For the hundredth time, I check my phone, it’s 4:35 am. Still not morning.
My thoughts wandered as I tried to sleep again. Where do I draw the line, when will I be
convinced that it’s over, that I must leave him? How much more?
Was it not over when he broke every piece of crockery in his house just because I brought
the wrong cheesecake?
Or when he stubbed his cigarette on my hand when I asked if we could stay at the party a
little longer?
Why is it that even after this, every time he comes to me crying and apologetic, my heart
melts?
He puts his head on my lap and says, “I was just angry, you know I love you.” And I
believe him. Should I have to make excuses for him? Are all relationships like this?
I check the time again, 5:13 am.

Well, almost morning. I get out of bed, brush my teeth, take a shower and get ready for
work. I can hear my mother working in the kitchen as I make my way downstairs. I take my
seat at the dining table and can see her now. It feels like a long time since I actually looked
at her, as if she aged overnight. Can people tell, how many tears the cracks in her skin have
soaked up over the years? How did she do it? How did she survive a broken, torturous
marriage and still manage to keep a smile on her face? All in the name of love? Somehow
today, I admire her for the one thing that I have resented about her all my life.

Ma’s voice brings me back to reality.

“You’re up early today! Dressed for work already?!”
I walk to the kitchen and lean against the door as I watch her pour my coffee.
“Now, don’t complain but we’re having upma for breakfast. I really couldn’t think of
anything else.” She suddenly realizes that I’m not listening.
“You’re awfully quiet today. What is it? Did you and Arpit fight again?”
If it was any other day, I’d have some smart, sarcastic rebuttal, but today, I was at a loss for
words.
“What is it bachcha? Are you tired from yesterday’s party?”
I felt a strange urge to hug her and flung my arms around Ma. I can’t remember the last
time we hugged.
“I’m sorry Ma” I cried. “I’ve criticized you, time and again, for not being able to stand up for
yourself, for tolerating dad’s abusive behavior. When all the while, that, is exactly what I’ve
done with Arpit.”
Ma held me in a tight hug. After several moments of silence, she said “You don’t have to
apologize, my darling. It was too late for me when I realized. I would never forgive myself if I
left your father after his illness. But it’s not too late for you. Learn from my mistakes, that
will be your biggest tribute to me.”
With the corner of her saree, Ma wiped my tears and smiled “Now, go sit at the table,
breakfast will be ready in ten minutes.”

I go back to the table and check my phone to see if I got any new emails. The phone unlocks
to my WhatsApp chat with Arpit. Unknowingly, I start re-reading his texts from last night.
“Are you happy now? You made me angry again. And now that we’re engaged, I’m stuck
with you. I have no option but to marry you. What was your mother thinking by throwing
such a big engagement party? Is she showing off her money? She must be REALLY happy
now, right?” His phone had been switched off since this last message. He had a habit of
doing this as a way to make me ‘realize my mistake’. I felt a shiver go up my spine, my heart
was pounding, and I felt a little dizzy. Ma was right, I still have time.


There was still time for the office bus to arrive, but I felt like I needed fresh air and left early.
As I stepped out of my building, I felt a cool breeze blow on my face. It was a beautiful
December morning. The birds were singing their song and squirrels were chasing each
other. I looked up at the sky and saw a flock of the white migratory birds that came to
Mumbai in winter. I felt the warmth of the early morning sun on my face. Was this place
always so beautiful?


Children in uniforms were waiting to be picked up for school. A little girl was standing next
to me with her mother, arguing about something. The embarrassed mother looked at me
and smiled. I crouched next to the girl and introduced myself, we shook hands.
“What’s that on your hand”, she pointed at my scar.
I told her it was from a wound.
“Does it still hurt?” she asked.
“Not anymore” I replied. She wasn’t convinced. In a way, neither was I.
Waiting for my bus, I tried calling Arpit one more time. Tring Tring… My heart started
pounding again. I felt a little weak in my knees as the phone continued to ring.
“Hello” Arpit answered.
“Hey, good morning. How are you?” I murmured.
“I’m great” he said, as if nothing had happened. I felt my face getting warm.
“What happened last night? The engagement party went as per plan, right?”
“Yes, it did” he snapped.
“Then why were you furious?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Just cold feet I suppose. Forget it, you know I love you” he said.
Now, I lost my patience.
“No, I don’t, Arpit, this isn’t what love is supposed to be like.”
This was unexpected for him.
“You know our love is intense! It’s what makes us special” he said.
“No! It’s toxic. We keep falling into the same pattern and it’s my fault, because I make you
feel like it’s okay. You’ve always abused me, but now my mother? If I don’t stop this now, I
will be stuck.”
Arpit sensed the seriousness in my voice. “What do you mean?”
I took a deep breath.
“I’m breaking up with you Arpit. It’s for the best. Please, don’t call me again. Goodbye.” I
opened his contact on my phone. And blocked him.

When I boarded the bus, I was feeling peaceful, almost weightless.

Sometimes, it takes a sleepless night to wake you up.

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One Sleepless Night is a short story written during the My Alchemy workshop by participant Smriti Misra. If you want to know more about the writing workshop, send us a mail on alchemy@abacusyellow.com
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Read the earlier stories by My Alchemy participants https://tectonicshifts.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/forest-lore/ https://tectonicshifts.wordpress.com/2020/12/07/the-fair/ https://tectonicshifts.wordpress.com/2020/12/15/the-scars/