June 28, 2014

Short Story: Untitled (How Could This Happen To Me?)

Author's Note: The title is borrowed from Simple Plan's song by the same name. It was to promote awareness against drunk driving. 

Alcoholism has had adverse affects, on not only the alcoholic but the family. Alcoholic abuse doesn't always mean getting drunk and beating other people up.Sometimes the violence is completely mental. And sometimes children exposed to an alcoholic, have a hard time coping with certain aspects of their lives. 

This story is mostly to raise awareness against alcoholism. Being a social drinker might be fun, but when you become socially unacceptable for drinking - your troubles have already begun!

Image Courtesy: Google Images


Untitled (How Could This Happen to Me?)


First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink and then the drink takes you.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald



“What do you mean you won’t be at the graduation after party?” asked Ishika of her best friend, Akriti, “It’s the one night we are allowed to live a little.”
“Sorry, Isha,” Akriti said with a shrug, “My idea of living a little isn’t getting drunk and doing crazy things you’d only be embarrassed to admit later on in life.”
“But if you don’t go, I can’t go. What am I going to tell my parents?”
“I don’t know,” said the girl, rather irritably, “Tell them the whole class would be going. Why don’t you?”
“Please….you’re my best friend.” Ishika pleaded.
“Fine, but I am not drinking.”
*
“God, Akriti is so weird!” laughed one of their classmates, “I overheard her telling Ishika she wouldn’t drink at our graduation party.”
The other two girls who were sitting with her laughed. They were all sitting in their departmental library, gossiping among themselves. Hidden behind the bookshelves, Akriti overheard them laughing at her. It reminded her painfully of the time she had to deliver a speech in front of her entire school. She hadn’t got much time to prepare for it because the previous night had seen the same drama she had seen ever since she could understand what was going on around her.
“You came home drunk again!” her mother was yelling, at her father who didn’t look like he realized what was going on around him, “There’s no guarantee of the next check coming, and you spend what little money we had on your alcohol?”
Her mother had thought Akriti was in her room, studying for the big speech the next day. She had no idea she was right outside, eavesdropping on them.
“Akriti?”
Nine year old Akriti looked around frightened and found her big sister, fifteen year old, Nina, looking at her curiously.
“Shh!” she said, pressing a small finger to her lips, “He’s drunk again.”
“Maybe this time she’ll leave him,” sighed her more practical elder sister. “Stop standing there. Don’t you have a speech to give tomorrow? C’mon…”
She took her sister by the hand and pulled her away from their parents’ doorway. But little children are far more easily distracted than older ones. When she tried to deliver her speech the next day, she couldn’t help but keep thinking about home and whether her mother was at all safe in the madhouse with her clearly unstable father.
“Akriti?”
She jumped violently as her painful memory left her and she suddenly came back to her reality. Akriti tried to throw a watery smile at the intruder of her thoughts.
“What’s up, Nikhil?” she said, automatically.
“Why are you hiding behind the bookshelves?” he asked her, conversationally.
“I am not hiding, I was looking for a book,” she lied, automatically.
Nikhil was her classmate and the only reason she knew his name was Ishika’s huge crush on him. She smiled to herself wondering what her best friend would have done if they’d bumped into him together. She would have probably not said a word, Akriti thought, Ishika usually got really tongue-tied around Nikhil.
“Really?” Nikhil now asked her, “What book would that be?”
The girl tossed her dark head back and sighed, “Look, I forgot. I overheard those girls laughing at me because I really don’t want to drink.”
“Water?” he asked, surprised.
“No, silly. Alcohol!” she said, playfully punching him on the arm.
“So don’t drink,” he said, simply.
“And you wouldn’t think I’m lame if did that?”
“No. You should never do something you’re not comfortable with. Take me for example,” he added, “I’d never be caught dead wearing shorts to college even though people think those are so cool.”
“I wish Ishika was here,” Akriti smiled, “She would’ve loved talking to you.”
“I doubt that,” Nikhil said, “I’ve never heard her string two words together in my presence.”
“So you noticed,” Akriti, sighed.
“Crushes can be a royal pain. But will you tell her I don’t carry my dad’s gun with me and she can talk to me if she wants,” he said, with a wink, “Anyway, see you later, Akriti. And don’t bother so much about what other people have to say.”
*
“Your crush is decent guy,” she told Ishika when they met for their afternoon classes. Ishika had ditched library work in favor of hanging out with some other classmates.
“I always knew I had impeccable taste, and he’s the son of really respected police officer. He always keeps referring to his father’s gun. Isn’t that so cute?” said Ishika, proudly holding up her head, “But wait – why are you suddenly defending him?”
“I’m not defending him; I’m saying he’s a decent person. And of course you’ve impeccable taste – you picked me for your best friend.” Akriti joked.
“Thanks,” smiled Ishika, “So did you talk to Nikhil? Did he mention me at all?”
“Yes,” her friend, pacified her, “And he also noticed and I quote, ‘I’ve never seen her string two words together in my presence.’ What do you think about that?”
“Oh, he’s in love with me.”
“You’re crazy!”
“How would you know? You don’t know what it’s like to be in love with someone.”
“And I prefer to keep it that way,” Akriti told her, feeling really tired of the old conversation, “I don’t want to fall in love.”
“Why not?” asked Ishika, frowning, “You don’t want to experience the most magical feeling in the Universe?”
“Firstly, falling in love cannot be the most magical feeling in the Universe,” Akriti explained, “And I don’t think I’d be able to handle it when the rosy picture fades away for reality to set in.”
