The Scary Midnight
The Scary Midnight
When I reached near her tent, I saw the woman who had told me about her the previous day, waiting outside anxiously.
“Oh I am so glad you have come here, doctor. She had just opened her eyes and asked for water. I thought you could see her but by the time I sent somebody to call you and you came here, she seems to have dozed off. I think you can still see”, she said.
My steps slowed down. She was still not awake. I did not know what to do. I could not inform Dr. Reddy then. I decided to take a look at her. I entered inside her tent again. She seemed to sleep well. Even when her eyes were closed, I could sense that she was in another world unconsciously, because the remains of her mysterious smile, a few moments ago, were still visible. I checked her pulse rate. It still seemed normal and so did the heartbeat. This time even her breathing could be sensed.
I looked around in the tent again. Everything seemed to be in place. That cup of coffee was still on the table. With that I remembered the piece of paper which I had picked up from there. It was in my drawer. I did not want to move away from there but I could not keep that piece of paper unseen. I decided to bring it over there so that she was not alone.
I stepped out of the tent and told the old lady that I would be back in a few minutes. She went inside the tent and I headed towards mine. I did not know what it contained. Neither did I know if it was important but I knew I could not leave it unread. I quickened my steps as I had to reach there without wasting any time.
I quickly opened my drawer and took that paper and then rushed back to her place. The old lady was kind enough not to ask me any questions, and left when I reached there.
“For how long will you stay here doctor? Inform me when you leave”, she asked me.
“Most probably, till she wakes up, if that does not go beyond morning”, I replied.
“Oh Thank you. In case, you have to leave earlier, my tent is first to the left”.
“I will remember. Thank you.”
“Good night doctor”.
The chill outside seemed to linger inside too. I shivered not because of the chill exactly, but with fear. I looked at her once again. If I hadn’t known that she is asleep because of being unconscious, I would have felt as if she was dreaming about something from her facial expressions which seemed to change from sad to soft and vice versa, letting her mysterious smile remain. Actually, I didn’t know if she was not dreaming about something.
I unfolded the paper in my hand. That side contained a few lines, probably written by her:
‘I want to give up but I can’t. Not because that is the only choice, but because I am not yet convinced if I should. In the end, disappointment might follow me, but I would be contented that I found out the reality. I cannot forgive you but more than that I cannot forgive myself.”
I read them a few more times trying to understand the hidden meaning, but they seemed as vague as they had seemed when I read them first. I turned it to the other side. There was an artistic pattern which seemed to contain words. I tried to make out what was written in the pattern, but I couldn’t. I copied it on my palm and continued to think, but it didn’t seem to work. Tired, I placed the paper under the cup of coffee in the same position as I had first seen it. Even if she knew, I did not want to face her with the guilt of having read it. I would tell her later, I thought.
I was trying to think about the words. They seemed to be directed towards somebody. They seemed to be full of resentment and guilt, or some suffering. She did not seem to be undergoing that suffering when I had talked to her earlier. Yet, I could not ignore what I had read, now or earlier in her diary. It was exactly midnight when I checked the time.
I did not know what to do next. I had never spent a night alone wondering about my thoughts idly earlier. I decided to take a walk outside before doing anything else.
I stepped out of the tent. It was less chilly outside. I wondered if I had felt the extreme chill inside merely because of my fear and anxiety. I could hear the usual sounds of midnight but I had my own sounds to be heard. There was something that I had missed out. I was sure that was the reason why I wasn’t able to understand anything. I also tried to think about the vague pattern on that piece of paper. I looked at my palm again. All I could make out this time was that it contained the word ‘again’.
‘Again’? I wondered what it meant. Her words were more mysterious than she was.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of something that fell down inside the tent. I went inside and found Mishti trying to pick up the water bottle. I handed it to her.
She looked at me in surprise, “How are you doctor? Good to see you at this time. By the way what time is it?”
“You better have water first and then speak formally”, was all I could say.
She gulped down as much as she could and replied, “Actually I was looking for my old friend to get me water, but being alone, I thought why not try to see if I could get it on my own”.
“Oh yes it is the time to try some adventure isn’t it?” She did not say anything. “But I wasn’t inside”, I said as I realized my mistake, “It is 12-15 A.M. by the way”.
