"And here it is, our final night alive
And as the earth burns to the ground
Oh, girl, it's you that I lie with
As the atom bomb locks in
Oh, it's you I watch TV with
As the world, as the world caves In"
Anmoy Eyes The Figure In The Mirror.The Shirt Doesn't Quite Fit Him As It used to.He rolls back his sleeve another fold,and he rights the crumpled collar.Red isn't quite his colour, isn't it ? He wades a hand through his locks,giving himself a mental pat for the artfully tousled hair.He passes a firm hand over the fabric of his shirt to even out the creases.The outfit wasn't exactly what he expected but it would do.
"Anmoy,are you coming ?",Zayan's voice pipes up from the doorway,his head peeking into the room.He is dressed in a tight summer t-shirt,accentuating his gym-bound muscles,and cotton trousers.Not bad.
"Just a moment.",he answers lightly, giving himself a thorough once-over.Satisfying.
He swivels around smoothly,embellishing the motion with a flamboyant bow.
Zayan's lips part open.After a few seconds of comical amazement,he utters with grave appreciation,"Very fine."
A wide and Flippant smile splits Anmoy's face."Thanks,Zayan."
"Yes yes,now come on." Zayan turns around to face the huge dining clock,mild worry appearing on his face.They are late,he knows.
"Go on.Ready the bike.I'm coming."
Anmoy flips open his phone,as Zayan's shadow leaves the room.The screen is settled on a single post,from one 'yeahwildmark'.There's a small Asteroid directed towards Earth And NASA would send a small spacecraft to crash against It and alter
Its course.An interesting thing on its own but what it really did was to Kindle the question,"What if tomorrow was your last day ? Where would you be ?" He wonders .
Well,he would dearly like to visit Hyderabad again.He hasn't seen George in person for so many months.Or London.He had always wanted to go there.
"You know,this outing was your idea.",Zayan shouts from the doorway,from where he dourly looms.The pointed emphasis on 'your' carries a decided impatience.Apparently,Admiration for his dressing doesn't baulk Zayan's nagging."As if you so often remind me.",Anmoy counters glibly,Wiith a playful tilt of his head.
Zayan's laughter rings through the Empty House.
The hours pass swiftly after that.They visit the scheduled events.The Museums,the Exhibition,the Fairs blah, blah,blah.Zayan even spends twenty minutes talking to a Beggar Clad In Ragged,Bleached Clothes.He would have been murderous,if he wasn't so confused.After that,they went to Roger's Bar with not-so-gentle-persuasion from him from him.The drinks kept coming and despite Zayan's unusual conscientiousness,he got wasted.Maybe the guy liked him ? Who could tell ? By 2 a.m.,the surroundings were nothing but a blurry,dirty mash of Colours.Thoughts slip frictionlessly through his mind,like fine sand through fingers.Zayn had left
The drinks keep coming
"Eh,how much longer,Faiz ?",Kartik leans forward fractionally.His hands swings into a clasp with a clap.The lapels of his coat rustle In the dark.A thoroughly Ingratiating smile effortlessly manifests In his face.
"Just a couple more, pal.",Faiz looks up, smiling wanly.He Is perched on the table,his long legs dangling listlessly.The dark dressing gown doesn't reach further than his ankles.The sandaled feet disappear below the
desk.Faiz continues to scribble on the lone piece of paper.Heavy curtains guard the windows.Long, saturated shadows envelope the room.A cream-coloured laptop claims permanent residence In the middle of the table,a Bluetooth speaker and wireless earphones neatly heaped beside It.
Silence reigns comfortably for a few minutes before Kartik,for some timelessly mysterious reason,felt compelled to break it."By the way
You are coming to tonight's party,right ?"
"C'mon now,you promised.",Kartik whines,his South Indian accent appearing at the tail end
He had promised to his friends that he was going to bring the author of 'Silver Grasses'
To the party.
"Did I ? I don't remember 'promising it'." Faiz raises an eyebrow In lieu of mere dialogue.
Faiz laughs.It Is a delightful puzzle of a sound as If he has found Something Irrevocably humorous that others simply couldn't Imagine
"All Right,I will come."
"Seriously ?",Kartik squeals, tentative hope In his eyes.
"Quite.",Faiz nods,his lips curling Indulgently."Here's the preface" He stands up and hands Kartik the paper, before skirting around the table and flopping onto his chair.
"Remember,the party Is at 8:30" Kartik even gives him a jaunty little wave before leaving.
The door clicks shut.And He Is alone again.
He plucks a pen from the pen stand and twirls It.His skin prickles with some Indecipherable
urgency.The room feels too stuffy.He should go for a walk.
Parties.He once went to parties.
The wind Is dry.He can see the rippling skyline of Kolkata In the distance.It is not yet dusk.Birds soar through the sky;fragmented white clouds blotting the blue swathe.The streets are busy,rife with chatter and noise.A
Little boy scurries past him,brushing the edges of his shirt.
