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Saturday, 15 March 2014

Short Story: The One left behind

By: Bakshree Mishra
By Bakshree Mishra, 4th Year, CSE.

This piece can be called a story in itself, yet a fragment. I wanted to write something that would be equivalent to a 'clause' in a sentence - something that does have meaning on it's own, yet can enhance, and be enhanced, when added to a whole context. I hope this fragment is able to convey that feeling.

I sat alone in the dark basketball court. I knew I was going to get hell for missing another algebra class, but I couldn't get myself to worry about that right now. I had to escape from all the hypocrisy and fake sympathy that threatened to smother me. I took a deep breath and took out the slim cigarette I had picked up from Tasha's room. All these days it had been with me, a talisman and a grim reminder.

What was it about death that suddenly made a person angelic? All of a sudden Natasha Sharma was a super-hero cum model student cum movie star. All her good points had been blown out of proportion, and everyone had conveniently forgotten about all those drunken episodes and secret stays in hospitals.

I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes. I hated this, all this bitterness, this anger. They say it’d vanish eventually; it’d been two months since the accident – how longer would this last? I loved Tasha so much – I had been the adoring kid to her pied piper. Then why couldn’t I remember her with any fondness? Why was it that when anyone gave me that infuriating sympathetic smile and consoled me on my loss, I felt like reminding them about all the times Tasha had led them or their children to destruction? And why didn’t it make me feel any better that, no matter how drunk, no matter how much I tried, she refused to take me along? All her ‘friends’, the ‘in’-crowd, the one I had wanted to join, were still there, glorifying their dead queen. While the ugly-duckling sister sought refuge in the gallery of a deserted basketball court.

I stared at the cigarette for I don’t know how long, but ultimately let it drop. A hand appeared and picked it up. I turned around and looked up. Apparently, I wasn't giving off a strong enough a leave-me-alone vibe.

I hardly knew Varun, star basketball player of the team. The only time we’d talked was when I’d interviewed him for the school newspaper. I always thought he secretly liked Tasha; he always used to snag the seat across the aisle from us in the bus, and sometimes I caught him staring at her. Right now, I didn't want him to bring her up. I waited, but he didn't speak. He just plopped down next to me and kept twirling the cigarette. Minutes ticked by, and the silence began to feel oppressive. Why was he cutting class... and why was he here? Suddenly I found my mouth trying to justify what I was doing here.

“I was going to smoke.” I said. Varun nodded, but didn't speak, didn't even look at me, kept staring at the empty basketball court.

“I really was,” I insisted, yet he didn't reply.

“I have smoked earlier, don’t think I haven’t.” He just twirled the cigarette once more with his fingers and shrugged.

I felt my temper rise. Who did he think he was? Just because he happened to be a star player didn't mean he could intrude upon my privacy.

“Aren’t you gonna speak? Why are you even here?”

Varun finally returned, “Do you want me to leave?”

“That’s not what I said, damn it!” Something inside me snapped. I stood up and glared at him. “Aren't you gonna ask me why I am here?”

“It’s fairly obvious,” Varun replied calmly, still not looking at me. “You were here not smoking.”

“I was going to.” I said defiantly.

Varun shrugged again. “I guess you were.”

“Aren’t you going to tell me not to smoke?”

“Do you want to smoke?” he asked aggravatingly.

“Of course I do.” I bit out.

“Would you want me to stop you?”

“Stop this!” I ran a shaking hand through my hair. “I'm talking about smoking. Stop trying to psycho-analyze me!”

Varun twirled the cigarette around his fingers one last time and then threw it towards the dustbin at the end of the row. The aim was perfect. Of course.

“Then you can find another day or time to start smoking. Or not.” He said calmly.

I stared at the dustbin, blinking rapidly as my eyes started to prickle. I really didn’t want to follow Tasha’s footsteps – she hadn't wanted me to either. But the thrown cigarette reminded me of thrown possibilities, lost future; and grief over Tasha’s loss took over. I looked away, shaking helplessly. Nitisha Sharma never cried - everyone knew this. I hadn’t cried even over Natasha's death, not even at the funeral – something that everyone had whispered over – and I definitely didn't want to lose control in front of Varun. A soft something pressed into my right hand. I didn't want to look down – didn't want him to see my wet eyes, so I lifted my hand and opened it. A slightly crumpled, but clean white handkerchief lay there.

I did not want to cry. I kept blinking rapidly, trying to convince myself that the stinging in my eyes was due to grit. It wasn't about ego; that wasn't what was stopping me.

I didn't deserve to cry. And she didn't deserve my tears.

Both of us were cursed indeed - she, hated by her sister. Me, the one left behind.

A primal sound emerged, and I realised that it came from me. I clawed at my chest in surprise, as something gripped my heart in a painful vise. And a slight movement beside me reminded that I had an audience.

“It’s sometimes okay to cry, you know.” I heard him whisper.

When I turned around, I saw Varun looking at me, his eyes full of empathy. My lips trembled, and my legs gave in. I collapsed into a heap next to him and buried my face in my hands. And for the first time in ten years, I cried. Noisily, helplessly, while a guy I barely knew looked on.


6 comments:

  1. Proud of you yaar..!! :D Really lucky to have been with you and learned so much. It's really crisp and yet at the same time emotional..!!

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    1. Thank you, @priyambada! And same here - got to learn a lot from, and with, you :')

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  2. So, I ll start with one suggestion, since you are not sure what to do after college!
    ---Give all your time and energy to writing. I beg you, in the sense your country needs you moreso the Chetan Bhagat followers desperately need you!----
    And you know what? I have had people coming in and going out of my life, thanks to my parents' transferable jobs but never had I ever thought that I would miss an acquaintance as much as I would miss you!
    And, needless to mention, I have learnt a lot...gazillion lot, from you. Bakshree di, you \m/

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    1. The Chetan Bhagat followers don't need me - they are happy where they are... And God save me if they start comparing my works with their Maestro's! :D

      Thanks @ayushi! I can relate to the frequent transfers and uprootings, ergo losing and gaining acquaintances :) But why on earth would you miss me? I ain't going nowhere ;)

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  3. didi this is so awesome !! :) and you know what is the best part?? whenever i read your writings,i realise i actually was reading what i wanted to read.. and this is so rare with me .. love you loads didi.. looking forward for a lot more writhings..

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