‘A drop in the ocean,
A change in the weather,
I was praying that you and me might end up together…
It’s like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert,
But I’m holding you closer than most,
‘Coz you are my heaven!’
“I feel like a failure. My life has been a failure. They say there is no one who never had a dream to live for. They say there is no one who hasn’t had his dreams shattered ever in life. They say this and they say that…they say a lot of stuff! They might call me a coward for taking this extreme step but I feel a failure like me doesn’t deserve to live. I leave behind my experiences in this diary hoping that others don’t repeat the mistakes I did, hoping that it reaches the people that I love and care for, hoping against hope, that no more dreams are shattered. I’d be long gone by the time it reaches people. To everyone who ever loved a fool like me, my apologies…..for I could never reciprocate your love…I was too blinded by my own obsessions…something that I’ll regret till the time I breathe….which won’t be long now…”
It is not very easy to articulate your thoughts on paper when you know you are going to end your life in a few moments. She closed her diary and stared at the beaker kept in front of her. Just a few swigs of concentrated Potassium Chloride would be lethal enough to end all her miseries. It would paralyze her heart in seconds. She ignored her constantly buzzing cell phone. She did not need any reassurances, people telling her to stop. She knew nobody would be able to find her in this remote part of the campus. By the time they do, it’ll be too late. She thought, smiling to herself. She then picked up the beaker and began gulping the liquid. At that very moment, she closed her eyes and then everything went black…
(Four months ago)
“Dear diary, here I am, Rhea, sitting and sharing my emotions yet again with you. It’s been two months! Two months since I last saw him. These semester holidays were like an endless wait but finally it feels good to be back at college for one last time. I used to keep crossing dates on my calendar at home…like literally! Mom thought I’d gone mad! Yeah maybe I am crazy! Have been for him, since four years now! He’s just not realized it yet but I’m sure he will. Asshole! He has to! Final year, 10th semester, 5 months, I know it’s now or never for me. As it is I’ve wasted a precious week of college this semester coming late…and now I can’t wait to see him! Anyway catch you later diary. Just received a text from him! ‘Where the hell are you?! Need to talk!’ Guess it’s something important!”
She hastily admired herself before the mirror. It was something she was accustomed to do especially whenever she had to meet Viraj. They were meeting for the first time after holidays. Perfect! ‘C’min to the mess!’, she texted back as she scurried down the stairs too excited to even lock her room. The room can wait, he shouldn’t!
No one would have ever bet on Viraj and Rhea becoming best friends, considering their first encounter. Rhea had been running with a cup of juice in her hand when she accidentally tripped spilling the contents of the cup on an unsuspecting Viraj. You fucking bitch! He had shouted impulsively, instinctively giving her a couple of smutty blows, one that had hit her just below her abdomen narrowly missing her genitals and the other on her right thigh. He had then unfeelingly turned and left in a frenzy leaving behind a whimpering Rhea in the middle of the football field all alone.
The next day when he saw Rhea limping to class, he realized the gravity of his mistake and vowed to make amends. He tried apologizing in person to an unrelenting Rhea who reciprocated the gesture with a couple of tight slaps. He then started slipping a chocolate with an apology card everyday in her bag and on her desk in class. But the chocolates used to make their way back to him untouched and the cards unopened. When this did not work for a week, he found out her number and started sending ‘Sorry’ texts. He used to make an innocent face and hold his ears in apology whenever they came across in college but Rhea used to ignore him turning her face away every time.
‘Rhea you can call me an asshole for the rest of my life but please talk to me at least. Just tell me once that you’ve forgiven me.’ he said one day.
‘Oh really?! First you insult someone and call her a fucking bitch. Then you give her two nasty blows hard enough to make her limp for a month and leave her in the middle of a freaking football field! And then you audaciously trick someone into disclosing her cell number so that you can send cheesy apology texts which don’t cost you a penny thanks to your free SMS pack! On top of this you have the guts to say Sorry Rhea! I made a mistake!! Balls man!!’ she had retorted.
‘The SMS pack thing hurt.’ he quipped, hoping the humour would melt her.
‘Not funny!’ she replied solemnly.
‘Hey Rhea, someone is genuinely sorry and deserves another chance!’ he pleaded.
‘Hmm, so tell that someone to talk to the hand!’ she retorted raising her palm to his face.
‘Dude! Can you fucking see me limp?! Can you feel the pain I’m in right now?! The second chance you’re talking about…! No way in hell!’
Viraj had realized then that he had very deeply hurt someone. One last shot! Risky but worth it! He thought.
That afternoon, as Rhea sat in the mess having lunch, she heard someone shout her name. She turned to see it was Viraj holding a thick wooden stick in his hand. His voice had attracted every one’s attention and all eyes were on him. ‘Rhea, I have been a Jackass and I know it. I also know that I can do nothing about it. I am responsible for all those cuts, bruises, sprains, limps and whatever you’ve got and I can’t rest until I feel your pain myself.’ he said. He then tightened his grip on the stick and in a sudden act of utmost insanity started heaving blow after blow on his right leg as hard as he could until he fell off and the stick broke into two. ‘Aaarrrghhhhh!!’ he uttered a loud cry as he fell.
That evening, he met Rhea with a cast over his right leg. ‘Hi!’ he said smiling, as he limped towards her.
‘I was right about you. You really are insane! What the hell have you done to yourself?’ she exclaimed, a speck of concern on her face.
‘Well nothing really. A minor hairline crack! I’d just bargained for a severe sprain though, not this! Doctor said a month and a half, that’s it. But anyway, now I can limp with you too.’ he said grinning.
For the first time, Rhea smiled at him. ‘You don’t really give up. Do you?!’
‘Well! For certain things, you don’t really give up. Your friendship is one of them. And then I wanted to show you that Viraj is not that bad a guy after all. So, are we limping buddies now?’ he grinned.
That was the first time Rhea felt something for Viraj. Though the feeling had stayed for a fleeting second then, little did she know that the same will eventually become her raison d’être. ‘You are impossible!’ she smiled back at him.
‘Apology accepted then?!’ he asked skeptically.
‘Well whatever…’ She replied.
‘Ahh, one more thing Rhea…’
‘What now?!’ She asked raising her eyebrows.
‘Now that we are friends, do you mind having a glass of JUICE with me?!’ he quipped grinning.
‘Ummm, Yeah as long as you don’t incapacitate me if it spills.’ she replied with a smile as they both limped together to the mess.
That was roughly four and a half years ago. Their bond of friendship had strengthened over the years. But today, Rhea had an uneasy feeling as she made her way to the mess. She started scanning random faces searching for him when she finally found him sitting in the mess lawns staring blankly into the fields as if in a limbo. He turned as he felt her hand on his shoulder. He gave her a melancholy smile, his mind toying with the right words to begin with. He cleared his throat and uttered the first words that came to his mind.
‘It’s over!’ He said blankly.
‘Huh?! What’s over? What happened?!’ She asked solemnly, though she thought she knew what was coming.
‘She ditched…me!!’ He said with a lot of effort.
There was a stunned silence as Rhea assimilated the implication of what she heard. There was shock and disbelief written all over her face.
‘What the fuck! Sylvia…..ditched….You?!!’ It just couldn’t be true. Sylvia and Viraj had developed intimacy during the second year working together on a project. Their relationship was the envy of the whole batch. Everybody idolised the way Viraj was mad after Sylvia and the way she reciprocated his feelings. Rhea stared incredulously at Viraj, lost for words.
‘After all these years…all of a sudden…weird issues between us…and she just says Goodbye…!’ He broke off unable to complete, tears rolling down his cheeks. Rhea had seen Viraj cry just once in her life before and that was when they had had a serious argument in their first year. She knew this had terribly upset him. Viraj never cries otherwise.
She sat there for some time, not knowing how exactly to comfort him. Rhea had not anticipated she’d suddenly be put in such a situation. What can I possibly say? She thought. She had to get the details but this was not the right time. Rhea! Just keep bullshitting! Cheer him up!
‘Hey Viraj, you know what I feel?’
‘What?’ he asked, staring blankly at the ground.
‘Sylvia was never your kinna girl you know! I never really…’
‘Oh please don’t give me that crap!’ Viraj retorted.
Not a good start. She thought. That’s a clichéd dialogue for all break-up situations. Improvise Rhea!
‘No mate, what I meant was maybe God has something better in store…he closes one door…opens another….’
‘Rhea! Please don’t give me that crappy door philosophy right now. No matter how many doors he closes for me, I want Sylvia behind every door I open…everytime.’ He said turning to stare at her solemnly.
Another cliché! This is not working! She thought. Rhea you can do better! Something Spontaneous!
‘Come on dude! We’ll sail through it together. I’ll help you. Trust me, I’m still there, your bestie! Isn’t it?! I’ll never ditch you. Now don’t let a bitch fuck your happiness!’ She said trying to sound somewhat jubilant.
‘Rhea,’ Viraj began, ‘It’s not all that simple! It’s more than happiness…it’s about dreams. Something that I’ve been living for…something that drives me to…do things….I’d never do otherwise…a dream of seeing her by my side everyday…of laughing at her jokes… sharing her sorrows…of growing old together and taking care of her…of…forget it. It’s very complicated!’
Rhea turned her face away as a tear rolled down her cheek. She couldn’t bear Viraj pining for Sylvia with tears in his eyes. She kept mum for a couple of minutes, not knowing what to say. She decided to change the topic.
‘Hey! You wanna come over for a small walk?!’ she offered.
Viraj stared at her.
‘Oh come on! A walk never killed anyone!’ she coaxed.
‘I don’t feel like.’ he said.
‘But I feel like going for one…with you. Now buck up dude!’ she persisted.
Rhea kept tugging and nudging him until he finally had no option but to stand up. ‘You don’t give up! Do you?’ he said.
‘Remember?! For certain things, you don’t give up till the end! And to see you smiling right now is one of them!’ She winked.
‘Yes, I do remember.’ he said smiling as they both disappeared chatting into the fields…
Life is full of dreams: metaphorically and literally. I still remember how I used to wake up screaming at nights as a kid, seeing ghosts and monsters running after me. ‘Go to sleep my child! You must have had a bad dream!’ my parents used to say. Then there used to be the good ones too sometimes: me landing up in a chocolate factory savouring the legion assortment of chocolates to my heart’s content. Those mornings, I used to wake up and ask my mom whether I could buy a chocolate for myself.
We all have been savvy to such inconsequential dreams we forget the very next morning. But as we grow older, we start seeing certain dreams we don’t forget the next morning or the morning after that, in fact you know what diary?!, they stay with us for so long that we accept them as part of reality and start living them. I wish I could tell Viraj I understand what he’s going through right now. Little does he realize that I’ve been going through the same since a few years now. You are a part of my dreams Viraj. To be honest, a lot of mornings, I wake up seeing dreams of you forever being by my side, of you sharing my sorrows and my joys, just the way you feel about Sylvia.
Sometimes I dream of you taking care of our kids and bearing their tantrums, of you lending a hand in the kitchen and messing it up and then me giving you those dirty looks. Sometimes strange things like the two of us spending time alone, on a beach, holding hands. Sometimes, dreams of you snuggling up into bed and cuddling me in your arms after a hectic day at work. And I don’t forget them the next morning. They stay with me always I don’t know why. You’ve already taken that place in my dreams and I can’t imagine anyone else there. Is it not madness?
