Do you remember the ice cream parlor we came across once,
On one of your necessary midnight strolls through the city?
The one you still maintain you had always wanted to check out,
When I’m positive that we had lost the way,
But it was OK because being stranded in the middle of nowhere was bearable with you,
And your talks of existentialism and game theory and the effect of oxytocin on prairie voles.
I wish I had known that they weren’t any exotic creatures but a variant of rats!
You filled the space of every conversation with your grand gestures and flushed face,
With the slightly crooked spectacle resting sparingly by the sides of your dark, unkempt curls,
And I listened to you far into the night,
Talking about stuff I could care less about,
Just to watch your hands spanning out and your nose turning redder and redder as you emphasised your points.
I found that parlor again this morning,
When I took a wrong turn on my way back home,
Looking for a shortcut to avoid the traffic
So that I could save a precious four minutes, as Google had claimed.
And it was there,
Calling out to me with the flavours of Feynman sprinkled with Freudian principles,
Reminding me of the taste of The battle of Troy,
Of the fragrance of constellations on my bed,
And the aftertaste of Eros’s arrow.
And when he asked me about where I found such good desserts later that night,
I told him I lost my way once,
He told me it was worth it.
I’ve always had a problem remembering things. Not schoolwork and stuff, I was brilliant at those, but other more general stuff like where was the really safe place I kept the photographs in or what was the direction to the new house we moved in. And faces, I’ve always been especially bad at remembering faces. If ever I get robbed or witness a murder or something, it would be impossible for me to pick out the criminal from a line up. I need to set this background straight, that I have difficulty in recollecting things. Old memories don’t play out like movies but more like snapshots being voiced over by years of retelling of the events, like folklore being repeated every once in a while.
So it took me by surprise that I, who couldn’t remember what she ate last night or what was the name of the person who sat behind her throughout high school, could recall so well the little things from my childhood, things that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to in the past couple of years. I could remember blowing bubbles sitting on the steps of my house and eating lychees with a friend as she told me that since she was older, she would have to play with the older kids from then on. I could remember waiting patiently by the backyard fence for my neighbour to help me cross the fence so I could play with the rocking horse. I could remember being scared of the next door neighbour when he shaved off his hair because he reminded me of a villain from a movie I had watched back then.
But especially I could remember the other kids in my neighborhood, the ones I used to play with. There was one guy, a year older than I was, who always came with a bunch of trivia questions or a new sketch he had made, he really was a talented artist. There were twins who lived down the road and I remember being disappointed that they were not identical. There was the little boy from across the road who was annoying and who no one wanted to play with but we had to because his mother was good friends with mine. And then there was the boy who always got into trouble.
Every neighborhood has that it seems. The one kid who is always stirring up trouble. The one behind the broken windows and scratched cars, climbing up the walled fences and big trees alike. He was ours. He was a fast runner. Of all the things I could say, this one I remember the best, that he ran very fast. Every evening, before beginning our usual game of cricket, football or hide and seek, we had a ritual to race. I always came in third, he was second, and trivia boy the first. The twins and the little boy trailed behind. I know that trivia boy was the fastest, but my little brain was practical enough to acknowledge that I had to beat him first before thinking of beating the trivia boy. I never did. He’s still the guy who was faster than I was.
Every other day he got into some sort of trouble or the other. Like the time he thought lighting firecrackers inside a flower vase was a good idea. Or when he decided to run away from home just because he felt like it. One time, Dad returned from the hospital and told me how he had to stitch up his forehead. My friend had a sweet tooth and his mother, in order to protect him from diabetes or at least an uncontrollable sugar rush, had hidden the sugar cubes on the top shelf and he being himself climbed up and proceeded to fall down. “Did he cry?” I was concerned mainly because not long back I had received a stitch for a split in my lip and despite trying very hard not to, I had cried.
My father shook his head. The little rascal was really happy that his mother wouldn’t be hiding the sugar cubes anytime soon.
What pissed me off more was that while he was a year behind me in school, he had discovered that he was in fact older than I was, and had taken to calling me little junior.
Nonetheless, he was our friend and we had taken to covering up his mischiefs in whatever way we could and to pleading his cause whenever his mother dragged him off to his tutor.
