Short Stories

The Day’s Just Starting.

The alarms went off, not the physical ones which are ever so kind and ring only when they’re supposed to and stop at your command, the alarms in context here have no sense of respect, they will come at you with a vendetta solely meant to disturb you and your balance and ironically get stronger the more you try to stop them. Apparently labelling them as anxiety, intrusive thoughts or ‘stress’ makes you more aware of them, only acting as a paradox to pull you in more towards them. I was up, immediately, unlike the days where you feel like a cocoon just not ready to open itself up, this was one where the moment you open your eyes you know it is going to be an exhausting one from the minute you are awoken, not awake. 

I didn’t shower, the thought of water trickling down my face, my body while I just sat there stirring in my own thoughts, losing the grip on my reality, almost morphing into an immovable object didn’t seem so appealing to me. I put on what I wore last night, the clothes still smelled of hope, something I needed. To make this an entirely dismal morning, I topped it off with some espresso, and it was good to go through my day feeling like shit.

I did have something to drown myself in, a social gathering at my aunt’s place and the drive was over 30kms, though I cannot say I don’t love it. It is something that puts me at ease, it is dynamic, the experience is never the same, every time it is different. You can drive through the same route for over 30 years of your life, wearing the same attire as you step into your office every day, but the people you see on the road will always be different. It’s change, the one thing associated with fear, but the one thing true to life. The realisation of the moving nature of life is a respite, it is a safe haven because the passing nature of my feelings is now in front of my eyes, all i need to do is to be (and not move my eyes away), let them displace themselves while i observe the little guy knocking on my window. He probably doesn’t even know what anxiety is, for him his fears are only limited to his tongue tasting his own saliva throughout the day, or water if he can get lucky. 

I could hear his muffled voices through the window, their sounds drowning out the voices in my head which were overflowing with anger. I pulled down my window. The trembles in his speech now clear, ‘Sir, 20 rupees only, high quality tissue paper, please sir.  Kuch nahi khaya hai subah se. Please sir.’

He had the face of every beggar I’ve come across, they tilt their heads, frown, engaging more face muscles in that activity as opposed to smiling, which really does not help their cause. But his honest attempt at the pre-trained English has led me to giving him a crisp 20 rupee note. He smiles at me, the windows in his mouth give me a clearer look at his plaque ridden gums. I move away. He is now waiting for the next set of cars to arrive while I look at him through the mirror. 

Looking at him, that desolate child who was brought into this world by his parents only to suffer everyday made me think about last night and as I was moving through space and time here in front of the wheel, while I let my body steer, I permitted my mind to wander. The couch sinking in from the weight of my body, and a paperback leading me to a world of its own, the night seemed flawless. We keep the gate of our home open, laziness being the reason here. A family of three walked in, I put down my book, the couch returning back to its original shape as I greeted them. I didn’t know we were expecting guests. 

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The man was a distant relative, and had the marks of struggle all over his body, his beard probably around the third day of him not shaving, the eyes expressing nothing but exhaustion and drowsiness, and his smile gave a peek into his teeth being red, probably from him chewing paan, his anchor to his painful reality. He smelled of despair and his aura was contagious. You could see the same colours on his wife, her distinct forced smile as she greeted my mother hinting at the frayed relationship they had. What stood out amongst this humble family was their 4 year old child, who was supposed to tie them together but now was probably another reminder of their unhappiness, the intentional knot was now an obligation. 

He has the average height of a 4 year old, skinny, but had a mouth full of teeth and a black dot at the corner of his forehead, ironically to ward off evil energies. The father sat besides me and started making small talk while my mother and his wife went in the kitchen to let their woes out. I don’t enjoy involuntary conversations, but i felt pity for that man. Whenever reality gets too painful you shift towards imagined ones because they seem hopeful. I knew he would be excited about movies as I am no stranger to the pleasures of an escape to a fictional world. I ask him, ‘Did you see that new show on Bombay Mafia which was released recently?’ I could sense my speech imitating his.

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His eyes lit up and I knew what I needed to do next. 

Smiling through his decayed gums, he went on, ‘solid show hai yaar, jhakaas. I love the man’s acting. I finished the whole thing in one night. You need to download it right now. I love watching these series. It’s my favourite timepass. Bhaari hai ye sab. Ekdum best’

I wanted him to go on even though I had seen it, so I pose my next question, ‘Recommend me some? Tell me about your recent favourites.’

As he continued with his boring description of supposed cinematic masterpieces, I noticed the child. Since the time he entered the home, he hasn’t sat in one place, or had engaged in a particular activity completely. He was running from one room to the next, falling, curiously checking out the trophies which mother had displayed in the living room, running again, outside the home, coming back in, waving to his father whom i suppose he loves, taking a bite out of the chocolate i had offered him, then moving again. He was hyperactive. I paid attention for a few minutes and realised he probably had ADHD. 

I cut his father off while he is now absent from the living room, ‘Is he like this at home too?’

Seriousness now being the dominant emotion, he says, ‘All the time, he can never stay in one place man. It’s like there is a spring in him which makes him jump all the time. He tires me out yaar.’ I wanted to say something in that moment, but I knew my words wouldn’t have been received well. I continued to listen to him, I got the sense that’s something he needed, and didn’t have the privilege of, his day only permitting him tiny slivers of pleasure through his phone screen. I wondered whether the child will go through his whole life without being noticed, by the people that brought him here? The question is heavier than what I can take that night. I let go.

Conclusions regarding this memory allowed me to reach my aunt’s with a raging headache. I attribute it to the stress of forced conversations that were to follow. The ignition stops, but my mind’s still running. I stay there for a while and let myself breathe. The day’s just starting.

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