Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Untold Truth


He leaned back on an uncomfortable plastic chair in his grey bedroom and stared overhead at the fan spinning. He counted every rotation it made, in the time frame it did. He saw his phone lay lifeless on his bed. He checked it anyway, again. Where was she? It was unlike her to not respond to even a single text for over 12 hours. It made him doubt if he should he have never told her. But she needed to know. Instantly, he was engulfed with memories of how her big eyes used to gleam with love; the feel of her warm palms in his cold hands; the way her eyes had a small twinkle when she smiled. He remembered it all; He recollected it with ease. Did he throw it all away by letting her in? He genuinely hoped and wished that was not true.
His phone buzzed right then. He unlocked it to read the message in a hurry. It was Ravi asking if he wanted to meet. He said out loud, aware Ravi couldn’t hear him, “No, not today Ravi.” He flung his phone aside without replying. He couldn’t talk to anyone else but her right now. He didn’t want her to feel sorry for him. He just needed her to understand. He took a couple of deep breaths and forced all thoughts of her out of his head. He picked up his short stories book from nearby. He opened a page at random and occupied his mind space by reading. Slowly, the words took over him, replacing his thoughts with the exquisite new world of the author’s. He fell asleep holding the book in his hand; eventually becoming oblivious to his phone and it’s ringing.
She called again and again. Surrendering to his absence, she left a message that read, “Call me Shawn. I need to see you.”
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She stared at her phone for long moments after the text message showed the delivery report. She pondered if his kindness would melt the resistance she had built. She had to hold her ground; she repeatedly muttered to herself. She was compelled to go through with this. It was inevitable now.

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Two hours, four minutes and 28 seconds later he woke up with a start and came crashing back to reality. He groped around his bed for his phone. It was playing hide and... He finally found it. “Oh shit,” he said aloud. “Three missed calls!” She had called. He read her message before dialling her number. He hesitated before pressing that green call key. Did he really want to know what she thought? As he fiddled with his phone he reminded himself that it was too late to have that thought. He pressed “call” and waited impatiently for her to answer. A calm soothing voice that he instantly recognised as hers answered. She said, “Hey Shawn.” He replied, trying to allow her voice to calm him, “Hi Lena.” “Can we meet this evening?” she asked. It was typical of her to get straight to the point. This conversation was going to be so hard to sit through. He was most vulnerable around her yet she was the only one who could save him. He told her that he would meet her at her place in an hour. She agreed and hung up instantly, awkwardly.
He was positive she had not smiled even once during that conversation and that, made him very uneasy. She was not taking this well. It was very unlike her to be so serious. He rummaged all my memories of her, over the past few years, to find one where she wasn’t all smiles. She was a vibrant and energetic person, who rarely let her sorrow surface. She was so positive and caring, he felt warm inside simply picturing her face light up with her perky smile. She wasn’t entirely innocent, yet there was some innocence in those brown beady eyes; a lot lingered that the cynical world had not conquered and wiped out.
She was mature for a 23 year old. Often he forgot that he has been in this world for six years more than her. Six extra years of nasty memories and broken dreams, of shattered hopes and real nightmares; of being engulfed into that trap and of never finding the strength to let go or live through it respectably. She was finally everything he needed to assuage those deep rooted fears. She was his anti-thesis. Her heart was in the right place despite her share of terrible experiences. She put faith in him and his ability to be kind. He wondered what she would say about this new revelation of his. He can imagine she will be foul for a while; he deserved it too.  After all these years of working with her, he had never let her see this side of him. He told many lies and hid many truths; he restrained from imagining the extent of her fury when she acknowledged this. He knew already never to offend a woman, for the wrath of her fury was to be feared and dreaded. He knew he would not survive very long with her angry at him. Her opinion meant too much; she meant too much. He finally got out of bed, spread the sheets out neatly, and cleaned his mess to calm his nerves. He changed into blue denims and a loose grey tee and still lost in thought hunted for a pair of socks. He picked up his lighter and stuffed it into his pocket along with a pack of cigarettes and walked out of the room, straight into the only other room in the house. He grabbed his keys from the kitchen table, drank some water before pulling the door to a close behind him. He decided to walk over to her house as he had another 40 minutes in hand and she lived just 20 odd minutes away. If he walked, he could clear his head before hearing her out. He stepped out of his gate to be welcomed by the sounds and sights of a hectic day. He pulled out a cigarette from his pack and lit it.
He walked casually, taking in the surroundings, and let his nerves relax with every puff he blew out. Cars sped by, bikes race past and people scurried along, all quite unmindful of the others. Some did so cheerily while on the phone, others hummed to the tune that played in their ears, and some others stayed occupied by the voices in their heads- all headed in directions respective to their usual path. The trees stood in their typical positions, as they witnessed each day, the rush of people and vehicles alike. The birds perched themselves atop them singing their own melodies. Dogs lay casually on the road, oblivious to the commotion around. The beauty of the evening and the noise of the hurry blended, creating sounds unique to the rush of that day.
Three cigarettes later, he was as calm as he could hope to be. He was near her house when his heart began to race and he lost all sense of calm again. He settled himself on the footpath outside her house before sending her a text that read, “I reached.” She knew well he would be waiting for her outside. It was where he picked her up for all the times she told her parents about them going out, else she picked him up. He could manage a smile at the thought of all their fond memories together. A few minutes went by before her reply revived his phone. “Give me five.”
Right then he realised, this was going to be worse than he thought; she was more upset than he knew or he could fathom. Several minutes later he heard her front door open and close gently. He took a deep breath before he peeped through her gate to see her walking towards him dressed in black shorts and a faded blue tee-shirt. She looked casual till he locked eyes with her. There was nothing casual about the puffiness hidden behind those kohl lined eyes. There was an ache in her eyes, one betraying the ‘cool’ look she portrayed, one that spoke of her sorrow.
He was stumped, words failed him. Heck, thoughts failed him. She sat down next to him without saying a word, without even a smile.  He didn’t count, but at least five minutes went sluggishly past before either of them said a word. “I’m sorry,” he remembered having thought. But he couldn’t pull himself together for that or anything else. She made the first move; she put her hand on his and said, “This is not easy for me. But I have thought this through. This is what I need. This is what is best for you, me and us.” Those words hit him, as dynamite would square in his face. He moved back instinctively as he imagined an actual slap and sure enough, that hurt less. Those words were the famous foundation of she-doesn’t-want-anything-to-do-with-you-anymore.
She didn’t continue; he didn’t urge her to. They both appeared to be in inexplicable pain. They sat on the foot path, their hearts weighing down with the impact of what was about to hit them; or already had. She finally found her voice and said, “You have been my friend for a long time. But I can feel you getting dangerously attached.” She bit her lip, to fight back her tears. “I can’t be your new addiction. You need to know this is not about your cocaine addiction. I just know if we continue this way, I will replace it, which in my view, is worse. I am no angel, Shawn. I have my weaknesses too. I am not sure I can be as brave as you here and bare myself to you. This is not only the right move but the only one I can make,” she finished with her voice heavy. He still didn’t find his voice. There was so much to say; yet he didn’t say a word. She squeezed his hand and leaned in to give him a peck on his cheek. She whispered with her cheek pressed against his, “Goodbye Shawn. I will miss you.” She got up and left; she left him sitting there. He didn’t have the heart to even watch her leave. He couldn’t move, or think. All he knew was she was gone and her absence overcame him, taking with it his sensibilities. He looked up at the skies and it was a clear summer day; no chance of rain either. If cars, bikes or trucks passed by now, he wouldn’t have noticed. He finally got up, unaware of the time, walked aimlessly allowing instinct to lead him back home. He played the conversation back in his mind, this time voicing all that he should have said.
He was living a nightmare; he didn’t care where he was anymore. The streets, vehicles and people passed him by like a blur. The sounds were all just a ringing in his ears. He dragged his feet straight in to his house and stepped right into his bathroom. He needed to regain control over his mind and body, to calm it down before he did something stupid, something he would regret.
In that dazed mood, he didn’t take off all his clothes; he stood under the shower, doubling over in grief, weeping, aching, and contemplating. He tried to imagine how she would handle all of it. Soon enough he was done standing under the shower, he undressed and dressed again. He sat at his table with an open book and a pen in hand, attempting to put this uncomfortable feeling into words. Then, words flowed and he let them.
Invisible tears wet my pillow,
as I lie down,
Tired and hurt,
Yet another fall, way down below.

