Guilt is a mistress one can ill afford to have. Like the cloying smell of perfume that overpowers your senses long after that person has left. Guilt lingers. Until you finally surrender to it.
Guilt. It visited me once.With sunken eyes, wrinkled skin and crumpled body. It slouched through the pathway and hopefully stared into my eyes. Through a pitiful old man. That look still haunts me. Like a broken record stuck in the middle, his words still echo in my ears. Gripped with shame and inexpressible fear, I turned around and never looked back. I feigned a helplessness that marked me for life.
I wish it was not so. Wishes. Why is it that we fill our lives with wishes that can never come true? And then pepper it with regrets and suddenly find that the dish is not to our liking!
It was such an glorious day. A day of possibilities. Why can’t it be a morose rainy day? For that would make it easier to accept. Easier to deal with what was meant to be rather what was not. But no. It was a lovely spring morning. Birds chirping, flowers blooming, bathed in golden sunshine. Summer time.
This visit was long overdue. I looked forward to it since that first day. And was a bit worried too. How would I face him? What would I tell. Can I be impervious to the blame, to the accusation that would definitely lurk in his eyes. Its his eyes that always troubled me and has done so ever since. Honest eyes that never held back its emotions. It was meant for his own good. As if I knew what is good and what is not.
Why is it that we think we know ? Who are we do decide anyways?
I went. I looked. And guilt clenched my throat choking me. Until no thought remained but shame. And yet I didn’t relent.
The hope left those eyes slowly as I slipped past the gate and the gate shut behind me. I didn’t look back.
He must have stood there waiting for me to return. Days merged into weeks and weeks into months. I never returned. I didn’t have the courage to look into those eyes and see the need, see the hope and then see the light darken into nothingness. A trust was broken. A heart was wounded. For his own good.
A check signed promptly. Few letters written that went unread. Reports followed assiduously. Calls made promptly. Can these assuage my guilt? That sharp pain in my guts that wrenched them clean ? Can it?
Guilt visited me once again. Six months later. I returned too. It was too late then. The eyes was no longer there. Those wrinkled sunken eyes of my father. Those honest eyes forever closed in permanent repose.
The gate closed yet again.
This time I lingered awhile trying to find shades of him in the setting sun. Trying to catch the elusive smell in the passing breeze. When a stray leaf wrapped itself on me, I tried to find traces of his touch. The board said “XYZ Mental Institution”
A simple non decorative planck.
I never could find him. Guilt. It stays with me now like he never could.