RUN, RUN FROM THEM ALL
1. The Run:
If it was any other day, Sayani would have taken some considerable amount of time to dapple, dab her face with all kinds of powders and make up. But, this day was different; she, still in her nightgown and slippers, ran outside and stopped a taxi, nearly saving herself from getting lynched. She got inside while pressing the phone on her temple.
"Marathahalli. J P Morgan." She ordered the driver, with a voice unnecessarily loud. The smooth, accurately gapped and single-toned beeping on the other side was making her panicky. With face unwashed, rheum peeking from corner of her eyes, she was muttering ‘pick up the phone…pick up the phone’ from her parched lips, wetting her dry throat by gulping down tiny pegs of spittle.
"Pick up the phone. Goddamn it!" The shout made the driver nervous too.
She started calling up his friends. It was Abhiroop who picked the phone first, ‘Hey Sayani. What’s up? Calling so early?’ His sleepy and croaky voice confirmed that the weekend hangover still dazed his brain.
"Was Nishabd there with you yesterday?"
He took some time and slowly replied, ‘Yes, we went into the bar with our gang. But…but after an hour or two I didn’t see him anymore. Maybe he went to another bar. What’s the matter?’ He still sounded a bit annoyed to be woken up so early. Sleep seemed costlier than gold in a software employee’s life.
"Something is wrong. He has…he has sent a weird message. He’s not picking up the phone. Please do something. Please…" She was sobbing and was out of breath.
"What?" Abhiroop was wide awake. "Don’t worry, Sayani. Keep calm. I’m going to his place."
"I am reaching his place within 10 minutes." She was frightened, also a bit irritated. She expected something more than merely running down to Nishabd’s house from her boyfriend’s best friend. "What has happened, Abhi?" It reflected urgency.
"Don’t think bad things. I’ll meet you there soon." He cut the phone.
"Faster bhaiya." She felt the driver was intentionally slowing to irk her. She suppressed her urge to throw the driver out of the window and stomp the accelerator to maximum speed.
2. Prelude to "The Run":
It was tempting for her to check on him if he had been online yet, but her ego prevented her from doing the same. After all, she ended the fight. But it had been two days and still there was no response from the person who couldn’t keep himself from calling her every hour.
That night, cutting the call interrupting him in middle, so frustrated was she, that she couldn’t help but send him an eruptive message on how mean he was and of not admitting his mistake that he was avoiding her for past few days.
The message was lengthy, and she knew that he had seen it, thanks to the last seen at status flashing on her smart phone, but that was making her all the more tensed and nervous and she was dreading whether this was the end of their relation. He was last online yesterday night and nothing from him since then. The sleep was not good due these thoughts that kept swerving inside her brain and she got up in hope that a cup of coffee might just do the trick and make her all recharged. While she was looking for the sugar cubes in cup-board, her phone pinged. It was him. She almost jumped and grabbed the phone. She read the message, but on first read, she didn’t quite get what he was saying. But on second, her blood became ice.
She tapped on her home-button and locked the phone. Taking a deep breath, she tried to assimilate what she just read. She unlocked her phone again and reread the harrowing scripting:
"Before leaving you all, I owe you an apology.
I didn’t mean it. I’m very sorry."
3. Post-Script to "The Run":
When she hurriedly rushed to the lift after overpaying the driver, it was taking too much time to come down. Quite contrary to the famous dialogue from a Sharukh Khan movie, the nature and everyone seemed conspiring against her so that she couldn’t get to Nishabd’s apartment, no matter how much she wanted it. Though she was prompted to use the stairs instead, she reminded herself that his apartment was at eighth floor and it was not a movie. She pushed the down arrow button again and again, swearing at the lift’s lethargy; as if alarmed by her abuse, it’d come down and gape open immediately.
