Saturday, 20 September 2014

Bailers & Keepers


It’s a loud process. There is incessant howling and shouts of “Why?".Meanwhile, a figure comes from the living room and taps on a door in the house.
“Vikram, Open the door. Come out.”
In the dark room, a man is in a corner, sitting with his legs folded. He is faintly murmuring- “Boys don’t cry, boys don’t cry”.
“I can’t come out. I won’t. You don’t need me. We came back from the pyre. Leave me alone.”
The figure abides and leaves the door.
A few minutes later, a girl approaches the door.
“Vicky, its Avantika.”
“The door is open.”
She enters the room and sits next to him after being able to see him with great difficulty. She is quiet and he does nothing to acknowledge her presence.
A few minutes later, he starts speaking-
“She was healthy. She was…. fine. But suddenly she falls sick. And then she is gone.”
He takes a deep breath.
“But boys don’t cry”. A faint laughter ensues.
She places a hand on his shoulder with a morose look as he looks over his shoulders to her.
“I slipped you know. I slipped. After a year of being strong and no contact, I slipped. I texted her.”
Avantika gives him a look of dismay and disapproval.
“Vicky!!”
“Well what was I supposed to do, huh? Look ,you guys are great and always there, but you don’t know me like she did. At least that’s what I thought. “
Avantika gives a puzzled look. “What did you do?”
“I texted her saying my mother is dead.”
He covers his face with his hands and takes a long breathe again. “You know what she replied? I am sorry for your loss. That. Yeah. No call or a rush to the house. But a text. I haven’t received such texts even from acquaintances.You know who talks like that? A stranger.”
“Do you know how it feels to be completely naked with someone?”His voice breaks. “To be so weak and vulnerable in front of them and still get the assurance that you are safe. You tell them your fears, hopes, problems, secrets and secrets of secrets. They do the same or atleast they tell you they are doing the same. You feel strong to beat the odds- the odds that yours is just another naïve and clichéd fairytale in a world which does not believe in one.”
“Trust flows from you without any choice. And then that thin glass of blind trust breaks. Did you ever prepare for that? Of course not. I know I was no angel or anything. And it has been a year. The world has moved on. There were millions of breakups after mine. But these people, who gather in the name of love, how do they move on when it was so real? Do they not feel more than anger and pain over a broken heart? What about responsibility? A person spilled himself out to you. What about honouring his trust? Don’t love him. But be there because only you know a few things. Maybe you know everything. Like how worried he is about life after he loses his parents. Like how he confided in you that he did not feel weak anymore because he knew you would be there as his rock. Love is not everything. There is kindness too. The two of them don’t have to be the same all the time. You can be kind and not love and you can love but not be kind. There was no bad blood. I did not hit her. We did not cheat. We ended because it didn’t work anymore. That does not mean I wanted to lose my Safe. My safe of everything. I just… was I blind? Huh? Tell me.”

“Well” Avantika sighs. “You sure know how to pick them. We need to get you into a course which helps you understand the nature of people. I am not sure who teaches that. And where. But you my friend need help. Because you suck at picking people.”
They both burst into laughter.
“Avantika?”
“Yeah?”
“My Mother is dead.”Tears and loud sobs ooze out of Vikram as Avantika hugs him. He cries viciously and murmurs continuously.
But Boys Don’t Cry.

