Splash

He was halfway there and in no real hurry, so Raman walked as he had for the last few kilometers – leisurely and easily. It had been a bumpy start to the day, what with his vehicle’s engine seizing on the way to work and needing to be dropped off at the service center and his tripping on a loose brick on the pavement on his way home and landing face down with his palm attempting and failing to break his fall. He’d taken the day off, rested and on receiving a call from the service center a few hours later, decided he’d walk back and fetch his vehicle. Things were looking up now. And as he continued on his way, so did he. But the clear sky that had welcomed him out the door was now a shade of grey. He quickened his pace, but he could not outrun the clouds that seemingly instantaneously, growled and burst into lightning, thunder and a downpour that had seemed impossible just a few minutes ago. Raman was flat out running now. Had he paused to think, he might have taken shelter at a nearby shop or under a bus stand. But in his mind, all he wanted to do was reach the service center. So he ran, taking care to jump over puddles and loose stones, not wanting to trip a second time that day.

In his urgency however, he didn’t notice that he’d run off the pavement and was now running on the side of the road. Bikes and cars sped past him, just as eager to get to wherever they were going. After about a kilometer of running, he stopped and panted for breath. The weight of the wet clothes coupled with the stress of running left him gasping a little and he waited to regain his composure, still unmistakably getting drenched however. Just then a car, a blue sedan came speeding past him and mindless of the puddle next to him, splashed into and out of it, leaving an extremely brown pair of pants and shoes and an extremely angry wearer of said attire. He yelled pointlessly at the car that was long gone and then stopped, disappointment and rage lingering on his face. When he’d regained his composure, he wondered if he should just return home, change into some dry clothes and come back for the vehicle later. But he was almost there and he’d have to get drenched to go back anyway. Might as well power through and complete the mission at hand, he told himself and forged on. Soon he found himself at the mechanic’s shop where a burly man and a young boy were hard at work, tightening screws and fixing things that probably never fixing. At the sight of this dripping, disheveled man, the owner immediately dropped his screwdriver and beckoned Raman to sit on the stool he’d just gotten off of. Looking at his state, he whispered something to the little boy and the latter ran off into a small room in the shop. It took the owner a few more seconds to recognize the customer that had dropped off his vehicle in the morning. He listened to Raman’s day of woes, entries that had come pouring out the man with very little poking and meanwhile the little boy had returned, two hot cups of tea in his small hands that he offered both the men gingerly, but with a wide smile. It was only when the kid sat down on the floor next to him that Raman noticed the kid had a prosthetic leg. He looked at the mechanic, questioningly and was told about the accident at the shop a few years ago that had left the child maimed. They’d explored a few options before deciding the child needed to have a way to walk again and found a sympathetic doctor who had treated the child free of charge. The once ever-cheerful boy had spent months in pain and teary struggle, adapting to this new appendage. Raman listened to it all in silence, his eyes locked on the boy who had now resumed tightening a few smaller screws on a part of a vehicle, humming a tune from a familiar song.

Once they’d finished drinking their hot beverages, the mechanic took Raman to his vehicle, showed him the estimate and gave him the sign off. Raman was only half listening now, his mind still on the cheerful disposition of the boy who had apparently gone through so much at such a young age and had somehow managed to find a way to smile despite it all.

Before he left the shop, he shook the owner’s hand and then went over to the boy and thanked him for the best tea he’d ever had. The boy gave him a glowing smile and Raman patted him on the head.

As he rode back, the clouds having cleared up, he was still full of thoughts, a mixed bag of shame, pride, gratitude and contentment. The roads were still a mess though, he noted amid these thoughts, and slowed down as he saw an old man walking off the pavement by the side of the road and in the opposite direction.

He gently rode into and out of the puddle directly next to the old man, taking care not to splash on him even a little.

