I Am Not a Masochist
Trying to keep her breathing normal, Mitty was running as fast as her lean legs allowed her to. The earth behind her was collapsing very fast. She could not feel tired or slow down. She had to stay focused. But how far could she run. “Can someone else please run this for me? Just for a few sec…..on….ds….” Suddenly she was falling at double the pace at which she was running. She tried to grapple for something to hold onto. But she was going down too fast…she was losing her breath….it was dark all around. Desperate for support, help, air, she gasped in the last bit of what was available….
Mitty woke up aghast, struggling to breathe. Still grappling to hold onto something, she dropped the lamp on her bedside. By the time Maera, her mom, rushed in, Mitty was still fighting for breath. Maera rushed to Mitty’s side. Before she could come any closer, Mitty said “It was just a bad dream. No problem. I am okay now. I’m Sorry. Please go and sleep mom.”
It was 3 in the morning and Mitty could not sleep after that. She took her journal and scribbled speedily, unending tears rolling down her cheeks. She began crying copiously within no time. Tears kept flowing and she kept writing, continuously wiping off the tears welling in her eyes to be able to see and shuddering from the overwhelming emotions.
The dream had set a bad note for Mitty’s day—a very important day. She had a meeting today that could prove to be a game-changer for her career. Those feelings in the dream were all so real, and the ending of the dream scraped the hollow in Mitty’s heart. The dream made her feel unfulfilled. She dragged herself out of her bed, skipped breakfast, and straightaway headed to work, taking a longer, more beautiful route through the woods today although she was already running late. All her way she tried to relax, her favorite music on queue and windows wide open to let the fresh air cleanse her aura. Finally, after about an hour, the engine came to a halt and again set in the weird uneasiness. Mitty decided to ignore it. She was already late for the meeting. She collected all her confidence and began walking towards her cabin.
“Hey Mits! Where you racing to” It was Shaan, sliding on the super-clean floor trying to catch pace with Mitty, “Why have you been dodging my calls all morning?”
Mitty’s life revolved around her parents and her sister Nuna. She had a couple of friends but none that she was really close with. Family was all Mitty had ever known. And then there was Shaan who was neither her friend and nor her family but was always there for Mitty.
“Shaan, I have a very important meeting in 5. Can I catch up with you post that, please?” Mitty had almost started running by now leaving Shaan behind. Shaan shouted from behind her looking around to make sure no one else was paying attention, “You got the scholarship, Mits!”
Mitty froze. Shaan put his hands in his pocket and walked slowly, whistling, towards her. Mitty had not turned around yet. Shaan stopped beside her, took a step forward and turned around on the tip of his black shiny shoe to stand face to face with Mitty with a sideways smile and a raised eyebrow. His smile and eyebrow both fell back instantly. Mitty’s eyes were brewing with tears…waiting on the brim, ready to slide down. The hair on her body had not settled down yet and the blood seemed to have stopped running in her veins. Shaan came close and hugged her. Tears rolled down her cheeks and got soaked into Shaan’s perfectly white shirt while she held him tight. Mitty felt surprised at how consistent her emotions had been since last night. Before letting go of Shaan, she properly rubbed her face on Shaan’s shirt—now that it was already dirty. Shaan let out a gentle laugh. “I know you can’t be happier. Let’s celebrate.”
“We have everybody waiting for you in the meeting room,” Mitty almost jumped at Marias voice from a distance. It took Mitty a minute to realize she had to run—now. She ran past Shaan without a word. “Never mind,” said Shaan and went towards his cabin smiling.
Suddenly, Mitty was no more nervous about the meeting; it didn’t even seem to be important anymore. She actually “killed it” in the meeting room. Everyone liked her presentation and congratulated her. While walking out she thought to herself “Could Shaan be joking? I’ll go speak with him.” Shaan knew Mitty too well to do that, more so because he knew how passionate Mitty was about this scholarship—he was the only person who knew apart from Mitty and her granny. Shaan and Mitty would sit for hours discussing Mitty’s love for this scholarship. Shaan would frame beautiful stories around Mitty travelling from one country to another or about her returning as a proud lady after the end of the scholarship. Mitty would laugh wholeheartedly. She used Shaan’s postal address on her application as she did not want anyone at her home to know about this.
She had just opened the door to Shaan’s cabin when Maria walked up. In huffs and puffs, she managed to say, “They want you to work in their team!”
“What?!” reacted Mitty and “No!” said Shaan. Mitty was confused rather than happy. The scholarship she had achieved was her lifelong dream, one that had not let her sleep on several nights, one that she had dreamt of through her college days to her work life, one that was definitely fuel for her soul. On the other hand, this promotion was something that any professional would die for.
