She was a strange girl. The kind you love at a party, not so much, when you need to pick up the phone and talk. She was a creature of the night; the harsh light of the day was just the harsh light of reality. Perhaps sobriety didn’t agree with her. Perhaps the truth reflected off too easily. But in the soft light of the night, who could see the fine lines? Surrounded by pulsating music, who could hear the soft hinting whispers? Strengthened by martinis, uninhibited by choice, she became the toast of every social gathering.
No one knew much about her. Where she worked? Yes. What her favorite drink was? Yes. Family? Sort of. Friends? Them. Much else? No.
In a city far away from home, strangers form friendships more for the sake of unspoken need for requited companionship than lack of, even with people they would otherwise, perhaps in different circumstances, never really bond.
And so they met. Every other weekend. Drinks, conversations, music and musings. But everything changed that night.
That night she jumped.
And didn’t live to tell why..
They were like any other couple. On the outside anyway. Great jobs and great lives. Space to call theirs’ and space to call their own.
But not all squares line up even. And often what’s behind door number one can only be judged from the other side.
“I see you looking at me. I do love you. But lately too much of my life has been about you..and something’s been missing ..” Raina lost in thought kept twirling her hair, looking at the infinite glittering lights of a bejeweled cityscape that lay beneath her.
I wanted to go upto her, say, ‘ I love you’ but I knew I couldn’t do that, not yet. I decided it had gone on long enough and I need to come clean about the affair. That’s the only way I can salvage this and move on ahead. I was resolved.
That moment courage failed everything else.
Walking upto her I asked what she was thinking.
And she looked at me like she already knew and said, “nothing”.
Looking down, she asked me if I ever thought of free falling. Like what it’d really be like.
For someone who often spoke metaphorically, I wasn’t sure what she meant this time but I knew that my guilt was in no way assuaged.
“It’s rather cold here, want to go back in?”
“Hmm? Yeah sure. Go on ahead, I’ll be right there..”
Nikki watched the two dark silhouettes out on the balcony, huddled close and in deep conversation. She wondered what it must be like to be married and still have the romance, and as always, immediately her own thoughts went to her own failing relationship.
Nikki had a thing for over-stating the obvious, a penchant for the dramatic and no patience for the normal and the subtle. She needed drama in her life and had no qualms when it came to creating some if life failed her. A failed writer, every scene was a curtain raiser.
But for the first time she couldn’t script a dialogue. And didn’t want drama. She just wanted to write herself a quiet exit.
“ Hey! What are you doing in this corner by yourself?”
“Can I get you another drink?”
“Please, what’s with the show? You want to get me another drink? Really?”
“Not now ok, we agreed to be atleast civil remember? Until we get a chance to tell everyone? Don’t create a scene please..”
“Alright people, someone hand me a refill and a smoke”, and with her cigarette in hand, she made beeline for the now empty balcony.
Taking a long hard drag, Nikki looked out at the sky; exhaling the smoke, she saw through the blur, what her life now was. And she thought of the baby she almost had.
“ Hey, come on inside..”
“Come here, have you noticed how beautiful it is out there?”
“ I know..”
“ But in a sad away, no? All those lights, yet, enveloped by darkness; all that movement, yet the stillness of aloofness..”
“Ok, seriously, who talks like that?? Inspiration dawning on you Ms. Writer?”
“Am heading in, come in soon ok?”
Nikki turned in to look into the room and felt she was watching a bowl full of fish, intrigued by their movement but incapacitated with no common language between them and then she turned back to look at the lights once more, below her, and she thought, if she ever wrote again, she’d capture this sight.
And she’d call it Indigo nights.
It was a full house. All happy, beautiful, successful people; enjoying good food, good wine and good company. All looking to unwind after a long hard week.
Looking at Nikki, she thought how strong and beautiful she was. Having recently gone through her second miscarriage, she still didn’t let it break her down. She wondered if she could ever be as unfailingly strong as Nikki. Probably not.
“You look so beautiful tonight”
She wondered why she was so unhappy when on paper her life was absolutely perfect. She had a great husband, a great relationship, friends to call her own and a life that was ‘un-rushed’. She had enough money to indulge her every whimsical hobby while she continued looking for a job. But with every passing day, she couldn’t shake off that feeling of displacement, of restlessness, of gloom. And more and more, she just wanted to cry. All the time.
“I just love your place”
“Thanks. You are welcome anytime..!”
“Ah! You might just regret throwing around open invitations like that you know!”
“No way! I love having you people over…”
It had become a constant habit of hers lately, to make plans and then break them. She ferociously sought company and then just as much hankered to be alone. She needed space she said. And she always had an unoffending excuse handy. It was strange that no one had caught on. Or, she was that good an actress.
“Where are you going?”
“To shut the door, am freezing!”
“I’ll do it, I’ve been meaning to go there anyway, need to make a call..”
“Call? Now? Who? Who?”
“Oh come on! Be right back!”
So much dysfunctionality, all in one room. So much dysfunctionality, all around. It’s just that we don’t read minds.
“Why do people have to die?”
“To make life more important”
- Six Feet Under
As Mehek brushed past me, I almost spilt my drink all over. That balcony sure was a popular spot tonight; smokers, thinkers, brooders, all seem to gravitate to it!
I followed her out.
“Room for another?”
“There’s always room for you..”
“Air of finality”
“The way I said it?”
“The way the night is”
“Ever feel sad for no reason at all?”
“Same way you burst into giggles for no reason at all?”
“Can everything be tied together?”
“Reason doesn’t explain everything”
Mehek came back in looking for her husband; there was an inexplicable sadness around which she felt she could almost touch and that unnerved her even more.
It was then, that for some reason that she turned to look out onto the balcony and see her jump.
As if by some design, music too reached a crescendo and then suddenly dipped to a silence, and by strange coincidence everyone glanced out. They saw the surrealistic blur of a moment and couldn’t tell if it actually happened.
Rooted in disbelief, when they did move, chaos descended.
They couldn’t believe it happened. They couldn’t believe she was dead. They couldn’t believe she jumped. And while they contemplated for many hours why she did, many of them there couldn’t shake off the feeling, it could have been them.
That as the sirens roared, the bells could have tolled for them.
That when scaling such a precipice, the danger is imminent, the fear, a sadist’s elixir, the difference between the free fall and another mile is just the boon of procrastination, of a fight of wills, of cowardice and the instinct to survive!
“We dance round in a ring and suppose, while the secret sits in the middle and knows”
- Robert Frost