Diary, Will Viraj ever get over Sylvia? Is it actually the end of their relationship? When in spite of knowing everything, I find life without Viraj difficult to imagine, I wonder how he will cope with this?! I don’t know yet! And I don’t know what exactly he’s thinking or feeling right now! But what I know is that I’ll make Sylvia pay for this somehow, whether Viraj likes it or not…”
Sandra had a smile on her face as she saw Kabir sitting in the mess lawns, his laptop open before him.
‘Congratulations dude! I just got the news. Somebody’s going to London. Not everybody gets placed with Herbert Smith.’
‘Yeah thanks for that! But there’s still this semester to go before that happens.’
‘Your parents would be really proud of you.’
‘I know! Dad took an education loan for my course here. The university sponsored my law school education on the condition that I’ll repay them with my salary as soon as I get a job. And now, the signing amount and my first month’s salary would be enough to pay off the entire debt like this.’ he said snapping his fingers with a grin.
‘Hmmm I can see the spark in the eyes! So what’s the plan now big man?’ she asked, her expression turning solemn.
‘Plan?’ he asked, raising an eyebrow.
‘Yup! Now stop pretending. As if I don’t know what you’re doing with that laptop!’
Kabir sighed. ‘Well, the plan is to keep myself busy this semester with anything that I can lay my hands on. And then I’ll settle down in London and be gone for good.’
‘And what about Rhea?’ she asked.
‘What about her?’ he asked indifferently.
‘Dude Go die! You’ve been after her since first year. You never looked at any other girl. And now you’ll just leave like this without letting her know?’
‘Sandra chill! You know she’s just a good friend.’
‘Friend, my ass! I’m also your friend and in fact your best one in college but you don’t keep stalking my Facebook profile sitting in the mess lawns when you should be celebrating your job offer. You don’t keep track of my every move, you don’t feel jealous when I’m talking to a guy and neither do you think of me when you listen to your iPod with those fucking ear plugs on.’
Kabir looked at Sandra giving her a wry smile. ‘When you know everything, why do you want me to say it every time?’
‘Coz I don’t want you to run from the truth!’
‘I’m not running anywhere! But we both know that she’s loved Viraj ever since she’s known love. She never saw this other guy…waiting at her backdoor hoping that someday she would turn and notice huh.’ Kabir smiled to himself shaking his head. ‘I can just dream of being a good friend who’ll always be there.’
‘And you’re happy with that? Just being there?!’
‘Sandra, I’m happy if she’s happy. I’ve seen her pining for Viraj every single day and I know how the feeling is like. To be with someone you love, talking to them, seeing them everyday knowing you’ll never be together. After all these years, the passion within her is still alive. When she’s with Viraj, she forgets everyone around her. Have you ever noticed? I have!’
‘And what are you doing? Running away from your emotions to London?!’
‘Nah! Trust me, when it’s real, you just can’t walk away like that. I can’t leave without knowing that she’d be happy.’
‘Then show her that she can be happier with you, rather than running after something she can never have.’
‘Sometimes…a new dream is born on the pyre of another. She’s always dreamt of being with Viraj…not me. And if I have to lose her forever to make it a reality…so be it!’
‘This is not the fucking way to love you idiot!’
‘There never was a prescribed way Sandra. We all have our own ways. The truest of feelings cannot be described in words. You just let them take over you and then do whatever feels right.’
‘Jesus! What good would it do to lose her like this? You don’t even want to try and win her heart?’
‘I want to! But sometimes, winning is all about losing.’
Sandra gave him an I-don’t-get-you kind of a look. ‘You’re talking crap now!’
Kabir heaved a sigh as he shook his head. ‘Have you ever noticed the smile on a mother’s face when her five year old daughter beats her in a game of Ludo?’
Sandra gave him a bemused look, not getting the drift. ‘Ludo?! Where the fuck did Ludo come from? This is your life god damn it, not a game!’
‘You don’t get it! Do you? When a mother deliberately loses a trivial game just to see her daughter’s cheeks turn red with joy! And when the daughter on having beaten her mother gives her a loving hug, the mother sits back and says to herself Sometimes, winning is all about losing.’ He said as he got up, leaving an awestruck Sandra in the mess lawns.
Viraj became increasingly morose in the weeks following his break-up. His attendance dropped and he became anti-social and reclusive. He very rarely came out of his room. He even started avoiding Rhea, her calls and her messages. His changed attitude was troubling Rhea too. She just couldn’t concentrate on anything in the college. She constantly fought a strong urge to strangle Sylvia every time she saw her. It was easier for them to avoid each other being in different sections. The time to face her would soon come. Rhea thought.
Rhea suddenly started realizing how accustomed she had become to Viraj’s presence. She generally preferred sitting next to him in class whenever she got the chance. Though they were never dating but just sitting beside him used to make her quite happy. It gave her something to look forward to every morning. She took out a crumpled piece of paper from one of the zippers in her handbag that she had kept since her first year. It was a simple yet sweet poem Viraj had written for her way back then, the times when they were best of friends and spent most of their time together.
The little things you do for me,
Makes me fall in love with you,
Those little things you say to me,
They make my day, believe it’s true,
The little pranks we play in class,
The times we have a hearty laugh,
The little things you do for me,
Makes me feel so nice with you,
That is why my dear friend,
I like to sit next to you!
Rhea folded the piece of paper and kept it back in her bag. ‘I miss you Viraj!’ she muttered softly under her breath.
The reality always stared at her in the face. This would end someday very soon. These classes, lectures and college would be over and Sylvia would take away Viraj with her. They will marry and go away someplace, and I would eventually be forgotten. But she preferred to live in the present. She had gradually prepared herself to live without him in future but being alone in class since the last few days racked her all the time. This had to happen someday! I was prepared to face it! Then why is it killing me today? If just a week can maim me so much, how would I ever spend my life without him?! She gave an ironic smile, shaking her head, as the thought crossed her mind.
“Dear diary, he just doesn’t talk to me! In fact he doesn’t talk to anybody much these days. I don’t know what’s going on in his mind! What is he thinking! What exactly is troubling him so much! I feel his absence in the class, in the mess, everywhere! This is just a glimpse of my future! Didn’t I prepare myself for it?! Why is my heart failing me then? I guess that’s love! It just obscures the flipside of everything. Everything becomes easy, everything becomes possible and everything just makes you feel good. You just don’t listen to anybody but your heart until the reality hits you in the face. I plan to confront him on the first opportunity I get!”
Rhea got her chance in the next couple of days when she saw Viraj walking towards the academic block for the morning classes.
‘Hi! Care to talk?’ Rhea said as she caught up with him.
Viraj stared at her nonchalantly. ‘You should leave! I’m in no mood to talk about anything.’
Rhea felt slightly hurt by the callous indifference in his tone but she let it pass. ‘Viraj! What’s troubling you? Discuss it with me, I’ll help you. We’ve always discussed stuff in the past too isn’t it?! You just can’t let her do this to you…’
‘For God’s sake! I have nothing to discuss…! I can’t tell you everything all the time!’ he interjected.
‘What crap?! What has she said?! What’s hurting you so much damn it?! Tell me or we’re not entering that class!’
Viraj sighed, a helpless expression on his face. He was silent as if contemplating what exactly to say. ‘Rhea please! Can’t you fucking let go off me for a while?! Just…don’t…talk…and leave me alone! It’s difficult for me. You won’t get it. Not right now!’
‘You sound demented! You can start talking or we can stand here all day! Your call!’ Rhea said assertively.
‘I can’t…! I’ve been trying…to think…to do what she says…it’s weird! I tried to hate her for what she said to me and I tried to stay away from her. Thought would be easy! But…you know how strange it is. You decide to hate someone you love a lot and you feel you can do it. You think of all the bad times and it helps you. But as time passes, the bad memories tend to fade away leaving behind just the good ones. And that is when you realize your will is not as strong as it used to be!’
Rhea closed her eyes in fury. Right then she felt like devastating Sylvia’s life for good. She didn’t deserve to stay happy when Viraj was pining for her like this.
‘What hurts more is that she doesn’t even care! She’s happy with her life. If only…if only…Sylvia could realize the pain of losing someone she loves!’
Rhea stared into his eyes. ‘So that is your problem! Is it?’
Viraj did not speak. He kept staring at the floor. ‘I don’t know! Maybe! Now shall we?’ he said motioning towards the class.
“I realized something today diary! It is easy to get over a break up. It happens, you accept the fact and move on with life. You accept everything that comes with it; the pangs of loneliness, that feeling of rejection, self-doubt, random memories and those occasional smiles, the casual tears. It’s still easier if you know the other person is yearning for you too. But nothing hurts so much than the fact that the other person is happier without you. It hurts to imagine that your ex is not thinking about you when you are spending sleepless nights dreaming about them, caring about them and somewhere deep in your heart, maybe still loving them. You may not want to accept it but that is the real thing that hurts.
Viraj is going through a similar phase. I can never be with him if Sylvia’s memories keep cropping up in his mind. I also know that maybe he will never ever love me the way he loved her. It hurts diary but I smile to myself and say C’est La Vie.
But I still want to ease his pain. I still want to see him happy the way he was way back in the first semester and I’ll do anything for it.”
The next afternoon, Rhea sat in her room staring blankly at the wall, speculating on an idea. Something had been going on in her mind ever since she had had that small conversation with Viraj.
If only Sylvia could realize the pain of losing someone she loves.
Pain of losing….
Someone she loves…
If only Sylvia could realize…
Someone she loves…
She needed someone she could really trust. She finally picked up her mobile and explored her inbox for a certain type of forwarded text message. She found a sweet text on friendship. She selected a contact and pressed the green button on her phone. Message sent. She waited, expecting a reply. Within minutes her phone buzzed. 1 New Message. A sly smile crossed her lips as she read the name of the sender. He replies to every text. He always does. He’ll always do what I want.
A rare forward from the young lady! :p He sent.
Where are you? Wanted to talk! She replied.
What happened? I’m coming to the mess in 5 minutes.
Across the campus in the boys’ hostel, a guy was jumping in ecstasy as he got ready to leave for the mess. She sent a text. At least she remembers me sometimes. Do I still have a chance? Oh God, fuck me!
Kabir was waiting for Rhea in the mess smiling to himself, probably still thinking about the sudden unexpected text. ‘Heyo Rhea! When was the last time you specifically called me for something this way?!!’ he grinned as she entered.
‘Thanks for coming dude!’ she smiled. She had a purpose. She was good at manipulating emotions and she knew it. The messages and the smiles were all a part of it.
‘Hey! No formalities! Just sit down and relax. I’ve ordered juice for the two of us. Now just fire away.’
Kabir could tell it was something very important and he was glad Rhea found him worth sharing it with. Yes! We’re good friends! Close indeed! He thought.
‘I talked to Viraj yesterday about Sylvia!’ She began.
Kabir’s expression suddenly turned dispirited and resigned. Of course! I should have known! She’s always thinking about Viraj. It’ll always be Viraj. ‘Yes! So what happened?’ he asked veiling the dismay in his voice with a smile.
