She sat with her knees folded, her back straight against the wall. That tear rolling down her eye, it made her look prettier. He hated himself. Hated himself for the state of mind she was in, for that tear on her cheek, and for thinking about how pretty it made her look.
“But, we’re such good friends! We know each other inside out. How can you not want to take this ahead? Why…” She blurted out desperately. But stopped mid-way trying to regain control.
He wanted to comfort her, to give her the biggest hug ever. He knew she wanted it. He knew he wanted it. But he didn’t dare. Instead, he reluctantly shifted his gaze outside the window, and to the unlit cigarette between his fingers.
“Because we’re such good friends, sweetie. We’ll bicker, we’ll nag, we’ll get on each others’ nerves. I don’t want to lose a friend to a girlfriend.”
“Right. So, if we get together, all the fun-time spent together will evaporate, just…just go away…just because of the relationship’s name? And don’t you "sweetie" me, alright?”
“Sorry..sorry…You know how I love the time we spend together, whether or not we are with the others. I don’t want it to become the time for you to complain about how my mom hates your nail paint.”
“Okay, I’ll continue complaining about ozone depletion.” She smiled but her eyes were tightly closed.
He let out a loud laugh, almost nervous he glanced at her. Hoping her smile meant they’ll go past this. She seemed to have wiped away the tear. Was that numbness he saw in them instead? No, that can’t be…
“Exactly, this is what I love about you. How your humor takes over everything. This is what we are. Smiling, making each other laugh. Even though you are…we are…feeling this way.
I don’t want romance to spoil this. You know what happened with Janvi. We were really good friends too, but over time we made each other…”
“Do not compare me to Janvi!” Her back suddenly seemed straighter and she more elegant.
“See what I mean, we’re having our first fight in three years. And we’re not even in a relationship. You know that ‘a-little-more-than’ in ‘a-little-more-than-friendship’ is this…the bitterness, the…”
“When did you become such a cynic? Where’s all the optimism?”
“That’s what…these ‘special’ relationships make us – ‘Specially’ cynical, ‘Reserved for one person’ expectations, uniquely ‘weak’ for that one person.”
“Are you saying you’re willing to have a girlfriend who’s not a good friend?”
“I don’t know…Maybe, I’m not meant to be in extra-special relationships”
He couldn’t stop gazing at the twilight touching her cheek. He wanted to be there. Suddenly, he turned to click two switches on. Hopefully she’ll look less vulnerable in the tube light.
“We’ll also have more time to make each other laugh…” Her half-hearted tone made her realize that she was already giving up. Life is not a cricket match…miracles don’t happen off the last ball.
“Okay that’s that then. I feel like coffee. Want some?” She walked away without waiting for the answer, almost as if someone was racing her to the kitchen.
Two moist eyes followed her. He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her by herself. If he was hurting this much just because he was denying her something she wanted, she must be in unbearable pain. And he was causing it.
Fumbling with the pans as noiselessly as possible, she wanted to let go. But the tears deserted her…them too… As if suddenly conscious of her unshed tears, she closed her eyes, convincing herself that she has done her best to control herself. And unknowingly she tilted her head towards the ceiling, as if pleading and waiting to scream out loud, Why me…?
An arm wrapped around her. She sensed the struggle between the guy who wanted to be firm with her and the guy who wanted to comfort her. And yet, it felt like heaven.
“Because…because only one can be. I’m praying for the opposite. I want just what we have as desperately as you want more. And only one can be.”
The bored, half-dead brain had Mahesh’s lifeless body attached to it. Well, almost lifeless. The rhythmic, green lines struggled to say that his heart continued to give death a good fight. His kidneys functioned, thanks to the tubes attached to them. Needles poked into the softer side of his wrists, operated his digestive system. His charcoaled lungs seemed to manage just about fine.
"Is it time yet? Why isn’t Sumitra here? Has she brought the letters? I know Suresh won’t let me down!
Would I be able to do for them what they’ve been doing for me? Look at someone they love as if they’re dead but wishing they aren’t."
A nurse came in and adjusted the needles, and the glucose drip. "Good thing I can’t feel a thing, 8!#₡h…
Oh there’s Suresh. I wonder how that evaluation went. Was it supposed to be yesterday? Or was that last week.
$#!T. What have I done to him? Even if he got that promotion, he can’t smile. And worse, he can’t swear at his boss over a cigarette with me either.
Damn you, slippery roads."
He was a good man. He loved me. He had his flaws and he needed me to keep him posted about them. He was the first one I’d want to talk about anything. Break-ups, cricket, artsy films… awards at work…everything. We’d do anything for each other.
"Mr. Suresh, does he have any allergies?"
#*₡k!!! Why am I thinking of him in the past tense?!
"Mr. Suresh…Does-Mr. Mahesh-have-any-allergies?"
"Sorry, doctor. No allergies..I mean not that I know of."
"Aren’t you his brother?"
"No. Aren’t they on his chart?"
"No, was just confirming."
