This story is selected as Editor’s Choice
This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 21 Sep 2013 and won INR 500
“Sir, do you want to order anything for the dinner?” The waiter knocked on the door.
“But you had asked to ask for dinner after eleven.”
“Did I?” he asked. “Oh! Sorry! I am full, sorry.”
“Sir, you want room service? The room hasn’t been cleaned for a week.”
“I am paying you the rent and have my food with me. Don’t disturb me!” Bruce replied in an inebriated tone.
“OK, sir. But is there anything else that we can bring for you?”
Gulping the last peg, Bruce walked to the door. “Listen, you idiot. If you utter one more word, I will hammer this door over your head.”
He walked away? Cool! If he hadn’t, I would really have had a hard time breaking the door. Haha!
Bruce drew the curtains away and gazed outside. It was dark. Darkness that gave no perception of depth. Barely the stars lent a spark and the moon was completely tucked behind its shadow. The storefronts and neighbourhood had been engulfed in a black void and nothing could be heard except whimpering of a few dogs, probably, across the street. It was an eclipse.
Bruce lit his torch but couldn’t find what he was looking for. Sigh!
Ouch! My stomach, it grumbles.
OK, Mom! OK. I know you are watching me from there. But don’t panic, I am not drinking much today.
Scratching his dense and over-grown beard, Bruce looked around his hotel room. It had faded yellow walls with sand pouring out of a few cracks and a flickering bulb. An old grandfather clock stood opposite the calendar. The hotel was cheap, fitting into his meagre budget.
He drew the antique wooden table close; a table-fan had been placed on it, and beside lay his ‘protection’.
Here you are, my ‘protection’. You know, I always used to wonder what I will do when someone will come to loot my bag away. It used to scare me and I would keep checking it every time. But now, no more fear, ‘you’ will save me. You will, won’t you?
Black, shiny and emotionless. A mere sight of yours will make many flee.
By the way, you know, when I bought you a month back, the seller asked me to clean you often and never point at myself. But do I need an advice? Do I? No! I have been a fan of Al Pacino’s The Godfather.
Bruce’ bitter laugh echoed off the walls of the tiny room, slowly fading into silence as the dark memories flashed back: Kae caressing his cheek, his friends giving him surprise parties and his mother preparing breakfast for him. He was a happy man then. Drunk with joy and blessed with a felicitous life. The morning sun of everyone’s life, he was someone who could warm every spirit. But alas, he was! It was all over now; all over in a jiffy. His life had thrashed and he was lost; so lost that he couldn’t trace the departure of those moments.
But still, he never regretted that, he didn’t want to. Those were the only times that connected him to his past, proved that he existed before.
These moths, ah! However hard they try, they won’t get the light. They won’t go past this bulb. They will continue to struggle, I know!
I was just like them, so close to achieving my dreams yet struggling. But then, that was long ago, long before I finally gave up and stopped fighting back.
The whirring sound of the fan irritated him. He kicked the legs of the table and the fan toppled over.
Breathing the dreadful odour of the room, he lay on the wobbly bed and closed his eyes tight.
It was one of those rare occasions that he fell asleep and his mind travelled six years back. His ‘lost’ life, as bright as the golden sunshine on the sea, brought a smile to his face and smoothening to his forehead. But then, it was dulled by the reality running at the back of his mind. He woke up after a while, bleary eyes and his breaths coming short gasps.
But in that fraction of moment, between sleep and wake, he felt something – freedom. Freedom from the hounding nightmares and painful reality.
He moved beside the table again.
Hey, you feel so natural today! And theses curves, they fit so easily between my fingers; as if you were always meant to be mine, my true companion.
Holding the gun in his hand, he looked around the room again. Patches of grout could be seen at the corners.
Stupefied by the cheap alcohol that he had drunk, he walked closer to the calendar that hung on the left wall.
