Friday, 18 May 2007
You left while I slept
"You have become quite quiet."
"No. Its just that you don't listen to me."
"Well obviously we can't listen to what hasn't been said!"
Shall you have me speak then? My vocal chords are strung like piano strings and my guts are strung like a harp. You shall hear me speak volumes. Just leave me alone right now.
- Can someone please tell me what this is all about?
- Its about a man. A man who lived. A man who awoke in the morning to smell fresh dew on the grass, and parried a little while, before bending down painfully to pick up the newspaper. A man who went to work his shift in a factory, who stood in an assembly line for hours on end using his expertise in the mundane and monotonous. Who cast his sobriety in a bid for sustenance and liesure. Who screwed cogs onto machines moving slowly on a languid conveyor belt, unwittingly becoming a worthy cog himself in the ramshackle construct of urban existence. Who earned a salary and provided for a family which he called his, by picking out 8 hours of his day lovingly and feeding it into the blast furnace. Who came home to a loving, immaculate wife, who kissed him and asked him how his day was, humming merrily in the kitchen making dinner while he spoke, and to his two noisy children, apples of his eyes, whom he sent to school and for piano lessons. Who watched television with a beer in his hand, filling his mind with swiftly moving images which accounted for entertainment in his life. Who paid bills and taxes which sucked him dry but kept his conscience clear and made him in his own eyes an honest and outstanding citizen. Who bought a car, and took a loan, and mortgaged his house, and went to PTA meetings, and voted a for a bright future and watched it all crumble down in the wake of ruthless war-mongers and faceless propaganda-makers. Who clung desperately and assiduosly to a thin, brittle string of patience and solidarity in the hope of retaining a normal, wholesome life of contentment and fulfillment, which would elude him till he breathed his last. Until he would cease to be the man who lived. Until he would be buried under the same grass on which he once started his day. Until he would be mourned and missed by his family and friends. Until he would be a tombstone, his life shortened summarily into a 20-word epitaph. And he would be lost to utter anonimity.
- Golly, that sounds like my father.
- And mine. So we are brothers.
- No, we're not.
- Yes, we are. All men are brothers.
- No, they're not.
- Certainly, they are. We are descended from our father, the conceptual man, the perfect one, the faultless ideal. You and I are his imperfect sons. Our follies and misgivings are fogivable, for although bits of that perfection seeped into all of us, they were mixed and churned into a crucible of sins and falsities. So here we are, in a world of his progeny who are but parts of our own being, and all we can find are differences and points of departure.
- But you and I cannot be brothers.
- Why not? Why do you disagree so fervently?
- Because love is far more important than fraternity.
- I love you, brother. I love you like you were a part of my own being. I care for your cares and rest and well-being. Can you not see that?
- But if we were to brothers, your sister would be my sister.
- Yes. That is true. What of it?
- I love her. She is the love of my love. On a velvet night, with glistening diamond gemstones in the sky, with paintbrush cotton-fed clouds and silver poker-faced moon, I made love to her between smooth satin sheets, all sweaty and wondrous, the delight of a journey through her body like streamlined fingers I entered her gardens of lustrous flowers and insanity. Beauty and lust and dreams and pleasure and wine and water and passion and redemption and blood and life and death and birth and cycles and circles and form and matter and shape and structure and light and darkness and crests and troughs and rhythm and speed and excitement and lethargy and climax and sleep.
- You bastard! You motherfucker! You son of a horned swine! You illegitimate product of the devil's lust. You shit-eater of the lowest gutters. Damnation! Hell-fire! Curses! You son of a dirty whore! I will kill you. No. I will cut your balls off and slice your shaft. Then I will rape your sister and kill your mother in front of your eyes. Then I will eat your flesh as I slice it off bit by bit till there's nothing left of you but blood and bones. Then I will drink your blood and powdergrind your bones and burn them and dance around the fire in madness. I know where your live and I have seen where you sleep. Just you wait, shitfucker. I will send you to the steamiest bowels of hell till even your spirit writhes in agony and terror and begs for mercy and forgiveness. And then I will kill myself and go to hell and go to work on your spirit......
He shifted under the oppressive weight of the burdens on his shoulders.
"The burden of desire,
The burden of pain,
The burden of loss,
The burden of gain..."
