The worst kind of affliction a writer can suffer from is being left incoherent, speechless, incapable of putting into words the thoughts and feelings that flow so effortlessly on any other day. It is not writer’s block, it is not even the lack of ideas, it is so much worse than that: It is the murder of 131 schoolchildren and 10 of their teachers, as it happened on the 16th of December, 2014, in Peshawar, Pakistan.
I want to not think about it, but this number is bouncing around inside my skull, lighting up the darkest corners of my mind like a murderous pinball machine, racking up the score on the level of psychological pain it can induce. It has crossed the red into the blinding white where your existence becomes splintered like dried wood cracking, losing its identity. You feel yourself imploding, collapsing in on yourself and just ceasing to exist. Pain is just a word here, feeling is undefined.
I am not angry, I am not upset, I don’t feel patriotism bubbling up at the call for the national green in my blood to rise. I don’t feel anything. I’m not thinking who did it, or why they did it, I am not thinking about what should be done to those who did this and what must now be done to prevent it from ever happening again.
I am merely stunned at the fact that it has happened. My sense of self has dissipated, I simply feel broken. Like there is no point to anything. Like I cannot even continue typing these words out because they will stop making sense by the time this sentence ends. There is just no point to life when it is taken so easily, regardless of the number. You take one, you take all.
Everyone is praying, everyone is telling everyone else to pray. But for whom? Those who have left us are surely martyrs gone to heaven, the purest of souls untouched by vice. Isn’t that what a child really is? An angel without a halo or wings. They say we should pray for the families, but what could you really ask of God? The strength to bear this loss? Only a mother would know how it feels to lose a part of herself, only a father would know how it feels to bury his own child. You and I? No, we do not know, so all we do is pray for them.
But what could I pray for besides that? I suddenly feel so lost; rudderless in an ocean, vast and deep, and I do not even have the will to flail my limbs about, I do not even have the will to survive. And for what should I live? To feel this kind of sadness that is beyond sad? Despair beyond despair? Hopelessness beyond being hopeless? This is not a ripple in the fabric of humanity, it is shredding it, ripping it, tearing it apart at the seams. This is the kind of thing that makes a woman fight against her natural instinct of wanting to become a mother. Do I want to bring children into this world when I have to protect them from more than just bruised knees? I am perhaps being completely selfish in wanting to save myself from the idea of losing my child, from having to cry myself to sleep next to their empty beds, holding their bloody uniform, keeping their memory alive. I want to be selfish this way.
I thought I only needed to vent to feel better, but I felt exhausted even before I wrote a single word here, even before I began thinking about writing. So very exhausted, deep down in my soul, completely and utterly spent. No, I did not personally know any of the victims, I am not so arrogant as to claim that I can feel their pain. I don’t, I can’t, and I pray no one ever has to feel it ever again. I am just simply so shocked that I cannot wrap my head around it. I feel beyond helpless, I don’t even know what kind of help I could give that could make an iota of a difference to those whose lives have been changed forever.
I feel no rage, no anger, nothing. I am broken and shrivelled like something has died inside me. It is probably my soul, most likely my soul. I thought I could rationalize my emotions about it, like I do for everything else, but even after all this time I realize that work was just a distraction. The idea that this has happened is just too strange for my mind to understand, like how can something so unimaginable happen? But it HAS happened. And I keep telling myself that so I can keep my mind from becoming disjointed from my body. I already feel so disconnected from everything around me, as if I am living my life in third person.
It is such a different kind of sadness from anything one feels through the course of their life. I always have a reaction or response to sad occurrences, but right now I am incapable of giving a response, providing a reaction. People are yelling, screaming, raging, crying, sobbing, beating themselves up. I think I just skipped all these stages of grief and entered the zone of numbness, possibly denial. I am not special and neither have I attained some mystical nirvana to feel emotions beyond an average human, I have merely failed to cope with this, and how CAN one cope with this? I doubt there is any emotion on the spectrum of human feelings to effectively cope with this.
I am not asking what sort of God allows this kind of thing to happen, I’m not thinking that there is some grand scheme of things where this fits in; my own mind is scaring me because I just keep going back to the point where I think ‘IT’ happened. Not how, why, when, where or what. Just that it happened is a thought I am having difficulty formulating. The mind is not comparing it with other atrocities or wars or killings anywhere else on the planet; the mind is not rationalizing and neatly categorizing it as an act of terrorism that we need to fight back against.
People are angry, consoling themselves with the fact that the perpetrators will go to hell. And then the mind starts questioning if even hell is enough. Even liars and petty thieves go to hell, we are hell-bound for comparatively smaller offences, but this, this is something else entirely. And these people are going to hell too? So maybe the deepest, darkest, hottest level, the very pits of hell, but is that enough? No, the mind truly does not have the capacity to process these thoughts running through my head. I know that the natural human response to this is the need for revenge, almost an animal instinct to avenge our loss, but I have failed to feel the hate and the rage, I am suddenly thinking on an existential level about where humanity stands. Or if it even exists any more in the human race. I am consciously suppressing such thoughts because I know my mind might collapse from the sheer magnitude of pondering the unknown. I cannot think of heaven or hell or even justice.
I. Cannot. Think.
Even after this whole tirade trying to rearrange and direct my thoughts and feelings, I am left with nothing coherent, substantial, understandable. Words, oh they have failed me so completely today.
(Details of the incident: http://www.dawn.com/news/1151361)