He appeared perturbed, disgruntled, self-loathing, as if every breath he took ensued conscious effort. Every breath whispered the longing of being his last, too tired, too exhausted for the next. He stared aimlessly, helplessly, searching all around, yet, not wanting to find anything.
I couldn’t resist. I had to intervene. I had to lend a hand. I had to be there. A lifeless man sat across me at a short distance, purposeless, being, not wanting to be. Perhaps he just wanted someone to talk to. Perhaps someone to just point him in the right direction. Perhaps someone’s hand on his shoulder, telling him it will all be okay. The death wish in his eyes screamed for help. It took a lot of courage to walk over to him, not knowing what to say to a man who sees no hope. But I did. I had to. There seemed no other way.
I went and sat next to him. As I passed in front of him to take the seat to his left, there was absolute stillness. He did not register a human being passing right in front of him. Not even a blink. The stare continued in the vast emptiness, in search of nothingness. The breathing followed the slow, gloomy rhythm, lifeless, painful. As I inched closer, it felt as if I have crossed a barrier, a veil which he may have hid behind for years of loneliness and longing. It was almost like entering another world. Perhaps it was this melancholic world of horror, infested, overpowered by the stench of decay. It was ghastly to be in his world, with him, right by his side. I reached further to get a hold of his trembling hand which was lifelessly placed on his left thigh, fingers perfectly aligned, attentive, as if waiting for a sign, ready to embark on a journey. The air cleared a little. Each layer could be vividly felt. The air that I had been in, the air around him and the air that surrounded his self. This air was different. It was lightly fragrant, exuberant, perhaps reflective of his inner self.
His chair rocked back and forth as his inert glare, fixed at a distance, continued to search. A burning
cigarette in his right hand, stuck between the index and the middle finger, gave out a dull orange light with a stream of smoke, unassuming and directionless. A crystal glass on the table, placed within the reach of his left hand, filled with whiskey, had its own way of reflecting the rays of the Sun. The light gold of whiskey shimmered as the rays hit the glass, giving the gold a tint of red, like a haunted sea without a shore, unending. The wooden floor creaked as the chair went back and forth. It was a couple of hours to dusk. Not knowing any better, I held his left hand and tried to absorb this strong presence of nothing. I stared in the same direction, clueless, wanting to see what he sees, but nothing.
In a few moments, the vision was clouded, appearing to be a different time. Perhaps the past. A young boy frolicking around, being a child. The eyes fixated on a woman, yearning for a companion, to play along, to run in the green as the grass gets stuck to the shoes with dew. It seems to be early morning. But the woman won’t budge. Knowing clearly the innate desire of the child, she would not pay heed, appearing completely oblivious to the child’s presence. Instead, she looked at the shoes which were being ruined. She screams at the child to make sure the shoes stay clean. The child being a child, keeps on running around, longing for the woman to join him, to play, to love. Stream of red rolls down the boy’s forehead as he is hit by the keys thrown at him by the woman. I hope the woman thought the shoes were worth it. My eyes welled up. He was just a child, playing, like a child should be.
The boy is now a bit quieter, a little sober. Soberer than one should be at his age. The same woman appeared again, with a man this time. He watches as these two argue endlessly using words he had never heard before. Degrading words. At a distance, there are other young ones, scared, not wanting to be where they are. There was physical abuse at a distance. Those young ones could not understand standing there, horrified.
I felt the man’s left hand jitter as he reached for the glass of whiskey with his right hand. He flicked the ash from his cigarette as he sipped from the crystal glass, politely, peacefully and placed it back on the table across him. This time, he turned to me and looked at me for the first time. Straight into my eyes, without saying anything, he asked if I wish to go on. I silently turned back and started staring at the clouds that had appeared earlier. Perhaps this was my way of telling him I can handle it.
Perhaps mid-teens, with the evident penchant to search for his own. For his long-lost ones. He seems to be in a different world now. Surrounded by the others. With marks of physical abuse on his back. Each scratch mark on his hands and feet and almost everywhere else, telling its own story. A dreadful tale of how it all not ought to be. The face is a canvas of a painting in black, narrating many sleepless nights, with running streaks from tears as the black smudges across the marvel. A man comes close, holds his hand and takes him along. The boy smiled as if he finally found someone who cares. But the longing for his own lost ones was evident in every breath he took. The vacillation was evident. He wanted to feel that he belongs, yet there was fear, perhaps of the unknown. He goes along with the man, who is loving and caring. This man is somehow able to fill the voids which have existed, plaguing an innocent life for years. Soon, the young boy finds himself struggling, fighting within, oscillating between the peace he felt in laughing, playing, being embraced and the pain as he is barely able to walk with blood streaming down his leg. The desire of belonging overcomes the boy as he decides to bare the pain. The man turns to men, many men, and the boy’s smile outweighs the pain from the crushing of his body and soul. He fears losing what is the closest he ever felt of being loved.