A dog was there in the picture with his white puppies. Happy faces. They were a family, with loved ones, with a history and a future; a future he was robbed from. His eyebrows furrowed as he scowled and ripped the calendar in half.
In the flickering light, he began to write on the calendar.
Sometimes when I want to cry, these damn tears don’t seem to flow. I just sob a little, drink a bottle but these tears, they just freak out. It’s a drought. Looking past the night’s reflection, gazing into the water, I wish you would gaze back someday, but, no, you never turn back. I just glide through nothingness and it drives me insane.
I have nothing to cherish now. It’s just your memories that make me smile sometimes. Do you remember how had we met, Kae? You were nineteen then, and I was twenty-one. The sparkle in your eyes, the radiance on your face and the naughtiness in your smile, you were oh so beautiful and I was just a geek! But you know what attracted me the most to you? Your heart! I remember you were volunteering at a shelter for the old. It was in our neighbourhood and I used to peek from the window. You were a girl with a golden heart. Everyone used to love you for that and so did I. Six months, it took me six months of stalking and eight letters to agree you to go for a movie with it. Before Sunset. Oh, what a movie it was! Still my favourite. And followed by that, our outings became frequent and we were the happiest couple in the town. An ideal couple who would write love letters to make up for all the fight. The feel, the scent would cast magic in the times of SMS. Ah, lovely! Those scents, they are still fresh in my heart. My lips curve a smile every time I remember how you used to brush your lips over my coffee-made-mustache and ask me to use conditioner whenever you drove your fingers through my hair. Damn, I should have just heard you then. These conditioners really work, you know.
But March, 2007. 19th was the day; a solar eclipse, I remember. The sun had gone behind the clouds and it was all dark. Darkness that I had never experienced before. Darkness that remained in my life, forever. You had left our three-year relationship. Gone away. Too far. But I, I still waited for you, everyday. Outside your house, on the beach and in the church. I left letters for you, everywhere. I hoped you would read them and make up for the fight like old times, but you didn’t. You didn’t, Kae. You know, when you left, my boss kicked me out due to lack of concentration and mother passed away as I was short of funds. Doctors couldn’t cure her. With teary eyes I used to see her fighting hard to stay and then slowly fade away. But I survived that. You were my everything, Kae. Everything. My smile, my breath and my song; I thought ‘we’ would last to eternity but I guess, I was so wrong. Waiting for you, I followed hope like a deer, ran so far that I lost direction and dived so deep that I turned shallow. But, that was all in vain.
Kae, as the plaster of our past fall, I watch stillness creeping through the door. All that I can scratch is emptiness, memories stuck in my nails. Living in this exile room, nothing in sight, I light a torch reaching for your house. Someone said you live two streets from here. Happily married.
You are married, right? Wow! Brilliant! Remember we used to discus our marriage too? You wanted a lavender gown for yourself and a cream-coloured suit for me. You know, sometimes at night, I do wear that suit and wait for you. I wait for you in the lonely nights, with no companion to listen to me. Funny, no? No! I am still high on those broken promises, Kae. Still. When I open my eyes to the sunlight, I throw my hands to the other side of the bed to reach for you. In the evenings, I sit on the same park bench hoping you to hold my hand and admire the orange sunset. I wear untidy clothes hoping you would come to scold me someday. My chest misses the warmth of your resting cheek, my lips miss your lips and my back miss the scratch of your claws. In the dark, I whisper “feeling sleepy” to myself, hoping you to wish me a “Good night”. But no, I don’t have you to embrace in the cold nights.
Why, Kae? Why? Why did you turn cold? Why did you leave me? Just because I was possessive about you? No, I wasn’t possessive but I loved you. How could I bear someone staring at you in short clothes? How? And I hated it when you talked with other boys. I always feared that you might leave me for one of them. See, I was so right. You left. Why, Kae? Why? Why did you leave me? I am all alone here. In the dark. Torn apart. Just to scream. Scream my heart out. Whenever I close my eyes, you know what do I see? You. I see you but I see you with another man. Cuddling him. Pleasuring him. Sharing bed. Having an orgasm. I don’t even watch movies now. Every intimate scene haunts me. I picture you on that big screen with another man. Moaning.