‘I want to see him happy Kabir. He’s suffering.’
‘Of course! We all want to see him happy Rhea and we’re doing every bit possible.’
‘No we aren’t! It kills him inside to see Sylvia happy without him dude. I see it in his eyes. She doesn’t talk to him at all these days. I’ve heard she likes this guy Aseem in our batch. She’s been spending a lot of time with him lately. The spark has been growing and I feel he’s the reason she left Viraj. They are going to make their relationship public very soon.’
Kabir stared at Rhea, a clueless expression on his face. ‘I don’t get what you’re heading at. She’s with Aseem now? As in Aseem?!’
He reiterated the name to double check. His sensibilities didn’t allow him to believe what he heard. Aseem was one of the most infamous guys of the batch known for all the wrong reasons. His charm though was irresistible and the general notion in the batch was that he could easily get a girl if he wanted to. He was wild and profane, a chain smoker and a junkie, sometimes reclusive but otherwise loquacious and a lot of girls harboured a secret crush on him but none admitted probably because of his notorious repute.
‘Umm well, if rumours are to be believed…they are secretly committed!’ she said.
‘So what are you thinking?’
Rhea paused, pondering on how exactly to put forth her idea. ‘Well, I won’t let this relationship last!’
‘Huh? I don’t get it! What will you do?’
Rhea had rehearsed this part of her speech really well. She had to sound normal though she knew her idea was insane. ‘Kabir! You are a good friend and I‘m counting on you to help me on this. Aseem doesn’t seem the guy who’ll stick with one girl for long. He’s with Sylvia and she likes him. I’ll make sure it doesn’t stay that way. I’ll be the bitch in Sylvia’s life. I plan hitting on Aseem and madly going after him. I plan on ridding Sylvia off her new flame.’
‘What the fuck??!’ Kabir stood up shell-shocked, his chair falling back. ‘Do you realize what you’re saying? Can you even do it?’
‘Yes I do! Sylvia has to realize how it feels to be dumped, to lose someone you love! The way she made Viraj feel! That is the only thing that can make him feel better. She has to experience at least a tinge of what Viraj is going through right now.’ she proposed.
‘Wait, listen….this is fucking crazy! What if Sylvia is fooling around with Aseem too?’
‘If she likes him, then it’ll hurt her emotions, if not then it’ll hurt her ego. Either way she’s hurt and that’s what I want.’
‘But hitting on him as in…what the fuck…I mean are you going to…’
‘Yes! I’ll make him fall for me or the least rid him off that bitch. I’ll ditch him later. I don’t care if he suffers. He’s also partly responsible for Viraj’s plight.’
‘You’ve gone mad! Insane! You realize you’ll ruin your reputation going after him, your grades, your friends and god knows what else!! I can’t let you do this Rhea, I’m sorry.’ He objected.
‘Kabir! Please don’t say No! You are the only person I can count on for this. I can’t see Viraj the way he is right now. It kills me!’ She had tears in her eyes and she made no attempt to stop them. She desperately needed Kabir’s help and she could do anything for it. She was prepared for emotional manipulation too. It is about Viraj.
‘Hey Rhea, listen, alright! I’m with you in whatever you’re doing. We can discuss this. But please no more tears!’ Kabir knew it was insane but he had his own failings. He couldn’t see Rhea in pain too. He could see the desperation in her eyes, that strong urge to do something for Viraj. If it makes her happy! So be it! She’ll have my back. ‘But Rhea, are you sure…coz it’s absolutely…’
‘Kabir,’, She interjected, ‘I still remember the time Viraj used to get late for the morning class when he had the fracture in the first year. I still used to make it. I just had a minor sprain. We had an asshole for a teacher who never gave him attendance. He used to ask him to leave early from his room to make it in time. He eventually fell short of attendance. He was fined 2500 bucks and had an extra project and assignment submission as penalty in that subject which the fucking teacher ensured wasn’t very easy. But he didn’t mind it! He was happy coz he had my friendship and I had forgiven him. Ever since, he’s done so much for me. It’s time to repay the favour.’
Kabir was silent. He knew Rhea would never relent. ‘I understand Rhea! Like always, I understand everything! But tell me something?!’
‘What?’ Rhea asked.
‘You love Viraj! And it will always be Viraj, I know! Then how will you do this? How will you manage to hit on someone you don’t really like? To flirt with someone when every second your heart beats for someone else?! To dream of someone else when all your dreams belong to another guy?! You love Viraj right? Then how?’ Kabir asked.
Rhea smiled at Kabir, nodding her head. ‘Yes, I love Viraj and it will always be him and that’s why this won’t be tough. You are my friend and howsoever weird or insane you might have found my idea, you still decided to help me no? That’s friendship! Viraj fractured his leg on purpose just to apologise to me. That’s friendship! And now what I plan to do with Sylvia for hurting Viraj, howsoever crazy it might sound, that’s my Love for him! Don’t you see? Friendship drives us to do strange stuff sometimes, and love stranger!’ she said.
Kabir simply nodded in amazement, his eyes wide open.
As Viraj entered his room, he went and stood at his balcony staring blankly at the rocks and the mountains beyond the campus. He was supposed to leave for Vienna for an international competition that night but right then, his mind was elsewhere. I’m doing it for her. It’s about my dreams, about love. He packed his stuff and locked his room taking out his mobile phone. At the gate! He sent a text message.
I have decided. I’ve made the choice. Lord, give me strength to witness the consequences of my actions…
For the One I Love
“I feel bright today! Sublime! I am about to do something very crazy but then I have a plan and it gives me something to look forward to!
But diary, somewhere deep inside I feel guilty too. I hate to admit it but I’m using Kabir and playing with his emotions. I needed someone I could trust with my plan and who better than a guy who madly loves me! Yes I might sound cruel right now but then we all do this don’t we? We all use people for selfish interests at times and I’m no different! It’s all For Viraj! I tell myself. I’ll make up for it somehow and I’m sure Kabir will get over me once we’re done with college!
Anyway, the plan is to get closer to Aseem. Never talked to him much all these years! Feels weird already! Viraj returns in 2 months. I just hope everything works out! By the time he comes back, Sylvia would be in deep shit and he’s so going to love it! I’ll see him smiling all over again! Forgive me lord, but I’m doing this for Viraj, for the one I love…”
Aseem never used to come out much and thus his movements had to be tracked. Rhea didn’t want to miss any chance to bump into him. She needed someone from the boys’ hostel to keep an eye on him. She had delegated the tracking job to Kabir who had further involved Sandra into the hunt. Kabir started spending most of his time roaming around the campus. I shouldn’t miss Aseem! Rhea needs him! After a couple of days of futile efforts, they finally got going.
Target spotted outside library. Kabir texted Rhea the day he saw Aseem.
Roger dude! There in a jiffy! She replied. She felt her heart pounding against her chest as she looked at herself in the mirror. Relax Rhea! Why so anxious! He’s just a batchmate! But the anxiety persisted for some weird inexplicable reason. She felt like she was going for a first date, like a guy about to propose a girl. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she stepped out of her room. Everything’s gonna be just fine!
Kabir and Sandra were standing outside the library when Rhea came.
‘He just went inside! Weird! Dunno what brought him here of all places. Never seen his lazy ass in the library before! All the best!’ Kabir said grinning.
Rhea felt like a small kid being sent for tuitions for the first time. The queasy feeling intensified with every step she took towards the library. It’s a goddamn library! How am I supposed to talk here?! She entered the library building to find a flustered Aseem fidgeting around outside the sitting room. He was searching his pockets frantically for something, muttering under his breath. Yes! This guy was weird! Rhea gathered the courage to walk up to him.
‘Hi dude! Looking for something?’ she asked smiling.
He reciprocated the gesture with a sweeping movement of his hand. ‘Bah!’
Bah?! Is that it?! I offer help and all he gives is a fucking BAH?! Rhea stood there watching his actions with a puzzled expression of a twelfth grader who’s taught Calculus for the first time. She waited for a minute before asking again. ‘Dude is there something…’
‘Wait…lemme jus check…my…’ He interjected, searching his bag now. I rather wait outside! She thought, turning to leave but then suddenly he called out her name!
She stopped and turned. She was surprised he even knew her name considering the fact that they’d hardly ever talked or seen each other much. ‘Yeah so what…’
‘Well, d’ya have a smoke?’ he asked finally in a desperate attempt. ‘I fucking dropped it or lost it or….I mean…I’ve been wasting s’much time…d’ya have it?’ The desperation in his voice made Rhea actually feel sorry for not having a smoke right then.
‘Nah! I don’t smoke dude!’
‘Ahh…Fuck the world! I can’t study without a smoke mahn!! Fuck! How did I drop….Bloody jackass of a pocket I have!!’
‘Coming?! Gotta buy a smoke from outside! Fuck!!’ It felt more like an order and Rhea could find no reason to refuse. She immediately relented. Yes that’s what I wanted anyway! Time alone with him!
It was weird for Rhea to be walking alone with him. There were a few awkward minutes of silence before she came up with something.
‘So, Aseem and library huh? Weird!’ she said with a sly smile.
‘Ahh! Rhea walking with Aseem! Weirder! What’s the catch girl?’ he replied, without looking at her, probably still not over the fact that he’d lost his smoke.
Rhea realized quickly that this guy was smart. No Wonder! ‘Dude! You offered a walk and I tagged along! Is it Rocket Science?’
‘Hmmm, fuckin hate Science! No wonder I chose arts with law unlike you Science freaks.’ he replied nodding his head. ‘This fucking seminar Sylvia asked me to work on! Some IPR and The Doha Agreement crap I dunno…says I should do academic stuff….as if…! I need to prepare a project and present it!’ he went on to explain.
‘Oh My..! So your new flame is already controlling your life huh?!’ It was a clever way of finding out their relationship status from the horse’s mouth itself.
‘Ahh! We just hang around man! Friendly stuff! Flame and all…fuckin shit!’ he argued as he bought a pack of smoke.
She felt a sudden flare of anger inside her. Just Hang Around?! You ruined a fucking relationship asshole! Her dislike for Aseem intensified with every step she took with him. ‘Don’t do it then or ask her to help. No Compulsions!’
‘Ahhh! She doesn’t do shit for me! Says she’ll help me if I get stuck! Stuck?! My fucking candy ass! You need to have a friggin idea where to start!’
Rhea grimaced with amusement as they entered the campus. ‘I can help you with the project. With the structure, research, formatting and all…and then you can go and present it in the seminar.’
Aseem looked at Rhea with raised eyebrows. It was as if someone had asked him for his pack of smoke. ‘I’m already having second thoughts about this crap and here you are…so keen to help! Why? I’d rather fucking smoke up in my abode.’
‘Stop questioning me dude! I’m your friend, an eight pointer and IPR interests me. Just give it a shot! It’ll add to your CV, get you a job maybe get you started with life…’
‘Life and all huh..! The fucking pointers can suck my dick and the jobs can lick my ass for all I care!’
‘Buck up dude! Try looking beyond your pot and hash for once! Give yourself one good reason to work on it. Just one decent enough reason!’ she coaxed as they made their way back to the library.
