Saturday, July 14, 2007

Free.

It was a Friday night and I felt strangely miserable. I had no idea why. But I knew if i stayed on any longer in my room i'd go mad. I knew even better that if i saw a familiar face i'd yell at him to get lost. Such being my state, i quietly stepped out my room, an hour after sunset, so that it was less likely i would be spotted. I decided to go up the nearby mountain. Alone. So I walked, briskly, to reduce the risk of being sighted, with head down, so that those acquaintances who are not familiar enough to call my name out loud, but would've said 'hi' nevertheless if they saw my face, can be avoided. After 10 successful minutes, I reached a thoroughfare I had to cross to get to where the mountain is. The walk sign was a loud red and I squinted my eyes. I paused and stared at the dull grey concrete. I tried to sniff the tar but I inhaled a cloud of smoke. The vehicles were speeding by with their monotonous hums. It annoyed me. So i looked up to my left and I was dazed by the brilliant headlights of a car. It enraged me so much i wanted to throw a brick at him, but i found nothing around me. It was still red. I fidgeted. "What if I don't wait for the walk sign to turn on and cross the road? The vehicles are moving comfortably fast." I should be killed i reassured myself. I might have inconvenienced the driver of the unlucky car that would hit me. But I was feeling sufficiently selfish then and this thought didn't occur to me. I took a short step onto the road when it was still green for the vehicles. My heart skipped a beat or two. "What if i don't die? What if i'm only injured?" Too much fear. I was ashamed of myself. I stepped back, just as a vehicle came and halted an inch away from my foot. The walk signed glowed, and I crossed. Now I knew I wouldn't meet familiar faces so I slowed down, that I may enjoy the walk. It was pleasantly warm. A slight sweat was enveloping my body. I took off my T-shirt. It would've been nice to walk naked I thought. But I feared the cops so i desisted. As I approached the moutain the surroundings were transforming. The odd enthuastic jogger was terminating his marathon. A couple was holding hands and entering a restaurant. Another was walking aimlessly. There were many cars. But none made noise. None moved. Their menacing forms were at rest while their owners fled to the thoroughfare i'd crossed five minutes ago, to enter one shop and another. In five minutes, life had altered. It seemed to have slowed down, from the chaos of that thoroughfare to this lonely street that led to the mountain. The mountain made a splendid sight. A big, black mound, against a dark blue sky. I could see neither the beautiful trees nor the cascading surface of the mountain. Just a huge dark triangle. It was my faith that held the mountain there. I knew it. It could just as well have been the triangular door that led to hell. At that point, I didn't care either way. So I walked on, untroubled. As I began the climb, all the cursed noise from the city subsided. Within a few minutes I could hear nothing but my own footsteps, making a sweet sound that resembled the jingling of a bag of sand. The malodorous perfumes of the genteel citizens was gone too. Lights, those blasphemous lights, street lights, car light, shop lights, even cell phone lights, all had disappeared. It was pitch dark. No moonlight even. Instead, i had the street light that scattered off the dust from the city. I felt pleased at the lull to all my senses. I glanced up to see the distance I had to walk to get to the top. It was still a good few miles away. I slowed down. I wished to savour every moment of this solitude. A gentle breeze blew across my face and I halted to communion with it. Suddenly, I heard something behind me, like the tinkling of bells. I looked around sharply, only to see some shrubs dancing in the wind. It must've been my imagination. But why did it produce a tinkle? My imagination must be queer I thought. But i'd never known it to be queer before. Its been ordinary at best. A thought then occurred to me that had never occurred to me before during the climb. What if there's someone on the way up, provided with no good intentions, but with a gun? I was seized by fear, that same fear which seized me when i had taken that short step on to the road and contemplated an accident without death, the same fear that seized me when i thought of cops imprisoning me, naked to satisfy my whim, but in the company of jailmates. I shuddered. I looked to make sure there was no one around, then I resumed my walk. I must get to the top I said to myself. "Is a man with a gun really so scary? What would he want? Money? Nothing else, right?" I put my T-shirt on. "Yes, money is all he would want." My eyes searched the shrubs and trees around me even as I walked, even as i thought. "Ok, i can give him my credit card. He'll take the cell phone too if he's clever. So i'll be poor. Is that such a bad deal? Perhaps not." My ears were pricked. Just the jingling of sand. I glanced upwards. Still a good way to go. "Would he hit me? Why would he hit me if I comply? Out of madness perhaps. I'll bleed then. That's not so good. Of course, I may not bleed too. But one of those places is worse." I grimaced. The wind died. My