Meanwhile, in a city far from them,
 “I am telling you man, you should have listened to me".
Arya was shouting at the top of voice on the phone. He suddenly gets another call on his phone.
“Wait Rishi I am going to have to call you back.”
“Hello?”
“Hello Arya. This is Zoey’s mother .I need to talk to you. Zoey has cancer. She has been in the City hospital for the past three months. You should come meet her, right now if possible.”
Arya responded with silence. Only few things kept encircling his mind-“Nope. I did not just hear it. It is not true.”
“Okay.” He hangs up.
Arya arrives at the hospital at 10 in the night. He sees a pensive woman sitting at the waiting area.
“Aunty.”
“She...she is fine now. They surgically removed the cancer but her chemo will continue for a while. She has been saying your name since the past one month. She would come back from her therapy and in her trance; she would repeatedly say your name. I thought you should meet her, she will never admit it, but she wants you by her side.”
Arya nods his head as he is unable to process the words he just heard and believe them even less.
However, when he walked into a room directed by Zoey’s mother, he had no choice but to believe it.
There laid Zoey and it would be so easy to not recognise her. Her hair, which she had always been proud of and cared for was gone. She looked pale. Arya had seen her in great pain before, but never this. Even with her eyes closed, he understood that she was going through something unfamiliar and it had taken a huge toll on her.
He sat next to her.”I will stay. If you guys need to go, you can go.”
“We will be outside . Call us if she needs anything” said her father.
Arya was dazed and confused. Zoey.  His Zoey for almost 4 years. They had parted ways eight months back. Neither of them knew the intricacies or the broad details of either person’s life thereafter. There was seething bitterness and anger in the end.
But that was the last thing on his mind. In fact, there was nothing on his mind. It was blank. He just wanted to do one thing-to look at her.
Zoey opened her eyes and on seeing Arya, closed them again.
“Hiya Stranger.”
“Hiya Back.” Zoey replied while rubbing her eyes.
“Who? What…..My mother.”
Arya nodded his head.
“Oh my ….. Please hand me my scarf over there….I...”
“I actually dig your new hairstyle.”
Zoey gives him an all too familiar look. It was the “I-do-not-believe- you” look.
She insisted on the scarf and as always, got what she wanted.
“So, I look hideous now. You must be thrilled that you broke up with me before such monstrosity took over me. Probably u must have wished it on me.”
Arya gave a smirk.”Classic. Firstly, we broke up because of you. I just said what was already pretty evident. Secondly, I did not wish awful things on you, sometimes in anger maybe, but never anything like this. I also do not think you look hideous.”
“Oh, so you have wished bad things for me.?”
“Seriously, THAT’s what you get out of it? You never change Zoey do you? That is why you make it so hard to keep on loving you.”
Suddenly, silence enveloped the once loud room.
“Glad to know the love is gone from both sides.”
“I am pretty sure it went away first from your heart.”
“Arya” Zoey cried in a low voice.”Why are you being so cruel? I am in no condition to fight. I am really sorry I broke your heart...”
“No honey, you broke my heart many times. When you would do things just to hurt me, when you would repeatedly try to break us up by telling me to walk away or always saying that we will never work and impulsively doing something just to defy me. No, you broke my “fickle minded heart” many times. But with your last act, you burned it. You burned my heart and then seasoned it with a salt of defiance. And you were even about to eat it. But that is when my balls hit my brain and told me that I had suffered enough.”
“Arya I told you I am sorry for what I did...”
“Please do not revisit it. I have to relive it every day, the lying and the betrayal. I am not here right now to talk about all of this. I am not even sure why I am here. When your mother called me, I even hesitated. But I knew that I would not sleep until I saw you tonight. We promised each other many things in love. But just because we broke up, does not mean you don’t tell your former best friend that you have cancer.”
“I am angry about that. Yes we ended. Yes it was not as pretty as we hoped. But 3 months and not even once u tell me “Hey I am battling for my life”. He sighed.
“I did not think you would be interested. I remember you looked at me as if you wished me dead.”
Arya was amazed. But he still understood where Zoey was coming from. He held her hand and asked her,”Forget about all of this. How are you? Tell me everything.”
They talked. Those endless talks. Just like before. When topics were few, useful even less but neither of them wanted to leave or to hang up. It seemed that life could end but not these talks.
It was 1 am when Zoey’s mother entered the room and told Arya that he should go home and rest. Arya reluctantly left, promising to come the next day.
At 12 pm, Arya flings open the door of Zoey’s room. Zoey and her parents are startled.
“Hey! I got you your favourite soup. Already checked with your doctor, you can have it.”
“Arya… you shaved your head.”
“Yeah. How does it look?”
“You did it for me so that I do not feel weird. God! When will you be mature? You are a Guy! You do not understand how a girl feels when she has a shaved head!”
This was the cue for her parents to leave.
“Ok. First things first I did it so that you understand that it is not a big deal. It will grow back. Secondly, stop with your “oh you are a guy, you won’t understand” jibe. Yes I have male genital organs. Sorry. I was born with them. If I had them replaced when we were dating… well can you imagine that? That must bum you out more than me not understanding. Unless you were cool with being a lesbian, in which case I would’ve loved you even more.”
Zoey laughed loudly till her eyes were wet. She had not laughed in months. He wasn’t that funny and yet, the laughter wasn’t forced.
Arya poured the soup and gave it to her.
 “Arya, What are we?”
“Sweetheart, do we give a rat’s furry ass about what we are? The people will want to know. But have I ever cared about the people? No right?”
Zoey nods.
“Then shut the hell up and eat your damn soup!”
Zoey smiles and eats.

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