Oh, how Mahesh would have loved to have a ‘talk’ with this doctor. What fun it would be to watch…Mahesh, where have you gone, yaar? I know you are there. Whatever these white coats might have to say about your ‘condition’, you have your own take on this whole thing. You are listening to everything, even my thoughts. Innit, b@$#@%d?
There was a knock on the ICU door. It was time for Suresh to give Mahesh’s wife a chance to sit by his side. Anyway, he couldn’t bear to see Mahesh connected to the tubes anymore. Mahesh mocked his strength with that invisible grin. The machine with the graph showed the heart was still alive and kicking. And they said the brain was dead.
Hah! Mahesh’s brain…dead. Yeah, right!
"Hi" She handed Suresh an envelope.
"Mahesh had written notes for some of us."
"What the …?"
"Yeah. You know how he liked to talk about life and death. He told me about these just before the accident. He said if I ever become a vegetable, on the 30th day, start handing these letters out."
"…….." The last month has left its mark on Sumitra. Her smile is replaced by numbness. She stays composed. We pray together. For Mahesh to come back.
"The last line in mine says – Support Suresh in whatever he does. WHATEVER." She fell into Suresh’s arms. She didn’t cry, she hadn’t yet. She wants to. Everyone wants her to. He hugged her. He needed a shoulder too.
"Go in. He’s had enough of me. He is waiting for you." He gave her a peck on the forehead and let go of her tight grasp on his hand. He watched her walk into the ICU with broad shoulders and a straight spine, as he tore the envelope open. He looked down at five words.
"PULL THE PLUG. RIGHT NOW."
Wha…? He stood still. He looked around. The people around seemed normal. No one was in shock. How could they be? This wasn’t true.
Why? Why would Mahesh write a will? How did he know he’d be here? Why doesn’t he want to live? Why isn’t he praying with us? Why isn’t he willing his way to life, like we are willing ours… even after seeing him like this?
And unknowingly his head tilted towards the ceiling, as if pleading and waiting to scream out loud, Why me…?
A half-dead brain spoke, “Because…because only one can be. I’m praying for the opposite. I want to die as desperately as you want me to live. And only one can be.”
The supporters of the Green team are some of my most loyal followers. They bow down to me religiously, as many times a day as a human could. They don’t idolize me but they have a name for me.
The supporters of the Blue team celebrate life. They have 330 hundred thousand names for me and a story for each one of them. They celebrate each one’s birthday and every important victory mentioned in each of the stories.
They all love me.
They all look up to me when they have trouble dealing with what I’ve dealt them.
I love them all.
Each member of the Green team thanks me from deep within, when they do well. The Blue team is thankful too, maybe they aren’t that expressive. It’s the thought that counts, after all. And I can use a little appreciation for my work of art.
The bowlers in the Green team are some of the most wonderful ones I’ve made. I gave the Blue team the batsmen. I shouldn’t have let Brown divide into Blue and Green, at least for the game’s sake. Oops. I forgot to put the fielding chip in any of them. Avoiding the partition wouldn’t have helped anyway then.
I look down at them when they take the field and make play out of war.
A fine game this. And they created it with the little I gave them. And with the even littler they use.
I thank them for that. What would the rest of the population breathe if it weren’t for these 22 gentlemen. Sure, it hurts when they start praying one of players as if he were I. It’s funny because it’s not as if they don’t know he cannot perform miracles, just like me.
The game is known to unite the otherwise
divided diverse nation that Blue is. The game seems to be the only good thing happening in Green. The game brings whatever divide you could think of together.
Green and Blue have seen some dark times because of the game too. The players have been publicly humiliated when they lost. That thin line between play and war can become invisible when play becomes religion too.
I gave man stone, I gave him fire, I gave him the brains to find entertainment for themselves. I underestimated his power to mix his emotions and weaknesses with these materials. He now makes me nervous.
Today is a big day. Its Green vs Blue.
The men in green have worked hard. So have the ones in blue.
Each one of the twenty-two has been looking forward to this day. Hours spent on patient practice. Months sacrificed away from friends and family. Away from the people they do this for, for the people they do this for.
It’s not an easy life for them. But whom did I write an easy life for anyway? *evil grin*
These men though, they get yelled at for earning money. By the capitalists too. They are scowled at if they are not consistent at their talent, day after day. I shudder when they deviate a teeny-weeny bit from the best level of ethics. Remember the stones and the fire? How will they be used against their innocent families?
You know, almost all of them give up on parties when the entire cricket-watching population is making a party out of the game. The ‘entire cricket-watching population which makes a party out of the game’ is scathing when it judges the players who didn’t give up on the fun AND got caught.
Oooh…good catch! Ok people, adios. The game is on.
The Blue team needs two runs of the last ball to win.
Unknowingly Green men tilt their heads up, as if pleading and waiting to scream out loud.
And unknowingly Blue men tilt their heads up, as if pleading and waiting to scream out loud.
Uh…hello? Why me…?