Mallika picked the blade and put another cut on her forearm.
“Five is right,” she whispered with her teeth clenched. She had never cut herself five times and it was hurting more than she had anticipated. Especially the third cut wasn’t deep enough and was more like a papercut that wasn’t healing properly. She left the hand lay still as blood oozed out of the five slits on her hand, each almost the same size roughly half-an-inch apart from the other. She closed her eyes and embraced the pain. It helped her. Reminded her that she was alive, that she wanted to be alive.
She had read once that most suicide survivors regret the decision to attempt suicide the moment they reach the point of no return. She considered this her placebo medicine – not killing her but telling her to stay alive. She started with one cut and now, she needed dosage of five.
Mallika’s mind fledged to a different time, a time when she didn’t need a reminder to stay alive, a time when she didn’t have everything, a time when she was living to survive.
“Hey,” Mallika said to her new roommate.
“Hey,” Elena said with a nod. “New to the city?”
“Yeah, just reached. What about you?”
“Came here yesterday. The room is shit but let’s hope the city compensates for it.”
Mallika laughed. She was happy to have a roommate with a sense of humor. She had just graduated and had moved to New York for her job. She was finally at the right place and hoped it was the right time.
The next five years were a blur in Mallika’s life. Work took her days, hustling took her evenings, and parties aka networking took her weekends.
“You don’t grow fast by going slow,” a professor had once said in a class. She took that as her persona dogma. In five years, she finally reached a place where she slowed down and saw that the life around her was not just beautiful, it was her own construction. Her five years had finally shown fruits.
She slowed down and changed gears.
“Time for a family,” Mallika told her friend once and her lifestyle completely changed. Her work was stable, both in her job and her hustle and she had enough savings to survive any major crisis.
Then she met Gary!
Gary was perfect. He worked at a consulting firm and would travel across the country. He was also as enthusiastic about success and growing as she was and they instantly connected. After five years of focused work, Mallika had legitimately thought that she would have trouble finding the right person but Gary popped in her life almost immediately.
They got married after one year of knowing each other and had a kid three years later. The next five years were even faster. Jeremy was five when Mallika was first hit by the wave. The wave made her feel despondent and worthless. Her mind was telling her that everything was alright but her whole body was rejecting this idea. Each passing day was becoming difficult, each passing month taking longer than the last.
For one year, she endured this alone, before telling Gary who comforted her. They decided to see a doctor.
“Physically, she’s fine. But it’s possible that she might be suffering from depression. You might want to consult a psychologist.”
The psychologist officially diagnosed Mallika with clinical depression.
“But my life is good. It doesn’t make sense. I have everything I want!” Mallika almost pleaded with the psychologist, as if she had received a bad grade in an exam of life and wanted the mark sheet to be checked again.
“Please get a second opinion if you want. In the meantime, these medicines would help,” the doctor said.
Mallika got herself checked, once, twice, thrice, and more but the diagnosis was correct. She started taking the medicines which were woefully useless. They would either not work at all or would reduce her mind to smithereens and her work suffered.
“Is there anything that can be done?” Gary pleaded with the doctor.
“I’m sorry. We are giving her the right dose, more in fact. We can’t give her more than that,” the doctor said to a disappointed Gary.
This continued for almost a year when Mallika found herself thinking about suicide in more and more ways. It started naively, with a simple question – “What would happen if I die today?”
Gary would recover. He’s resourceful. He will also take care of their kid. He’s growing anyway and doesn’t need her that much. She was replaceable at work and her hustle would end but at this point, it really didn’t matter to her much.
The question expanded and soon enough, her mind was taking another leap into the unknown. ‘Perhaps, it would be better if I die. Their lives would be better soon.’ Her mind thought and decided that her death actually has a net profit on the world.
It was a summer afternoon when her mind finally made her decision – everything was better with her gone. She had almost reached the edge of her balcony, about to jump and ending it all when her son did the most stupid thing in the world, and unknowingly saved his mother.
Jeremy was running around the house with a knife and at the precise moment when Mallika was on the ledge, he slashed her mother’s arm with the knife. Writhing in pain, she fell to the ground, her son scared and crying looking at his mother’s blood.
Mallika’s self-loathing was gone. It came back later but faintly. It was almost a month before she felt the horrible feeling she had been feeling for almost a year now. She decided to repeat the experiment and cut herself, on her arm. A thin cut that forced pain in her life.
That was twelve years ago. In the past ten years, Mallika had tried almost every medicine for depression but only one thing had worked with a guarantee and that too with regular increase in dosage – a blood sacrifice.
Mallika was woken up by Gary’s voice. He was sitting beside her, holding a fruit salad.
“You must be tired. Eat something,” Gary said, categorically ignoring the cuts on his wife’s hand. Mallika opened her eyes and kissed Gary.
“This is the most I have seen.”
“Yeah. Today was harder.”
Gary nodded. Today was a huge milestone in their family. Jeremy had gone for college today.
“Do you think it will increase?” Gary asked, looking at the new fifth cut.
Mallika looked at him and smiled.
“Don’t worry. I have one more hand,” and her smile turned to laughter.