I have always had this grotesque fascination for graveyards.
Even as a child, every time I passed by one, my entire being awakened and along with the hair on my arms, all my senses seem to stand up, enthralled. My parents gave up after a point, my friends and extended family had mixed feelings, amusement mixed with a slight fear. I can’t say that I ever grew out of it but the feeling did change eventually.
By the time I was 16, I caught up in the usual doings of a teenager. I had a swell gang, both girls and boys (more boys actually; I found them easier to be friends with) and we were not only notorious for our escapades, we were also the most studious so we always got away, even for the naughtiest prank.
I tried smoking and gave it up. I hated the experience, though many of my friends began smoking rings regularly.
I tried pot and gave it up, though, unfortunately, a few of my friends gave in to it and lost themselves in the bargain.
I tried drinking and that stuck with me through the years. Not too much to call myself alcoholic, but sufficiently enough for others to think so.
I tried sex and that stayed too, for obvious reasons, though I can say truthfully that I never let it get out of hand.
And so I reached 21, an important age, having done many unimportant things like getting a prestigious degree from an even more prestigious institute, getting a certificate that gave me the license to screw up buildings and homes and losing my brother in a road accident. He was 10 at that time.
My mother did not survive the trauma, not that she joined him too, but she just lost it up there. And my father, well, he lost it too, not his mental capabilities, but the zest that had made him alive. As for me, well, I just began living more out of the house than in it. Anywhere that I got an easy drink or an easy man was usually good enough for me. Extended family and the friends who began to disappear called us a dysfunctional family. Not always true, I would say. We were just not a family anymore. And if mourning a loss was being dysfunctional then so be it!
I, in fact, had taken to looking at these no-do-gooders and laughing at them. Did not help me retain too many of them, I can tell you that!
Funnily enough, by that time I did not need them either. I had found what I had wanted.
My internship with one of the leading firms in the city took me on a project to oversee the building of a resort in quite a godforsaken place near my old hometown, a place that I had neither visited nor heard any stories of from my family. The plans of the builder and the investor were quite grand and flamboyant but then that was their funeral, so to speak, I was just the intern. And so I went along with whatever they told me to do and pocketed the extra income too.
Somewhere around the time that the foundation had been put in place, we hired a new supervisor. The old one had been asked to leave after appropriating funds that had actually found a place in my mattress eventually. With no proof to save him, he was chucked out and a new one took his place. Things started changing then. I did not know it, but they had.
He was not exactly young, already over 40 for sure, greying at the crown, which gave him an air of quiet dignity, an air that matched his entire personality. Not many people remembered his voice, perhaps because they had never heard him speak. I did though, only too well. That was the voice that remained in my head even after I left. It stayed with me forever.
The day he began his work, I began to find excuses to talk to him and work with him as much as possible. Not that he was handsome but just because I was already bored in this place. He never talked more than was necessary, one word, or two at the most. He never looked at me, not even when he thought I was not looking. I knew I was always watching him somehow. Foundation gave base to building and building sprouted up aesthetically both within and outside. The landscaping work was in full swing and so were the interiors inside. He and I, however, were still at one word or two at the most. I had gotten used to it. He still never looked at me, not directly that is, not even when I went to his room at night. After all, there was never any need for words.
And then one day, just like that, he went away.
I did not bother asking about him or looking for him. I thought I was finished with him. Little did I know!
The landscaping work was now in full swing. There was a section of land just a mile away from the main resort building that had not yet been touched and the builder thought that it would make a great place for a gazebo. I had to agree. They began digging up the land. And then it all began. Small protrusions began to emerge which grew larger as they dug up the loose soil. For days it went on and we all watched as the protrusions began to take concrete shape. Then one morning, it all emerged in front of our eyes, a massive graveyard, at least a century old, judging by the dates on them. I walked through the ruins reading name after name, date after date and read the loving messages left to the loved ones, almost embalmed on those stones. My entire being awakened and along with the hairs on my arms, all my senses seem to stand up, enthralled.
The question now was whether they would cover up the graves once again and pretend to return to the earlier normal or whether they had it in them to dig up the graves and construct a gazebo where dead ones once slept long and not so peacefully. While the builder and the investor grappled with each other over this new development, some of the diggers uncovered a few more facts that had been hurriedly laid to rest. At the end of the old graveyard was a relatively new, hastily covered grave, sans a name, sans a date and sans a loving message. Tell-tale signs on the decaying body proved that it was indeed the missing supervisor, just not missing anymore.
The police would take a while to come and meanwhile the debates began. Various stories filled the air. A whodunit guessing game began and then one of the workers said that he had seen the old supervisor in the premises on the day that the new one had disappeared. They dragged him out of his home and handed him over to the police. Nobody wanted to ask “why kill him now after all this time?” A scapegoat had been found and the matter was laid to rest.
As they were leading the old supervisor away, handcuffed, his eyes hunted the crowd till they rested on me. A few days later, I got a message from the police station asking me to visit the old supervisor, as he had been asking for me. I never went. Guilt was just not a part of my nature.
I continued for a few more days till they dug up all the graves and called in the architect to plan the gazebo.
No one came for me.
I left and took up the first decent job offer I received. I could not stay in one place and often changed jobs, cities and men. But I always made sure that there was a graveyard close to my apartment.
People say that I lost it too, that day when my brother died. But I say that it was much before that. What I do not say is how he came to fall in front of that car in the first place.