A curious weariness occupies his mind.He is an untethered body floating through space.He
feels the gulf between him and society more keenly than ever.And unlike the other times,When he rewards this contrast with a Contemplative fascination,All he can feel now Is resignation and exhaustion.A painful longing Sears Through his heart.He thinks it is Boredom.
Abruptly,he stops In his tracks.Disheveled and dirty,a beggar sits underneath a discolored lampost about four feet away from the gutter
The smell is Intolerable.The necessity of the drain does nothing to diminish his visceral disgust.Tangled twigs peek from his enormous beard.He stares at Faiz with ancient cerulean eyes,as he passes him by.A glint of understanding slips Into his eyes and his lips part In a knowing smile.
Sudden fury surges In him and he storms away,uncaring of the looks thrown In his direction.
The anger does not past,leaving behind a bone-deep Sense of dissatisfaction.He should Go to the party tonight ? Perhaps.But there will be so little people he won't despise at first sight.Whatever restless energy he has now will have evaporated within the first fifteen minutes,leaving behind a simmering Frustration and Resentment.
He stops at the Pacific Park.It Is a frequent haunt of his.The ground Is overlaid with dewy green grass,with children scampering over them.The adults gossip In small,clustered groups.A Couple of vendors aimlessly roams the grounds, occasionally coaxing a child to the land of forbidden fruits,before a parent noticed and bats them away with vehement zeal.
He enters the park,the revolving door behind him swinging shut.He sighs in relief as his sight affirms that the Eastern bench Is vacant
Settling himself on the bench,he flips open the cigarette pack and takes one out.He gives It a puff,eyes closing In appreciation.
He plugs In his Earphones and restarts 'Vise Til Far'.He leans back as the guitar starts,a
Blissful smile spilling Into his face.
The hours pass.He writes In solitary leafs of paper as playlists loop In the phone.He treats himself to a couple of cokes.Soon Enough,it is 8 p.m,the weak light of the streetlamp casting a dim Silhouette of him across the grass.He looks up at the stars,pinpricks of light scattered across the smoky canvas.A cold draft ruffles his hair.The stars shine brightly tonight.
The Chair Is Positioned before a purple wall refreshments for Its occupants conspicuously
absent.Avish shifts nervously on the chair,the formerly spotless brown Chinos getting smudged In the process.His brows are furrowed together In pitiful consternation,the
silent 'Ah's of his lips a blatant ploy to get attention.That proving to be singularly unsuccessful,he takes a quick breath and resettles himself on the chair.
"Where's the art piece you were talking about ?",Avish finally speaks,his skittish eyes darting around the room.
Draped languorously over a sofa,Anmoy sighs.He stretches his dangling legs lazily,the pale expanse of his skin showing through the palazzos."I am the bloody art piece,you bloody philistine.",he drawls,arching an Contemptuos
eyebrow at Avish.A nonchalant ring of smoke blooms through the air, directly into Avish's face.
Avish's parched lips quivered as he scrambled
for an answer, delicious misery etched into his features.Anmoy slouches further into the sofa and expels another exasperated sigh.Eyed fluttering shut,he tilts his head back,Just a little.
"I have a lot on my plate right now.Do you have to be this knuckleheaded now ?"
Avish's mouth snaps shut, expression languishing In Crippling Embarrasment.Anmoy laughs soundlessly.
"I need to go to Kolkata.However,all the flights are booked.";Anmoy pauses and turns his head towards Avish,the movement deliberate and halting."I need you to talk to Rajib and remedy that."
Uncertain silence hovered for Awhile.
"I don't know.",Avish speaks up uneasily."You know what Rajib does Is not legal.And I am in enough trouble as it is with…"
"Forgery.", Anmoy finishes the sentence,a malicious glint in his eyes.He surveys Avish with a dissecting mischeivousness,lips twisting up In a wry smile.
"You are operating under the assumption that I care about how it's done.",Anmoy replies after a moment,the tiniest amount of amused condenscion instilled into his voice.
Anmoy rolls up smoothly,strolling to the Edge of the wall to lean against It.His face peels back to a smile,clean and wide."I do treasure those photos."
Anil's face Blanched.His countenance undergoes a number of forms,none of them particularly happy.
"Is that really necessary ?",Anil flounders.He sweeps back,or rather swats back his hair,the movie comically artless.Flustered emotion creeps into his cheeks.
Ah.The thrills of humanity.
"This will take effort.",Anil Relents at last.The tense set of his shoulders collapse .
"Along the lines of…",Anmoy leads tauntingly.
Just a bit of fun.
"A lot.But you won't use the photos,right ?"",Anil looks up squarely at him.There's fear
Panic.Anger.But there's also something else too.Admiration.
