IS THIS THE END?
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Sonam switched off her phone, tucked it under her pillow and made her way to the bathroom. She squeezed her eyes and tried to stop the tears. It didn’t help; they trickled unchecked down her cheeks and splashed onto the sink. She felt so lost and powerless.
‘What am I thinking?’ she thought to herself. ‘How did this happen? What the hell am I going to tell Sumit? I’m so screwed!’
Sonam turned on the shiny silver tap in her bathroom, allowing the bathtub to fill to almost overflowing. She waited as the water level rose and stared at herself in the mirror; at her smudged kohled and blood shot-eyes, at her flushed and blotchy cheeks, at her red and runny nose. She splashed water onto her miserable face trying to compose herself and gather her thoughts.
Sonam lowered herself in the tub and let out a long sigh. She took several deep breaths and sat very still, tracing her fingers along the grey tile grout, counting the smooth white tiles as she had always done whenever she needed to get her thoughts on track.
Sonam had been married to Sumit for over a decade. He came into her life like a ray of sunshine, pulling her out and banishing all her dark grey clouds. Then, she had been so emotionally wounded. Sumit seemed to know that all she needed was to be loved. Her parent’s divorce had made her life unbearable. Sonam wasn’t too keen on tying the knot, but with Sumit as her beloved, it was hard to resist him. As time went by, the tables turned. Sumit developed a hot temper and began taking his anger out on his wife. She became his emotional punching bag. She silently took the brunt as she prayed that it would turn out to be just a bad phase they were going through. Little did she realise in the beginning that her marriage would turn into the living hell it was now. After Sumit lost his job, their relationship really took a bad turn. Sonam had tried everything possible to make the situation better, but nothing seemed to work.
Eventually, after making endless streams of verbal put-downs, Sumit started raising his hand and physically abusing his wife. Sonam would spend her nights crying but still never gave up. She took up two jobs to make ends meet. Sumit spent months at home, wasting his time but never bothered to find work and spent many days drinking too much and just scrolling through his phone. She thought of several ways to help her husband, but all possibilities were put on hold due to their financial crunch. Sonam still had hope that things would change for the better after Sumit started working again. After a lot of persuasion and persistence, Sonam got Sumit a job through their neighbour Naina. Naina was a loving mother of two young teens in her mid-forties. Her kind and thoughtful ways had made it easy for Sonam to become good friends with her. They would often meet and spend quality time over cups of tea, discussing their problems, their challenges, their childhoods and their lives.
The water sloshed in the tub, splashing over the edges as Sonam sank slowly beneath the surface. It filled her ears and closed over her face, distorting her view of the ceiling.
The water muffled all sounds, drowning the world, drowning Sonam herself. She stayed submerged until her lungs ached and fought for air. She listened to the steady but distorted drip of an over-full bathtub, soaking the bright red bath mat, puddling around the tub. She fought the urge to sit up. She wanted this. She wanted this all to end. But her body won.
Sonam exploded out of the water, dripping and spitting and choking and gasping.
‘What the hell am I doing?’
‘I can’t do this?’
‘I can’t make someone else carry the misery of it all…..’
‘What am I going to tell Sumit? We have had this discussion so many times. Over drinks. Over dinner. Over and over again. I tried to be on the same page, and look at what has happened…. How am I going to face him? How am I supposed to move forward? I just wish things were different.’
Sonam sank herself in the water again.
‘Sonam? What are you doing in there?’ Sumit yelled.
She heard the muffled sound of her husband pounding on the door. The thudding reverberated through the water. She wanted to ignore Sumit and not face reality. But Sumit didn’t stop.
Sonam came back up, wiping the water off her face and sputtered irritatedly, ‘Everything is just fine! I’ll be out in a minute or two.’
‘I’ve been looking everywhere for you,’ Sumit said, sounding angry. ‘What the hell are you doing? And why the hell is your phone off?’
‘I...I’ve been taking a bath,’ Sonam stuttered.
‘What the hell is taking you so long? Don’t you know I come home from work at this time? And why isn’t dinner ready yet?’
Sonam’s tears rolled down her cheeks again as she stepped out of the bath. She wrapped herself in her bathrobe and slowly unlocked the door.
‘What the hell is going on?’ Sumit frowned. ‘Why do you like absolute shit? And why are there puddles all over the bathroom floor?’
Sonam didn’t utter a word or make eye contact. Feeling her terror take hold of her very being, she slowly dabbed her face with a hand towel. Her black mascara streaked down her cheeks and the towel.
‘Something is the matter. I can feel it. It shows on your face. Is that guy from work trying to hit on you again?’
‘No… No! Things have just been too much for me today,’ she sobbed, pressing her eyes with her hands.
‘Well, you sure don’t look like yourself. And what the hell are you crying for?’
‘I screwed up Sumit. I screwed up big time!’ Sonam said, taking a step back. ‘And I know you’re not going to like it.’
‘Tell me, Sonam! What happened? You’re freaking me out.’
‘I can’t Sumit. Not now. Not until I know my own mind,’ she sobbed.
‘Ohh! Sumit. I’m PREGNANT!’ Sonam wailed.
‘Did you take the test? Have you met the doctor?’
‘Of course! I went for a blood test in the morning, and later I even met my gynaecologist.’