“12-15 A.M. Oh! I thought I was asleep for a long time, but it has just been 2 or 3 hours”, she laughed.
“I meant it is 12-15 A.M. of the next day. But you can sleep again if you want.”
She looked at me, first in disbelief, then in disappointment.
“No doctor. I don’t sleep that much, and it has already been more than 24 hours. How lazy that is”, she added to laugh again. I did not.
“Oh yes, how lazy”. I did npt know what to say.
There were too many things, but I knew they were not to be said at that time. We kept quiet. As such, we never talked under normal situations and here I was totally clueless of what to speak further. I kept looking around. She looked at me sometimes, and fiddled with her hands in between, silently.
I wondered if I should call Dr. Reddy, but I hesitated because of the time. It would be good to tell him in the morning as soon as I went back from here.
“So how was your day doctor, yesterday as well as today?”, she broke the silence trying to sound normal.
How were my days. What would I tell you. Will you believe if I told you that my previous day was spent wondering what was troubling you so much that you could be engrossed so much into it and the next day was spent wondering what had happened to you and what had it got to do with the things troubling you. Will you believe if I say my days were spent thinking about what could’ve happened to you.
“Oh fine. Just very busy you see. There was a lot of work to be done,” I replied only that much remembering what Dr. Reddy had said.
“Oh how lucky. I wasted my day today sleeping here. I could not help in the work assigned to me. I wish I would have been with the volunteers, but here they ended up looking after me”, she sounded disappointed.
“They can manage without you too. You are not the only volunteer here”, I knew I shouldn’t have said this as soon as the words were out of my mouth.
She looked taken aback by this. I opened my mouth to correct myself, but she interrupted, “I know that doctor”, she said curtly,”I know I am not the only one they need and they can manage well without me, but I wanted to do my part properly. Moreover, I have something else to work upon and that has to be done by nobody else”, she pointed to a bundle of reports.
“I did not mean that. I am sorry. I only meant that you should look after yourself first. This work can be managed by others. And as for your report,” I tried to finish before she could say anything else, as I saw her open her mouth,” You can continue it later because you will surely remember and carry the experience from here. And recollecting it all won’t be a problem for you. You are a good writer.”
“I know that doctor. But this will be kind of extra work later. Anyway I agree…Just a second!”, she looked at me in horror and I realized why before she could speak. I felt stupid of being caught like a thief. I had forgotten that she had never told me that.
“When did I tell you that I like to write?”, she asked with an eyebrow raised.
If it hadn’t been a serious situation, I would have enjoyed the conversation between us. I was wondering how to reply to it when I had an idea to get through it without being caught.
“Aren’t all journalists good writers? You only told me that you had been working on many reports here for your internship. I am sure you must be a good writer”.
She looked into my eyes as if trying to judge the truth behind my statement. After a few seconds, she spoke,” Okay. I take that”, I smiled,” But I do not believe that you had just guessed it”, my smile vanished,” Even if it was done unknowingly. Tell me doctor, what did you read?”
I did not speak. It was very embarrassing to be caught for reading what a girl secretly wrote for herself.
I did not speak but my face did.
“So you have read it. Do you know that it was personal?”, she said.
“I am sorry. I had to find out who you were since you’d saved my mother. I just wanted to know your whereabouts to thank you and return it to you. But I saw it when I turned the pages”, I said the truth.
She spoke nothing for a few minutes. I watched her expressions change as she lay there with her eyes closed. Those few minutes seemed more like hours of critical judgement.
“Fine”, she said finally after opening her eyes. Though she still sounded plain, I sighed with relief.
We spoke nothing for the next hour. She seemed tired and lay on her bed with her eyes closed. It was also the drowsy effect of the vaccinations that had been been given to her. I did not speak anything because of confusion. I did not know what else to speak though there were lot of things to be talked about. Moreover, I did not want to speak anything that could have brought up anything that either of us did not want.
I wondered if she was asleep and thought of going for a walk outside. It was already 1-30 by then. Just when I was about to get up, she opened her eyes again and looked at me.
“Is this also a part of your duty, to stay awake over here doctor?”, she asked me.
“I have to look after my patients you see. It is a part of my duty everywhere”.
