“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
— The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Hurt announces his arrival with a deafening cacophony of cymbals and trumpets and accordions. He slips into a tuxedo and a pair of winkle-pickers, and swaggers in with an intimidating gait. He sinks into a black leather couch and adjusts his wayfarer, throwing a condescending glance at me. He lights his cigar, crosses his legs, and laughs and laughs and laughs. With his face turned toward the ceiling, his laughter turns into a diabolical howling.
He stops laughing only to drag a long puff. The room is filled with smoke, my heart with terror. I shudder. But in some way, I am enchanted. This man who breathes fear into me, is cliched and beautiful in his own way.
I am scared. I wail in pain. I am inspired. I loathe him. I adore him. All at the same time.
And I think of Stockholm Syndrome. Have I begun to love my captor? Is that insane?
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? …What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
— Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
As I wrestle 75,423 questions on my adulation for hurt, Forgiveness sits beside me. When did she come? She doesn’t utter a word. She looks at her palms, runs her fingers on the prints, and takes a deep breath.
The room is foggy. Hurt is still around. I hear his roar. But his laughter is slightly muffled.
Forgiveness stops looking at her palms and offers a benevolent smile to no one in particular. Should I receive it? Or will Hurt snatch it from her? Maybe, it doesn’t matter.
The smile is blindingly bright. My eyes struggle to adjust to its luminosity. When I train my eyes on Forgiveness’s smile, Hurt leaves his couch and walks toward me. He removes his glasses; his eyes are bloodshot. Hurt is livid. He doesn’t like his hostage taking the rescuer’s hand.
Now that I have instigated him, will Hurt unleash more violence? Will I be punished for basking in the warmth exuded by a quiet stranger? Hurt doesn’t talk either. He sits next to me.
I gather that Hurt is not angry. He is upset that I am beginning to neglect him. I inch closer to Forgiveness; Hurt moves closer to me. But Forgiveness is just there. Like a banyan tree.
Forgiveness doesn’t turn or look into my eyes. She seems to be in a silent conversation with her own thoughts. Perhaps, she has no thoughts, but silence. White silence.
I am a wee bit uncomfortable between them. Quite like a child who feels stuck between her parents who have fought and who refuse to reconcile. I am torn between them.
I have always admired Hurt. But Forgiveness is here now, drawing me towards her inexplicable lightness, calm, and peace. Hurt is my good old friend. Forgiveness is my new sanctuary. Will my old friend move into my new home? For all we know, his ego is too big for that.
Hurt throws tantrums. He rolls on the floor, bawls, and recounts memories of all the days we spent together. When was he this emotional really? I pick him up from the floor. I dust his suit and tell him that I cannot leave him forever. He is flummoxed.
I hold Hurt’s shoulders, look straight into his black ocean of eyes. “Dearest Hurt, what’s life without you? I am, of course, leaving with Forgiveness. But what made you forget your own power? When did I not answer your calls? It’s true that I love Forgiveness more. Forgive me for being brutally honest. But you are inevitable. Your calls are too loud to be ignored. Always remember that I will be at the threshold of Forgiveness’s unassuming home when you want to meet me. I will listen to your stories and complaints. I will offer my sympathies. I will stay with you. Sometimes, longer than you can imagine. However, I will always, always go back to Forgiveness. Always!”
I am sure Forgiveness is listening to our conversation. She doesn’t look at us. I am sure she is paying attention. Hurt listens to me, stifling a sniffle. “Are you sure?” Hurt poses that question weakly as though he is too embarrassed to ask. I smile. “Is there any other way? Do you think it’s possible to abandon you?” I say with no trace of regret in my tone.
Forgiveness now stands up, shuffles her feet. She doesn’t offer a word. Not even a whisker. She leaves the room. I follow her.
I turn around to see if Hurt is hurt. He wears his wayfarer, slips another cigar in between his lips, and hums a song. I see a lopsided grin on his face. He is not sad. He is certain that I will come back. He is right all the same.
Forgiveness waits for me. I trot toward her, saying without making a sound. “I am ready!”