‘One good reason huh!’ He closed his eyes and inhaled the smoke, deliberating on the idea as the tobacco did its job. ‘Guess you’re right! I’ll try and find a reason and give it a fucking go. But we’ll start tomorrow. Watsay?’
‘Roger! I’ll see you at the library tomorrow then.’ Rhea smiled.
‘What’s your Google Id? I’ll add you on messenger. Instant connectivity! Fucking bless Google for that!’
Rhea hesitated. ‘Ahhh…dude I ahhh…don’t really use the messenger.’
All of a sudden, Viraj and his memories came flooding into her mind blocking everything away. Their first year when they chatted like crazy on G Talk all the time, the time Sylvia had not entered Viraj’s life, the time Rhea was falling for Viraj with every chat they used to have, till Sylvia came and took that place. One day, when Rhea could no longer take it, she deleted the messenger and all her chats with Viraj vowing never to use it again. It reminded her of old times and she wanted to box away those memories in some part of her heart.
‘No messenger?! What kind of a fucking world do you live in girl?!! Anyway phone it is then! Gimme a missed!’
‘I’ll do that.’ Rhea said.
Aseem nodded, making clouds of smoke in the air as he walked away.
Rhea then took out her cell phone and typed a message for Kabir:
Thanks for today mate! Unfinished business though! Get ready to ruin a seminar presentation now! Wohoo I’m so excited! I really love you for this!
At the other end, Kabir smiled as he read the message. I love you too! More than you realize! More than you’ll ever know! Maybe more than I’ll ever show! He thought.
But all he sent back was a simple smiley. J
“There are primarily three kinds of girls. One, who are beautiful but not too conscious of the fact. Two, who are beautiful and know how to capitalize on it and three, who have this false notion of being hot and beautiful. With all modesty, I can put myself in the second category. I know I can potentially exploit Aseem and I’ll do that.
I might sound like a bitch for planning to ruin someone’s first attempt at something productive but I’m sorry diary, I just can’t help it! I’ll strike when it hurts the most. His confidence, his morale and his will, all will be shattered. Yes, I’ve stopped caring too much! Yes I don’t think much about people and their emotions, even though I might act like I do. Life made me that way. Who cared about my emotions huh? Who was there when I was hurt? Couldn’t Sylvia see that I was already there for Viraj? Why did she have to just….interfere?!
I learnt caring too much just hurts, so you might as well live life on your own terms. It’s a bad bad world out there and being devoid of emotions just makes me stronger. The only person who still makes me go weak is Viraj.
Viraj did send a text btw. ‘Reached. Safe. Phone would be switched off. Do not contact me, I’ll call soon.’ It’s been a week and no news from his side. Well, anyway, he’ll be happy to hear all the spice when he comes back…”
‘So what’s next on the agenda vamp?’ Kabir asked grinning, a few days later.
‘I’ve started helping him with the research, Intellectual Property Rights and all huh! You guys aren’t too close in spite of being in the same hostel. You better try and change that soon so that when the time comes, you can easily rob him off his intellectual property! I’ll tell you what to do when the time comes.’
‘I’ll do that indeed! But watch your steps carefully Rhea! Don’t mess up your part!’
‘Relax dude! Everything’s under control! It’s gonna be fun!’ She winked.
‘Reyo! My Oreo!! Can you fucking believe it!?! I’ve hit the jackpot! Found some material that can corroborate the crux of my project. Now it’s gonna be fucking awesome. Thanks gal! You’ve been a great help.’
Aseem sounded excited for the first time ever since Rhea had met him. It had been a couple of weeks since she had started helping him and he was indeed making quick progress. They used to spend a couple of hours in the library everyday and Rhea ensured they were productive. She couldn’t help but notice that she’d already become Reyo and Oreo for him. He started feeling comfortable with her and much to her surprise took active interest in research. ‘Once all this is done, we’ll smoke pot together!’ he said smirking one day.
‘Fuck you Aseem! None of that crap with me! How many times do I have to tell you?!’ Rhea cried, frivolously punching him in the stomach. She couldn’t help but smile every now and then at Aseem, his pranks and his insanity.
‘Oh my bad! I forgot. By the way, d’ya have a smoke huh? Guess I lost mine! Let’s go buy another!’ he grinned.
‘Asshole! Stop flirting and focus!’ Rhea smiled. ‘Is this the same guy I talked to a month back huh? Someone detached from life?’
‘Haha! Yeah! I guess so. You only gave me the direction. Told me to find a reason to work for this! And I found mine. I have another month, trust me m gonna fucking nail this seminar!’
Rhea gave a crafty smile. Oh! You’ve no idea! She thought. ‘Ahaan! So what reason was compelling enough for you to sacrifice your pot for once?’ she asked with a naughty twinkle in her eyes.
‘I have my reasons!’ Aseem exclaimed smiling.
‘Woah! So the secrecy and all huh?! Anyway, check this out. Just keep collecting material then we’ll start drafting in a week’s time.’ she said, pointing at her laptop screen.
‘Hmmm! Guess Sylvia was right after all. There is something beyond weed and pot and it’s equally intoxicating!’ Aseem smirked.
‘What’s intoxicating?! The research or my company?!’ Rhea grinned.
‘Woah! I’d say it’s a freaking deadly combo!’ he shot back with a wink.
‘Ahaan! So, did you tell her I’m helping you?’
‘Yeah I did actually a few days back. She seemed indifferent. Takes the burden off me! She said grinning. I owe you for the last one month Rhea! Really!’
So it’s not affecting her much?! Or is she shamming?! Huh, it will eventually! Rhea thought. ‘Huh?! Oh yeah….no issues dude. I’ll ensure you return the favour. Let’s pack up for today.’ she smiled.
As Rhea came out of the library, she texted Kabir, updating him with the events, something she’d been doing since the last month.
Today was cool! In a couple of week’s time, I’ll tell you exactly when, all you need to do is access Aseem’s computer and delete all his documents! As simple as A B C! Fuck the seminar! Thanks bud! She sent.
‘Do you see this?’ Kabir said, as he showed his cell phone to Sandra.
Sandra smiled as she surveyed his inbox. ‘Woah dude! Isn’t someone on cloud 9?! The inbox’s full of Rhea Texts huh.’ she said grinning.
‘Yup! You don’t know how much time I spend every day just staring at my inbox reading her messages. I keep staring even at every Yes, No and K that she’s sent in the last month damn it!’ he said with a glint in his eyes. ‘I feel we’ve come closer in the past month like never before.’
‘Ahaan!’ she grinned.
‘You know what Sandra?! I’d stopped dreaming about Rhea and me together. Somehow I’d told myself to be practical and give up. I tried holding my feelings but in the last month, our growing intimacy has made me think, maybe now she starts caring about me the way I do, maybe she starts loving me, maybe we have a chance…maybe she realizes…maybe Viraj patches up with Sylvia or something…I mean…even the slightest signal from her makes me go crazy…you know…’ he paused.
‘I understand dude! I can imagine that niggling desire inside, a hope of a miracle..! The way you feel right now..! We’ve all at some point of time in our lives, hoped for certain miracles to happen. Sometimes they do, sometimes not. But I sincerely wish they happen for you.’
‘Am I being selfish Sandra? To want someone knowing they love someone else?’ Kabir asked.
‘No buddy! Not at all! Aren’t you selflessly helping her in her plan?! And even if you’re being selfish, you should know it’s beyond your control. Trust me, certain feelings are! You know what’s selfish? Flying away to London just like that?!’
Kabir smiled. ‘Naah! I hope I get to fly with Rhea. We’ll fly together this time. Once all this is over, I’m gonna tell her everything I feel about her right from the very first day when I saw her, when I fell for her, things I’ve done for her over the years she doesn’t even know….everything.’ Kabir stared blankly at a distance saying all this more to himself as if reliving and treasuring every moment.
‘Tell me something Kabir!’ Sandra said biting her lower lip as a smile crossed her face. ‘Don’t you feel jealous sometimes?! Aseem gets so much of Rhea’s time everyday when you secretly wish it were you?!’
Kabir raised his eyebrows with a You-Got-Me smile. ‘Ahh..well…you know…okay…sometimes I do…’ he sighed admitting, ‘But then it’s not like she fancies him or anything…you know..she’s just doing it for Viraj…it makes her happy….and then I’ve learnt to live with so many mixed emotions over the years….I guess I can live with the envy too!’
‘Awww Kabir! You know you’re just too cute sometimes. A real darling!’ Sandra said ruffling his hair.
‘Real darling! I hope she says this to me someday.’ he beamed.
With less than a couple of weeks left for the seminar, Aseem started spending more time in the library away from Sylvia, much to Rhea’s delight. Rhea was glad the seminar was keeping him busy enough to ignore Sylvia and piss her off. They’d started devoting more than a couple of hours now and sometimes it used to take up the entire evening. Post the library sessions, Aseem’s narcotic necessities further prevented him from spending time with Sylvia.
Rhea too, had started looking forward to the library sessions lately. She used to get to learn a lot of new stuff. Most of the times they used to sit outside the library building on the steps with their laptops. Aseem used to crack profane jokes whenever he got too ragged with research. Rhea couldn’t help but join in too. He never missed a chance to sneak in a couple of smoke puffs bugging Rhea every time.
‘Can’t you fucking control the urge for a while?!’ She cried perplexed one day.
‘So someone’s started using the fuckin F word too! Naaaice!’, the deliberately elongated ‘nice’ further pissed Rhea off.
‘Fuck off! You refuse to listen isn’t it?!’ she exclaimed giving a resigned smile!
‘Wanna smoke pot?!’
‘Weed?!’ Aseem persisted grinning.
‘Shall we work?!’
‘IPR?!’ Rhea mocked.
‘Okay joint smoke?!’
‘Dude! If you keep doing that trust me, I’ll beat you!’ She retorted grinning.
‘You beat me! I beat you to death!’ he said in a hoarse voice making a growling sound and clawing at her.
‘Oh really?! Take these then!’ she said giving him frivolous punches all over his body.
‘Okay Stop it! I was fuckin kidding damn it! STOP! For my pot’s sake Relax!’ she stopped and gave a feathery blow on Aseem’s nose as he looked up.
‘Owww! That hurt!’ he said rubbing his nose.
‘It should! If you keep mouthing crap…?!’
‘What’s that?! Classified CIA documents?!’ Aseem quipped pointing at a diary in one of Rhea’s jacket’s pockets.
‘Well…that is my personal journal!’
‘Personal huh?! So I’m not the only one with the secrecy and all?!’ He mocked. ‘And what do you really write?! I bet its filled with gibberish on IPR.’ He grinned.
‘No asshole! It’s everything worth remembering after college, my experiences, my feelings and thoughts…everything I feel about…it’s personal!’ she said clutching the diary closer to her chest.
‘So you carry it everywhere like your little kid?!’
‘Almost everywhere…yeah!’ She replied nodding her head.
‘Aha! So why don’t you just let me see what you think about me in that huh?!’ he said grimacing.
‘It won’t remain personal if I show you, will it?!’
‘Oops! I get that, fine! But you know what Rhea?’
‘What now?!’ she mocked with raised eyebrows.
‘I like our library sessions. The time we spend and the things we do…I mean…I get to do something productive and I’m learning fast…It’s like…you know.. I…feel really nice to sit here next to you every day.’