Anmoy bursts Into a laugh,the sound all angles and twists.
The white door shoots open as two laughing teenagers stumble into the room.They are dressed in identical t-shirts and checked trousers.A Cold Draft Blows Into The Room, Ruffling The Strewn About Papers And Open Books.The Taller
Gawkier Boy Cranes An Arm Around To Turn On The Switches.
"You Weren't Kidding ! Your Room's A Mess.",Anmoy Breathes Out, Overwhelmed By The Sheer Spectacle Of Lone Pages Floating And Unlaundered Heaps Of Clothes.Amidst All The Books And A Brown Table,A Bed Lies Adjacent To The Wall,A Rectangular Window Situated By It.The Books Spanned From Paperback Novels To Eccentric Travelogues To Nietzsche And Kierkagaard.
"Hmmm.",Faiz Grouses Out,As He Hefts Anmoy To A Scruffy Chair.Anmoy Slumps Down On The Chair With A Full Thud.He Breaks Out Into A Stretch,Long Limbs Unfurling And Unwinding.
"I Think I Drank A Bit Too Much In The Party,You Know.",Anmoy Announces Into The Room,Lips Twisted In Thought.
"I Remember Telling You That In 7".The Clock Presently Read 11.
Anmoy Flashes Him A Guilty Smile.He Scoops Up The Acoustic Guitar From The Scuffed Table, Playing The Intro Of "Nothing Else Matters".
"Don't.", Faiz Warns.
Anmoy Dutifully Jacks Up The Volume,Spectacularly Butchering The Song.God Rest Its Soul.Anmoy Sings With The Style Of Mercury And The Vocals Of A Crotchety Street Cat, Skilfully Ignoring Faiz's Disbelieving Horror .
Faiz snaps open the window,and then traiposes over to the fridge.His jacket has Been Disposed to an Empty Corner Of The Room.He Grabs A Bottle Of Water From The Fridge And Slaps It On The Table Before Anmoy."Drink."
"Noooooooooo.",Anmoy Whines,His Lips Fashioned Into A Pout.The Guitar Now Lies Discarded.So Changeable.
"It Might Make You Feel Better.",Faiz Wheedles,A Half-Smile Tugging At His Mouth.
Anmoy Caves After A Couple Of Seconds,The Pout Dissolving At Last.He Lifts Up The Bottle
He Slightly Tips It Towards Faiz,A Beatific Smile Gracing His Face.And Gulps The Bottle.
Almost Immediately,With A Mighty Grimace,He Sets It Down.
"It's Freaking Freezing.", Jerks Up Anmoy,His Already Unkempt Hair Going Even More Awry
The Hectic Black Eyes Dart To Faiz Instantly.
"I Took It Out of a fridge.",Faiz intones, quirking an eyebrow.He Sits On The Opposite Chair And Swings his legs across to rest on the table,all Pristine and Nonchalant Virtuosity.
A Comfortable Silence settles between them
Anmoy Sips at the glass,and Faiz picks up a book.The wind has stilled outside.Cars have long since abandoned this street, unsuitable with its numerous potholes.Shadowy Rows of trees line the street.They stand motionless,like silent sentinels of this obsolete street.
"Turn down the lights,will you?",Anmoy speaks up, breaking the silence.
"Yep.I don't l-like the lights now.".He Sounds Desperate, Tentative.The Room Descends Into Darkness With A Switch.
"What's Your Biggest Regret ?" The question comes suddenly.Anmoy's Voice Is different Now - Remote,Careless, Weary.
"Regret ? Regret is a Pandora's Box,Darling
Once you open It,it doesn't go back easy."
"So brooding.",Anmoy drawls."C'mon.What thing would you regret if you had not done it in the last three months ?"
Faiz Cocks His Head,The corner of his mouth ticking up."I suppose I would regret not Meeting You."
Anmoy Drops His Hand to his chest,his eyes wide In unabashedly Exaggerated Delight.
"Be Still,My Heart !"
"Seriously ? You are worse than Adina.",Faiz Idly Retorts.
"That's a new low.Take it back.Or I will,uh,do something very scary and sinister.",whines Anmoy,his arms on his hips and faux-outrage in his slitted eyes.
"She's hot tho."
In a burst of explosive movement,Anmoy shoots up from the chair and leaps towards the bed,where he lands messily.
"I don't want to be hot.I want to be bewitching,alluring.Somebody I will write A
Song About.",Anmoy Declares His Thoughts With A Flourish Of his left arm towards the Stars.His head stays drawn back and his eyes still - Amidst Profound Contemplation.
His eyes pop open and his posture collapses to it's usual disarray."Hush, Dear."
Faiz laughs.Its a beautiful sound.A pure, unbridled expression of joy.Anmoy Finds Himself wondering what it would be like to scrape the depths of that laugh.