Before Ishika could ask her friend about her weird analogy, the Professor had come in and ordered them all to be silent as she read from the text.
It was a part from Macbeth, where Lady Macbeth is tormented by the crime she’d committed. Akriti thought back to a perfectly violent night in her life. She was about to appear for her 10th board exams. The commotion coming from the next room, made her abandon her Physics book and tiptoe outside.
Usually it was her mother who rowed. But today it was Nina – her elder sister, Nina – who was screaming at their father.
“How dare you tell me to quit studying, you bastard?” she was shouting, “You’re a good for nothing loser. Don’t you dare try to make me or my sister, go down your frigging road!”
Akriti flinched as she saw Nina tug off the chain their father wore from his throat. She slapped him across the face hard and said, “I am NOT your daughter, you drunkard. I don’t want anything to do with you in my life! EVER!”
And from that moment on, her father had been terrified of Nina, but it didn’t stop him from consuming alcohol. When they were younger, Akriti and Nina had repeatedly asked their mother to divorce their dad. They were too young to understand that financial stability went hand in hand with a divorce.
“Akriti, the class is over, we can go now,” said Ishika, shaking her friend from her reverie, “let’s go home?”
“You go ahead. There’s something I need to do.” Akriti told her. She shouldered her college bag and went off to find the one person who could help her from the mess once and for all.
*
“Nikhil!” she called hurrying to catch up with him, “You’ve got to help me.”
“Sure, what is it?” asked the boy, smiling at her.
“Your dad has a gun, right?”
“Oh…yeah. I keep referring to it, don’t I?”
“No, you just referred to it once,” Akriti said, in a hurry, “But that doesn’t matter. I really, really need that gun right now!”
“Akriti…what are you up to?”
“Can you trust me?” she asked, beseechingly, “Look, I promise you, I won’t fire it. I’ll return it first thing tomorrow. Deal?”
Nikhil thought he didn’t have a choice.
*
She waited with bated breath for the same drama to unfold that night. The voices began just as the usually did. Her father irritating her mother till she snapped at him, and she tiptoed to their room.
“You live in MY house, you stupid woman,” he was shouting with a face as red as a beet root, “Don’t forget that. It is MY money, you live on! MY money that you all enjoy yourselves with.”
Before her mother could react, she burst into the room, pointing the gun at her father, “Apologize to her, right now.”
“Akriti…” her mother whispered, weakly, “What are you doing? He belongs to the gutter…don’t go down to his level.”
“I won’t,” she replied, calmly, “But give me a reason, and I swear, I’ll pull this trigger.”
“You’re going to kill your own father?” he snarled, “How can you dare to stand in MY house…?”
“Say MY one more time,” threatened Akriti, her eyes flashing with anger, “And that will be your last. Now, I’ve lived with your nonsense for twenty one years. I’ve had enough.”
She took a deep breath and went on, “I’ve run away from romances thinking every guy I might fall for would be just like you. And I’ve denied myself the joy of having friends come over, because I’ve been scared of what they might think if they saw you for who you really are!”
“Who I really am?” her father screamed back at her, “How can you even dare…?”
“Akriti…” he mother warned her, “Be sensible. Killing him will not solve your problems!”
“No, but I’ll be able to live with myself. Nina did the right thing…she knew staying here wouldn’t help her help any of us. I should’ve followed in her footsteps long time ago!” thundered Akriti. She still hadn’t lowered her weapon, “Now, this man needs to get one thing straight to his head.”
“I am NOT your daughter. You’re married to your bottle of alcohol, and may God bless you. You can live in your hell-hole forever. But I’m leaving this dump. And ma is going to come with me. I don’t care what happens to you. I don’t care whether you live or die. As far as I’m concerned, you’re dead to me.”
He looked like someone had hit him over the head. She finally lowered her weapon, “And if you try to disrupt our lives ever again – I’m going to really pull the trigger.”
Saying that she walked out of her parents’ room, feeling satisfied that after all these years of being a victim of alcohol abuse she could finally take a stand. It was a little extreme – but it had been worth it. Nina would’ve been really proud of her. She knew that for sure. Her mother…she wasn’t so sure.
“AKRITI!” her mother scolded, coming into her room a minute later, “Are you mad? And whose gun is that?”
She grinned devilishly at her mum, “Relax. There were no bullets in the pistol. I borrowed it from a friend, whose dad is a police. And I had to promise him even though these were only blanks, I’d not pull the trigger.”
She hugged her mother and asked, “Do you think he’d stop drinking?”
“I don’t think so,” her mother sighed, “it’s been way too many years. But now that your sister’s settled in life and your studies have come to an end – we can finally leave.”
“You mean it? You’re finally going to leave this dump and start afresh?” she asked, happily.
“I no longer have a reason to say,” her mother explained, “I only stayed because I wanted to ensure you girls grew up strong and learned to stand on your own two feet.”
“Ma, we’re fine,” Akriti told her, “And I’m so glad you’re finally letting go off this mental torture…alcoholic abuse doesn’t always come in the form of physical violence you know. You lived with a mental one for so many years now! I’m glad you’re going to start over.”
*
She turned the gun to Nikhil the next day with a word of thanks.
“So, what are your plans next?” he asked her.
“Well, first I’m going to introduce you to my best friend, Ishika.” Akriti smiled, “And then, I’m going to figure out what I want to do in life.”
“You still don’t know?” he asked, surprised.
“I spent my childhood being in a hurry to grow up,” Akriti explained to him, “Now that I finally have the space to breathe, I want to plan things out. Figure out who Akriti is.”
“Sounds good to me.”
And for the first time in twenty one years, Akriti laughed like she had no care in the world, “Yeah. It sounds really good to me too.”
*

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