Finally she slipped into the lift and went up to eighth floor, and while the sudden acceleration made her heavier, she kept staring at her reflection on the silver-polished door in front. The butter-coloured nightgown was loitering around her feet and her face was washed with tear. She didn’t register that she was crying all the time, beads of tear accumulated below her chin and something was messing up with her belly. She sat down for few seconds and tried to breath. She couldn’t look up at her face, she considered herself guilty if anything had happened to Nishabd. Had she not fight with him over his lack of involvement in their relationship which was no more than three months old, would she not threaten him of breaking up by the late-night message only because he was denying of any physical intimacy from beginning, she wouldn’t be there sitting and weeping in a nightgown, praying he was alright.
The lift stopped and she ran towards his door. It was locked from inside. She anticipated that knocking wouldn’t work, and so she tried to smash the door-lock by a fire extinguisher. Because of the noise, in no time, neighbours assembled. After revelation of the matter, the door couldn’t stand more than five minutes in front of the mass thrusting. Everyone went searching for a hanging body or a bluish-poisoned corpse, but to their disappointment, there was nothing in the bedroom or in the kitchen. And while they were pretty sure of Sayani’s imbecility by then, she was in the bathroom, blood-smeared all over. A streamline of blood was still glistening from left wrist of Nishabd, unconscious and with eyeballs, half-open, toppled over. It took some time for Sayani to scream, grabbing his senseless head to her bosom which was soaked from the all-night dripping tap-water.
Ambulance came and almost snatched away Nishabd from her and everyone consoled her saying that he was breathing, and thus had a fine chance of surviving. But that did not pacify her, nor even after a neighbour-doctor confirmed that. She wanted answers, right at that moment, at any cost. Why did he have to do this? Who gave him the right to make her feel so guilty that she could no longer hold her head high? Soon, as everyone remembered their daily chores, and that they would be late for their offices, silently, without letting her notice emptied the room one by one.
Though it was a grave moment for mourning, desperation to know the reason of this drastic step got better of her and she started rummaging through Nishabd’s books and copies and desks. Unfortunately, there was nothing for her and when she almost had decided to walk out of the apartment and let the police do the search, who was yet to arrive; she remembered that there were more chance of discovering facts of importance in a person’s life in computers and mobiles than diaries and notes. She quickly opened his laptop and started clicking, scrolling, searching, browsing through disk-drives. And during this she came across an unnamed folder which, upon opening, displayed rows of video files with strange names like ‘xxxmsncegayq.mp4’ or ‘johnandpetexxx.avi’.
Well, she was half expecting to have some real intimate physical scenes in there and true she was. The only difference that shocked her was the absence of any feminine entity in those videos. She immediately closed it after seeing naked men doing things, passionately. The situation was so alien to her that she didn’t know how to react. She sat there for how long she did not know until an e-mail pinged from the laptop. It was about some great online sale coming up and she deleted it on impulse. This redirected her to the ‘trash’ tab of NIshabd’s e-mail account. Apart from the recently thrashed mail, there was only another mail with a subject: ‘Confession viz. an apology.’ She read:
Sub: Confession viz. an apology
I think I am betraying you by restraining and avoiding my true self for all these years. Now it’s too late to confess and face you. Believe me, I don’t mean it. I have no intention to hurt you, Sayani. But what should be done must be done. So without any formality whatsoever let me get to the point directly. (And do we need any formality?)
Remember 31st November last year? We had this party at Abhi’s place; everyone was high, and you took me behind the water-tank on the roof. Oh, what a dreamy moment that would be for any other person! You started kissing my face, neck and my shirt was being unbuttoned in no time. Arms stretched across, body leaned against, I was being kissed and loved; and what did I do? Contrary to every possible action expected from me at that time, I kept standing there like a statue. What a shame! Sometimes, I imagine what you must have felt, having realized that you were the only who looked desperate for physical intimacy from a fairly long relationship. Oh my…my; I would never tolerate such insult. But look how fortunate I am! Instead of having slapped and kicked off from the dalliance immediately, I was forgiven. You stood by me because of the fake reasoning that I might not be ready for taking our bonding to next level.
