the waiting that will kill me.

© Anuradha Warrier 

4 comments:

  1. Hi Anuradha,
    I was going through your very nice blog (came here by way of Old is gold), and stumbled upon this confession... Of course I don't want to trespass where I shouldn't, but I just want to say that if this isn't a "literary" text, but the description of a difficult moment in your life, that I wish everything to brighten up, and what you have written here has struck a sympathetic chord in me.

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  2. Yves, thank you. It was personal, and it was my way of dealing with it. This is one of my unedited pieces in the sense that I wrote it directly on the blog itself. And didn't read it again before publishing it. :) Actually, this is the first time since I posted it that I have visited this post.

    Thank you so much for all the encouragement. Even though I write because I like to write, it helps when someone appreciates the output.

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  3. Gosh, I'm sorry! I seem to have stumbled into your own personal nightmare. I hope things are looking up now?

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  4. I don't revisit this post, Sridhar. Not usually. Yes, it was, is, a nightmare. One that I am continually reliving.

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