"Have you ever tried to stop a trickle of water as it slides down the surface? You realize all you can do is either erase it out of existence, leaving its tiny trail, or better yet, let it flow until it dies out by itself. What do you reckon one should do? What should I have done?”
Those words had screamed on its own accord as it had seemingly assumed its own sentience. For some reason, I had given life to my own innate horror, at my own inability to have done nothing. People did gather around me. Some even awkwardly stepped out of the commotion. And yet others looked at me intently for some reason. I would never know; I would never care! I unconsciously clasped my chest, as a lump formed in my throat.
Those soft murmurs of a dying wish would keep haunting me for another stretch of hours.
"Has the irony of death ever affected you ever so much?” I asked a passerby. He quickened his steps, just to get away from me.
"I guess I should have expected that", I murmured to myself. Yet those lingering pained words had affected me to a great extent. I chose not to think about it.
"Kill me. I beg you. Please! I can't take it anymore.” Each single word had weighed upon me, as they kept repeating after itself, without an end in sight. There was a man trapped under the rubble. I felt so torn up inside, with gusto of empathy over my helplessness; I just wished he would die.
But what if he asked me to do it? What happens next if I had to decide whether or not I should release him from his mortal coil? Then I would not be just a mere onlooker, would I?
Amidst the din of the blast radius, the jagged stone kept teetering on my trembling palms.
"Take heart", I said. “End his suffering." (I did say that, didn't I?)
The edge kept faltering with each passing moment."No. No. I cannot succumb to the trembling now. Of all the times I have had, not now, please!"
I turned my head the other way, in an effort to regain my composure. "It’s all right. You will be all right. Do you trust me?"
I could not even trust myself, not with the sudden masking of my horror with a raw amount of concern. As I slowly gazed over at my side, the rubble settled down and my eyes widened.
His lower torso strewn apart, on the bloodied street. All of the mustered courage gone as I screamed at him, "I am getting you help....RIGHT NOW!"
I wiped the tears on my sleeve, and barely took a few steps back to get a medic when he looked at me with an ambivalent expression. As he inaudibly mouthed the string of words, the only ever words he could say to me before it all died out, I barely managed to understand it all. Amidst the blur of the scene, I wanted to take it all in.
"Ma’am. Not this way. This is a restricted area.”
"I am sorry. What?”
"You are not allowed within this area of the block", the security guard aptly pointed out to the sign overhead.
"I guess I lost track of myself. I am sorry."
"Ma'am, would you like me to call someone? Do you need help?"
"I’m sorry. What did you say just now?"
"Would you like me to-?
"Shut up…SHUT UP!" I slapped my ears really hard and ran off in the other direction, leaving him flabbergasted.
"Wait. What did he say to me again? It’s not that he meant any harm, right?” I reassured myself. But truth be told, there have been so many people keeping tabs on me after the incident, just so I wouldn't do anything brash and stupid.
"Of course, I wouldn't, dimwits! I value myself far too much.”
"Take a break...you deserve it! Let me help you with the paperwork."
"Are you alright, my dear? I promise I will come over tonight. Probably join you for dinner! And I can help with the dishes..."
"Let me help you with the lease extension.”
"Why can't they just understand that I needed some space...all to myself? It should be ME to sort this all out! You probably would not have known me, had this incident wouldn’t have occurred at all,” I sighed in exasperation.
The tiny droplet needs to go on its own, for there can’t be any assimilation at all! After all, it wouldn't be the same, would it? It wouldn't be me.
My shoes had been rendered muddy, after all the wanderings of the day. Sunday afternoon was the funeral, I recall once again, as I stepped into the church.
What did he really mean in the end? Was it a slighted observation on his mortality?
No. The man didn't seem like it. He couldn't have given much thought to it.
"Oh...looks like the service has begun." I avoided the gaze of the solemn crowd and quickly took a seat around the corner. As I observed my surroundings and started focusing on the hordes of people in formal wear, only a few significant words from the speech had filtered into my mind.
The man was a good, jolly creature...Loved his life... (And look where it got him!)
Nonetheless, he had a pretty good reputation, I must say. With all these people attending his service, if he were here, he couldn’t help but smile all over again, right? Well, if it’s up to my musings, I would exactly say that, because I wouldn’t want to revisit that day. Not again.
Had I slipped into my ‘reverie’, his death would still be permanent, wouldn’t it?
Here, I am standing in front of the casket, being announced as a victim and a survivor to the unnamed sympathizers, and yet I subconsciously perceive myself to have been the one who pushed him to the throes of death.