‘What did she say?’ Sumit asked.
‘She told me I needed to keep the baby, But…’
‘But we decided we aren’t going to get pregnant, RIGHT?’ Sumit said threateningly.
‘I know. And I agree with you. But…’
‘But what?’ Sumit said.
‘I can’t bear to abort it,’ Sonam said. ‘Sumit…Please...please….please just listen to me.’
‘WHY NOT? I don’t have the money to bring up a baby. We have just started to get our lives on track. I’ve finally started to pay off our debt. And now you’re pregnant. What the hell!’
‘Sumit, you don’t understand. My doctor said I can’t keep popping pills and getting abortions.’
‘What do you mean abortions? You’ve never gotten an abortion before?’ Sumit shouted in agitation.
‘I have,’ Sonam admitted quietly. ‘I just never told you.’
‘But I don’t have the guts to do it this time. Sumit, I heard the baby’s heartbeat,’ she said pleadingly. ‘I just can’t. Please. You need to understand,’ Sonam exclaimed and began to wail. ‘I’m scared, Sumit, I’m terrified. I’m so frightened.’
‘Who is the father? Have you been messing around? It can’t be mine! You never let me touch you,’ Sumit shouted, pinning his wife against the wall.
‘Sumit, please, don’t hurt me. Please. I swear, it’s yours. Of course, it’s yours!’
‘I need to get some air,’ Sumit said. ‘I can’t believe you never told me about the abortions. Am I the only one you sleep with? Or are you letting all the men you meet in the course of a day have whatever they want from you? Is this happening all because of your mother? I’d bet anything that slut has influenced you for sure! Look how many times she screwed up.’
‘Sumit wait. Please. Can we just consider our options….’
‘I can’t do this right now, Sonam,’ Sumit yelled, smashing their lovely vase on the floor. ‘We have discussed this. You already know why I don’t want to have kids,’ Sumit said.
‘Sumit, wait, where are you going?’ Sonam cried.
‘I’m out of here!’
Sonam saw Sumit storm out of their small home. She left the front door unlocked, hoping he might return. She wandered restlessly around the empty apartment and headed back inside the bathroom. She pulled the plug in the tub, letting the chilled water run out. Once it was empty, she filled it with hot water again. She looked at herself in the mirror and wrapped her arms around her stomach. ‘I can’t believe this is happening. I wish Sumit hadn’t left. What if he doesn’t come back! There is no way in hell he will accept a baby into our lives. And I already feel so connected with this little pea. We have been through so much already. I don’t think I’m strong enough to do this alone.’
She stepped again into the bathtub with her wet hair over her shoulders, trying to find some easy way out of the mess her life was in.’
Sonam stared at the brown spots on the ceiling shaped like hearts. She wanted to stay here forever. In the quiet. In the deep.
She closed her eyes once more. ‘I can’t have a baby if I have Sumit in my life. I don’t want my baby to have a father like Sumit. Suddenly he can be so crazy and cruel. And just as suddenly, he can turn into the sweetest, the most loving, the kindest man I’ve ever known! But what am I going to do now? How am I going to keep my child safe? How will I bring a baby into my crazy life?’
She ran her finger across the blade of her husband’s razor. Typical of her husband. It was an old fashioned one, the kind with the folding blade. He was so traditional in so many ways. She topped up the bath again, the water scalding her reddening skin. The blade stung as she slipped it along her vein, cutting its length as far as she could bear to drag it. Clumsily, but with grave determination, she moved her dripping fingers holding the blade over her body, passing the blade to her other hand, blood dripping up her arm, she found the next vein. She let the blade run along the blue line, creating a red matching one. She dropped the blade into the water. She sank down into the bath, feeling finally so peaceful and calm.
Red ribbons danced in the clear water heart-shaped patterns around her arms and her belly until the water turned from pink to swirls of burgundy. She didn’t fight anything this time. She just drifted away.
Hours later, Sonam opened her heavy eyelids and found Naina sitting closely by her side.
‘You made it!!’ Naina let out a long sigh of relief.
‘What’s... going... on? How... did... I…. come ….here?’ Sonam breathed softly.
‘You’re in the hospital, Sonam. My husband and I heard you and Sumit arguing, and I decided to drop by. I found you in the bathroom. But the doctor’s said that we got you to the hospital just in time.’
‘What about the…?’ Sonam said, feeling her and stomach looking scared.
‘The baby is fine,’ Naina smiled. ‘I had no idea you were pregnant.’
‘Where is Sumit?’ Sonam asked.
‘I don’t know. We haven’t heard from him. Although we did try getting in touch with him, his number was switched off. And he isn’t at home either.’
‘Let’s just keep it that way,’ Sonam sighed, wrapping her bandaged wrists around her stomach, thanking God for her life and this small pea of a saving grace inside her belly.
In a few days, Sonam was discharged from the hospital. She found a tiny apartment near her workplace and continued working throughout her pregnancy. She was free from Sumit’s oppressive physical abuse and endless jibes and criticism of his twisted psychological torture. She and Naina visited often, and she was so grateful and indebted to this open-hearted and generous woman who had not only saved her life but the life of her precious unborn child. Several months later, Sonam gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. With joy and gratitude, she named her daughter Naina.