Faiz runs a finger through his frizzled Curls,his lips Parting In Fuzzy Appreciation."Are you Returning today ?"
There was a faint rustling noise before 'No' Echoed out of the shadows.It was a jagged declaration, venomous and angry.
"Not the best lot ?",Faiz Ventures,A Rare Tentative Edge To His Voice.He is perhaps fortunate that he sees his parents so little.What with them living in a different city.
"Feel free to continue."
Anmoy's fingers twitch,his pale lips pursing up."Father was always away.I idolized him.Mother didn't like that."
"Classic.",Faiz shifts in his chair,making himself comfortable.The measure of hesitation that had dwelled in his eyes have disappeared.
"Not really.", Anmoy's Voice lightens."By My tenth,Dad had enough of it.He wanted his son just to see him as a father and not sn unknowable, unreachable idol."He flips his hair, bringing the whole black curtain of it over his face.
"How did your mother react ?"
"Not well.You see,she thought the least he could do was to let me persist in my illusion."
Anmoy smiles now,sharp and crooked."Especially with him being away all the time."
"I didn't expect that.",Faiz Mildly Remarks.
"I think she always wanted us to be a real family all the time.But the resentment she had Towards my father…was Overwhelming.Their marriage had fallen apart long before I came.",Faiz leans back against the windows,the blue slashes of moonlight lighting up his face.He was all unearthly paleness,Faiz muses,with eyelashes fanning out over the dark,Bruised looking circles under his eyes.
"You were the final push.",Faiz Guesses.
"No.If Only.It gave the boost to a relationship which had worn out Its Welcome.After Me, They couldn't separate.And for that,in some tiny corner if their mind,they have always hated me."Anmoy Indulges in a shaky inhale.A Furtive Action In The Dark.
"Sounds Fascinating.",Faiz Quips Cheerfully.A Rueful Smile Graces His Face.Anmoy Chuckles,An Amused Smile Glint Slipping Into his Eyes.The Edges of his eyes Crinkle And the left corner of his mouth lifts up.The Curl of his lips open in its unguarded mirth.His smile was like the stars.It pierced through the Veil Of
Bleak Mundanity And Gray Disillusionment And Blazed,Like the ancient pinpricks of light setting afire the night sky.
Anmoy flops down on the bed,his limbs settling then In all uniquely askew positions.His head lounges on a dilapidated,faded pillow.
"Do you ever look at the stars ?"
"Too Many Instagram Posts?"
"Too Many Instagram Posts."
"Yes I do.They are there every night."A frivolous edge tinges Faiz's words.
"Well,Not every night.Clouds.Rain.Rolling Thunder." He can see the outlines of Anmoy's Smirk.
"Divine Judgement ?.A Startled laugh escapes Anmoy.A Happy Laugh."Damn,we're bad at this."
A 'ting' sounds from Anmoy's pocket.The pocket lights up briefly before slowly fading away.Anmoy's Gaze Snaps Back To Reality.
"Who ? ",Faiz Inquires.
"Adam Probably.Ughhhhh.",Whines Anmoy.His Hand Twitches.
"You Said That 'Ughhhhh' With Great Significance."Faiz Swings His Legs Down And Swivels Around To Face Anmoy.His Eyes Teem With Mischeif,A Demand In The Restful Curve Of His Lips.A Dazed Part Of Anmoy's Mind Wondered About Them.
"Drug Addict.He'S Probably Asking For Money.",Anmoy Groused,Bitter Frustration Laced Into His Tone
"Rough Life ?"
"Damn.That Sucks".Faiz's Remorse Sounds Detached Yet Sincere.Non-Judgemental And Casual.
"I Can't Honestly Pity Adam.He Returns To His Drugs Every Bloody Time."Faiz's Temple Creases In Thought.Anmoy Feels A Curious Churning In His Gut.
"Don't Me So Quick To Judge.",Faiz States Calmly.His Chin Rests On Steepled Fingers.
Anmoy Tilts His Head Questioningly.
"He Seeks Patterns.We All Seek Patterns.Familarity.A Safety Pattern.Even Throwing Away One's Life Is A Pattern."
"Maybe",Anmoy Grudgingly Admits After A Few Seconds Of Reluctant
Reconsideration.His Lips Pucker In.His Chin Just Out,As If Bracing For Reproach.Faiz Chuckles Fondly.
Faiz looks languid and unconcerned,sitting in that chair.There's An Odd Stillness To His Features.He Waits For Reality To Proceed So That He Can Continue His Performance.As If It Is just a fad.He will entertain it for a while,And Then Retreat Unto Himself.He is happy now.It reads in the set of his lips, the curve of his brows.Surrealists say that what we dream is often more real than our Reality.Is It So For Faiz Too ? Does He Love In His Dreamworld ? Does He Care ?
"Don't You Ever Get Lonely ?",He Asks Faiz,The Absence Of Hesitation Striking.
