A Trauma is Born

Trauma is born the moment you notice
Your warm helplessness trickle down
Your left leg to your school socks.
It grows every minute you sit
With the gross stickiness that follows.

It beckons to you that afternoon
When you suddenly stop
While passing the socks
Air-drying on the clothesline.
Despite the maniacal scrubbing
And the finger-skin peeling,
You’re sure you still got a whiff of its stink.
You check again, tentatively,
Bringing the socks to your nose.
Not all the way, but close.
You smell the jasmine of the soap,
Tell yourself you are imagining things,
And let the socks go.
The parabolic clothesline sways,
The socks on them swinging
Like your playground bully
With his you-can’t-do-anything smile.
The scent is back that very instant.
Full blast. And you run.

Trauma cries and mewls and coos
Over the next few days,
Clinging to your breast,
Mouthing at your embarrassment,
Sucking you completely dry.
Every night you go to bed looking
At the light bruises it leaves behind.
You hope it doesn’t wake you up
In the middle of the night.
Of course, it does. It always does.

Trauma eventually learns its manners
And no longer calls you wherever you go.
It makes itself a nice cubby hole
In your private wardrobe drawer.
Every morning when you open it
To get ready for school,
Trauma says “Have a Great Day!”
From inside the jasmine-scented socks
You had helplessed into.
You pick another pair. Always another pair.

Trauma pulls your family in one day,
When after weeks, your mother finds
Burnt socks in the dustbin.
You tell her how they had flown away
Out of the clothesline and into the stove.
She looks at the room’s geometry,
The position of the open window,
The angle of the clothesline,
And the four inches of brick and mortar
Separating these from the kitchen.
You realize you hadn’t thought this through.
You shrug and run away.
But she has a crease behind her bindi.

She comes back from office that day
With a smile spread on her face
And a fresh pair of beautiful socks
With miniature polka dots
Of Mickey Mouse silhouettes.
You look at them and realize
You’d have jumped with joy any other day
Had these not been “the socks
That replaced the socks I helplessed in.”
Now she has two creases behind her bindi
And a hundred rupees fewer in her purse.
And you have two socks in the drawer
That you can’t throw out. For years.

Trauma laughs from your bedpost
When you wake up in the middle of the night,
Frantically touching your pants to see
If you’ve wet them again.
It laughs louder when you turn on
The flickering tubelight to double check.
And it just about rolls itself to death
When you walk to the bathroom
To wash your perfectly dry pants.
You know your mother will have
Another crease behind her bindi
When she sees them on the clothesline.
You don’t care. You can’t afford to care.

Thankfully, your father is oblivious.
His deliberate indifference
Is the last thing you need anyway.
But you learn from him this skill
And deliberately ignore the one
You’ve birthed with someone you hate.
Trauma knows what you’re doing.
And also knows what to do.
It has seen you do the same things
When your father did what you’re doing.
An impasse: Always was, always will.
As unresolved now, as it was then.

You try to acknowledge it as it is
And try to try and let it go,
Even in the twilight of your twenties,
When your parents are changed people,
But you still wake up from a dream
Where Trauma comes to meet you
And whispers in your waking moments:
You can’t do anything.

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