footsteps grew louder, and louder, till it seemed like I would go deaf. So I slowed down, in spite of myself, so that I could hear for other footsteps. My heart raced. I glanced down the hill. I saw a torch flickering. The light oscillated like a pendulum about him, even as he inched foward. I smiled at the thought that he must be thinking himself very clever. He was lulled into a false sense of security by the light surrounding him, but it must be a delightful warning for anyone who wished to waylay him. Poor lamb i thought, and moved on. Then I asked myself if i really had to move on? "I could just hastily run back down. After all, I am not even half way up. We'll leave that decision until later. For now, the heart's racing and it must race," I told myself. "It would be sad if he hit me. But what if he shot me? Why would he shoot me? Why am I asking such supremely logical questions of a man who might be insane for all i know? What if he merely bought a new gun, and wants to test it on me? Now that's more like a madman! Ok, so I die. Is that bad? Perhaps not. No, not really. It would make a few people sad for a few moments. And that's about it." I then remembered I had read somewhere that for every step we took millions of cells died and fell off our bodies. Cells are the smallest living organisms my biology book once told me. " I don't crumble to dust because one cell died, or, for that matter, even a few million. Even so, the universe will continue on its journey, and I would just be a cell that died, and fell off" At this last thought I chuckled. I imagined him shooting me, and my rolling off to the side of the track and falling all the way to the bottom of the mountain. The odd coincidence that even the falling off was accounted for in my parallel amused me. "So its not such a bad deal after all." I slowed down. I stopped. I turned around to look at the city. From a distance, the city had an queer appeal in all its well-lit glory. From within, it was hell. So it is with life too I thought. When viewed with detachment, from a distance, like a spectator from the heavens, your life, your past, all seem a fine spectacle, a remarkable phenomenon. But when you are living in the here and the now, it can often be unbearable. Just then I heard a quick shuffle of feet, my heart skipped a beat, but before I could turn towards the source of sound a huge, powerfully built man had come up in front of me from nowhere, and he was pointing a gun at me. I checked to see if it was new, as I had imagined. It wasn't. He was full of tattoos on his skin, and there were numerous piercings on his face, some in very sensitive regions too. He said what he'd been taught to say, "Gimme all yor maaney o' i'll shootchu!" "Sure thing." I said and quickly gave him my credit card. Somehow, I was not too scared. Yes, my heart was palpitating, but all that bracing myself for this had given me a strange strength. I gave him my college id too for it was useless to me now. "Shoot, I've forgotten to take money! That's most important." I thought to myself. But I looked at him and smiled as I replayed that odd choice of words in my head. "Why you smilin' at me you bastard? Don't play games or i'll shoot. Putcho fuckin' hands in the air!" he said, giving me a scorching glare. He seemed unsettled though, from my smile. His profession hadn't prepared him for that. "Take all you want my friend." I said and stared right at him. For the first time in my life, at that moment, I saw true fear. He looked as if it was I who had the gun pointed at him, in the midst of a vast plain field, and was saying, "I'll give you one chance to escape. Run!" He quickly bent to my pockets to see if there was anything left. But he kept looking up now and again with fear written all over his face. It was almost as if he were a little kid, placing his implicit trust in me not to do any harm. He found the cell phone. I thought he'd shoot me for not giving it. That was the idea of course. Or at least, hit me. Though that wasn't what i wanted. He took the cell phone and stood up. Then with the face of a frightened kitten, he stared at me with moist eyes. He punched me hard on the chin and i fell down to the ground with a thud. Blood gushed out of my mouth, and one of the teeth had cut my tongue. It hurt very sorely. "Don't call me a friend you mothafucker! I'm no fucking friend i say. Why did you call me a friend eh?" he said, and ran, just as in the picture I had painted in my head, as if he were running for his life, and I was going to shoot him down anyways, but some mad hope prompted him to run. I couldn't move. I knew I couldn't get home. But i didn't want to go home. The breeze seemed to be blowing again. I thought it had a pleasant odour to it. The stars were few as i looked up at the sky, but what few were there looked cheerful. I closed my eyes, and felt strangely happy. When i reopened my eyes, it was morning. There was blood on my chin, and my shirt was stained too, so i know it wasn't all a dream. The sun was blindingly bright, but i thought it looked more pleasing than ever.

3 comments:

vibin said...

daai! did this really happen? Cool attitude da!

adhyayan said...

wow.. amazing writing

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

@adhyayan: Thanks :)