The wood under the chair creaks with every motion. As I come back to sit with the man, I am not holding his hand anymore. I am more into another world. A world of disbelief, of despair, of pain. We look at each other one more time, once again, his questioning eyes, awaiting a nod from me to go on. I am scared to go further, yet I nod. He sips his whiskey again and takes a puff from his seventh cigarette. He turns again, staring in emptiness. I continue to look at him, too scared to look ahead on another cloud, with another story. He tilts his head back, easing into his rocking chair, and the creaking begins again. Intrigued, I focus and turn my head towards the cloud with a conscious effort, not really wanting to but wanting to, all at once.
I see him again, desperately looking, searching for his own, from another time, from another life. I saw
him as a young man now, with a woman and young ones. He is smiling with unending heaviness. The women, seemingly happy but not from within. She has dark circles around her eyes, trying to make the best of it all, still wondering, still trying to grasp. She has her own world of which he is a part. His desire of being the whole and not just a part can be felt in his sagging eyes. It is almost as if he has forgotten what moments of happiness are and how one behaves when happy. The feeling is too alien. The younger ones grow in their own world, not realizing the one world which is yet to be inhabited by them, him and her. The union remains undone. He is visibly concerned, unable to create the one world despite his untiring efforts. His search for his own continues like an endless journey but he seems sure he will find them one day.
He looks at me one more time, almost finishing up his whiskey, and this time, he is holding my hand, making sure I go on. Once again, the creaking begins as he settle back on his rocking chair after putting the empty glass on the table. The gold and red is gone as the remaining rays of the sun have nothing to reflect on. At a distance, I can see a couple of stars, not shining like stars do. There is a halo of gloom around them, almost not wanting to shine but having to.
I see him, excited, ecstatic, with the woman and the young ones playing around in joy. He is sitting in the green of the grass, a pleasant view after the horror I had been witnessing. The bright colors, the air, the sunshine, the life is almost near perfect. He is sitting on the grass and I see two beautiful flowers in front of him. He is tending to the flowers, covering them with his cupped hands to make sure the wind does not blow away the petals. With a soft cloth, he wipes the dirt off the flowers with a smile I have never seen before. The flowers grow as he nourishes them with all his might. His devotion to these flowers is divine. The colors maintaining the perfect hue, the wind allowed to get through only in perfect strength to make sure the flowers breath dreamily. The soil is made to be impeccable, like beds from heaven on which angels sleep. As he does all that, I see him perturbed, of not doing enough. A constant fear overshadows his presence. Each succeeding act of tending to these flowers and caring for them is set up like a higher level of achievement with an underlying feeling of failure. Still, he feels he is not able to do justice. The flowers are just too beautiful. The smell, the color, flawless.
As they grow, the face of one of the flowers turns away and he adjusts himself to have the flowers face him, only to notice only one could face him. He seems to be torn between the two. The flowers too seem to drift, yet one flower tries not only to face him but to get the other to face him too. I see him getting upset, once again, diving deep into self-loathing, knowing not enough is done to protect and love. With every moment the face turns, and he turns and the face turns and he turns again. All this while, covering the flowers and tending to them, making sure not a spec of dust, nor the wind harms them. He seems to have found his own. Those he had longed for all his life.
The face turns again and as he turns, he realizes he can not keep up with the pace. He struggles to follow. He waters the flowers, sees them grow with the perfect gold, red, green colors of life. He starts losing his breath but keeps at it. He could not let anything harm the flowers which have finally come to him from the previous life and are being nurtured for the second time now, perhaps not as lovingly as they were the first time. More lovingly this time. The colors of the flowers and the joy justify the years of pain and longing. But they keep turning. In his desperate attempt to make sure they don’t’ turn since he can not
keep up, he holds them by the stem. In an instant, with a jolt, in utter pain, he lets go as a thorn pierces him in his finger.
The creaking continues. He is not looking at me this time. His head is tilted towards the side, the cigarette in his fingers almost burning his flesh. He has a smile, eyes shut, the creaking continues as the cigarette drops on the floor and the creaking slows down to a halt.