The Exit

“My mother was a prostitute. But she found a man so smitten with her, that he decided to marry her. The man was my father.
Theirs was a love story filled with acceptance and new beginnings. Until there came a day when I was born. I had a name that my mother had given me, but I have forgotten what it was because I came to be known as a ‘liability’ by my father. I grew up hearing that more than my own name. Of course I later christened myself as Victor, after my mother, Victoria.

Truth is, father never wanted kids. Mother had already done four abortions. So she didn’t tell him when she got pregnant a fifth time.
And hence started all the abuse, towards her and me. He would beat us, call us names, humiliate us in front of his friends and shout as loud as he could to intimidate us.

I had always been an obedient child.
Somehow that was never enough for my father.
I remember one evening when I saw my mother weeping in her bedroom. Father was screaming out in the hall and hurling verbal abuses at her. I’d never seen her cry, it was perhaps because she never let me see her vulnerability.
But what happened next, changed my life forever. With utmost assertion, emphasising every word like she meant it, she said,
‘I hate people who shout.’
She looked up at herself in the mirror. Her eyes bloodshot and fiery, her posture beginning to straighten and her expression turning into something harsh. Something cruel. I’d never seen this part of my mother.
Within the blink of an eye she got up from the chair, and scurried off to the hall.
By the time I ran and reached the edge of our hall, I could see a butler’s knife stabbed fully into my father’s back and mother holding it. I don’t know what sound he made or did he even plead for his life; but I do remember her – stabbing him continuously after he lay dead on the floor, motionless.
‘I hate people who shout’, she repeated with the same assertion.

She killed herself the next day, out of guilt. And wrote a note to me which said that she didn’t have the courage to look me in the eye again.
And just like that, I lost a world of my own overnight.

Although, It’s all in the past now! I have learnt a lot from it.”

The bonfire was beginning to light out, the moon was right above our heads as I finished telling him my story. He wasn’t mocking me now, shaming me on being a prostitute’s son. He was alert now, rather emotional. Guilty of bullying me, humiliating me. His eyes were sorry for what he had done.

“This is my favourite place you know, this part of the woods. It’s quiet, subtle”, I said contently and looked up at him.
“I did not know-”
I cut him off, “that’s alright. That’s why I wanted to share my story. It feels lighter now, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. You are a survivor!”, he said, visibly proud of me.

“I will collect some more wood for the bonfire then”, I told him while I got up from the rock I was seated on, “it’s burning out.”
He nodded and I headed off.

I came back to find him seated exactly where he was, fidgeting with his walkman. He faced his back towards me. So I approached him without making a sound; and stabbed him exactly where my mother stabbed my father 20 years ago.

“You are a twat. A prostitute’s son. I bet if she were alive today, I’d be her customer”, he’d say that to me everyday. In front of everyone. He’d send me notes that said horrible things about my mother.
So I sent him a note one day, asking him to meet me at the end of Exit-7 of the woods, lured him with the idea of telling him my ‘real story’.

I dragged his body to a nearby spot and piled it upon the others I had stabbed over the years.
I walked on to the side of the pile of corpses to a tree that held a tombstone in front of it – my mother’s burial.
I looked down at my bloodied hands that held the same butler’s knife my mother held in hers that day, and sat down on my knees.
“I hate people who shout”, I heard myself resonate my mother’s words. Assertive and emphatic.
This was in her honour. You see, there was a part of her note written to me that I’d always omit while telling them my story. It said, ‘Do yourself justice. Do not tolerate abuse.’

And I had always been an obedient child.

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Silence speaks louder than words

“An open restaurant by the beach, it’ll be beautiful”, they’d said. So I convinced myself to actually part ways with the love of my life – my bed – and get ready! 

I mean, who was I kidding? I’d been miserable. No, it wasn’t because I got dumped. I keep away from diseases like love and relationships. (And yet there are times when I end up wanting those diseases. Rare times. But let me save that for later). Well, I resigned from my previous job because my career’s a mess and had been home since.

I hadn’t shaved in weeks. My hair was the only disheveled thing that looked good on me. Yet, I  managed to put on a decent white shirt and beige three-fourths, put my shoes on and reached the given destination. It was late evening, the sun was almost about to set when I spotted my friends.