To tell you the truth, I’d never be ready for such relations. The reason, inevitably, is physical, on which I have no control. But an unconventional choice of physical intimacy is bound to get attention, no matter how much it is a biological or chromosomal fact. Is a crippled not mimicked and mocked? Or what about a vitiligo-faced person? Though all know it’s an incurable decease caused by dying pigment cells below skin, does anyone fall in love with such a person? No! A big simple no.
I was confused from the very beginning of my puberty. When my friends showed me naked pictures of women, I found it disgusting and they joked about it for being such a kid. I thought there must be something wrong with me. While my friends went to a movie expecting to see waist and cleavage of the heroine, I looked forward when the hero would remove his shirt and show his broad shoulders and glossy muscles.
I guess you already are getting to where all these pointing and you may have contorted your face by now, for finding out with whom you have been going out for all this time. I’ll not blame you for that, but look, that specifically is the reason I never tried to express myself to anyone. When I see many famous people having the same choice about sex as me (even from film industry), who despite being lauded and honoured for their talent, are mocked and made into joke; I cannot imagine what would happen to an ordinary person like me. And then that famous verdict by the Supreme Court about us, giving a stamp of illegality on our very existence, has almost crushed me. It established the assumption that, if your hormones make you a homosexual, and you choose to accept that, then there is something definitely wrong about you.
Such circumstances have made it easier for me to pretend and accept what society believes to be normal, and proposing you as lover has proven my normality all the more. With that last sentence, I know for sure that you loath me by all your heart and I can do nothing about it. Tell me, what should I do; when being the cutest of all my friends, every one of whom were committed; I was the only person to be single? When I keep rejecting every proposal from stunning divas, would they not take me as an abnormal? Rumours were spread I am ‘that’ and I had no other option but to propose you. But trust me, when I ran to your apartment at 2 a.m. because you were afraid of a lizard, when I waited hours after office everyday so that I can drop you at your place safely, when I ate dozens of panipuri which I hate, just because you love them, or when you had a break-up and I stayed all night with you ignoring the presentation that could fire me the next day; I did those solely out of heart, for you were my true best friend.
Anyway, past good doesn’t prevent present catastrophe. I’ll not request you to forgive me, of which I am ineligible, but I’ll be grateful if you just not forget those moments we shared.
With regretfully drooping knees,
Sayani kept sitting on the edge of the chair, staring at the screen, face dried up. Her phone buzzed.
"It’s Abhiroop. I have heard and am going to hospital. You coming?"
"Yes." She cut the phone.
By the time she reached the hospital, Nishabd was out of danger, thanks to quick availability of blood. She went in ICU, and sat beside Nishabd. She waved her fingers over his innocent face, heaving up and down, peacefully. In fear of waking him up, she stood up while her left forefinger was hugged by a plastic tube wrapped arm.
"You need rest."
"I need peace." Nishabd’s lips trembled. "Why ruin it? Why have you saved me?"
"How can you say that? Only a coward gives up on his life."
"My life is…"
"Now don’t you think you’d get away because yours was hard." She stopped herself from crying.
"No. I mean…"
"I know it all." She nodded calmly.
"Why did you try to…"
"I’m sorry. Mom and Dad knew."
"They wanted to do that treatment. Hormonal treatment; to change me back to normal. How could I live like that?"
"You could have told me. I thought I was your best friend."
"I couldn’t. I was a coward."
"I’m sorry. Are you...are you still...mad at me?"
"Of course I’m mad at you. You let me down by not telling me and not believing in me that I’d understand. Here, take this napkin, wipe your face. You can't even talk when you cry."
"Sorry. I am a loser."
"No. You are not. You believe you are."
"Shh. You need rest. Go to sleep."
"But what about us, I mean you?"
"Well, my best friend has just survived from a suicide. I guess I am happy enough. But it’s not over yet, you’ll pay for this once I get you out of this place.’ Sayani smiled and continued, ‘By the way, you are looking like a joker. Who smiles with teary eyes?"
"Uh-huh? How can you stay all day with only a nightgown?"
"Oh gosh! I need to run. Back in two hours."
"Shut up and sleep."