I believe that growing up is a parody. It’s a parody of our beliefs. It’s a parody of how we think, and it’s the single most cruel thing that happens to everybody, on a daily basis.
His notepad was full of such bits.
There was a time when reasons held deeper meanings. When, he knew what everything meant. When he was 8, the thing that scared him, was the darkness. After a while, it was silence. Time has a funny way of making itself felt. The silence he feared, turned into what he hated, and then it became the familiar commuter - the one who annoys you so much, that you start admiring him.
22 years later, there was still a stench of crippling fear. He often pondered, what scares him now. Were there any reasons to be scared? Reasons, for now, had lost their meanings. Whenever he thought about finding the reasons, he came up empty.
Emptiness is terrifying because it nudges you to find something within. When you’ve nothing around, you look inside to find something that would make you feel some thing. For him, that was scarier.
Somewhere along the way, he had lost the desire to fill himself. Talking about ways, the way back ‘home’ was intimidating.
With each batch of the passing crowd, he felt envy engraved on him, with sharper chisels. More often than not, there would be this guy on the phone, with a warm smile. Nathan could only wonder how beautiful, the other end of the phone would be. There would be this woman, warning her toddler, not to stamp its feet in the puddle and then there would be the sharpest jab, from the couple, who held hands in the shape of a heart.
He would re-position the strap of his bag, hoping that it would make him comfortable. The weight of the work was always comforting. At least, I had got something to do when I got home. He would avert his eyes, pretending to look at his shiny leather boots.
The faces were all different, but they all reminded him of the same thing.
“Sometimes, when you’re doing simple things around the house, maybe you’ll think of me and smile”. This Zevon song was his particular favorite. It had once inspired him, to find someone who would smile for him. He realized, not soon though, that it’s a tearfully difficult thing to do.
“Do you think, I need help?” His questions were pretty similar, once he had a drink or two. The stranger would reply something. He would remember feeling good about it. His friends would often tell him that he drinks too much. But no one cared. He was functional. He did everything that was asked of him, and sometimes he did it better than his ‘concerned non-alcoholic’ friends.
This evening was no different than others. It was a Tuesday, and there wasn’t anything worth doing on Wednesday. He was at this calm bar. Half an hour later he was already at his third Old Fashioned. A girl smiled at him, to which he replied with a toothless grin. He thought of getting out of there.
He had his foot firmly on the accelerator. Long drives fascinate everybody, he thought. It gave everybody a time to talk with someone or just enjoy being with them, with a moving backdrop of landscapes. He did it to get away from everybody. He drove that night, till the whole of the sky was starry.
He got out of the car and sat on the grass. It wasn’t very comfortable, but he loved it this way. Stars, trying to fight the darkness, for all of us to see them. He would feel pleased that, at least someone’s fighting it. Maybe, should learn from the stars. Amidst all the darkness and loneliness, they would shine. The Rigel and Betelgeuse, light years apart, kept company. Always. And then it hit him.
What scared him wasn’t the loneliness. It wasn’t being distant from everybody whom he loved or he thought he loved. It was the light. It was the willingness to share his light. Somewhere along the way, he had forgotten what it’s like to love. To be loved. To let go off his calculations. The last thoughts, before he fell asleep that night, calmed him like the morphine for the fatally wounded.
In the morning, seeing the aspirin corrode in water, he tried to remember what helped him sleep last night. Couple of gulps later he recalled. And smiled. What helped me sleep last night, perhaps will keep me awake tonight.