Mitty started feeling very uneasy and left early. It had been a long day for Mitty—a good day, but a long one. Mitty didn’t share with her family about the new development in her life. After dinner, she spent some time in the living room reading Camus, Maera watching some dystopian movie while oiling Nuna’s hair. Dad was not home yet. The doorbell rang. Nuna jumped up before the bell ended ringing, hair all up as if she had used some hair gel. She could have hit Maera on her face who was half bent over Nuna’s head oiling her hair with all her passion as if she was being tested on her massage skills. Nuna had apparently asked dad to pick her dress from a nearby boutique today and had been desperately waiting for him to arrive home. She flew to the door, turned the nob and pulled the door open. Shaan, who was standing outside, backed off a little, “You scared me.” Nuna tried to settle her hair while closing the door behind them, “We were not expecting you.”
“Well, whoever you were expecting, you sure had a death wish for them. Who tried electrocuting anyway?”
“Who do you think?”
“I don’t know. Mits won’t do that—at least today. She is too happy to do that.”
“You don’t know why?” Shaan turned towards Mitty with questions in his eyes. Mitty was already staring at him with narrowed eyes and clenched teeth. “Now tell them the whole story. I just hope you know where to stop.” She threw the book in her hand on the couch and turned around to leave for her room. “Hey! Camus did nothing!” Maera screamed less out of her love for books and more out of her love for keeping their edges sharp and clean.
Mitty stood by the huge window of her room. The view outside was beautiful. The entire city, otherwise clearly visible in the daytime, was now just fluorescent dots scattered randomly. It looked like a host of fireflies had hit the land altogether. Shaan took too long downstairs. He was probably being grilled for information. Mitty walked to her bed and snuggled into her quilt. Shaan entered the room after a few minutes. He walked up to Mitty’s bed, called her name, waited for a minute and then left. Mitty opened her eyes and couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.
The next day Mitty reached office early. As soon as her boss arrived, she walked right behind him, “I want to take this opportunity and want to leave as soon as possible.” “You really think you need to say that out loud, Mitty? Only a fool would let go of such opportunity and you are not a fool. You need not worry. We will be done with the formalities by the end of this week and you will be leaving for Mumbai asap. Congratulations again!”
Mitty came out of her boss’s cabin with heavy feet. The uneasiness from yesterday grew heavier and in no time the uncalled-for guests appeared—tears. This time Mitty got really angry at her tears. “What the hell is wrong with me!” She stormed towards her cabin in anger and collected her handbag to leave for home. The whole building seemed to be closing in on her; it got hard for her to breathe. She did not come to work the next day.
Shaan was out of town and had not tried to contact Mitty. He wanted to give her some time to comprehend her feelings. He knew she was confused; about what—he was not sure. He knew her too well to be fooled by her sleeping act that night when he visited her.
As Shaan entered the office, he noticed that Mitty had not arrived yet. The ambience in office had some pep in it. Shaan felt happy. As he was just settling down, his boss popped in his head from the half-open glass door, “Can you please report in with Mitty tomorrow a little early; we have a couple of formalities to complete and you have to take up some of her tasks before she leaves for Mumbai.”
“What’s in Mumbai?” asked Shaan, and then his expressions changed to those of a person who just got the news that Doomsday is tomorrow. He rushed out of his cabin leaving his boss there trying to figure out if he had said something ghastly.
Shaan desperately rummaged his pockets for his phone. He dialed Mitty’s number, to no avail. He drove to her home. His heart was throbbing too loud to think clearly. “Why would Mitty do this,” Shaan thought in his head. “Mumbai! Really!” he shouted out loud.
Mitty had not come home in the last two days. She had called Maera up and told her that she was going to Mumbai for some formalities and did not know when she would be back. “Mitty lied,” Shaan was starting to feel desperate now. He dialed her number again. She did not answer. He felt betrayed. He knew how much Mitty had wanted this scholarship. He knew what it meant for her. How could she choose the promotion over it and then what was it about absconding, disappearing and not answering calls.
As Shaan drove back to work, all the discussions between Mitty and him replayed in his mind. How she would not stop smiling when Shaan would tease her about not picking up his calls because she would be too busy working and coming back only twice a year, visiting her parents and Nuna only after she had spent ample of time with granny. Suddenly Shaan lightened his foot on the gas pedal; his car started slowing down and almost came to a halt. “Granny!” If Mitty ever accepted she was close to someone, it was her granny; when she wanted an escape from all her troubles, it was her granny. In the next minute, Shaan was driving down to Mitty’s granny.