All of a sudden, the smile from Rhea’s face just faded away. She clutched her handbag which had a certain piece of paper, as images from first semester crept into her mind. Of Viraj sitting next to her, writing that short piece of poetry for her and quietly passing it under her table.
…The little things you do for me,
Makes me feel so nice with you
That is why my dear friend,
I like to sit next to you.
‘I guess we should pack up for the day now.’ Rhea smiled as she shut her laptop, driving away the nostalgic visions. ‘Just a couple of weeks left! Work hard for this! See ya!’ The words just came out and for the first time she felt like she actually meant them. ‘And give a fucking break to your smoking habit. It’ll kill you otherwise!’ she yelled at a startled Aseem, preparing for another smoke.
“It was weird! The way Aseem talked about our library sessions today! All of a sudden, he reminded me of Viraj. For a moment, I felt as if it was the first semester all over again, Viraj sitting there with me, old times, chatting like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t explain diary, it felt as if there was a connection, a strong, uncanny, inexplicable bond between us! Is he actually falling for me? Is my plan working? Then why doesn’t it seem right?! I better put a brake on my thoughts!
Anyway…just a couple of weeks left, for the seminar and for Viraj to return. ‘Coming back in a couple of weeks!’ That’s all he’s sent! How busy can he be damn it! No Skype, no calls, nothing! I’ll kick his butt when he comes back!”
With each passing day, the project was nearing completion and Rhea was soon realizing that she had to take the decisive step but still she kept delaying it for some strange reason. She just didn’t feel like doing it right then.
‘So this is it?! Ten days to go and we’re almost done.’ Aseem said one day.
‘Yeah! Right!’ Rhea said, staring at her laptop screen avoiding his eyes, her guilty mind making her uneasy.
‘You know what Rhea?! I never thought I’d be able to do it initially. And now when I look at the forty pages of hard work, it really feels great. I’d really have given up without you. Guess some things are just worth fighting for you know, like…you just shouldn’t give up….and this is one of them.’
For certain things, you don’t really give up, and your friendship is one of them! Viraj had said something like that! The reveries of the first semester came flooding back into her mind. The fracture, the apologies, their friendship.
‘Keep the momentum going for the end terms too! One last series of exams before we pass out! I’ll help you with them. You gotta work hard, study and nail them too.’
‘Ahh! Fuck it! I never do that!’
Rhea gave him a firm look. ‘Well. Just shut up and start working! For once, study! And we still have a month of college left, any more symposiums and seminars and I want you there. And throw this fucking shit away! You want to live don’t you?!’ she screamed snatching the pack of smoke from him. Viraj doesn’t smoke. You shouldn’t too! Gosh! What’s wrong?! Why am I even comparing?!
‘Whoa Whoa Rhea! Gimme a break! Are you trying to fucking turn a junkie into a geek huh?! Chillax!’
“I’m losing it! Guess there’s something wrong with me! That one question has been bothering me the entire day! What was I trying to turn him into? What is happening to me? Why am I being so nice and considerate to him all of a sudden?! All this time, I’ve wanted to ruin his seminar and now suddenly all I want is for him to do well! My heart and my mind are playing games with me!
Diary, this guy reminds me so much of Viraj! The way he talks, his attitude, his pranks…everything. I cannot bring myself to possibly ditch him now. I’ve seen him work so hard for this, the zeal and enthusiasm on his face like that of an infant who gets his first toy. This is like his first toy, his first effort at something that can change his life for the better.
Oh Fuck me! He was the one I was fighting against and now I’ve forgotten what I’d started fighting for! Seeing Sylvia suffer is one thing but how do I hurt him?! How do I do it?! So then, what exactly did I do there in the library today? What was I trying to turn him into? I think I have the answer. My heart wants him to be like Viraj! Maybe I’m searching for him somewhere within Aseem! I want to turn him into another Viraj! Did I hear insane diary? Well yes, we’re all allowed to act insane every once in a while isn’t it?
I’m scared diary! It’s getting personal! Guess I have a soft corner for him now!”
‘Eight days to the seminar! When do you plan to give me a go ahead? I can enter his room whenever I want now. We are hostel floor buddies.’ Kabir said giving an impish grin.
‘Relax dude! Just a couple of days more! You’ve done pretty well.’ Rhea said.
‘You wanted to ditch him no?! Now’s the time to do it! I just can’t wait to see his goddamn face. And Sylvia…huh…he hardly spends time with her thanks to you and the research.’ he smirked.
‘I can’t wait either. We’ll do it very soon now.’ Rhea said looking away from Kabir.
‘Very soon?!!! When Rhea! What’s wrong?! Why this reluctance? What are you up to?’
What am I up to?! Now that’s a difficult one to answer! How do I tell him? What do I tell him?! It’s all so complicated! Would he even understand what’s happening to me? Can I even explain?! Guess not! ‘The plan is on Kabir. Just relax!’ she said trying to delay the inevitable.
Aseem had become a big distraction from everything for Rhea. She used to keep thinking about the library sessions all the time. She used to keep wondering about how Aseem was managing the project on his own in his room. Sometimes she used to remember his pranks and smile to herself.
Jerk! She smiled thinking about Aseem and his buffoonery, sitting before her laptop in her room. ‘Smoke pot?! Wanna smoke pot!’ she said to herself grinning. ‘Joint smoke?! Man I lost mine, come lets buy one?!’ she imitated his baritone making weird faces and breaking into laughter.
‘Rhea you alright?! On Skype or something?!’ Someone from outside the hostel room called out.
‘Umm…Yeah..kind of….relax. I’m fine!’ she shouted back stifling her laughter.
She straightened herself on her chair heaving a sigh, still smiling to herself and opened her browser. Send me your Google Id. She texted Aseem as she typed three words in the Google search box. ‘Download Google Talk!’ Whatever the shit is happening to me!
The next few days were quite eventful for Rhea. It was like the first semester all over again. She spent hours chatting with Aseem on the net and spent time with him in the library too. Their chats used to remind her of old times with Viraj. In fact she had started associating everything Aseem did with Viraj. She was too preoccupied to realize that almost two months had passed since Viraj had left and it was time for him to come back. Aseem hardly used to get time with Sylvia and Rhea could feel he was more at ease with her. She noticed Sylvia spending most of her time in solitude and knew in all probability she would confront her soon enough. Bring it on bitch! Everything had gone as planned and all Rhea had to do was give a green signal for the coup de grâce. Kabir! I remember the plan! We’ll do it very soon now! She thought.
“What the fuck was I thinking?! No messenger?! Aseem was right. What kind of a world did I live in?! Last 4-5 days have been like so exciting diary I can’t tell you! And can you believe it Viraj is coming back in another 5 days! It’s kinda weird to admit but Aseem actually distracted me from all the pain and misery I felt missing Viraj. Last few weeks, after really long I’ve not had to hide my pain in the garb of joy. The happiness is unfeigned!
I like him diary…I mean…I like spending time with him! I dunno how or why but I see a reflection of Viraj in him. He takes me away from that void inside me, distracts me from that feeling of yearning and longing for someone! Being with him feels like I’m always connected to Viraj! I feel like caring and helping him in ways I could never do with Viraj. Its inexplicable…everything’s just so surreal!
Is that what’s preventing me from hurting him?! From executing my plan?! Do I see Viraj in him? I dunno! I just don’t want him to fall for me and get hurt! Gosh! Rhea, you fucked up! I’m all messed up in the head diary! I didn’t bargain for this!”
I can’t keep him in the dark anymore! I have to tell him everything! I can’t go ahead with the plan. Rhea thought sitting in her room one afternoon, four days before the seminar. I need to talk to you. Now! She texted Aseem. As soon as she pressed the green button, her phone buzzed. 1 New Message from Aseem. ‘Isn’t that too quick?!’ she said to herself surprised. Are you in class? Need to see you! It’s important!
Coincidence! Rhea thought! She couldn’t help but notice how the message was so similar to what Viraj had sent her in the beginning of the semester. The situations! Aseem’s actions! It all keeps coming back to Viraj! She could tell it was something grave but she didn’t want this episode to end the way it did for Viraj. Meet me outside the library in 5 minutes. She replied. As she reached the library, she saw Aseem sitting at the steps staring blankly at his laptop screen. Images of Viraj sitting in the mess lawns crying for Sylvia came flooding into her mind. She went over to Aseem, driving away nostalgic visions, and placed a hand on his shoulder, the way she’d done with Viraj. Aseem looked up, a tear rolled down his cheek as he felt her touch. Déjà vu?! Rhea thought.
‘It’s over!’ he said giving a wry smile.
‘What dude?! What’s over?’ Rhea asked with increasing apprehension.
‘My seminar dream! It’s not there! The research material…the final draft…everything…someone’s messed up with my laptop big time…I can’t even recover anything…it’s all vanished…forty pages of hard work…evaporated…into thin air..!’
‘What the fuck!’ Rhea exclaimed in shock. Kabir! What the fuck?! You did this?! On your own?! I was supposed to fucking tell you! She thought. She felt like going berserk at Kabir. She just didn’t have any words of comfort for Aseem right then. She felt as helpless as she had done back then with Viraj.
‘I’ve never wanted anything more than this seminar my entire life Rhea.’ Rhea remained silent, too dazed for words. ‘I felt guilty. I wanted to do it for her….for…Shipra!’
‘Who’s Shipra?’ Rhea said surprised at this unfamiliar new name.
‘She was…! My best buddy…my girlfriend…my life…the one girl who changed me. I wasn’t a born junkie Rhea. I had a life and I loved her. We both got into different law schools…the best ones!! We both boarded our trains together that fateful night five years ago…only that she never made it. Her train met with an accident and she was the only unfortunate one to die in the entire coach…’ Aseem paused, shuddering as he remembered the incident. ‘You know….she died in my arms. You can’t imagine how incapacitated I felt. In the hospital…she breathed her last in these fucking arms and I could do nothing.’ he cried raising his arms to his face and clenching his fists in fury.
‘I asked God that night! Why me?! Why my girl?! When I was at the threshold of a new beginning in my life…and he didn’t give me any fucking answers…ruined my life! I found my answers in drugs and alcohol. Yes, I became an escapist!’ he yelled at himself, ‘Until you made me realize how wrong I was. Shipra wouldn’t have wanted a fucking wasted junkie. You coaxed me to find one reason to work on the seminar and I found mine. I wanted to do it to show her I was a fighter…that I hadn’t given up on life…that I still had it in me…but now…’
‘Aseem relax!’ Rhea interrupted. She felt her uncanny bonding with him getting stronger. He’s lost a loved one! I’ve lost Viraj to Sylvia too… maybe forever! We both are yearning for love. She somehow felt like she was seeing Viraj in pain all over again. ‘Hey mate! I’m still there for you. Don’t give up…trust me I’ll fix this before you even realize. I’m good in IPR, I have a lot of material from our library sessions on my laptop…I have good books, older drafts and stuff…we still have 4 days with us…trust me I’m gonna mail a fucking project to you in 3 days and you’ll still nail the seminar.’
‘No point Rhea! It’s all over…I’m sorry Shipra!’ he said resignedly to himself.
