When i woke up in the morning, i found him lying right next to me, holding me in his arms, in this strange warm togetherness, in a soft, silky quilt and for that brief moment, when i saw him sleeping, everything shifted from a certainty of nothingness, to countless, seamless possibilities, that everything that happened last night, was more than just a short and quick event in both of our lives. I didn’t want that stillness to die, but to persist and stay there to help me capture every fraction of that room and our existence into one single frame, so that i am able to grasp all of it in a totality, and life is not just about different , confused emotions invading my mental space.
The construction happening in the neighborhood started and the noise woke him up. He left me. He said that he had headache. I wanted to ask if i could do anything about it, but i did not. I could not. It was just not working. I went to the bathroom, washed my face,closed my eyes and imagined that he would come and hug me from behind, which is why i left the door open. He entered the bathroom, pissed and exited. I looked at my image in the mirror and for a nanosecond, i thought it laughed at me.
I came back to the bedroom. He looked at me, his gaze, expectant, like that of a child, waiting for some marvel to happen. For another instant, all those possibilities that had rushed away, returned. I slowly moved towards him, and tried to kiss him when he said , “i need to hurry. Give me my fee.” I was just perplexed for a moment, could not figure out as to how should i react to his initially expectant and then, irritated look. But somehow, his expression forced me to realize that all of this, indeed, was nothing more than a short and quick event in our lives, and there was never more to it than simply getting naked, getting high and fuck, and in the end, quickly parting our ways, as easily as i had brought him home last night. He said again that he needs his reward quickly, that he has to go somewhere else, and that he might never see me again, so there was no point putting it off, on the pretext of meeting again. I suddenly remembered what he had said last night, in the car ride home , that he would love to take me to his home and see his little brother’s textbooks and teach him how to write poems, stories etc. etc. I wanted to explain it to him that you can’t really teach anyone how to write poetry and stories, and that if it has to come, it has to come from within, on its own, pure and natural, pure and natural unlike this moment when he was trying to be as pragmatic as he can be, and i was never even an inch near him , in being so, failing every second.
I went to the other room to bring the money.I came back and handed it over to him, but our fingers collided and his touch brought back a distant memory. An image of me, crying, sitting on the cold floor of the bathroom flashed off in front of my eyes. I used to promise myself , when i was a kid, that i’d move to America, at the pretext of studying further. Before the final hugs of love at the airport, i would hand my dad a letter, in which i would tell him the real reason of once trying to kill myself when i was fourteen. A coming out letter, i used to call it. That would solve every problem of my life. One night, i would visit some gay bar,in America, bring a boy home, fall in love with him and be with him forever, and the world will be this happy place again, without tears, guilt and remorse, but peace, tranquility. But maybe, that’s not how it was supposed to be.
He had been holding my hand, for i was holding the dollars, for the past thirty seconds or so and then ,he freed my hand. That was probably , for the first and the last time, that freedom seemed unwanted, burdening, invasive and unimportant, like the shower of conditional love from parents and relatives, like the presents received half-heartedly, bringing with it, a sense of an absence, a longing, a prolonged and unfulfilled desire. He left the apartment, and as expected, did not kiss me while leaving or said that he hoped to see me again. He probably thought, that i , like others he had been with, did not want to see him or meet him again. Perhaps, because preferences, tastes, likes and dislikes in bed change with the same pace of leaves changing their color in autumn. Those short and quick events after all, are only durationally short and quick, but they happen at regular intervals. Perhaps, because he’s lost hope. Perhaps because, he’s accepted silence.
While arranging the bed after he was gone, i had this uncontrollable urge to change the bed sheet. This one had been put only a week ago, but that urge was simply uncontrollable and incomprehensible. I opened the new pack, and put it on. This one, in one half of it,had the picture of a clear blue sky, and in the other half, had a picture of a boy, sitting against a tree ,looking up, towards that sky.
Colleagues in college told me that a student group had organised some donation campaign, collecting old clothes, quilts, sheets, for poor people in winters so that they can keep warm. After coming back home in the evening, i started arranging my closet. I found bright color shirts that i did not wear anymore, not because i had outgrown them or something like that, but i just stopped wearing them since this winter. There were old quilts, blankets that could do. After having separated the old from the new, the unwanted from the wanted, i searched the closet for the final time and found the yellow bedsheet i had changed this morning. It was lying, stuffed in one corner. When i picked it up, i noticed that near one corner of it, there are dry stains of semen. I tried fading them away by rubbing the stained part against the clean part ,but i stopped. Could ,some dry stains of semen, bother a poor old man, who is protecting himself against the chilly wind , wearing only, a dilapidated, thin, cotton shirt and corduroy pants? They could not. After having dinner, i reclined on my bed, only to remain awake for the entire night.
The next day in college, i added my generosity to the pile of old used commodities that are to save someone from the cold breeze of winter. I had only one lecture that day, on Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘The First Lesson’.
“And yet my primer suits me so,
I won’t choose a book to know,
than that, be sweeter, wise;
Might someone else so learned be,
And leave me just my A B C,
Himself could have the skies.”
The next morning, while leaving home, i realised that i needed to change the nameplate. Its been a week since i moved to this apartment, and the name plate still showed the name of the previous owner.
‘Wilson’s. 42, 6th street, Orlando.’
The house is not owned by Mr.Wilson anymore. He’s probably dead by now.
In College, i completed the lecture on Dickinson’s poem.
“The bustle in a house, the morning after death
is solemnest of industries, enacted upon earth.
The sweeping up the heart,and putting love away,
we shall not want to use again, until eternity.”
In the evening, on my way back home, at the end of the street, i saw a poor man, probably in his late 60s , trying to wade life away, trying to sleep on a bench near the lamppost. He was trying to cover his feet, but was unable to do so. In the end , he gave up. Suddenly, a strong breeze flew the sheet he was covering his body with, and it came to me. I picked it up. It was yellow in color, and near one corner,had dry stains of semen. i handed it over to him. When i came back home, for some unidentifiable reason, i wanted to laugh. I did. I had almost forgotten how it feels to laugh for no reason. The first time i had laughed this way, was when i had completed my first story.
That night, i slept. I slept peacefully.
By- Aman Sinha