A story for the International Women’s Day. As I mentioned last year, I don’t really celebrate women’s day. It seems to have been increasingly appropriated by corporate slogans and gift vouchers, which is richly ironical, given the origins of the day. But we are living in such richly ironical days. So, a story for these times.
A woman calls in the dead of the night. I recognise her voice. Actually, I recognise her halting breath. She is in the middle of a flashback. She can’t speak, she can’t think – at this moment, she is only able to feel. But she can hear. That’s why she’s calling. I tell her useless things – that I am there. That it is over. She is no longer trapped. There is no one out there. She is safe. She is safe. I am there. She is safe. I ask her to go hug her pillow, her dog, anything that can bring an alternate reality to the one she is experiencing. Slowly, she comes back to me. Her breath is more even, she has stopped whimpering. Then, she asks me in a soft voice – so, what kind of rice did you eat today? I tell her and then we chat, for a while, about how much she hates rice and how much I miss it (now that I am in the US). We joke and laugh, and tell each other silly stupid things. She knows a small part of my life. I know a small part of hers. In the middle of the conversation, sometimes, mid-sentence, she is back there – in that dingy room in that terrible darkness. And the only reality she knows is fear. And I try again – you are okay, you are here with me, you are safe.
Some days are better than others. Some days, she screams. Some days, we talk about rice and curry for hours. I miss her, sometimes. I miss the conversations we had. I miss her humour, and her snark. I miss knowing that no matter how fierce the pull of her darkness was, she swam continuously towards us.
So, this day, I remember my midnight caller – for it is because of her that I learned to carry hope. It is because of her that I learned the valuable lesson that no matter what the darkness holds for her or for me, we can move to new realities by holding each other through it.