For many years, my friend The Ballerina, had thought he was dead. She forgets now if she had been told that, or if it was an honest mistake owing to the fact that he had suffered a massive stroke in the late 1990’s or if it was something she had made herself believe. Maybe the last, more likely the last. We create convenient truths in our head, after all; and after a while, the yellow patina of time lends credence to such truths.
But there could be no mistaking what happened around fifteen years ago. She remembers with heartrending clarity the day he hurt her and she learned that evil was not an amorphous biblical concept but something that was real and painful and left bruises all over. He scared her into silence, and slipped off to Canada.
She healed her own wounds and picked up the pieces of the little-girl glasshouse he savagely destroyed. She danced and danced and danced and danced, twirling and whirling to the delight of the audience, slaying her demons with every pirouette and petit jete. She had friends who loved her, and because of that and through sheer dint of hard work, her life was falling into place and her dreams were within her reach. The only thing she longed for in her heart was to see him again and show herself to him, show him that he has not succeeded in snatching her soul. She needed her closure.
Last year, in an innocuous chat session in YM with a relative abroad, she found out that he was alive. He was alive, but had suffered a second stroke and was dying. All of a sudden, she felt her universe change. She could not sleep, afraid that he would come again and hurt her. The nightmares came every night. She felt naked and vulnerable. She found herself questioning her own recovery. Was it really a product of the strength of her faith and the tenacity of her spirit, or did she recover simply because she had thought he was dead and not coming back anymore? Over and above these apprehensions, however, she saw a means by which she could obtain justice. Maybe not of the legal kind, but of the karmic justice-of-the-universe kind. She wanted — no, needed — him to know that she had not forgotten. But also that she was okay.
And so she spoke to her lawyer-friend. The idea of filing a criminal case surfaced. It was impossible to put him behind bars, but it was a way of putting it on record. And that was important to her: to make her pain real, to put on official file the truth has she had known it and make the phantoms in her head a tangible reality. “But he might not find out”, the lawyer-friend warned, knowing that him finding out was also important to her. Even if extraordinary measures could be taken to make sure the notice from the court reaches Canada, the lawyer argued, well-meaning relatives at his death bed would probably hold it from him and spare him. She also had no intention of sullying his name before his family without giving him the benefit of rebuttal.
The lawyer friend came up with a novel idea, a tape recording. Sealed and with instructions that no one in the room would be present to hear it. It would not raise any suspicions and would simply be a farewell message from relatives in Manila. It was also hoped that upon seeing the name of The Ballerina as sender, he would know what it contained and insist on being alone in the room to listen to it. The tape was recorded, with the help of a few friends. And in recording the tape, the tears held back by many years of being “strong” and being “okay” burst like a dam. And she wept for the little girl, the wounds that took so long to heal, all the time wasted, and the hundreds of broken pieces of an unretrievable world.
A few weeks later, the call came. It was him and he was begging to be forgiven. She promised herself throughout the years that she had been fantasizing about this moment that she would not cry. And she did not. It came out exactly as she had rehearsed it in her head for a whole lifetime. “My life has been good. My relationships are healthy. My friends love me. I am making a difference. am working with people who believe like I do in highest ideals of justice — justice for little girls, but also, justice for men accused of sins like yours so that they may have their day in court under impartial arbiters. Ideals are, after all, bigger than people. And they are bigger, far bigger, than small, weak men like you.”
“Forgive me,” he begged.
And she paused and breathed deeply. And in that pause, remembered how life has been kind to her. Remembered her mother, who held her during moments of darkness and pain. Remembered her beautiful friends, who love her uncoditionally. Remembered her favorite scents on earth: hot chocolate and brewed coffee, clean laundered sheets, the smell of the christmas air, the smell of birthday cakes– the smells of a life of love and hope and family. Remembered the gnarled ugly-beautiful hands of her favorite person holding hers and giving her calm. Remembered all the laughter, the smiles, the joys and triumphs of the past fifteen years, and how they held the implicit promise of a happy and love-filled life ahead. Remembered most of all the faith that has freed, nurtured and sustained her.
“I forgive you,” she said. It was then that she realized, in giving him his peace, she has found hers.