It was a beautiful place that Su, Mitty’s granny, lived in—a beachside villa that had a pleasant feeling about it. The décor was contemporary, the furniture very regal. However, there was something very cozy about the place. Shaan had been there only once earlier with Mitty. It was a place and experience that would stay in mind long after one left.
Granny was watering her plants in the small garden she had grown herself as Shaan drove in. She watched intently to figure out who was the uninvited visitor. When she saw Shaan, she was elated and immediately put her errand on hold and opened her arms to greet Shaan, “You have grown more handsome than the last time I saw you. Why did you not come earlier with Mitty.” “Thank goodness, Mitty is here!” thought Shaan to himself while smiling and hugging granny. “You look very fit. Have you been working out, granny?”
Granny laughed and patted Shaan on his back. They both turned around to walk inside. “Where’s Mitty? She doesn’t seem to be around,” said Shaan trying to conceal the desperation brewing inside him.
“She just went to the beach for a walk. I have not seen her this quite before. What has happened to her, Shaan? Has it got something to do with you?” asked Su.
“I’ll just go and check on her. She’ll be fine. And no, it had got nothing to do with me. But I will make sure that she is fine,” assured Shaan.
Shaan paced towards the beach behind the villa. Half running he shouted, “I did not know you were such a coward! And, you won’t even speak with granny!”
Lost in her dreams, Mitty was standing facing the ocean, shoes lying far behind her, hair flying. Shaan’s words jerked her into the present. She was shocked to see Shaan approaching her, “Did granny called you?”
“What are you doing here? What are you trying to run away from?” Shaan came to a stop beside Mitty, while she stood sideways still facing the ocean.
“What are you talking about? I am here to relax, Shaan,” she said with a quick glance at Shaan.
Shaan was boiling inside. Mitty acting peaceful just ignited his perturbed feelings more. “Why doesn’t granny know about you choosing the job over the scholarship? And why have you not told me?”
“Why does everybody need to know about my decisions related to my personal life? I can and should take my decisions on my own.”
“When were you going to tell me?” Shaan waited for Mitty to answer. “Or were you scared that I would talk about the scholarship and your lifelong dream and you would suddenly not be able avoid what is so obvious and leave everything behind for it.”
“Shaan, this is the best decision for me. Scholarship was more like a childhood fantasy and career is a reality. This is my present. This is what will help me build a secure and comfortable future. I have worked hard for the promotion and anyone would die for it. Only some kind of a fool would let go of such opportunity. Money, fame, and everything that a person could wish for would be mine. On the other hand, in the scholarship period, I will kill myself for serving kids that I don’t even know, live under subpar, harsh conditions, get only a week or two of vacationing, and in the end a certificate of accomplishment. That is masochism.”
“You did not see it that way when you worked for insane hours, when you wouldn’t sleep for the essays and when you would go volunteer everywhere possible. It was damn tough but you didn’t call it that back then; you felt happy. So if you are a masochist, so be it! Mitty, I have never seen anything more real and stable than the spark in your eyes when you used to speak about the scholarship. And I was right there when Maria told you that Mumbai wanted you on their team. I saw you didn’t want it half as much as this scholarship!”
Mitty stood silent, still facing the ocean. “Mitty, very few people know what feeds their soul and not even half of them are lucky enough to get a chance to do something to attain it. You have worked for this twice as hard as for that promotion and now you would let it go. This is your dream and dreams come true only for a handful of people.” Shaan paused.
“I am the one who is going to miss you the most when you will be away, but I know how much you want this and I wish for you to take the responsibility to achieve your dream. That is the Mitty that I love.” Shaan pulled Mitty’s arm to make her look at him for the first time in the last 15 minutes. They both looked at each other and Shaan pulled her closed and kissed her.
Mitty’s heart was throbbing out loud making it impossible for her to listen to anything else. For another few minutes Mitty could experience everything in super-slow motion. Shaan parting his lips, his hand slipping down from the side of her head to her shoulders down from her arms to her palm, Shaan’s fingers making space to squeeze in between Mitty’s fingers—making a comfortable grip on her hand, her hair falling back on her neck and flowing with the breeze that somehow felt amazingly soothing. Breathless, Mitty’s soul had almost left her body when sounds around her began nearing in. She could hear granny call her name. She gulped in a huge gasp as if she had been denied breathing for ages. As Shaan turned around to see granny, Mitty followed, hand-in-hand with her perennial supporter, feeling in her heart the strength to actually go for her dream.