“I am not your patient. I am not a patient in fact. I just felt weak for some time.”
“I meant the same thing.”
She looked at me again and after a few seconds of judging my statement, she asked me, “Do you think I am getting weak doctor? I mean I was fine in the day, doing my work well and then suddenly felt dizzy. It is a little embarrassing you know, to get knocked down like a patient. I haven’t told this to anybody but.”
I looked at her. She hadn’t told that to anybody, yet she was telling me. She was not weak. At least I did not want to believe it, when I thought of all possible things she was struggling with inside that mind.
“It is normal I can say. Just a result of extra work”, she looked at me in relief, “Or too much stress”, she looked at me trying to seem normal.
“I am not stressed out.”
“I did not say you are. I only said it could be a reason”, it was her turn to feel caught now.
“Okay. I was worried about something”.
I did not comment about it. I knew that. I had been told not to talk about her state until insisted.
She was silent again. I wanted her to speak but at the same time, did not want her to get more into it. Though I knew, that would not have stopped her from thinking about it. We sat in silence for about another hour. Probably both of us were so busy thinking about the situation that we forgot we were not alone over there.
How could she keep all that inside. She had not seemed so caught up when I had met her for the first time. I had thought she was very clear with everything. Of course she had proved herself to be strong, and confident too at times, but here she seemed trying to struggle with herself.
“By the way, thank you doctor. You proved to be a good neighbour and a good friend, apart from being a good doctor”, she spoke when I was wondering about her.
“Oh that was my pleasure apart from my duty. After all I am your neighbour and you had done the same. And we are friends. Yes right”, I smiled at her.
“Do you love your parents doctor?”, I looked at her questioningly, “Of course you do. Aunty is such a loving being and so is uncle, and they are proud of you. You should see them speak about you when you are not around, especially uncle”, I stared blankly at her. She did not know of my aspirations for them.
“Everybody does”, I stayed silent as she continued, “But I did not. I have been a criminal”, I looked at her with curiosity and disbelief. The girl who seemed so strong, so kind, so generous and loving called herself a criminal.
I stayed silent for her to speak more, but she did not.
“Have you ever been in love doctor?”, she asked the next question.
This question seemed to make me dumb. What did I answer about who I loved to the girl who I thought I had fallen in love with.
“May be not. You’ve never been probably”, she answered herself and I pretended to agree silently.
“That’s good. You never know if you are in love with the right person or not, isn’t it?”, she looked at me for a reply.
“I…Yes you are right may be”, I said.
“Exactly doctor. I know that’s true. These things will always torment you no matter where you are. No matter how long it has been. Promise yourself that you will never let any such thing happen. You will not want to suffer like me. An advice from a friend.”
I did not know what to say. She remained silent for some time. I looked at her from the side. She was thinking about something very deeply. For some time, she again seemed to forgot where she was. I checked the time. It was 2-30 now.
I thought of asking her to get some fresh air from outside if she could.
“Tired of sitting inside?”, I looked at her.
“Oh yes, it is so boring to be inside, isn’t it, and that too being idle!”.
I laughed and she joined.
“Well, I would love to step out, but I think I won’t be able to. It will take some time for me to stand stably”.
“Oh yes, you had been given two heavy doses. You’ll be able to do that by morning”.
“Oh thank god. I am not being old”, she giggled like a child.
I smiled at her and wondered if her words were true. So there was a mystery behind her, but I could not ask her directly.
The silence was broken by her sobbing voice,” I have killed my parents doctor.”
I opened my mouth wide in disbelief. Either she was not in her senses or my ears were betraying me.
I did not know what to say. Was that the meaning of being a criminal? I stayed silent to let her speak but she did not. She kept crying. I decided that it was more important to get her calmed down before listening to her.
I tried to console her, still in a state of shock trying to absorb what she had just said. Unable to decide what to say, I offered her water. She gulped it down in a breath.
When she looked up at me, her red swollen eyes and pink face made me stick to the fact that she was not a criminal.
I looked at her again.
“Do you want to leave doctor?”, she asked and confused me. Some minutes back, she had been saying something.
“No, I am fine here.”
“Okay. Thank you for that.”
I waited for her to speak as I sat in silence trying to think about what she had said.