Okay, as much as I hate to admit – the place was indeed something! Low couches with round tables in between, clustered around the open space. Miniature lanterns hung up at the poles that marked the corner boundaries of the restaurant. Right in the center of the arrangement was a huge bonfire surrounded by logs to sit over. The sky made for the roof while the bar was under a thatched shelter. Rustic yet simple.

Waves crashed by the shore, tides were pushing back; the sun surrendered to the moon on the other side, obviously exhausted by its job.

And the sky. Oh boy, was it breathtaking! The horizon was crimson, above which it all faded into darker shades of maroon, indigo and ink blue. Merge them all (if you’re a painter) and you’ll have what makes you skip a heartbeat! In fact it even got me thinking why I had kept myself locked up in my room for so many days. I must have smiled a most heartfelt smile after ages. 

Anyway, it was great to see my friends. And we had company; everyone had a date along. Except me! Ugh. It’s funny; just when you think that getting out of the house wasn’t a bad idea after all, the very next moment you want to take your thoughts back. See, it isn’t that being date-less annoys me. It’s the compulsive cuddling, and the PDA, and the “aww” moments of couples that get to me. I don’t understand the need for it. Simple. And my poker face really, really comes off as rude.

You must think I’m a detached asshole. Oh, I am, on most days! But a good thing about me? I know when to keep my mouth shut! Wink.

We practically chattered through the entire evening. I, a little less than the others since I am not much of a talker. Dinner was great, as were the drinks. I was playing along but felt like something was amiss. We retired as it got close to the “late hour” and the party shifted, one couple at a time, to cozy corners and huge rocks by the sea. 

So I was left alone at the bar. Finally!

I like my solitude. Nay. I love it. And if it’s served with alcohol, I am bound to get intoxicated! The beach and the wind were the additional bonus. Ah, the night was somehow beginning to own me! And it was doing a bloody good job at that. Why? Because beyond the instrumental music of the bar, I heard the voice of Mohammed Rafi. I scanned the now diminishing crowd to locate the source of “Maine poocha chaand se“, and spotted a girl.

She had her back towards me; body slightly leaning behind supported by the palms of her hands, and legs stretched forward, one crossed over the other. Her gorgeous hair almost flirted with the breeze. She sat on the bare sand, beer bottle at her side and a small speaker with USB connected. 

Mindless and drawn to the old song – and partially to the girl – I took my beer bottle and approached her. Our eyes met as she sensed someone move beside where she sat. I took my chance and asked permission to join her. She shrugged a polite “sure” as I seated myself. 

Unbelievable as it might sound, all we did was just sit, sip on our beer and listen to her playlist shuffle from good old classics to ghazals! Neither I, nor she, uttered a single word. Not even a “hi”. And it had been the easiest conversation I have made with anyone! Like there wasn’t a need or compulsion to make small talk. In that moment, what had gone amiss, suddenly wasn’t missing anymore. My miserable self started feeling relaxed again. It might sound stupid, and maybe it was. But when simple moments align themselves generously, everything feels okay again!

I can’t say that I didn’t check her out from the corner of my eye. I did. She lip-synced a few lines of the songs that played, occasionally tugged her hair behind her ear, smiled possibly when her favorite line of the song came along, and maybe, maybe, even looked at me and shied away. 

I’m unaware how long we sat like that, but if moments arrive, then they must also pass. As bitter-sweet as it was, so did this perfect night. The playlist ended, she disconnected the USB, collected herself and got up to leave. I looked at her expectantly, but she had already begun to walk away. Except, she halted as if she’d forgotten something. 

She walked back, extended her hand and said, “It was nice… not talking to you”, with a wink. I sighed, unable to make my idiotic smile go away and shook my hand with hers. “What can I say? Ditto”, I winked back. She rewarded me with a subtle laugh and left me grinning for the rest of the night! We didn’t exchange names, let alone numbers; and yet, no night had felt nearly as complete and content as this one!

Silence is comforting. And to bump into people who can effortlessly share your silence,  is overwhelming and humbling all at once!