It wasn’t a dream


Life is complicated. Generally. But it wasn’t then. We were under the stars, open shower, disco lightening and heavy rock inside our heads. Three drinks down, the rain drops seemed like one big blob hanging down heavily from the sky. Why can’t we just shoot up to the skies and remain there? Who wants to be on the earth anyway? I remember thinking then, trying to balance myself on my wobbly legs. My friends were at a distance. So insignificant. So earthly.

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I wanted to distance away from them. The spirit in my belly nudged the spirit in me, and I climbed the last narrow rung to the water tank. There I was, so close to the sky, so far from the earth, so far from my family, so far from the insignificant others. Life was good, life was normal. I remember feeling the hardness of my phone in my pocket. For a second I remembered by girlfriend. But she was far away. Was she insignificant too? 

The drops pelted harder and I felt lighter. Like a baby in a crib. What will my mother be doing now? What about my sister? Does she have a boyfriend? Suddenly, like a defunct radio, my brain switched to Rod Stewart’s Love is. He was singing in front of a shop that sold bananas. So funny. I remember laughing loud. I wanted to slap someone on the shoulder and laugh. I wanted someone to see me laugh, see me so happy and carefree. “You bastards…!” I remember shouting. No one turned, the rain stole my voice. Funny thing, the rain is. 

That was the last I laughed like that for months to follow.

……

Now, the stars have been replaced by fat blinding bulbs, the dark sky has been covered by curd white sheets. The drops have stopped drumming, instead, there is a tensed mix of whispers and rhythmic beeps. My neck feels heavy, and limbs rusty. I can’t laugh, I am trying. I am sleeping.

The sheet of rain was to blame. I did not see the contours of the tank. I slid slowly to the edge, slapping my thighs, laughing, shouting at the boys, laughing again.

I can feel warm fingers on my cheek, what I can’t feel is my front tooth. My head is a ball of iron. I see a man in white coat and stethoscope.

I am in a hospital.

From the corner of my eye I can see familiar faces. That same red shirt. It looked darker last night. Now, it is a bright shade of yellow. What made him buy that? I drift again.

I hadn’t been hit that hard and that fast ever. ‘Thud’ now had a clear definition in my head. I landed on the sunshade on my side, and rolled down like a pebble on to another.

Thud! again. My muscles wailed. Only I could hear them. The sky was suddenly getting farther, the ground closer. At a dizzying speed that too. Thud!. This time I hung on. My right palm bore my weight and fear.

Skin on cement. Scrapes and scratches. It was time for the final fall. 

This can’t be. I have an MBA paper to write next week. And that mail. What will my manager say? Wait, I haven’t called my girl friend. She will be worried. SIT UP! I can’t. I am frozen inside an ice cube. It’s not that cold though.

It’s comfortably warm. Peaceful, and warm.

My nose was inches away from the very wet ground. I could smell the cement and blood. Slowly, pain shot through my nape, along my collarbones and down my shoulders. Tiny sharp arrows released from a bow.

I wanted to shout, but I also wanted to lay there for as long as possible. Be one with the cement. Could the earth just split a little and take me in?

I see tears. I smell family. I see my mother with pink nose and puffy eyes. She sees me, and her brows cringe, eyes fill, and a kerchief covers her mouth. My sister stands beside her, with pink nose and puffy eyes. It’s awkward. Dad’s nose is not pink thankfully, but he has a vein popping out on his forehead.

The dream will soon be over.

But I had already fallen, and not woken up. I was scooped up by a set of hands. Not strong enough to carry my frame. I felt like a slice of butter melting out of their hands. Stretcher was a blessing, a cushion of clouds.

Had I finally reached the sky?

(The story is a work of fiction and includes no autobiographical elements. Fortunately, none)

Love in the time of friendship


Ten Years On by Alice Peterson is a love story involving three friends — Joe, who is forced to pursue medicine by his folks, Olly, an average musician and a wannabe writer and Rebecca, an artist who dreams of making it big one day. Olly and Rebecca are a couple, and everything is hunky dory until Joe enters their lives with his handsome looks and striking personality. The three bond well, until Cupid looses focus and strikes arrows on wrong targets, and Joe quits college and leaves town without any notice.

Why does Joe leave? — the author tries building mystery with this, but really, it is no rocket science. A love triangle is not hard to decode. What keeps the pages turning is the back and forth narration that Alice adopts throughout. After Olly dies (no spoiler; the book begins with Olly’s funeral) Rebecca, unable to cope with the tragedy and the anxiety of bearing Olly’s kid without him to support her, heads to her hometown in Winchester.

Here, Alice gives a generous peek into Rebecca’s childhood, her baggage of disappointment about always being the second priority after her sister, an ace Tennis player, for her parents. But soon, we read about a very pregnant Rebecca assisting Joe in his work. Then, it’s back to her halcyon days with Olly in Bristol, before the pages turn to a tensed Rebecca talking to the spirit of Olly, asking him to come back to her (yes, Olly’s spirit keeps talking to her inside her head).

The parts about the carefree hostel life the three share, works the best for me. There are references to songs like Bob Dylan’s Make you feel my love, George Michael’s Wake me up before you go and Supergrass. A whole chapter is dedicated to an eighties night party where Rebecca dresses as Madonna in blond wig, tight black jeans and lace corset and Joe as George Michael, in a leather jacket and ripped jeans. Among their friends are those sporting looks of Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Blondie and Boy George.

It’s a breezy read. While what Rebecca goes through is quite tragic, it doesn’t pull down your spirit, or have you all tensed about her future without Olly. The narration struggles to keep pace with the reader, who can more or less predict the next scene.