comfort objects homelessness sidharth vardhan short fiction

(Comfort Objects 2) Homelessness

(Note – It is the second part of a twin-stories pair. The first story can be found here.)

You, psychologists, are rather patient people – or perhaps you aren’t even listening. For here I am talking about my sister and her comfort object when this is supposed to be about me.

But don’t you see already that it is all connected? I was never given a comfort object. My mother seems to want to be the only thing, living or inanimate, who gets my love. I was equally attached to her. Like kangaroo babies, I would always be found next to my mother. My school was delayed two years compared to that of my mom because separation from my mother gave me big anxiety attacks with fearful fits of tears. My mom won’t see my cry that way.

When I did finally joined a school at the age of five, it was much more peaceful. I won’t cry anymore. But I continue to sleep next to my mom. I didn’t like leaving my mom’s side even to play in the streets and almost never did.

Yet the fear of losing my mom lived in me. I would have nightmares of being kidnapped, or my mom being kidnapped or being killed by robbers or dying in an accident or just somehow getting so angry or disappointed at me as to never to talk to me again. Even from the times before I knew what death was like, I remember having a dream in which some robbers suddenly invaded our house and undid her body parts like you could unscrew body parts of a human just like we do with a machine. And once brought down to parts in that nightmare of mine, you could not be put together.

Even while awake, I was forever afraid of upsetting her – not because her anger was bad but just because I was too afraid she might leave me and never talk to me again. Even being the cause of the slightest frown on her face distressed me to no end. She knew it and sometimes pretended to be upset just to manipulate me to desirable behavior. However, all these anxiety-related thoughts occupied my mind for only a small amount of time. Most of the time I was happy, as perfectly happy as you can possibly be. I was smiling most of the time – easily and calmly; and real smiles – not those hypocritical smiles.

My mom died when I was twelve. We went to sleep one night and I was woken in the morning by mourns of those already wailing over her death. This was too depressing for me of course. I was sent into a continuous though hardly too overpowering anguish. I remember I didn’t cry at her death. When Camus’ Stranger protagonist claimed something to effect, I was shocked to know it could be one of the best opening lines in all literature. What was so new about it? I didn’t cry because crying is, or so it seems to me, born of our anguish completely overpowering us. I? I was putting a fight. I thus only cried months later, when this anguish in its persistence overpowered me. After that, I cried into my pillow for several days on end.

It is in this depression that I have lived for the rest of my life. I somehow manage to spend my schooling years buried in books. In last year of my school though, I fell in love with my English teacher. I don’t think it was on account of any reason other than that she was beautiful. But her classes were a source of anguish to me. It was the same old distress, fear of disappointing her. She liked me as a student, I was disciplined and good in studies. I don’t think she ever suspected my having feelings for her but she did suspect that something was odd with me and, it seemed, she tried to involve me more in class just to figure it out. A single word of praise from was Nobel prize for me and I often got them being her favorite student. I must here clarify that it was not at all sexual, what I felt. Sex was too alien to me yet, too absurd though I understood it, I didn’t feel attraction to anyone that way – not then, not for years afterward. My strongest desire was always to make her smile.

My first year at college was spent in depression as I recovered from what I felt for the teacher. Then I was falling in love again; again it wasn’t amorous. It was so purely platonic that I made her my honorary sister. She was my landlady – at the place where I lived the last two years of my University studies, a charming woman though not physically beautiful in the traditional sense. She too was older than me and had a child. I remember how, though I was comfortable with her talking about her husband, yet when she talked about her son, it would make me feel with pangs of jealousy. It seemed like the injustice that he should have a mother when I don’t. Of course, I was ashamed of being jealous of a nine-year-old child, only half my age.

She and I connected because of our shared interest in literature. We could also spend hours talking about literature, characters and other things – having lots of common values.

She stayed in contact for a couple of years after I had to leave the room I had rented at her place via WhatsApp. Much like in the previous two cases I had anxiety about upsetting her. However, one day out of the blue she blocked me and I have never been able to be in contact with her again. I don’t know why it was.

I think the only reason it was not worse than it was is that I was now falling in love, amorous love for the first time. It was a student at a college I had undertaken to teach at. A bright fierce sprit, again common interests were the driving force. She shared something both in looks and values with my honorary sister. However this time there was also physical connection. It was intense, volatile – there would be too many arguments, clashes. I think the very fear of losing her made me so intense that I ended up losing her. The very fear of making her angry made me say things to her that made her angry. As if I was determined to face my fears. (Laughs). She was already in the third year and she too made sure to block me after she left.

I was already suicidal after my mother died. And I was suicidal each time I lost contact with these women. After the last one, I wasn’t even able to fight anymore. I sometimes would roam the streets like a mad man trying to find a person who would listen to me, somehow not trusting my existing friends for the job.

And I did find one, the most patient, the most perfect listener. Even better than a professional like you, if I may say so. I won’t go into details here for meeting her was almost an accident. She didn’t share my interests or values. But we whined to each other a lot and, in our mutual understanding and whining, we became friends. (Smiles) and it could have been more, you see?

It seemed like it will grow more. It seemed obvious she too was interested in me but that is when it all hit me with full force; right the moment after I noticed her interest in me being more than platonic. This whole theory about the feeling of homelessness, comfort objects and all that. All these women, they were the comfort objects. I would forever be too intense in my efforts to hold on to one when I do find any such comfort object. I had hurt the student girl, I wasn’t gonna hurt this one. But it seemed like I would end up doing it anyway. Wasn’t that why my honorary sister blocked me too? I can’t forever live in fear of losing people I love most. I can’t go on being so needy and I didn’t know how to stop. How to find that feeling of being at home within oneself? Don’t you people call it codependent, parasitic, narcissist or something? I am sure you have a fancy name for this problem of mine… But no, this, this last girl was not gonna pay price for MY being a defected commodity. At that moment, I knew I would never be able to create human contact again. After all, what was I looking for in all these women but that tenderness…. and what is tenderness but an illusion of security offered by someone, the very same security that a child feels in presence of his or her parents? And all those cases had shown to me that it was but an illusion that made you vulnerable to being hurt again. My heart repeated all this to me in its heavy beats as I marched to it’s a tone to top of the building where I lived and, with a mind clouded with mists of despair, jumped off it.

Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan

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