‘No! It’s not…trust me I’ll do it…you’ve had enough! Give me 3 days and you’ll have the project with you even if it’s the last thing I do!’ she said looking straight into his eyes as Aseem nodded blankly. I need to talk to Kabir right now!
‘We need to talk!’ Rhea said storming into the mess halls as she saw Kabir and Sandra sitting.
‘Let’s go outside then.’ Kabir whispered softly. He knew where this was heading.
‘Please do.’ Rhea said, her expression solemn.
Kabir knew he’d taken an impulsive step by deleting the documents without Rhea’s permission but he had an explanation. He could tell Rhea wanted to talk about it. He wanted to be the one telling her first but that evidently hadn’t happened. They’d made their way to the middle of the mess lawns when Kabir began. ‘Rhea I did it today morning…had no choice…he was shifting hostels…you were in class…’
Kabir was interrupted by a hard slap from Rhea leaving him dumbstruck and inviting the stares of everyone in the mess lawns. ‘Get lost!’
‘Rhea…?!’ Kabir exclaimed shocked, his hand on his cheek. ‘What the…’
‘Fucking get lost from here before I lose it!’ she said looking down at the grass, her voice rising with each word.
‘Damn it! What’s wrong?! He’d have changed hostels by afternoon….the plan…our plan…would have failed…I couldn’t have done it then…would have been caught easily…I planned to tell you first thing post classes today but…and its just 4 days away…we were doing it sooner or later anyway…what’s the big deal?! I did it for you…’
‘Big deal huh?!’ Rhea retorted. ‘YOU DID THIS FOR ME?! FUCKING LIAR! I’LL TELL YOU THE TRUTH!’ She was literally yelling now bringing Sandra outside too. ‘You never really cared about the plan. IT WAS ALL TO GET FUCKING CLOSER TO ME ISN’T IT?!’ She shouted.
Kabir stared incredulously at Rhea. He couldn’t imagine her saying all that. What’s happened to her? She’s taking it personally?! She doesn’t mean it! Oh God! Tell me she doesn’t mean it!
‘Wow! I’ll get to talk to Rhea! A valid reason to bug her all the time! I’ll get to spend time with her, text her! Oh she’ll simply fucking fall for me! She’s so naïve! That’s all you thought!’ Rhea continued. ‘YOU NEVER FUCKING CARED ABOUT VIRAJ….ABOUT ME…YOU FUCKING SELF CENTRED FAGGOT!!’ She continued hollering.
‘Rhea relax! Calm down! People are watching!’ Sandra said trying to hold her back. She thought it prudent to intervene before the situation escalated into anything nastier.
‘TELL HIM TO FUCK OFF SANDRA!’ Rhea screamed. ‘YOU KNOW WHAT KABIR?! YOU THINK YOU REALLY CARE FOR ME?! YOU LOVE ME?! DUH! I SEE FUCKING HOPELESS ROMANTICS LIKE YOU EVERYDAY! ALL YOU SELFISH FUCKERS NEED IS A GOOD LOOKING GIRL TO CHASE AFTER! FUCK YOU AND YOUR FEELINGS!! DO YOU HEAR THAT?!! FUCK YOUR FEELINGS! I GIVE A DAMN TO THEM!’ She felt like hurting him with words as much as she could. He fucking deserves it!
‘Okay we’ll tell him to leave just relax Rhea!’ Sandra said still seeking to cool her off. ‘Dude…just leave for now…you can talk to her later!’ she said looking at Kabir.
‘JUST GET LOST! I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO THIS MOTHERFUCKER…EVER!’ She yelled turning to Sandra. ‘AND I’LL FIX THIS UP YOU FRIGGING ASSHOLE! I’LL MAIL HIM A PROJECT IN 3 DAYS JUST WAIT AND WATCH! I WONT LET YOU RUIN HIS LIFE!’
Kabir simply stared in disbelief at a hysterical Rhea with tears in his eyes. This couldn’t really be her! She can’t say all this to me! ‘Rhea…I’m not self…I care…I Love…I…I…can’t just bring myself to say it…you don’t realize how much…’ He stuttered, too stunned to process his thoughts.
‘Kabir! Not a good time…I mean it!’ Sandra exclaimed assertively looking straight into his eyes.
Kabir simply nodded turning to leave for his hostel, tears rolling down his cheeks as he walked away.
72 hours! I can’t sleep! Rhea shut herself in her room completely. She frantically kept researching and typing before her laptop like someone possessed. Her diet got restricted to only Red Bulls, coffee and dry fruits and the only rest she used to take was rare power naps of 15-20 minutes when she felt she’d pushed her body to the brink. It’ll be fine Aseem! She thought. She had cut herself off from Kabir completely. She’d blocked his mails, his calls and his messages. Frigging piece of crap never deserved my friendship! She thought still fuming at him. Her blood used to boil every time Kabir came to her mind. That Son of a bitch!
Finally, with the third day almost coming to an end, towards the evening, she heaved a sigh as she finished writing the last words of the project. Phew! She realized she had completely outworn herself as she mailed a copy to Aseem and reclined on her chair. Meet me outside the library in 5 minutes! She texted him. I need to see him. Explain everything to him properly.
I’ve done it! She thought flustered. For him! Where did I get the energy from I don’t know! Did I do it for Aseem or for the Viraj that I see in him?! Gosh! What have I done to myself! Today is the day Viraj was supposed to come back, I didn’t even realize! He could be here anytime. Hasn’t texted yet!
She made her way towards the library. It had started to rain and she felt slightly dizzy with all the exertion. As she was crossing the football field, she couldn’t help but notice a vaguely familiar silhouette of a guy with a girl in one dark corner. She walked towards them as her curiosity got the better of her. As she moved closer, the two figures became clearer until finally, for some strange reason, she recoiled in horror at what she saw before her.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as the rain started to get heavier. She closed her eyes and looked up and it poured down and for that one moment her tears and the rain were one…
Rhea slowly opened her eyes regaining consciousness as someone shut the door of the room behind him as he left. She found herself lying on a bed in an unfamiliar environment. It was a small, neat and tidy room with white curtains. She noticed her bed sheet and pillow cover were white too. Everything is a shade of fucking white?! She looked around to see a couple of machines with monitors making strange beeping noises. Again white?! As she tried moving her left hand, she felt a slight pain. Ahhh! She noticed a needle inserted in her hand which was connected to a bottle of transparent liquid hanging upside down through a tubular apparatus. What the fuck?!
‘Where am I?’ Rhea asked a lady in white attire who’d just entered the room. Lady in white too?! Is this heaven?
‘Good morning dear! You’re just fine.’ the lady replied.
‘Everything’s so white and pure here.’ Rhea said looking around, ‘Is this heaven?’ This must be heaven! It has to be! I was supposed to be dead.
‘Indeed! A heaven for the sick and ailing!’ The nurse said smiling. ‘You’re on a hospital bed Rhea and that’s a drip.’ She said pointing at her hand.
Hospital?! Her recent memory was still a blur. She remembered gulping down something very lethal. A hospital bed was the last place she expected to be in. I’m surely dead. I must be dreaming. This must be one of those dreams people see post death while they make their journey to the other side! She pinched herself to make sure. Ouch! It hurts! Her mind was clustered with random images like pieces of an unsolved puzzle. She could recollect visions of her tearing a page from her personal diary, of talking to someone in the football field, sneaking into the academic building late at night, staring at a beaker filled with a semi transparent liquid but it was all still obscure in her head. ‘Am I not dead then?’ she asked the nurse dazed. Am I getting paranoid?!
‘Gosh dear! You just ODed on glucose! Why would you be dead?! For heaven’s sake!’
Glucose?! ‘Who brought me here?’ Rhea asked.
‘A guy from your university dear. He just left. And now let me go fetch the doctor for you. Just lie down and take some rest.’ She said smiling.
A guy?! Oh freaking crap! Aseem! He saved me! How? She noticed her diary kept beside her on the table. She sat up on her bed and opened it. She closed her eyes to recall everything that had led to her in that bed and all of a sudden, the agony and despair within her started escalating as events of the past few hours struck her mind like a bolt from the blue…
She closed her eyes and looked up and it poured down and for that one moment her tears and the rain were one.
‘Viraj?!’ Rhea cried out, the heavy rain and thunder nearly drowning her voice. The couple was making love so passionately that they didn’t notice Rhea approaching towards them until she came too close. Rhea could see the girl locking lips with Viraj from a distance and she knew who it was.
‘Oh my…Look who’s here!’ Sylvia turned to look at Rhea mocking her in a sing-song voice. ‘Surprised?! Shocked?! What?!…Gosh Rhea, you shouldn’t have seen us like this. Not the way we expected to break this to you huh! We were just savouring an intimate moment…you know! Fucker came back few hours ago as one of the finalists in the competition, couldn’t win though else he’d have had a magnificent treat from me tonight.’ She grinned turning to Viraj. ‘Oops, but don’t you know this already?! You don’t? Awww Shit happens!’ She mocked feigning sympathy.
Viraj stared blankly at Rhea. She gazed back incredulously at him, lost for words. What is happening?! Why? She didn’t know what to say.
‘Oh now stop staring like that bitch…!’
‘Sylvia…easy!’ Viraj finally said, putting his hand on her shoulder. ‘Rhea…I’m…sorry…I meant to tell you this…’
‘Tell me what Viraj..?!’ She interjected, expecting the worst. Viraj lied?! He betrayed me?!
‘Well…that Sylvia and I never really broke up….I mean we did but then…we worked out things…we had a compromise…’
‘A what..?!! When??…Since how long…’ Rhea exclaimed shocked. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to hear any more answers.
‘All this time…we’ve been together Rhea…before I went..!’
‘Like what…?! For the last couple of months now…you’ve been…God damn it!’ Rhea could not really believe her ears. Every word Viraj said was like a revelation. Rhea broke into tears opening and closing her mouth looking at Viraj unable to find the right words to utter. What do I fucking say?!
‘Why…Viraj…Why?!’ she cried out almost beseechingly staring at him teary eyed.
‘I’ll tell you why…because he chose me bitch!! You thought you could sweet talk…’
‘Sylvia don’t!’ Viraj cut across. ‘Rhea please don’t make it hard for me. I did it for you…’
‘For me?! Oh really…?!’
‘Viraj cut the crap…just let me talk!’ Sylvia yelled butting in. ‘Yes he did you a fucking favour asshole! There is a line in friendship that you should not cross and you kept doing it again and again…and again…hoping he would fall for you isn’t it?!’ Sylvia asserted. ‘And when you start loving a person, you don’t really realize where to draw that line. Viraj, I’m sitting with you! Oh don’t worry, I’ll take care of you! I’m there for you! Yeah I’ll call you tonight! We’re going there together isn’t it?! Like gimme a fucking break damn it! You can’t just keep showing all that make-believe care and affection all the time. And you thought Viraj would eventually leave me huh?! No girl would like you prying on her boyfriend like that.’
‘Prying?! Make believe…?! Sylvia how could you even think…’ The fatigue and exhaustion had simply vanished making way for shock and despair.
‘Oh really is it..?? You and I both know how you feel about Viraj, it shows. And I don’t think I was too comfortable with you breathing down his neck all the time…which lately had increased a hell lot. And you know what? I didn’t want Viraj to give you any false hopes too. You can’t keep dreaming of being with him all the time when we all know it’s never happening.’