No heartwarming sympathy would amend the raw void left in me. I could have just said it was inevitable.
With my turn to pay my respects unto the half-opened casket, I scrutinized it all.
That slight smirk of his, still residing on that face. Without any further thought, I settled my bouquet of flowers.
"It is all for closure," I remarked to myself.
“I have done all I can,” I reassured myself.
As I retraced back to my seat, something did not feel right. The ambulance was never heading from that way, was it? That person couldn’t have been so curt in his final moment of poignancy, could he?
What if he was muttering the right direction? Did he merely point out that I was heading towards the wrong way? That the ambulance was in the other direction?
Nonetheless, I burst out into uncontrollable fits of laughter, as all the guilt washed away from me momentarily. My empathy just cannot bog me down, not in such a sudden moment of revelation.
Well, people did shirk away from me in utter discomfort. It is just a normal reaction, for all I care!
I had to be escorted out shortly thereafter, where I was supplemented with a blanket and a glass of water. But all I could do was gasping in short bursts of relief. I really didn't feel the need to snap back at the medic.
Maybe it is just one of the possible explanations that I could muster, for it would render my heart stable. But even if it is not true, I will hold steadfast to it. For quite some time. Because it would be the only thing that would keep me from encountering my survivor’s guilt, at least until I am ready for it. Right now, I wouldn’t be able to live like this. Not at the mercy of others, not by lapping up the goodwill of the folk, with their subsequent shower of sympathies. Maybe it is not necessary to find my path right away; but I will seek it on my own…
For it had all come round unto my mind. Maybe the tiny droplet could be heading nowhere. Maybe if you lift up a finger up on its tracks, it would just dissipate or it may just bypass it
It would take a small detour. It might not end where it wished to be. But all it ever wanted was to leave out a fresh trail.
That is all it ever intended to be.
A Longing for the Peak
These bleak pages have lain unfettered for a long time. Inhibitions of a long-ignored friend and disguised emotions have now assumed the form of a burnt note.
Those pages spoke of a pleasant day, where the promises of a snowy valley came to naught, as the bickering grew ever stronger.
Once the clean feet were stretched out on the striped mat, all you needed from the expanse was to record your forthcoming adventure on that sheet of paper. After all, who would have denied the very sole goal you had journeyed to?
The slightly warm tea leaves kept flicking the kettle lid. His loss was not something you would have ever anticipated, and yet you were at a loss of words for him. Pity. A strong sentiment to be used at the moment, but yet being of a kindred spirit was something you ought to have been far away from. Your convoluted feelings gave rise to the dread, while the bubbling froth between you two staled into green sedimentation. Something which was to be taken as faux in nature, including your concern for him.
You, who had been heralded as the golden child, had now trudged through several valleys of the Triund Hill. A vision that could not have been conceived by your eking-out father.
For it has been a vicious climb up the stone plates where you finally came face-to-face with your ambitious self. Finally, someone who would not give a straying thought to your unsung past.
As such, you would eventually embrace that self as you strained yourself to reach that one milestone, while leaving behind that whining mate in the dust and the rasping breath of the shopkeeper on the hill. They surely did claim to have finished that climb up in no time.
In your attempt to prove them wrong, creeping doubts clouded your mind. But they eventually dissipated as you crushed the snowy crystals in your palm. The notorious climb towards the stars was splendidly overdone, you noted to yourself. After all, here you had stood by the edge, trusting that it remain a rundown myth, embezzled in dirt, not snow. Not the stuff you hoped to find in dreams.
The zigzags by the end of the road grew in agonizing leaps, as the returning ones from the peak passed off false assurances. There was no existing competition. There was no relative ranking. All that remained for you was to move ahead past the hordes, shaft the flag on top and high-five the fifth successive ‘gora’ stranger on the peak.
The immediate exhaustion translated into a trembling accomplishment as you raised your hands upon the thin green stretch of the peak. You hoped to have turned things round for the better. Instead, you rested your bones with the meal you would find back home—a meager meal of dal-chawal.
You ought to have caught the bus by now. In hurrying phases of the preceding pages to the note now burnt, which shared your e-mail address to the now forgotten faces, you began to feel the coalescing of a past age with the present. Towards the end, you will come to face your worried friend, a manually blurred-out self that has concerns. The genuine kind. Hypocrisy turns into warmth, with you now relinquishing a forgotten path.
As it turns out, how can I, for once, have hard feelings at this moment?