Spanish Needles and Silent Tears from the Inconsolable
My friend Ayna killed herself last week.
It took everyone by surprise. Including me.
To come to terms with reality and figure out why she did such a horrible thing to herself, I tried to remember Ayna as a person.
If you didn’t know Ayna, you’d think she was happy. For the most part. One glance, everything seemed glued together in all the right places.
I once caught Ayna staring at a cemetery. We go to churches on quiet afternoons occasionally to stare at the light through the stained glass, our footsteps muffled by the soft carpet. For the silence. People automatically maintained a reverent hush around the six foot statue of Jesus staring down from behind the altar. I remember her pointing out that the cemetery didn’t have any tombstones. They were all unmarked graves. She told me how insignificant that made one after they died.
“Not for the ones who care” I tried to tell her.
“For all I know, they could be praying at their ex-husband’s grave instead of their husband’s”.
We laughed at that.
Ayna hated the smell of cigarettes so she started smoking. It didn’t make sense. But apparently it worked. She didn’t hate it anymore. She wasn’t a regular smoker because she felt if she smoked all the time, then it wouldn’t give her the 2 minutes of high that she got from it. She had a habit of putting herself through shit and claiming it to be for character development. She felt she was too weak for this world and she hated that.
Ayna used to write about everything that made her feel anything. Sometimes she drew it out. But almost always, she never talked about it to anyone. She made something out of it. And I thought that worked better for her than talking to anyone. People had their own ways of expressing their thoughts. She was making something out of her grief, her happiness, her anger, her messy mind. But looking back, I wish she had talked to me. I wish she had at least cried, shed a single tear. But she never did. She used to tell me that she felt more comfortable crying to strangers but found it difficult to be vulnerable in front of people she knew well. The confession box was her favourite place. I thought that was fucked up. I wish she had waited. She might have found someone she could cry to. Someone who would listen like she listened. She was always scared she’d scare people off if she told them too much about her so she never really talked. She kept a lot to herself. She hated small talks but was scared of serious conversations. She was afraid she’d talk. So she listened a lot. Whatever you said to her, she listened and whatever you told her, in the end, she’d assure you that things would get better. I thought she believed it herself too but she clearly didn’t.
Ayna had a thing for smart people. But she hated it when I told her that she was a sapiosexual. She thought she was too stupid to be one. She wasn’t. She really wasn’t. Nobody really knew this, but Ayna liked to sing. A lot. She used to send me clips of her singing her favourite songs.
A week before she took her own life. Hmm. Let’s just say she went away. I’m not ready to accept it yet.
So, a week before she went away, she sent me a recording of her singing a song called ‘Home’ by Bruno Major. I think it was the 6th song that she sent me. I told her this time that it was really good. It was. I don’t think she believed me. I don’t think she ever believed anything was good about her. She was always scared she’d stop trying after a while. She was always scared she’d give up. But, isn’t everyone?
But I considered this an accepted level of melancholy in today’s world. Who kills themselves for this? That’s what I thought too.
That’s what I thought too.
But Ayna is the person who broke down in class once and told me later that it was because it was too hot for her and she couldn’t handle it. Who cries because the weather is bad? Ayna did. And thinking about it now, I feel like it wasn’t just the weather outside. It was a tornado inside her head. A whirlwind of destruction that I wish she could let out. I guess what upsets me the most is that I never got to tell her how much she meant to me.
A few months back, Ayna bought a 24″ x 24″ stretched canvas and came home. She laid out all her art supplies on the floor on old newspapers and started painting. No explanations, nothing. She took months to complete it. Every day she painted a little bit of it. I thought it was the best painting she had ever made. It was also her last. It was a monochrome painting with just blue on it. I remember shouting at the mess she was making because of how long it took. It annoyed me. I liked my room clean at all times. But she turned a deaf ear to my rant. Once it was done, she kept the painting in my room for me and left. She had cleaned up all the mess and clipped a note on the canvas. It simply read “Here’s a piece of me for you to remember me by.”