It should have snowed today. But the post-autumn sky had left nothing but dead leaves and a chill in the air which made all his white hair stand on end. When he walked, the breeze cut through him like a frigid razor-blade and made his eyes water. He blew warmth into his numb hands and rubbed them together to bring them back to life. He hadn't had a morsel to eat since last afternoon when he had found loose change under the park bench. It had been enough to buy him a soup and a newspaper. And he had read about explosions in the London subway, explosions in the Kashmir valley, explosions in Afghanistan, explosions in Madrid's trains, deaths in Biafra, deaths in Iran, deaths on the West Coast of America, deaths in the eastern islands of Asia. And he had walked out of the restaurant and vomited the soup out on the footpath. He had looked around guiltily, at the people walking past him. They had such hatred in their eyes for him. He could have sworn that one of them had called him vagrant under her breath. He had felt a warm tear emerge on his eyelids and trickle down his cheek. On page 12 of the newspaper there was a picture of a child in a famine-stricken village in Sudan. It was nothing but skin and bones, except for its stomach which was swollen up. It was trying to crawl to a food camp so that it could eat. The child couldn't walk for it had no strength to walk. Its boney, spindly legs couldn't stand the burden of its body. With its last breath and last ounce of strength, it tried to crawl to the only thing that could keep it alive. A vulture stood nearby, watching and waiting for the inevitable.
Another teardrop had crawled down his wrinkled cheeks and had fallen on the child's picture as his hands trembled. He had looked at the picture and then at the soup that he had vomited on the footpath. He couldn't bear to think of what he had wasted, and how precious little there was of it in the world. And he had gone hungry for the rest of the day. But the body is a harsh mistress. It craved for food, and his self-imposed penance had not been, he realised, a matter of choice. And that is why he had looked across the road and had frozen inadvertently. A half-eaten sandwich wrapped in shiny aluminium foil lay in a bin. His mouth watered. His head swam. His body hurt because of exhaustion. His stomach growled, craving that sandwich, begging and pkeading him to move, to cross the road and to pick the sandwich up. But he didn't move. He couldn't.
When had his life become a burden? When had it come to a point where his survival was more important than what he believed in, what he stood for? Going hungry for a few days wouldn't kill him. The bread that he had abstained from eating would feed a child who would go to school and grow up to be a great, learned and accomplished man. It would perhaps feed someone who would change the world. Who was he? A vagrant? A tramp? A burden on society which was stuck with the responsibiltiy of keeping him alive because it had spawned him and failed him? An anonymous entity with an existence without purpose? A failure? An object of no requirement, of no use to anyone or anything? He closed his moist eyes and saw the dying child from the picture in the newspaper bending down like Atlas and bearing him on its shoulders. The child had died because of him. He had crushed it with his mere existence. He opened his eyes and looked at the sandwich across the road. And stood frozen once more.
It was gone.
Someone had taken it while he was lost in his thoughts. Someone who really deserved it. Perhaps a poor woman had taken it to feed her starving child, perhaps a starving young man had taken it and was fueling his energy to work for a better future. It did not matter who had taken it. It only mattered that he hadn't and had helped someone more worthy of life, survive another day.
He hadn't noticed that in his initial shock and ensuing joy and relief, he had stepped off the footpath and had walked a considerable distance. And he hadn't noticed that a car had approached him at a great speed, unable to stop in time... And he would not notice much else henceforth. Death can come in many different ways and very unexpectedly, just like an unexpected breeze or drizzle can put out a perfect flame. But death can rid you of all your burdens in a single, silent second of darkness. His death was not silent, but instantaneous.
"The burden of flesh,
The burden of breath,
The burden of birth,
The burdren of death..."
A few kilometres away, a middle-aged man in a pair of jeans and a leather jacket sat on a park-bench. He surveyed the wooded greens and the path that ran through the secluded spot where he sat, through his horn-rimmed spectacles. He was waiting and watching. At a distance he saw a little a girl cycling towards him in a pink bicycle with frilly ribbons on the handbars. She had black, ebony hair, dark eyes, pink lips and soft skin, he could tell. His breath became sharp and harder, his eyes had a glint of lust, like the glint in the eyes of a predator who has sighted prey. Or the glint in the eyes of a vulture waiting for a creature to die so it could devour it. He began to tremble with anticipation. Though, he had eaten in the morning, his mouth watered. But it was a hunger of a different kind. He took the last bite out of a sandwich he had found in a bin. He was fortunate to have found a snack just lying there for him to take for free. He was going to need all the energy it was giving him for what he was going to do. He crumpled the aluminium foil it was wrapped in, and threw it on the grass. The foil lay on the soft green blades, as the man approached the little girl in the little pink bicycle.
"Hello, sweetheart. Are you all alone? Do you want some candy?"
A shiny wrapper gleamed in his palm. The girl's eyes widened. She took the candy bar from the man's hand and smiled.
"Why don't you come for a ride with me? I'll buy you lots of candy."
She nodded. He picked her up and put her on his shoulder. "Wow! You're a big girl, aren't you, sweetheart?"
"Don't worry. I'll take good care of you. I'll show you a good time."
The aluminium foil lay still in the sunshine, like a drop of silver on the green carpet. Until a strong gust of wind blew it away. And then there was only the grass.
It should have snowed today.
"The burden of virtue,
The burden of sin,
The burden of a life,
That kills from within."