Faiz Glances At Him, Evidently Amused."People Empty Me",He Grandly Begins,Arms Flung Out Wide."I-"
"Don't Quote Bukowski"
"Awwwww.You Take Away My Best Lines".Faiz Pours, Playfully Canting His Head(Use Tilt For The Previous One)
"Seriously."Anmoy Halts,Propping Himself On His Left Elbow."You Don't Go Out With Others.You Are Scarcely Online.You Are Always The Quietest In The Room.Always."
A Dim Smile Rests On Faiz's Lips.Wan Eyes Shimmer In The Dark.The Silence Lengthens
Oppressive And Pregnant.
"There's A Promise In The Certainty Of Eternal Loneliness",Faiz Finally Whispers Out.The Reluctance Of The Admission Effortlessly Overpowers The Desperation Of It.
"Is That Not A Pattern ?"
"Yes,It Is.",Faiz States It As An Inevitability,As Intrinsic As Time.Anmoy Smiles Away Softly At Faiz.Faiz's Eyes Never Leave Him.He Looks At Anmoy Strangely,His Irises Swimming With Disbelief And Longing.As If He Is A Glimpse Of A World Where Things Made Sense.
These Frenzied Silences.He Tires Of Them
"We should probably sleep now."His voice is sheepish.
"Of Course" Faiz Shakes His Head."I Think We Can Fit In There.Okay ?"
"Yep".He Rolls Over To The Edge Of The Bed To Make Room.Faiz stands up silently and comes over to the bed.He shuts down the blinds with an efficient snap, Immersing the room in Inky blackness.
The Sunlight falls on them the next day.Tangled limbs and twined bodies.Unconscious half-smiles on their lips
The chatter had subsided to a mild buzz by the time he had settled himself on his seat.He doesn't know enough of planes to adequately describe this one.It is a sleek white craft,'INDIAN AIRLINES' emblazoned in blue letters on the outer shell.It is a relatively small specimen.Roughly 100 passengers inhabit the plane.The thirty-ish year old lady beside him had dozed off long ago.Quite helpful.He doesn't feel much of a conversationalist today.
The plane takes off,the engines jolting the wheels into explosive motion,before finally propelling the plane to magnificent flight.He hadn't been on a flight very often.Only once in fact.When he left Kolkata in '19.And Faiz.
Ajit sighs.The memories flood him.Like all the times before.He knows he is going to sulk on this for hours now.
Ajit focuses on the sun,a distant blister In the sky and thinks of Faiz
Had it hurt ? It will be inaccurate to use that particular term.All he had been left was a withering emptiness.At times,when he had been all alone with a gently smoking cigarette in his hands,his heart has ached.And aches of phantom touches and lost conversations had played itself out in his mind.Sometimes,those sessions had ended with a wan smile flickering at his lips,and sometimes it had ended with muffled sobs to a barren room.
He feels like drowning.He feels like drowning in this vast,empty,senseless years of his existence.
Huh.The thrills of humanity.
He remembers how Faiz had tasted,with a stark,smarting clarity that still managed to yank out the tender depths of his soul.Faiz had tasted of pepper and winter rain.His heart,the decaying,old husk of something that had never really existed,had bloomed with glorious life and sensation.He hadn't felt like a dissolving,formless mess with him.
At least until Faiz had pushed him away.And ran.
It was not a matter of sexuality.Faiz had intimated that particular secret to him in the second month of knowing him.Faiz was not ashamed about it nor confused.He had accepted about it with a quiet nonchalance he exhibited in every other aspect of his life.Ajit hadn't ever come around to confessing his own,but he hadn't ever tried terribly hard to conceal it either.And Faiz was clever.
Faiz's eyes were always wide when he laughed.There was a pronounced whiteness of his cheeks when he sulked.He can't remember the exactness of the shape of Faiz's lips,the crinkling of his brow.Such details have been lost to many sleepless nights.
He is the mutilated remains of the burning stars and a shared bed.The carcass to be fed to the vultures.
He had written one letter after that.
I don't know why you haven't been answering.I have called you dozens of times and there's been over a hundred messages.I assume,you have been holed up in your apartment, sustained by home deliveries.A letter is a last resort.Perhaos,its tangible presence will irk you into picking it up.
I have always believed in love.But it's like reading from the pages of a history book.An intellectual registration of a fact.I don't know if you will understand with your dispassionate,incisive criticisms and snarky jibes.There was always a desperate attachment between us,born out of the cold certainty that any separation would leave
us,born out of the cold certainty that any separation would leave us with an inexorable loneliness.That ever-present shadow trailing us.And maybe,we can't do anything about it.But we can share it,and maybe we will be able to live fleetingly,in that space between.As the world spins,maybe something we could have been something to hold on to.