‘Rhea don’t you get it?!’ Viraj butted in trying to vindicate his act. ‘Sylvia and I were having issues and my friendship with you was one of them. She told me…gave me a choice…to either distance myself from you for everyone’s good or lose her forever. Trust me it was very difficult for me but I knew you’d understand. So, the night I was to leave, I asked her to meet me at the college gate and told her that she was right.’ Viraj paused as he walked towards Rhea. ‘Look at me!’ He said placing his hands on her shoulders. ‘You know how it is to love someone Rhea. I want her in my life, I love her…I…want to spend my life after college with her and that life is just a month away now.’
‘And…and what about me Viraj?!’ she cried. There was a strange desperation in her voice. It was like more than a simple question to her, as if she’d waited for this answer for a very long time. Rhea looked into his eyes beseechingly, tears in her own. Don’t say it Viraj! Just don’t say the words! Don’t leave me like this! I always knew it was coming but please I’m not prepared right now! Not so soon! I can’t imagine not being with you anymore! You can’t just end it this way! Just because she wants you to?! Please! Please!
‘Rhea, you are a friend…but…the truth is…that I can’t imagine my future without Sylvia. Too much of care and affection all the time…honestly…Rhea…it gave me the creeps! I can’t be with you always…It’s Sylvia! And now that college is about to get over, it’s time you faced the facts.’
Rhea simply stared at him blankly. There it was! He’d said it finally! He’d made the choice! After all those years, the day I’d been waiting for! The answer I always knew! She felt all her hopes shattering as the reality started to sink in. How can he say that?! He’s not thinking clearly! He’s not! Sylvia is clouding his feelings, his judgement! Rhea was in a state of denial.
‘Viraj…I…not this way…you’re kidding right?!…Huh…ok…you’re not kidding! Tell me something, all this time that you were away, you were in touch with Sylvia, weren’t you?’
‘Yes I was. Skype!’ He admitted avoiding her eyes.
‘And all this time, you deliberately ignored me isn’t it?’ she asked expecting the obvious answer.
‘Yes…For your own good! You’re still a friend…’
‘NO! Please don’t! Don’t show me any more dreams! We can’t be friends. Not anymore! Oh fuck…what have I done…I thought you were shattered…in pain…Oh my God…Aseem!!’ She broke off midway somehow feeling cheated and betrayed. It was all too much to take in and she didn’t really know what to say or do or even feel. She suddenly thought of Aseem and everything she’d done to him. He must be waiting!
‘You dare not utter his god damn name bitch! What the fuck you think you’ve been doing anyway huh?!’ Sylvia screamed at her. ‘I bet your friend here doesn’t know what a bitch you are! Does he now?’ she yelled turning to Viraj. He evidently knew nothing and seemed lost.
‘Oh Fuck! I need…to talk to him…he’d be waiting…library!’ Rhea stuttered seeming somewhat disconcerted by the turn of events.
‘Oh fuck really?!’ Sylvia mocked. ‘What’s left to talk after ruining the entire thing huh?! You fucking whore!’
‘Sylvia…hold it! What the hell is all this?!’ Viraj cried not getting the drift.
Sylvia continued hollering, ignoring Viraj and his protests. ‘He never really trusted you bitch but was still kind enough to give you a chance…he wanted help anyway… he didn’t really care where and how it came from…since I refused to spoon feed. He told me about you offering him help out of the blue the very first time you tried it and I knew something was not right about it. So I secretly kept helping him…preparing a draft of my own for him…you know just in case you turned out to be a bitch and bailed at the last moment…which is exactly what you did… but he still didn’t stop you from working on the project again, just in case my version wasn’t good enough for him…Yes, he was selfish. We all are! You are too! Just think about it!…but you know what hurt me the most…you ditched him when he had actually started trusting you…the fucker doesn’t even know what you’ve been doing to him all this time and you still fucking want to act all goody-goody huh… when you’d planned to fuck his efforts right from the beginning…why…to earn a few brownie points from Viraj?! Why don’t you fucking tell him what you’ve been doing to Aseem?!’
Sylvia was literally panting now. ‘I won’t let you fuck around with him bitch! Not Aseem…the one guy who’s been my support system when things weren’t going right with Viraj! So take my fucking advice…and whatever nasty you’re plotting against him now…just shove it up your guilty ass! You’d almost have laughed away to glory had I not been preparing my own draft for him. And for all I know, he’s already working on it since last three days. Nobody’s waiting anywhere for you… so you might as well take your sorry ass out of the football field and get out of our lives for good..!’
Viraj had been a silent spectator to Sylvia’s outburst so far, too baffled to speak. ‘Rhea what have you been up to behind me? Is all this true? Can you explain?!’ he asked her almost contemptuously.
Rhea suddenly felt purged of all emotions standing there in the field soaked in the pouring rain. She’d just seen everything fall apart in minutes before her. ‘Viraj…I wish I could!’ She did not have any answers to Viraj’s skeptical stare. She somehow strangely felt betrayed by Aseem too. All that effort in the last 3 days! For nothing?! Kabir’s shocked face and moist eyes came to her mind. God! He’ll never forgive me for everything I’ve said to him! She looked up one last time at Viraj as she gave a wry smile shaking her head. It had all begun with an incident in the football field five years back! Ironically, it ends in the same field today. She stood there for a few more seconds reflecting on everything she’d said and done, all in the name of love, until she finally turned towards her hostel, her tears blurring her vision.
“I feel like a failure. My life has been a failure. They say there is no one who never had a dream to live for. They say there is no one who hasn’t had his dreams shattered ever in life. They say this and they say that…they say a lot of stuff! They might call me a coward for taking this extreme step but I feel a failure like me doesn’t deserve to live. I leave behind my experiences in this diary hoping that others don’t repeat the mistakes I did, hoping that it reaches the people that I love and care for, hoping against hope, that no more dreams are shattered. I’d be long gone by the time it reaches people. To everyone who ever loved a fool like me, my apologies…..for I could never reciprocate your love…I was too blinded by my own obsessions…something that I’ll regret till the time I breathe….which won’t be long now…”
It is not very easy to articulate your thoughts on paper when you know you are going to end your life in a few moments but she still kept on writing. Her mind was blank with the exhaustion of three sleepless nights. There was just one thought echoing in her mind. Potassium Chloride! It would do the job in seconds. She wrote the words on the page in her diary as she made her way out of her room. “…something that I’ll regret till the time I breathe…which won’t be long now…and Potassium Chloride it will be!” Then suddenly, as if worked into a delirium venting her anger and frustration, she simply crumpled the page and threw it on the hostel floor tearing it away from the diary as she stepped out into the stormy night again, only with a much extreme purpose in mind this time.
‘Try her fucking cell phone!’ Kabir screamed frantically.
‘Just did. No reply.’ Sandra said. Sandra had come out of her room just minutes after Rhea went out and had seen the crumpled piece of paper. She had rushed to check on Rhea, not finding her in her room. She had then immediately called Kabir to the mess area.
‘God Damn it Rhea pick up the phone! She’s blocked my calls!’ Kabir yelled madly. It was already curfew time in the college and everybody had gone back to their hostels. Kabir strained his eyes to scan the visible parts of the campus from the mess hoping to see a silhouette in the stormy rain. Sandra had jumped the wall of her hostel complex to come to the mess and she knew that she could be in trouble if the warden or any of the guards saw her. Kabir though, was in another world altogether. He wasn’t thinking about anything else but Rhea right then.
‘Show me the fucking page!’ He yelled. Fortunately the stormy night and thunder had ensured the guards stayed in their shelter and most of the yelling and screaming was stifled. Kabir stared at the page and the chemical name again. ‘Holy Fuck! God Damn it no!’
‘What happened?!’ Sandra asked.
‘I need to go…I know where she’d be going…I need to fucking stop her.!’
‘The chemistry lab! The restricted section! This is a fatal chemical…oh Fuck!’ He cried, his face turning pale. ‘Sandra, alert the guards in the meantime! And keep trying her fucking cell phone please!’ He instructed as he turned to run.
‘Kabir! Stop! What the fuck are you doing…let me tell the guards…we…’
‘We can’t wait! It’ll be too late…just do what I’m saying..! I need to sneak into the academic building right now…and probably break into the chemistry lab too!’
‘Dude are you even thinking?! This is serious shit…serious disciplinary breach…you could lose your job over this…Let us take the authorities with us…at least the guards! You’re wasting time!’
‘SANDRA DO WHAT I SAY OR FUCK OFF! SHE MIGHT FUCKING DIE!’ Kabir hollered losing his temper. Sandra clutched his arm ignoring his outburst as he started to run again. ‘Kabir STOP! Think about your fucking job for a second…the education loan…think about your dad…your family…their dreams…think about the way Rhea screamed at you the other day…think about who loves and needs you more…don’t risk everything blindly!’
Kabir momentarily paused probably to reconsider, then just like one of those strange things people do when madly in love, he ran towards the academic building and the chemistry lab in the incessantly pouring rain knowing fully well that breaking into the restricted section could cost him his job, family’s dreams and his five years of law school career.
Rhea knew nobody would be able to find her in this remote part of the campus. By the time they do, it’ll be too late! She was sitting in a distant muddy patch between shrubs and bushes away from the hostels and the mess. She ignored her constantly buzzing cell phone. She did not need any reassurances, people telling her to stop. She picked it up and smashed it against a rock. Good riddance! Won’t need it now! Dead people don’t talk anyway! She was simply preparing herself for the end. She finally got up. It is time!
Kabir heaved a sigh of relief as he entered the Halls of Learning. There were no footprints on the floor so he knew Rhea hadn’t made it to the lab yet. The wet shoes would have left a print otherwise! He very discreetly began ascending the stairs to the Chemistry lab. He noticed that there was just one guard patrolling the entire first floor and he was in the other section of the building. He could see the lab right in front of him. He decided to wait on the stairs for Rhea to show up. I’ll stop her here itself! With each passing moment that Rhea didn’t turn up, his anxiety heightened. What if she’s somewhere else?! What if she tries something else?! What if she has fainted somewhere?! He knew he couldn’t waste much time simply waiting for her to turn up and neither could he leave. What if she turns up after I leave?! He knew it was only a matter of time before someone noticed his footprints too.
All of a sudden, he decided to take a very impetuous step. There’s no other way! He ascended the stairs as he saw the guard walking to the other section of the floor again. He removed his shoes and socks and rubbed his heels against the wall to dry them. He hid them in the nearest trash bin he saw. I don’t need fucking footprints anymore! He then very stealthily made his way to the lab door. There was no lock and it was simply latched. That’s lax! He entered the lab as he silently closed the door behind him. He winced as the distinctive pungent odour of the lab filled his nostrils. He made his way to a closet which bore the words ‘Restricted’ in bold to find a number of weird smelling chemicals kept in containers. He knew he was running out of time and he hoped the guard won’t notice the unlatched door of the lab from outside.