Weird, right? Doctors call it a disease that I don’t remember but I have a name for it – Kae Syndrome.
There’s a quotation on this calendar, ‘Life is a vicious circle. Everything that goes, has to come back’. Is it true, Kae? Is it? I loved you and then I lost you. But that doesn’t complete the circle, right? I need to complete it. I need to have love back in my life. You need to come back to me. Please come back to me. Please.
My Kae, my love, my life, my peace, your Bruce needs you. Where are you? You had promised you would never leave. I promise I will use conditioner every day and never taunt you for your short clothes. I promise. Please come back to me. Please.
As he finished his letter, he pressed the pen so hard that the nib broke and the ink leaked. Screams from the bottom of his soul, screams filled with agony, were begging for relief. The honesty in his pain was unparalleled.
He walked to the bathroom.
These tiles are really slippery, man! Don’t they clean it or what? Even the tap is leaking. They will get legs of a thirty-year old man fractured.
And my face, it looks sallow these days; blood drained away, leaving a jaundiced face. Or is there some problem with the mirror?
OK, let me kiss my new toy now. Should I peck it? Or a smooch?
Hey I feel like kissing Kae.
He begged for his screams to stop, but they didn’t. They always ghosted him, pulling his vocal cords to his stomach. Except for the brief moment between sleep and wake, the moment that nothing would haunt him, where it will be all peace, it was a hell for him.
Man, I really love this trigger thing. Such a small tool to control one’s life!
With a torch directioned outside, he searched for Kae. Rain splattering over the window and the storm hovering round the clouds, he couldn’t find her home.
This filthy glass-window is a barrier in the sight.
Loading the magazine in the gun, he shot a fire and broke the glass.
He lit his torch again to find her but failed.
“Sir, are you OK in there? I heard a shot. Open the door.” The water started beating the door.
The little snake has come again.
He closed his eyes for some peace. But, again, all he could see was her. His Kae embracing another man. Sharing bed with him. Getting high. His head between her legs.
“Sir, open the door or we will have to break the door. I am the manager.”
“You sure it was a gun shot? Was there someone else with him? Call the police,” they spoke among themselves. The terror in their voice could be heard loud past the door.
“Call the police. Break the door.”
Bruce pressed his ear against the broken glass so hard that bleeded it and shut his eyes so forcefully that created deep wrinkles across his face.
Still, there was no peace. Kae was still with her man. Under the bed-sheet. Making those raunchy faces. Giving those cunning smiles.
The screams got louder. They were all trying to break the door.
Kae was breathing heavily with eyes closed and hands gripping the pillow. Mouth open.
“One more push, guys.”
He was over her. Kissing over her whole body. Passing fingers over her navel.
I can’t bear it! No screaming now. I just can’t take it anymore.
They are coming to loot my bag, loot this letter away. I won’t let them show this to your man. I won’t let your life be ruined.
Kae, wake me up with a smile tomorrow please.
“Hey, stop!” They broke the door.
Bruce embraced the calendar-letter round his stomach.
“Hello, police? I am the manager of Hotel Angelo. A man has shot himself in one of our rooms.”
“No, there’s nothing in his bag. A few bottles of beer and about a hundred letters. He looks around twenty eight or thirty and has an over-grown hair and beard. Blood daubed all over his cream-coloured suit. A gun. And wait, umm, there’s a bottle of conditioner too. Yes yes, a hair conditioner.”
Author’s Note: Life is to live and not end. Though this story ends with a suicide, I never encourage it by any mean. Suicide (or murder) has been called a sin in probably every Holy Book. Wipe out the negativity, life is beautiful. Respect it.