Perhaps yes.Along the way I fell in love with you.I am sorry but if you must know I didn't have a choice.I fell in love with the honest,tender realness of your laugh,the stifled amusement when you try to chide me,the face of gentle bemusement you make at me,and many other things.I remember you like still images plucked from a scrapbook.The cigarette,the emerald earrings.The haughtiness,and the sheltered, inevitable vulnerability.But,I also know you also never wanted this.Love was not gradual slope for me.It was a sharp plunge into the murky waters of uncertainty.I know you hate it. The responsibilities of love.You are disappointed at me.I understand that.But please,try to answer.We have to reconcile,you know that.Right ?
Please darling,don't leave me alone
Of course,Faiz hadn't responded.Ajit hadn't really expected him to.
There was always something decisively different about Faiz.He had always nursed a wilful indifference towards the society he lived in.There was a deep, simmering desperation in him to separate himself from the mileau,as if conformity would crush him.Faiz was of course aware of it and pondered on it endlessly.He knew what he was and he spent his life by himself,immersed in self-indulgent self-exploration.Every time Ajit was with him,he felt like an intruder in a castle stark empty,yet brimming with restless life.
He doesn't feel like watching out of the window anymore.The sight wears him after a time.His perception had always teetered between reality and imagination.Stuff spun in his mind are almost always impactful to him as solid physicality.People say there is an added realness to tangibility.There probably is.He just doesn't feel it.
. . .
(After fifteen minutes.NASA tweets that the spacecraft they had sent had failed to destroy the meteorite.They had miscalculated the size tragically.They can do nothing more and likely,no one else can too.They even added 'God save us all'.)
. . .
Okay,the world is ending.How deliciously disastrous.And by an errant meteorite too ! He hopes it would be one hell of a spectacle when that little blue dot in space finally goes boom.People are already in the street,in homogeneous hysteria.Some are screaming their lungs out at an absentee God and some and fervently thanking him for finally answering.He tuts.There is just no satisfying some people.
World annihilation and extinction of all life is all perfectly good and pleasant,but he has much bigger things to worry about.Namely,the looming visit of one Ajit Mukerjee.He sinks deep into his couch,his brows crinkling in thought.How did he even get his damned number !
It has been six years.A bItter smile splays across his face.Six years and yet intimacy haunts him still.
A sharp agony lances through him.A yearning primal,needful and anguished.How could he ever do it ? Regret sweeps over him like a tidal wave.He lowers his head to the cradle of his cold arms,eyes shuttered in desperation,as such a simple guard shall keep his monsters at bay.
Fear.The heartbeat of his life.It plays with him,warps around him until all he can feel Is Its cold embrace.It Is what had pulled him back from taking Ajit's olive hand.Fear had dictated his hands as Ajit's letter burned to ashes by Faiz's lighter.It distorts his vision and tints his eyes with the dubious comfort of vindictive cynicism.Dubious,but oh so dear.And for that,he Is grateful to his fear
He had met Ajit for one summer,and then loved him for six years.He still does.Love.A conglomeration of soft,weak syllables, unfitting for such a brutal, debilitating sentiment.He couldn't be with Ajit.Faiz's love is a selfish,base thing.Its vile and depraved.He would have brought Ajit down to his own hell,sapped the last speck of his glorious life,denied him hope,lest he find freedom with it.And he would do it all in the name of the dark,twisted thing he called love.
He feels a black rage take her heart in a hot fist and squeezeHe almost hates Ajit now.For blazing into his life and setting afire the meticulous fragments of control he had managed to seize over his life.And all with a single note too.It was curt,the message."I will be there at Wild Slippers at 8 in the morning on Wednesday.Do come ".Even amidst such laconicism,he could see Ajit clearly as ever,as if the ghost of an Ill-begotten summer is reaching through the years to gaze upon him.
The hours seemed to stretch and warp, until Faiz did not know where he was, who he was, what he was doing.The noise on the outside is blooming into a cacophony and riot.Its astounding they have managed to dress and feed themselves throughout the year,given their state now.The clamor outside and his own room contrasts so strangely.As if this is all a perverse imitation of his own life.As if the meteorite is only speeding through the endless cosmos to choke him in the depthless oceans of his self-loathing.All of his dessicated hopes and fossilized nightmares.The knife drives deeper and deeper.He wanted to cauterize Ajit's memory like a bleeding wound.He hadn't dared much,to try anything in this mad world,until Ajit came,and he hadn't dared
much after Ajit left.And in the meantime,his own madness had crept in and festered,until he was an ugly,rotting corpse of a man he could have been.He imagines Ajit in the room,sitting opposite to him in a bed,his head resting in a dilapidated,faded pillow.He smiles blissfully,pink lips curving upwards.That damnable grin,exicising doubts and questions like scalpels.Brown eyes gleam with youth.Oh,how he wished to be naive and stupid.
