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He was happy. Happy as he could ever be. He found a reason to smile, a reason to laugh, a reason to listen to the birds chirping and to watch the kids playing. He was happy. He had a friend. A friend!
A friend who was always there, waiting patiently, waiting for him to talk, waiting to listen! And sometimes, the friend talked back. The friend. THE friend. It was all he had wanted. A friend, a companion.
He was cheerful as he went about his grocery shopping. He had decided to bake a cake to celebrate his newfound friend. Something to celebrate the happy turn his life had taken. He couldn’t recall why he was ever so upset over the accident. It was the best thing that happened to him. Best thing that happened to him in a long time.
He hurried back, his bag bulging with ingredients waiting to pop out with every step he took. He reached his building, carefully climbed up the stairs so as not to spill anything and fumbled with the keys as he reached his front door.
He slotted the key in, and turned it once, twice. The door unlocked and he put the key back in his pocket and pushed open the door, as the bag in his hand tore open. Eggs, butter, milk and everything else fell down and created a collage of myriad food colours at his feet.
He didn’t notice.
The can of condensed milk had burst open and was rolling along the floor slowly spreading its contents around the room.
He didn’t notice.
He stepped into the room, his sandal adorned feet now drenched in milk created soft sucking noises every time he lifted his feet.
He didn’t notice.
She stood there with his friend, next to the fridge looking inside while his friend gaped back. As he entered the room she turned to look at him, her bushy hair softly rustling on her clothes.
Her eyes found his and she asked, “What is the meaning of this?”
He stood dumb stricken. Unable to move, unable to breathe, unable to make any sound! The world had suddenly gone quiet and her question was the only thing roaring inside his head.
“What is the meaning of this?”
Petrified he turned to his friend for help but his friend was in one of his quiet moods. He was of no help to him. He had to fend for himself here.
“See the thing is…” he began in a rather shaky voice when she interrupted by saying, “We have a guest in the house and you didn’t tell me?” She appeared angry.
He let out a sigh. A dream, it was all just a dream. He bent down to pick the rolling can of condensed milk, licking a little off his fingers as he stood up. The can was mostly empty. He kept it on the table and looked back at the mess he had made.
It’s all a dream, he thought, no need to clean the mess. He stood with his back to the duo as he surveyed the mess. He turned then and saw them talking.
“How very kind of you to drop by!” She said to him ever so politely.
“Why, it’s no problem at all, he is a good friend of mine.” He replied in the same polite tone.
All a dream, all a dream, he whispered to himself as he saw the two of them talking.
“Would you like something?” she asked him, she asked his friend.
“Actually I am famished. He never feeds me. It’s like I am dead or something.” Both of them laughed.
All a dream!
They sat down at the dinner table, the trio. He in his milk strewn sandals and wet jeans, his friend in his bloody tattered clothing, she in her everyday garb, a light flower patterned frock.
She looked lovely, his friend looked deathly pale and he imagined he looked similar.
All a dream!
“Well why aren’t you eating?” asked his friend.
He tried to reply in the same cheery voice, but halfway through his voice failed him.
She leaned over and reached out her hand for his. She asked in a soothing voice, “What’s the matter? Are you okay?”
He looked at her, the lovely oval eyes, the small forehead wrinkled in concern. She was leaning over, her hand on his, her whole body relaxed. She behaved as she belonged there. She sat on the dining chair as if she was meant to be there.
He yanked his hand back and stood up.
“You are the problem!” He shouted at her. His friend seemed taken aback by his reaction and he looked up from his now interrupted meal.
“What do you mean?” she asked in a concerned voice.
“What are you doing here?” he screamed back. He was furious, his hands clenched at his sides. His friend looked on aghast with his spoon still in his hand.
“Why have you come here?” he shouted again. “Why can’t you leave me be? Why can’t you go away?”
“Why do you say this? Don’t you want me here?” she asked again.
“I wanted you to be here, I wanted you to be here more than anything I have ever wanted but you chose not to be, why have you come now? Why do you haunt me now?”
Hi friend looked up at him and said, “Now that’s not the way to talk to her, she is trying to be nice.”
The accusation stung. For a moment he was more bewildered than anything.
“You!” he shouted again at her. “You have taken away even my friend, the one thing that keeps me going, why do you keep doing this?”
She just sat there and didn’t reply. Just sat there staring at him, eyes full of innocence. Eyes he could not bear to look at.
He rushed off to get a knife, a minute in the kitchen and he was back with a mean looking butcher’s knife in his hands.
“What are you doing now?” she asked him, now in a completely flat voice.
“It’s all a dream” he said and plunged the knife in his chest. He didn’t just stop there. He heaved and pulled the knife this way and that, moving it around his chest. Soon enough his shirt was all bloody but he didn’t stop.
In the end as he pulled and tugged, he finally managed what he wanted to do all along. He pulled his heart out, still beating in his hands.
“Take it!” he shouted at her, “Take it and be gone. You have this from now to eternity, just leave me alone now.”
He held his heart in hands and he bent down on one knee in front of her. Bizarre as it seemed, it was as if he was proposing to her, a bloody, beating proposal gift in his hands.
She took the heart and stood up. He looked up at her and she looked down at him.
“What makes you think I want this?” she said as she slowly crushed the heart in her hands, squeezing, squeezing, till the heart turned into bloody pulp.
He woke up screaming. And screamed, and screamed. No one could hear him, except his friend, and his friend was dead.
He sat up with sweat all over his body. His bed sheets were all wet, sweat seemed to pour from every part of his body. He felt disoriented, alone but for the most part scared.
He got up and walked to the kitchen. The very kitchen where he had torn his heart out. He could still feel the rapid beating of his heart.
“It was all a dream”, he whispered again to himself, assuring himself that it was over.
His friend was inside the fridge, waiting as usual. “Some other time buddy, I need some peace and quiet.” He said this to his friend and walked over to the kitchen table.
The bell rang.
He walked to the door wondering who this could be. He hadn’t had visitors for a long time, had even fired the cleaning lady a long time back.
He reached out for the knob and opened the door.
She stood there, waiting, then asked, “Can we talk?”
He turned and ran, ran to the open window of his third floor apartment. Ran screaming, “This was all supposed to be a dream!”
For a moment, he saw how beautiful the world outside was. As he was momentarily suspended in mid-air he saw the people walking in the streets, the sun shining on the trees, the children playing care free, the lovers who had eyes only for each other.
“What a waste.” He thought and then he was falling.
He landed on a garden spike, he could see his blood traveling in rivulets down the black spike. He could feel the spike poking out from the other side of his chest but he didn’t feel any pain.
He turned his head back to his window. He was losing consciousness and he knew it. His vision flickering, he knew he had to take one last look. One more time. One last time.
She stood there, framed against the window. He looked at her once more.
“Once more” he murmured to himself, “Once more”.
And then he was no more.