Sunsets

He walked barefoot because the gravel felt like acupressure against his broken, aching soles. Even the occasional pebble’s jab did not bother him much, because by now, pain had started to feel like a relative, that kept visiting even if you kept changing residences to avoid them.
He smiled to himself as he reached the end of the cliff and looked to his right. “Well? This is it eh Fluff?”, he addressed an imaginary dog that had already met its untimely demise a few days earlier.
The late-evening sun from this vantage point looked glorious.
Instead of jumping immediately like he’d intended to, he groaned involuntarily, as he bent and sat down at the edge, letting his tired legs hang out down the side of the cliff.
Looking at nothing in particular he tried to reflect on what had happened over the week but at that point, he drew a blank, as if the walk had drained him of memories as much as energy.
Oh well. It didn’t matter, did it. He was already here.
He pressed one tense hand to the ground behind him, as if to no longer postpone the final task he’d set for himself when he heard a loud “Woof!”.
Turning around to see the source of the sound, he saw a snowy mass bounding up to him and halting at his side. He watched puzzled at this white pup with wide eyes staring back at him with what seemed to be equal bewilderment. After a few seconds, it nuzzled the hand he’d placed on the ground and sat next to him. Still surprised, he patted the now resting pup and relaxed. The soft coat under his palm quivered gently and steadied.
He sighed and looked at the sun again.


It hadn’t set just yet.

A is for Adieu [#AtoZChallenge]

He stood at the back of the crowd, not wanting to be a part of it, not wanting to talk to anybody. Everyone had varied emotions on their faces – sadness, indifference, even joy? But they were probably happy about something else, surely. A funeral was not really place that induced happiness, even if it was for someone who was your mortal enemy. And Vincent liked to think he hadn’t made any enemies in his lifetime; well, none that would attend his funeral anyway. It was an odd feeling, to linger around, incorporeally, within spitting distance of his own physical body. It was also funny, in a sense. When he had been alive, he had often wondered what people really thought of him. A deep sense of insecurity and cynicism had always shrouded him in social settings and he’d always questioned if any of what was happening around him was real. If the way people spoke, the things they said, if any of it was genuine. He had heard a tale as a child, of a king, who would often disguise himself and wander around his kingdom as a commoner, just to find out what his people thought of him as a person. And Vincent had been very taken with the idea. But it wasn’t practical obviously. And now that he was dead, but lingering in spirit, he was doing the very thing he’d always wanted to do. Well, it wasn’t the same. There was nothing he could do with whatever he learnt, but it was…something. So he leaned against the wall behind him and listened. “He was such a friendly person, always ready to help”, a woman sniffed. Vincent inadvertently smiled. Of course he’d always helped Julia. His only regret was that he’d never asked her out like he’d wanted to. “Really?”, Archie exclaimed, “He was always busy whenever I asked for help!”. Hmph. Archie had been such an annoying person. Vincent had, for the longest time, out of the kindness of his heart, always picked up the phone whenever his classmate, Archie had called, even after graduation. But it seemed after a point, that Archie had always required help, maybe a little too much. And eventually, he, Vincent had stopped answering Archie’s calls. He could hardly be faulted for that. He got tired. “What about all the times I Did help you Arch?”, Vincent muttered to himself. In another corner of the room, John and James were laughing away. “I know right!”, John guffawed, “What was he thinking putting him on as striker?”. Vincent rolled his eyes. He wondered why they’d come. Maybe they’d just seen this as more as a way to catch up and less of a scene for paying respects. His eyes wandered around the room as he saw other familiar faces, and some unfamiliar ones. The air grew silent as the priest slowly stepped up to the pulpit and called for the eulogy. He watched his sister, Mary slowly walked up, ashen faced. She had undoubtedly been crying. Vincent watched as Mary spoke about her version of his life. How he had been the best brother ever. “Thanks for lying, Mary”, Vincent thought. They had been close as children, but had drifted apart as adults, only ever meeting for the holidays. But still, those days Had been fun. He continued to watch as Mary finished her speech and his best friend, Tom took her place. Tom’s tone was less bleak. Trust Tom to liven things up even at a funeral. He even told them about an embarassing incident that had taken place during college that they’d sworn they’d take to the grave. Well, a promise broken eh Tom?

The ceremony ended and people were beginning to say their goodbyes. First, to Vincent’s body in the casket and then to each other. As he saw them leaving, his thoughts went back to the final moments before life had left his body. He never saw the car coming till that last second when he did. His whole life had flashed before his eyes like in the movies. Or had that been the headlights of the car? Why hadn’t he felt any pain? Why wasn’t he given the chance to fight for his life? ….Would he have fought though? He didn’t know. Now it all seemed pointless anyway.

He sighed deeply. Is this how death was supposed to feel? … Hollow? Then again, why should death be any different than life? He smiled to himself at the grim thought and slowly walked out of the church with his hand raised high and waving adieu to an imaginary crowd behind him. Everyone else had already left.