Faiz's life is a tapestry of unfulfilled emotions.And in some distant corner of his mind,he is afraid to disturb It.He will lounge amongst his own sorrow,ponder upon on his own wilful dissolation and will not do a whit to change anything about it.Change is an whirlwind of errant emotions sweeping away the tediously constructed walls around his heart,leaving him barren and wanting.He was wrong to leave Ajit,he knew.It hurt Ajit,maybe irredeemably.A flush of ardent ire steals into his cheeks.But what he would he have done,if he had stayed ? If he had Rebuffed Ajit,if he hadn't,if he goddamn well hadn't…Ajit's smile,half-tilted is embedded in his memory.It withers and festers.And yet,there is a terrible churning in his gut and an ache in his soul.
He suddenly breaks into a laugh,his body convulsing with the sound.He laughs,equal parts gleeful,mocking and unhinged.He laughed,as though any second he would start crying.
Thus perhaps,unsurprisingly really,he will go.
. . .
A breeze passed through the field. All of the grass stalks lightly swayed in the direction of the winds, their leaves brushing against each other. The rustling of dozens, hundreds of leaves, all at once. The air whistling through the spaces between them.If it was another Tuesday,it would be a brisk winter morning,with the cloudless azure blue skies and the pleasantly chilly temperature.Today,the scene feels empty and desolate.There is no one in this field.He had expected it of course but witnessing this is still disorienting.
"So,this is how humanity goes out.",Faiz remarks as he settles beside him on the bench.Ajit hums.He faces Faiz.Faiz stares right back at him,his mouth sporting an unreadable smile.Ajit had expected a rush of emotions barreling through his defenses ,but Instead l he feels is a curious quiet engulfing him.He appreciates It.
"So It seems.",Ajit replies steadily.The stare-off continues for a couple more seconds,before Faiz breaks It off with a regretful headshake.
"So…",Faiz trails off,a question hanging In his Inflection.
It will be him to break the Ice then.Seems fitting."How have you been then ?"
"Not bad.",Faiz shrugs.A non-committal answer.The Ice still unbroken then.
*And busy I hear.",Ajit raises a gentle eyebrow."I read silver glasses,you know.Bold of you to base your novel off an Idea you had when you were seventeen years old."A prompt If ever there was one.
"Times change.And Ideas develop.",Faiz reorts,his mouth a thin line.Ah.The prompt was too obvious.Prickles Faiz's pride.
A laboured pause weighs over them.They take their coffees.Faiz's beverage of choice was always tea but he Is holding a cappuccino now.Ajit's favourite.Is that a sign ? The quiet in him has passed.He Just feels confused now.What are they doing here ?
He wants this so badly.He can feel the long-buried white-hot desire simmering beneath his skin.He gives Faiz a quick glance,silently cursing the Inclusion of so many stellar features In one face.He Isn't blind to the changes though.The usual dark circles under his eyes are darker.The laugh lines are lesser In a face,that wasn't particularly Inclined to laughter In the first place.A weariness lurks In his look,a measure of hesitation In his eyes that wasn't there before.
"Quite the summer, wasn't It ?",Ajit suddenly speaks up.A wistful melancholy tinges his words.
Yes Faiz,It was one hell of a summer.Sitting together In a bench after six years,as the world burns up.He almost feels grateful to Faiz for being the one to finally bring up the subject.Reckless courage Is one of the few perks of the end of the world,he supposes."Yes,It was ",Ajit smiles."I had never seen so many books In a single bed,and In such a spectacular mess to add."
"And I had not not Imagined so many flavours of a single beverage ",Faiz replies easily.Amusement crinkles the lines around his eyes.
"How had you survived without coffee for so long ?",Ajit let's faint disbelief seep Into his tone.Faiz had never really shifted from his affinity from tea,but that had done nothing to stem Faiz's enthusiasm In guiding a novice through the wonders of caffeine.
"Was a struggle".Faiz smirks wryly.Ajit chuckles.He feels peaceful.Content to simply be.
So,what are you doing now ?"Faiz absently plays with the cup In his grip,the surface of the caffeine lightly swishing with the motion.Somewhere In the distance,Ajit can hear people yelling.Humans are dissolving down to their basest Instincts.And yet,here they are,disconnected from the reality and world, playing out a dream.
"I decided to become an art dealer." It wasn't an Immediate decision though.But despite getting through college with more than decent grades,civil engineering had always been too stifling for him.And eventually,he had thrived as an art dealer.He lacked connections In the beginning,but he had learnt the value of charm In the years following Faiz.He was perseverant,and he really got good at getting the best artists to represent.If they weren't successful before,he made them successful.There Is never a shortage of talent If one knows where to look.
"You an art dealer ? What happened ?" Faiz sounds suprised.Ajit tries not being offended by that.Tries being the keyword."Priorities change."