That was a part of my childhood. After we had moved away to a different neighborhood, it was only once or twice a year that we met up for family dinners or at a party thrown by some mutual acquaintance and our familiarity gradually decreased to a small wave of acknowledgement from a distance.
I came to know a couple of days ago that he hung himself.
Again, not known for her subtlety, my mother just decided to start the day by telling me that she hated to be the bearer of bad news but…
At twenty four, he seemed to have it all. A medical student at one of the best institutes in the state, terrific family and what not. I asked one of my friends from that college what happened and he simply said a love triangle. Unrequited love.
I hadn’t thought about him in years and these past couple of days, he has been all I can think of. Which is weird because I didn’t know him other than the boy who ran faster than I did or the boy who set a wild cat on a wounded puppy because he thought it was funny to watch a cat chasing a dog. And I couldn’t allow myself to talk about it with my friends because it would have been making someone else’s tragedy all about myself. He wasn’t anyone close to me, he wasn’t even a Facebook friend. He was someone that I knew at a time when knowing someone and being someone’s friend used to be much simpler.
I later googled about him and went through the news coverage.
‘Medical student commits suicide over lover’s spat’
Had I come across this myself, I would have dismissed it with a comment about the need of therapy and increasing the awareness regarding mental health. But this time around I couldn’t.
I know that someone, somewhere has already dismissed it, that his entire existence has been reduced to some statistics about suicide in young adults and maybe someday, someone would use him as an example in a PowerPoint presentation, or maybe not even then.
All I know is the boy who stole sugar cubes had a story that had more to it than just a guy who killed himself over a lover’s spat.
Of all the worldly flairs and goods and merchants and shops,
She chose the room of mirrors,
A maze truly,
And she was greeted by hundreds of viewers,
Some short, some stout,
Some so tall that it was ridiculous really,
And all wearing the same look of wonderment,
Gloved hands reached out,
And traced the flaws no longer visible in this room,
The same ones she had traced this very morning,
And she laughed,
As did they,
At her flaws,
For in here she wasn’t flawed,
In here she was amusing.
Sun kissed tulips,
Dance in the rain,
Rejoicing the respite,
As the moths take shelter
Below the stones, in the crevices on the wall
Where the greens have begun to peek,
Wondering when to break free
Of the old warehouse
With its heavy humid air,
Shunned and celebrated by the growing mildew,
As the brown boxes lay forgotten,
Far beneath the layers of stifled greens,
And the spiders spin their white mischief,
Covering the doors and walls and stairways,
And everything is white and gray and green,
Dull and drab and humid.
And the spiders rejoice with the tulips dancing outside,
As the moths take shelter.
The room is the same,
Except for the faded walls and worn out sofa,
And the grown up kids
With their grown up kids,
Huddled together murmuring,
In this small room,
So close and yet not too close;
The grown ups reach a verdict,
And their grown up kids nod solemnly,
The jewelry would be divided equally,
And so they weighed every piece,
And divided it,
Into four parts, as equally as it could be,
Without melting the gold.
And that’s how the pair of earrings,
That spent two lifetimes together was split into two,
One to go north,
The other bound to the seas,
And the one receiving the golden chain,
Only got the gold chain,
And so a collection of the measley jewels,
Collected by a schoolmaster over the course of decades,
Was split apart between lawyers and teachers and doctors,
All with their own wider, more sophisticated selection,
And yet all craving for these little baubles,
Like a child asking for the mother
Not there anymore.
Today I opened the box,
The one buried behind the clutter of so many years,
Of neglect, I could say, but frankly it just lay forgotten,
Gathering dust and rust and whatnot,
Of new boxes added slowly over the years,
Waiting for a day it’d be seen again perhaps,
So I picked it up gingerly,
Afraid what it might hold,
And there it was
Filled with forgotten treasures,
Of a forgotten time;
A toy soldier I rarely parted with,
A doll I always hated,
Cards from friends,
Colorful envelopes holding nothing,
A stamp collection I gave up on,
A cut-out of a picture I once thought pretty,
A book I never opened,
A water color of the sky,
With a fish shaped cloud,
Worn out crayons, and a broken toy ladder,
A few pieces of a puzzle, a plastic ring,
I dusted all out and placed them back again,
Saw a box, a weight had lifted,
De-cluttering could wait.