See. This is what I didn’t like about Ayna. She made people feel too special for nothing. We didn’t really have that kind of a relationship. We were just two people brought together by fate. Sometimes I think, I don’t even like her so much. She was a little too much for everyone. Even for me. I never understood why. I just knew that she made people feel too important even if they didn’t deserve it. Even if they didn’t want to feel so important.
I keep picturing her smiling face. But now that I know, I can’t help but see a kind of sadness looming behind her smile. I keep imagining the battles that she was fighting to keep the smile plastered over her face, sometimes overdoing it with giggles. I’ve asked her from time to time why she laughs so much.
“I don’t know” She somehow managed to say in between her continuous giggles.
If you ask me, I don’t think I have ever met her. She was not this person that I am writing about. There was a lot inside her that I never got to see. I never cared to see. No one ever got to know her for real and I think the fact that nobody, absolutely nobody on this planet will ever get to know who she really was, will disturb me till death. Maybe someone does. I don’t know. Maybe you do.
On the day of her funeral, it was bright and sunny. Everything seemed disturbingly pretty. What depressed me was that her family wasn’t crying. None of them. Her mother, father and her little sister looked pale. Like they had all died with her. Like this was a funeral for all four of them. There was just the quite muffle of footsteps and the light breeze rustling the leaves. No whimpers or wails. Only the silent tears of her extended family. It was not like they liked her when she was still there with them. Maybe their tears were filled with delinquency. But it wasn’t like Ayna liked them anyway. She was never a family person. She felt her family was too happy all the time. She found it tedious to be cheerful like that. One night, after downing a bottle of cheap wine, she told me how nobody really liked talking about their struggles at home. Everyone was required to keep their troubles aside and put on a happy face at her home. It was an unspoken rule. I remember visiting her home. I loved her family. I loved her home. I felt she was being unfair complaining about her parents like that. So I just nodded.
Ayna had come home with my other friends when my mother passed away. The death was heart-breaking, but expected. We detected the unwelcomed guest growing inside her brain, a little too late. When Ayna heard that this happened, she didn’t console me. She was just there with everybody else. But she stayed for a week. We weren’t even that close then. But the whole time she was there, she never talked to me about anything. It was just silence. I remember crying a lot. But she dealt with it. Without saying a word. I think she knew that I didn’t need any consoling. My mother had passed away. It was the reality that I had to face. Alone. But, Ayna didn’t want me to do it alone. So she stayed.
I went to visit her grave yesterday. I had made a tiny bouquet of the white wild flowers near my home to place on her grave. She likes that sort of things. Liked. The white flowers were her favourite.
“It has a name. Spanish Needle. Call them by their name.” She used to tell me.
She came to class everyday with one of these tiny flowers tucked into her curls. Everyday.
“Why do you pluck them if you like them so much?” I asked once, only to annoy her.
She never wore them again. But she pressed the flower that she had on, that day and made a resin locket out of it. She wore the necklace every day since then. The girl was crazy. In a very nonchalant way.
Today morning, I received a postcard in my mail. The card looked exquisite. It had on it, a painting of a beautiful night sky with the stars of the constellation, Gemini, connected with a faint white line. I felt a lump in my throat.
Ayna and I had spotted the constellation, Gemini, on one of the nights we spent drinking on the terrace. There was very less light pollution where we lived. The night skies were worth losing some sleep for. I believed in astrology and zodiac signs. So spotting my birth sign felt special. Ayna found it funny that I thought it was a good idea to let the stars decide what I do with my life. But I liked to believe that everything wasn’t upto me to decide. Things felt lighter. Pain felt gentler.
I felt my knees go weak when I read her name written on the card, in her messy handwriting. It was sent on January 8, 2020. A day before she killed herself. I couldn’t bring myself to read what she had written. So I sat at my desk and stared at it for a good 5 minutes. I heard myself whimpering and struggling to breathe as I realised how much I needed this. An explanation. A closure of sorts.
“Dear T, I wish I had it in me to stay. I tried. I tried every day. This world is a little too much for me. I don’t know if writing to you like this is a good idea. But I needed you to know that if you ever find you blaming yourself for this, please don’t. This is how much time I had here. And this was enough.”