"Evidently.",Faiz replies archly."You were never the arty type."
Sharp fury floods his senses,the peace he had tried so dearly so far snapping like a frail cord.He hates It,the easy condescension Faiz can't help but Inject Into everything he does.So secure In his rightness.He feels Faiz's eyes boring Into him, presumptuously expecting Ajit's cooperation.
"No,I wasn't.",Ajit answers slowly,face darkening.Faiz who was about to say something,shuts up.The silence lengthens.The words hang In the charged air with knife-like clarity.Ajit has never been terribly fond of truths.Honesty Is too precious a treasure to be parted with recklessly.
Faiz moved his gaze away from Ajit to the empty grounds before them.He doesn't say anything.He doesn't need to.
"You are the one who bloody refused.",Ajit grits out.He didn't want to.Ajit knows.
Faiz's brow creases.He has never been the most emphatic.Intelligent yes,but never understanding.No,he is wrong.Faiz understands the power words,his words,have on people but he dares not Imagine he possesses such power.Ajit never figured out where this Incorrigible lack of self-esteem came from,but It had Intrigued him before.Now ? It Just Irks him.
"I wasn't ready.",Faiz mumbles out.Whatever dregs of patience he had maintained until now snaps."For love ?",Faiz flinches the word 'love.Ajit brutally presses on,the anger rolling Inside him In waves."Nobody's ever ready for love! That's the goddamn point!"He Is screaming now,years and years of Frustration reeling out to the surface.The breath comes In short gasps.His lips are parted open, Iridescent green eyes fixed stonily upon Faiz.
"I don't do that thing.Relationshios.I don't want to.",Faiz answers tartly,with stiff defensiveness.
"Liar.",Ajit retorts flatly without missing a beat.
Abruptly,Faiz's shoulders slump.Fingers stop fiddling with the empty cup of coffee.A sort of resignation comes over his bearing,as If he Is finally admitting to something he had long hoped he wouldn't have to.He turns to Ajit and smiles.Regret swims In his eyes,so ancient and depthless that It nearly staggers Ajit for an moment.
"Perhaps",Faiz whisphers quietly,that sad half-smile still lingering on his lips.Ajit's chest Is strangely tight,exulting with something akin to longing
Longing.Such a soft word.There Is too much blood In 'lust',too much hunger In 'desire'.
How,they of all people,were drawn together.Ajit had thought about It long and hard, longer and harder than he has on anything else.Maybe,It was the shared burden of Loneliness.Maybe because,they both wanted more answers our of life than It wanted to give.But It still explains so little.Perhaps somewhere far far away, beyond the weft if time and space, Universe plays the game of fates.And perhaps,In one Instant,there had been a glitch,a gamble,a whim.And Ajit and Faiz happened.
"Six years,Ajit.Six years we have wasted and now we only have a day."Faiz's voice wobbles at the end, defeat etched In every feature of his face.
"I don't need six years." Somewhere along the way,Ajit's hand had reached upto Faiz's shoulder.This Is what they are.Orbitless stars spiralling around each other.Listless wallflowers wandering through the world to arrive at a common threshold.He had loved Faiz,loved him fiercely and with reckless abandon.That love still endures,beaten and battered but a shade duller."Give us this day."
. . .
The sun bleeds crimson In the sky.They had found themselves in the roof of the 42.Ajit has always had a flair for the dramatic Nobody had stopped them.Nobody was In any sort of frame of mind to do so.Its the end of the world after all.
Faiz's head rests on Ajit's shoulders,as Ajit hums As the World Caves In.The Irony Is not lost on either on them.
"Subtle.",Faiz mumbles.Ajit snorts.Faiz feels his own clumsy smile spreading.He has smiled more than he has In an entire year.Its been a great day after all.
"Do you regret today ?",Ajit's voice is unfocused,eyes clouded.
"Why should I ?",he asks back,his fingers absently tracing patterns In Ajit's elbow.
"People generally want forever.",Ajit replies.An unfamiliar monotone accents his speech.
"People don't last forever.They can only feel It."
They keep the silence.They have talked enough for the day.Things become wonderful when the future doesn't look over every choice.
The ground suddenly lurches,as something burns through the sky.It has come.
"It's over.",Ajit voices aloud."Do you think It will hurt ?"
"I don't think we will have enough time to register pain." The slight tension In Ajit's arm ebbs away at his assurance.
He lifts his Ajit to look at Ajit,a measureless aeon passing as their eyes meet.Sometimes, anticipation of something better Is enough.You don't want to see the light at the end of the tunnel,Just live forever In that tremulous moment of hope.
Ajit's kiss tasted of coffee and summer breeze.Same as he had six years ago.
"Remember us.",Faiz whispers,the words rippling through the words.
The curve of Ajit's lips,almost triumphant In It's wake,was the last thing he saw.