Once upon a time, there was a child, nestled deep in the unforgiving ruckus of the city on one side and the slow-paced hustle of the village on another. This child had no siblings, nor friends, but she claimed the contrary. She insisted that she had a friend — a faceless friend that remained invisible to everyone around her. The child grew up with this comrade by her side. When she was younger, the friend would convince her to break vases or scare the house pet. As a result, the child would be scolded by her parents, especially when she tried to blame it on her friend, who would remain silent. The child would turn to her friend, drenched in tears, questioning the reason behind the friend’s silence. The friend would only giggle mischievously. As the child grew up, the friend did too. The child found that the friend not only grew in stature, but also in deeds of mischief. Broken vases turned to broken promises and trust, as the friend would sneak the child out of the house to movies or parks. When the child would be cornered by her parents, she had to face the music alone, for the friend ran off to look for a new law to break.
The child, now an adult, found it an immense burden to get rid of the friend. The adult had moved abroad for the purpose of education, hoping to leave the friend behind. The friend, however, found its way onto her flight and in her dorm room. The adult found it impossible to turn down the friend’s demands. And so, together, the adult and the friend disobeyed the adult’s parents, broke the hearts of any new friends they made, indulged in infidelity and lied about all of it with terrifying ease.
Upon the adult’s return, her family thought it best for her to see a healer — one who had helped them when they were struggling with their friends. She was forced through the doors of the small room, her friend clutching at her nervously. The healer asked her about her friend and she told him everything. He smiled and said he understood. The healer stood up, and walked towards a nondescript door. He told her that he’d like her to meet his friend. He beckoned her closer and she followed him as he opened the door. The adult gasped as she saw the healer inside. After closer inspection, she saw that it was his reflection in a large mirror. He explained to her that this was his friend. He kept his friend within the confines of that door, for his friend misled him without asking for forgiveness. It took him an immense amount of effort and, at times, the friend would find a way to roam free, but he managed to push him back inside. It was a daily struggle.
The healer told the adult to look into the mirror and see if she could identify her friend. She walked up to the mirror and saw her friend beside her. They shared height, posture and all other physical features but their faces were slightly different. The friend’s face was contorted in an evil sneer, with wide eyes that kept darting around. The adult was terrified and slammed the door shut. She looked beside her, but her friend was no longer there. The healer informed her that the friend must remain within confines and restraints. The friend would try to break free with promises of improvement, with accusations and blame appointed to others and with the promise of self-harm, but the adult was not to give in.
Years passed, and the adult struggled with her friend, as the healer did with his and her parents did with theirs. She came to find that everyone struggled with these friends. Some failed and gave in to the evil. Some gave up altogether, and were seen in the obituary sections of newspapers. The adult was exasperated with this struggle, but glad that she had identified the friend, for she could now say ‘no’ and fight the evil that had seeped into her life. Can you?
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2015.
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