This time it was not you or him or her,
It was me, my experience,
That tainted soul,
That heaviness I bore,
Weighs me down,
Despicable, me.

Questioning the contours of mine,
Doubting all that appears, here and thine.

Imagining the past that was,
The person I could have been,
Those that could have stayed,
Here and mine.

The sights, the sounds that didn't become,
the future that forced me to succumb.

Dreaming about you, me, the world,
Illusions of our times, as they were,
Petals, leaves and stems,
Dried, forgotten, gone.
Perhaps we were.

As I look up from darkness,
Aware, scared and still,
You, me, the world that would never be.

Me floating in that moment,
When I did believe,
You, me, the world did exist,
But you and me, have ceased to be.

Now,
Impassive and silent,
I lie in this darkness,
Unseen, Unchained,
Despicable me.
He set his book aside and crawled lifelessly into bed. He had drained himself in those words. He could not change the past or the present. Soaking in self pity and self loathing, he just let go. He allowed himself to dwell and live in that misery.

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Back in her house, she felt numb; she felt estranged from the world, from reality. A single obsessive thought inhabited all the space in her mind. She opened her cupboard and threw her clothes out in a reckless fashion, while guilt clutched her heart. She knew it was the right thing to do. He wouldn’t find out. He should never find out. She finally found what she was looking for and held it in her shaking hand like her little baby. She tightened her hold; unwilling to let go, yet. She steadied her hand to unscrew the bottle. She recalled the psychiatrist’s tone when he told her, “Only two Lena. That will do.” She let some pills drop in her quivering palm. First four fell, and then she edged the bottle for another pill to fall out…five. Finally, she stopped at six. She had her own dirty secret; a secret she wasn’t willing to part with.
 I could see how dangerous my dependency was, yet I was reluctant to divulge. Not today, not yet.


Note: This was an entry in the Urban shots competition. It didn't make the shortlist. :)