TW: Death (The character goes in detail about a death, please don't read if discussions on the matter affect your well-being.)
The nights become more gruelling than those I spent worrying about my future. The phone calls are all I think of day and night. I write in my diary to remind me of where my focus should be, but her voice keeps me away from all thoughts. Some dark nights and the one slightly alit by the full moon so far away, the idiocy of it all becomes clear and they grow bigger and bigger and haunt my common sense and my morals. But the mornings, hot bright mornings remove all doubts. The anticipation of who would pick up the call and will I get it right this time takes over and the excitement overshadows the weariness of the nights.
Sometimes the moon gets too big and overwhelming and the darkness suffocating. I twist and turn to shrug them off, I force myself to sleep by shutting my eyes and holding them down tight. But every time I close my eyes it’s her I see: a jaded, colourful mirage since it’s been a long time since I memorised her face. The tightness stresses my temple and gives me a headache. I sit straight on the bed in meditation.
The next day, too tired from the last night’s fight with the invisibility, I keep lying on the bed. My mom comes in and touches my forehead, “You’re burning! I told you so many times to keep those windows closed during the nights! Why don’t the men in this house never listen!”
By the mid-noon, the house is deserted. I get up and go straight to the telephone and dial the number. “Hello? Hello?” I don’t recognise the voice. “Whoever is calling, can you stop. I’m calling the police.” It’s a child’s voice. “As soon as you don’t hear anyone speaking on the other side, put down the receiver! We know who the calls are for!” I hear an older voice say. “Call the police, call the police, immedi…”
I take a cold shower before calling Karthick about the job. He’s glad I called, I’m glad too. Of course, he’ll help recommend me for the job. The boss is his father’s school friend. After all that I have done for him how could he not help me, he’s disappointed that I took so long to call him. I should pack my bags and meet him in the city immediately, he’ll arrange for a meeting the first thing in the morning. I shouldn’t wait any minute longer, after all that I’ve done for him.
When mom comes home, I give her the news and she’s ecstatic. She gives me the money she had saved, “Get Karthick something. Don’t go empty handed. Don’t wait for dad, he’ll be home late today. I’ll inform him. He’ll be very happy. You go before it’s too late.”
I leave before the sun sets. My mom follows me to the front of the house, I don’t look anywhere except the road ahead of me. I wave goodbye to mom and walk steadily, and a voice from the house calls my mom and she goes in towards the house. I turn back to see my mom as I turn around the corner. She wipes her tears from her eyes with her pallu and begins to inform the voice where I am headed.
Karthick is wearing a suit. I get down the bus and he embraces me like he usually does. I should have called him a long back, I think to myself. He takes me to his apartment and shows me around, showing me everything the office has given to accommodate him, I will have the same when I’m hired which I obviously shouldn’t have to worry about because he has taken care of it all. I thank him.
He brings me my dinner and couple of beers. I tell him I’m not hungry and head to bed. He pulls me by my hand and takes me to the dinning table. “I was nervous too, you know. When I had my interview. I was so scared I couldn’t sleep all night. I know what you’re thinking, boss is my father’s school friend. But it isn’t that easy. My father just held the door, I had to do it all. The first time I saw the boss, I knew he was just doing a favour, he wasn’t really going to hire me. He knew that, I knew that so I went all in.” He laughs his loud laugh, “His face… he was blown away. I don’t know where all the confidence came from.” He continued laughing.
“It’s just… I don’t know if I…” I begin. He interrupts me, “Hey, of course you can. Remember the time I almost fainted before talking to that girl and how you told me she’s only flesh and bones like us, like everyone else. Like all human beings. It worked wonders for me. Boss, too, is only flesh and bones, man. Come on. Eat. You don’t want to faint in your interview, though that will make a good story.” He laughs.
I travel back home right after the interview to tell mom of the good news. Karthick promised to call and fill in the details to my dad himself. I was to pack all of my clothes, stitch a couple of suits and buy shoes. I was to move in with Karthick for the time being till everything was sorted. Everything happened so quickly; everything moves too fast. As soon as I get on the bus, I fall asleep and when I wake up I’m at the bus terminal, all alone inside the bus.
I had completely forgotten about everything until I come up at the corner of the street. I walk ahead trying not to look at the house but the front of the house is crowded, people are walking in and out. I step into my unlocked, empty home. I call for my mom a couple of times, but she doesn’t answer and she’s not in the kitchen either. I go inside and put my bag on my bed. I walk out of my home and stand beside the grilled gate. A man walks up to me and asks how I am. As I answer him my mom walks out of the house, she smiles at me and we both walk inside our home. She immediately heads into the kitchen and starts making tea. I don’t ask her what happened. “How was the interview?” I tell her that I got the job. She comes out the kitchen and hugs me, she holds me tighter and I’m scared she’ll hear my heart jumping inside my ribcage. She touches my cheeks and I smile weakly. She goes back into the kitchen and I work up the courage, “Ma, what happened?” She begins to cry. “The new bride killed herself. She poured kerosene and lighted herself. I knew something like this would happen. They were always fighting. Newly weds don’t fight that much. I only ever saw them smiling when they came home from their reception. Since day one. His mother would always tell me stories of how she’s always on the phone and talking to someone. Apparently, she got a call everyday and whoever was on the phone only ever talked to her. If anyone else picked it, there would be no answer. I told them we sometimes get calls like that too but they were sure that there was someone. Poor girl. She was so kind and very loving. She would bring me tea every time I go to their house, she was so soft-spoken. Who knew she would do something like this. I never saw her rise her voice ever, even when her mother-in-law made her job to tell stories about her to anyone who’ll ever listen. Even I told that woman to let the poor girl be but… god has no eyes! The poor girl’s parents. Her mother is still unconscious. Her father hasn’t said a word till now. Such a beautiful girl, they must have had so many dreams for her. Your father called the police, he thinks it must be because of dowry. Poor girl. Are you ok? You look so pale. You must be so tired. Why don’t you lie down, I’ll bring you tea.”