You are completely crazy. In the past you have called yourself fat, stupid, lazy, and clumsy—all of which you are, to some extent or the other, but not crazy. Not until now.You are vacating the house, your home of four years. “I think it’s a good idea to take a break from the relationship,” your fiancé says, “to find out, what it is you are really seeking.”You gather your things you acquired before moving in together, and the things collected since. You box up souvenirs of your travels; wooden figurines of women holding babies, and dolls in red frocks and from all over the world: African, Chinese, Indian, Norwegian, Peruvian and others.You possess dozens of things—sweet, cute, and innocent. But you’re not a hoarder. You know you are not. You just have a penchant for happy looking things—cute and small, bright and beautiful.You remember the day you met your fiancé four years ago. It was the day you had seen the little girl in a red blouse and a denim skirt, with a woman crossing 23rd & 7th in Manhattan.The woman is probably in her mid-thirties, but could be older. Nowadays, women have started to age differently you think. You know about corrective facial surgery. You know because your surgeon corrected yours, working on your eyes as a medical necessity, and you wonder why anyone would want to go through that for vanity’s sake.You know that this woman and the child in a blue denim skirt are mother and daughter. They are happy, bright and cheerful—their life full of dreams, and hope. You are compelled to follow the little girl on the crossing—like the way you pursue happiness. You follow her on the pedestrian crossing, against your judgment. You don’t think of how odd this might appear if anyone notices. But you are in New York. No one notices.You think of your surgery. You fingers move toward your left eye, softly touching the scar, touching your lashes. You close your left eye unconsciously, and see everything only with your right eye, the way you had seen the world for so many years prior. The faint yet visible scar is your only testimony to your one-eyed blindness of your past, and to that moment that changed everything. Proof of your disability, if someone asks you, if they are bold enough, but you are in New York and no one cares about scars, emotional or otherwise.You remember how your doctor surgically opened and released your eye from the scarring. And how you were able to see with that left eye for the first time in eight years. It is now fifteen years, three months almost to the day since the incident, but you’re not counting.You imitate the little girl’s stride—a little skippety skip, hoppety-hop. You stop as soon as realize you are doing this. You do not want to be perceived as weird. Yet, deep down you recognize that spirit of childhood that makes you do that. You want to become that child again.As you are packing, you think of that warm spring day in Manhattan when you first met your fiancé on a crossing, walking behind the child.He tells you over the course of the next few months why he is drawn to you. How he loves your childlike fascination and wonder. He says he admires and envies your delight and your vulnerability, your desire, and your dreams. He says he had seen it in your eyes.And one normal day in the near future on a crossing in Manhattan when the rumble and roar of the cars and buses start up on a green, when talking softly is not an option, he asks if he can hold your hand and skippety-skip and hoppety-hop life along with you. In that moment you know that the universe is conspiring to hold your hand and celebrate life with you. In that joy and bliss, a déjà vu.

You are packing your closet. You see a few clothes: white, black and lavender, the ones your friends gift you because they are your friends and they tell you that variety is the spice of life, that you are obsessing with red, and that you’re always wearing a dress, like an air hostessthey say, teasing you.   They tell you in a foreboding tone that there’s a fine line between an immense liking, an obsession, and possibly a real problem.“You can choose where you want to be,” your closest friend says one day when you go out for coffee. You are not sure what she is talking about. Then you begin to comprehend when you see the gift she gets for you. It is the same lovely canary yellow dress both of you had seen a few weeks earlier in a window you passed by. You accept it gracefully but never wear it. It’s not your comfort color. It’s not red. And it can’t do you any good. There is no evolution. There is no point.You look in your closet. You see nothing odd, but you know you ought to find a hidden message. And then, this time there is no denial. You take a deep breath and close your eyes. You are afraid to open them. You wish you were partially blind again, and maybe you still are, just differently. You pretend to be your fiancé, just for a moment to see things his way. You open your eyes and take a look again.The closet is now revelatory. You see it like he does. Like they all do. You instantly feel exposed and want to box yourself never to emerge again. The closet is like a funny mirror showing you contours and caricatures of yourself you might never see otherwise. But this closet is real — like truth — bitter and hard to swallow. And not funny.You see your madness—insanity usurping your world. Your closet is your mirror. The mirror your fiancé and your friends tried showing you so many times in the past.You look again. Barring four dresses, all gifts given to you; lavender, white, black and the canary yellow still in its box, you see only red dresses. No matter what style or shape or shade, they are all red. You suddenly comprehend it. It all comes back to you.

Your body slumps over the edge of the bed. You are on the floor curled up like a little child. You shake uncontrollably. No tears come through—just guttural sounds of loss, pain, and grief. You know your body is revolting the death of this relationship—of four years and millions of memory cells murdered, yet struggling and seeking revival. Maybe this too shall remain a memory. You know that time will heal, yet scars remain.

Your mind takes you back to where it all began. It was so long ago, but only seems like yesterday.

You are thirteen, on the threshold of a being child-woman. You had gone to India for vacation in winter, the time of festivities; Dasara and Deepawali, “to understand and absorb your culture,” your parents had said.

It is Deepawali, the festival of lights on the moonless night in the month of Kartika. Every house in the neighborhood is lit with lights, small and big, old-fashioned candles, low energy LED’s and mud-diyas filled with oil— lit at dusk, and refilled and relit to keep the dark Amavasya night at bay. This is your favorite festival, more than even Christmas. Firecrackers crackle and burst leaving behind smoke, and little sparkles fall away like twinkling stars. In every home, there is food, fireworks, and family. Everyone is celebrating.

You are wearing a new red dress. You love your dress. You are twirling around and around in your frock, filling in air beneath the dress and propelling your own rotation, faster and faster.

Your head is light. Your body is nimble. Your mind is happy. You are in motion. You are laughing. Happiness fills the room. The room is spinning—the world is spinning. Then, everything outside of you—becomes one. Everything inside of you—becomes one. You become—everything. Everything—becomes you. In that oneness, you are outside and you are inside. Then nothing.

You are moving and then you are not. The moment pauses and you are not sure how long this lasts—the stillness encompasses everything around.   Is it just an instant, or could it be hours or days?

Time and space mean nothing. You become the laughter. Joy becomes you. You become the earth you are spinning on. You are the air you breathe. You are the earth that moves. You are everything around you. You are the sound. You are the light. You are the darkness. You are nothing. You are Empty. You are Shoonya.

Then you feel the lick of fire. The sparkle from a cracker becomes bigger and brighter and hotter. Your skin scorches with the burn. The red dress becomes your skin. And then, the oneness of moment is lost.

You hear your own shrieks coming from a place you didn’t know existed. You smell things you have never smelt before. Your skin touches something deeper and inside of you. Your mind is dark. The room is dark. Then nothing.

You are now a statistic for Deepawali fire accidents.

It is eight years before you can see with your left eye again. The burnt skin sealed over your eye carefully snipped away with surgical precision.

You have missed nothing. Yet you are aware how nobody sees you in the same way again. And you see nothing in the same way again. You are an invalid and will be for the next eight years. You understand impermanence. You understand transience. You know what is true and what is not. You know the bliss of Shoonya

You have known this bliss only wearing a red dress. You experienced nothingness, and in that nothing you had everything. And, you have been trying ever since. You put on a red dress and close your eyes. You even twirl. You know you are being silly. But you believe. You are desperate. You will do anything to recreate that moment. You do not give up.

You are in your room, surrounded by boxes and an emptiness that always was. You see the madness of your life going back to that one moment. You understand the seeking. You feel the turmoil in the void. Then you look into the mirror and see the little girl in the red dress.

 

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