He began emptying all the containers placed in the restricted section in the sink as fast as he could. If they catch me doing this…! Once he was done, he surveyed the other containers in the lab and began emptying all of them too! Just to be on the safe side! He found glucose beakers kept in one of the sections. He acted on impulse taking a few beakers from there and replacing them with the empty ones in the restricted section. He removed the label of Potassium Chloride from an empty beaker and put it on one of the glucose containers. He knew he was being insanely reckless but with everything going on at that moment, that was the best he could think of. He wanted to be sure Rhea would be safe in case he got caught. He scanned the lab to realize that apart from the locked store room, the only liquid left was glucose. The place is safe! I shouldn’t entirely decimate the lab! He stalled a moment to catch his breath before making his way to the door.
As soon as he opened the door, he found the big burly frame of a guard standing outside grinning at him, probably delighted with the fact that he finally had some action in the dull and mundane night. ‘Boy, do I have to say it or can you read my mind?!’ he said scornfully.
Fuck me God Damn it! I’m done! The Registrar! Rhea?! Kabir knew he had been caught red handed and there was no point running. He simply closed his eyes biting his lips in exasperation as the guard dragged him outside the building to the Registrar’s residence.
‘Fucking caught you a little late! I hate to wake the Reggi at this odd hour but this is serious shit man. I’m gonna lose my job for being lax but I’ll ensure you don’t go scot free either fucker!’ the guard exclaimed.
As Kabir was being dragged, he turned to see a figure sneaking into the Halls of Learning. He at once recognized it was Rhea. He knew what she was about to do. ‘Hey, please just let me…’
‘Just keep fucking walking…no way you’re running anywhere now!’ the guard retorted furiously clutching his shirt collar tightly. She just entered the Halls of learning! Alert no one! You go stop her! I can’t! Will explain later! He immediately texted Sandra.
Roger! Tears of relief rolled down his cheeks as he read Sandra’s reply. He closed his eyes and smiled to himself. I might have been caught, but I know the lab is safe! Rhea is safe…
‘I found her outside the library by the steps in a pool of her own vomit by the time I reached. Doctors diagnosed lack of consciousness due to acute stress and they suspect a glucose overdose too but they don’t know how yet.’ Sandra told Kabir as they sat in the hospital room with Rhea lying unconscious on the bed.
‘They don’t need to know anything. Docs said she’ll be up and about in few hours.’ Kabir said. The registrar had suspended Kabir for a week and had asked him to appear before the disciplinary committee subsequently for a hearing to decide the future course of action. He’d accepted his guilt without protest. Afterwards, he and Sandra had immediately rushed Rhea to the hospital where she now lay unconscious oblivious of everything that had happened.
‘Kabir! She drank an entire bottle of glucose in the lab, nobody knows she did it; nobody saw. It’s you who was seen literally devastating the lab. They’ll suspect you for everything.’
‘It’s almost 4 in the morning!’ Kabir exclaimed looking at his watch ignoring Sandra’s concern.
‘Are you listening damn it?! They’ll grill you for this.’ Sandra said raising her voice.
‘I know. And that’s why I’m taking the blame. I emptied so many beakers myself…one more to my name won’t hurt.’ He said giving a slight grin. ‘She’s had enough already. I want to keep her out of this.’
‘Oh really?! And what will you tell them?! That you were playing Dr. Jackyl and Mr. Hyde in the lab?!’ she exclaimed angrily.
Kabir wasn’t listening. He was lost in his own reveries as he stared blankly at Rhea. Suddenly a teardrop rolled down his cheek as he blinked. ‘Tell me something Sandra…’ he began. ‘It’s just because I run after her like crazy all the time, she takes me for granted isn’t it?’ he said looking at Sandra.
She became quiet, her temper mellowing down. She felt tongue tied thinking how to react to that.
Kabir continued ignoring Sandra’s response. ‘She knows that I’ll anyway be there for her…so she can take me for granted. How could she…I mean…she just thought about Viraj?!…not once did she think that there was someone else who’d be devastated if anything happened to her! And the same Viraj she cared about so much, led her to do this.’
‘Kabir I’m sorry…’
‘But the best part…’ Kabir interjected speaking more to himself now. ‘With her, I just can’t help being taken for granted you know?!…It’s like I feel…God if it’s for Rhea, then let me be used, toyed with, taken for granted or whatever…I just don’t mind it! And that’s my weakness’ he said giving an ironic grin.
Sandra kept nodding mutely at him.
‘Sandra, I know I have to face the disciplinary committee. I requested the registrar to keep the nature of breach and my hearing a hush hush affair and he relented. Apart from me, nobody knows what happened last night…not even Rhea…except you.’
‘Hmmm’ she said nodding her head.
‘And that’s why I need a favour from you. Just keep this a secret, don’t tell anybody…don’t tell Rhea. All she knows is that she ODed on glucose and fainted…and you’ll keep it that way.’
‘What about you?’
‘Well…I’m leaving right now…’
‘What?! Where?!’ Sandra asked surprised.
‘Well…dunno…maybe home for a few days…I just don’t feel like talking to her right now…I need some time off Sandra…need a break…I’m too messed up in the head. And I bet she won’t wanna see my face when she wakes up…not anytime soon at least…’ He said smiling looking at Rhea.
‘So would you keep that little secret…for my sake?’ he asked Sandra.
‘Ummm…hmmm…Yeah I will.’ She said nodding her head.
‘Swear on our friendship?!’
‘I’ll take it to my grave…if that’s what you want.’ She replied solemnly.
‘That’s fine then! Now I’d like a few moments alone with Rhea before I leave…if you don’t mind.’ He said smiling.
‘Of course not dude.’
Kabir went and sat next to Rhea as soon as he heard the door shut behind him.
‘Hey!’ he said running his fingers through her hair. ‘You know you’re much better off shouting and screaming at me…calling me a motherfucker…a frigging asshole…jackass…and whatever self centred faggot you call me…but not like this Rhea…not on a hospital bed…it…it just kills me seeing you here right now…I…’ he suddenly realized how difficult it was for him to express his emotions even before an unconscious Rhea.
‘You know I’ve always wanted to tell you so many things…like the way I sent you an anonymous rose in our first year on Valentine’s Day…the way I was almost about to shift to science stream just to be in your class…the way I used to foolishly pray for your sprain to heal when Viraj had hurt you…I mean…I’ve done some really crazy shit for you over the years damn it…but of course you wouldn’t know, just like you don’t know so many other things…like how I brought you here…how I broke into the Chemistry lab into the restricted section committing a serious disciplinary breach…like how I’m on the verge of losing my Herbert Smith job now…that I’ve got no clue how I’m gonna pay off my education loan if I lose that job…you’ll never know what story I cook for my parents…to convince them…but you don’t have to worry. This self centred faggot will take care of everything and he’ll take care of you too. I’m not going anywhere!’
A tear from Kabir’s cheek fell on Rhea’s nose as he bent down to kiss her forehead. He wiped it off with his finger and patted her cheek. ‘You’ll be fine.’ He said smiling at her.
‘I love you Rhea…after all these years I’m saying it on your face even if you can’t hear me right now. Maybe later in life I won’t regret never saying it. I’m sorry to have hurt you…I know Viraj shattered your dreams…I also know that you’ve had many hopeless romantics like me chase after you but tell me how many have been there for you the way I have?…no matter what happens, trust me, I’ll do anything and everything it takes to take you out of this mess…Sandra would keep my secret…even if it means seeing me go down…I trust her…that’s what our friendship is…and I won’t let her effort go in vain…I’ve saved you so far…I’ll do that in future too…that’s what my love is…you loved Viraj, I know…you always have…but you will smile again, love again and you’ll have a good happy life…hopefully with me by your side. I’ll do it for both of us…make it happen! After all I still remember what you said, friendship drives us to do strange stuff sometimes, and love stranger. Isn’t it?!’
Kabir finally got up from the stool and walked towards the door preparing to leave. Rhea slowly opened her eyes regaining consciousness as Kabir shut the door of the room behind him as he left…
So this is not heaven after all! It had all come back to Rhea as she sat on the hospital bed with the diary in her hands. The pieces of the jigsaw in her mind had arranged themselves into a lucid but dismal picture. She remembered gulping down an entire bottle of what she thought was a lethal chemical before she’d blacked out on the library steps. Glucose overdose! That was glucose? How come? She reflected on everything that had happened the night before, staring at her diary until she finally began to write…
I’ve been sitting and thinking for a while now; and I’ve realized that it is probably time to finally let go, to close a chapter in my life, a memorable yet forgettable chapter titled Viraj. You know what diary? I’ve practically lived dreaming about him for so long now that it’s hard to remember how life before him was like. But now it’s a different story altogether…as they say, some things are hard to remember, others hard to forget. I admit he’ll be really hard to forget but I have to tell myself that it’s over. He’s not coming back to me…ever!
It’s amusing how we’re ready to do anything in love…like literally anything. We’re prepared to compromise on our best friends, our dreams, values, morals and even parents. So was Viraj really wrong in what he did? Maybe not! Do I really blame him for choosing love over his best friend? Most of us would do the same, none of us would admit. What did I do after all? I was so obsessed with Viraj, I ended up hurting Kabir, who’s always been there for me. He’ll never want to see my face again! I wish I could tell you how sorry I am Kabir.
Honestly diary, a part of me is so mad at Viraj that it wants to bang his head against a wall but then I sit and think rationally to realize that’s no solution, is it? But again I don’t blame myself. Since when did rationality come in love anyway?
As I write, memories of first semester crop up in my mind. ‘Now that we’re friends, do you mind having a glass of juice with me?’ Our first glass of juice together, our first memorable moments, the beginning of our friendship! It’s amazing how the smallest of our choices and actions eventually shape our destiny. The butterfly effect! Today I wish I’d never spilt that juice on Viraj, or I wish I’d never forgiven him, we’d never have come so close, all this wouldn’t have happened and life would have been so much different. I can’t really be friends with Viraj diary ‘coz I know I’ll keep crossing that thin line between best friends and lovers over and over again. How can you be friends with someone you love? Teach me!
Aseem has his seminar today. Well, I’m not mad at him. We can all turn selfish at times, especially in the interest of our love. Isn’t it? I forgive him. Yes, Sylvia was right, maybe I was selfish too. I could have left Aseem alone long time back when deep inside I’d realized that I would never execute the plan but I preferred keeping everyone in the dark for my own selfish interests. I admit I continued the library sessions not because of Aseem’s seminar but because being with him felt like being strangely connected with Viraj. It meant a distraction from the feeling of yearning and agony I felt missing Viraj all the time. It’s strange isn’t it? You start seeing a reflection of someone you love in somebody else?! So yes, I was selfish.
The road ahead for me is very clear. I face the arduous task of moving on with life without the one guy I always dreamt of being with. Whatever I did, no regrets! And I’m sure I’ll sail through. College would be over in less than a month and then we would all go our own ways. I won’t have to see him everyday…good for me ‘coz gradually all his memories would fade away. He’ll be gone for good…from my life.
But you know something weird diary? In spite of everything that’s happened, In spite of everything Viraj said and did, In spite of the fact that I’ve decided to close Viraj’s chapter and as much as I hate to admit it, there is still a tiny part of my heart that silently hopes and prays that somehow, someday, someway, Viraj would appear before me apologizing with a cast over his leg, limping and asking to have a glass of juice with me once again…and that is what I feel makes, love stranger than anything else in the world!”