One very intelligent heartbroken person quoted that, our brain contains a box of compressed crappy memories. Each time you see a person or something that reminds you of that crappy memory, an entire chain of interconnected incidents come back into you head and you feel nothing but miserable.
I carefully nursed the left arm on which I landed on the floor. The dream was a bad one, a crappy one to be more precise. I thought time and age would make me see the funny part of my love for Sanjana. But that never really happened. Three years post all that I still felt bad and I still felt angry for her stupidity. I scratched my head and tried to get back into the present. I focused on my surroundings.
Everything was in place. I stood up carefully and walked to the point where I last remembered standing. I spotted a part of the carpet jutting out of its fixture. It looked dangerous, the reason for my slipping. I saw a little mark of blood on the pedestal on which the big oak bed was mounted. I looked at my own reflection in the mirror and spotted a little mark of clotted blood.
“Nasty hit!” I thought to myself.
I was not feeling good. My head felt messed up and giddy. My reinitiated thoughts were not helping me much. I was still not convinced if the voice was my imagination. It felt so real, so enthusiastic, the restless tone, it was deliberate for sure. What if the voice was normal? It would sound like someone, a voice I heard recently.
“Oye Sanju! Come fast ya. . . I’m getting late.” Maggie was screaming. Her voice sounded breathless.
“Come fast . . . Come fast . . . Come fast . . .”
Why the hell was she getting so restless? The sound of her voice gave me chills. It sounded inhuman. It sounded like that . . .
Before I could place my thoughts, I saw a parade of ants on the carpet. They were marching in two perfect sets. I had a sudden urge to locate the start of the line and the end of the line. I retraced the line backwards to locate a half eaten Snickers bar lying on the floor. Yesterday night, I was eating; I put this in my pocket and climbed up the steps. I forgot all about it. It must have fallen off when I made my great fall I thought. I picked it up and put it in the dustbin. I saw the line still marching in its two perfect sets. I wanted to test the little guys and I created a little confusion by disturbing the line in the center. The little guys ran helter-skelter for a while but soon they were back in their perfect sets, marching placidly towards their destination. Their march proceeded up the wall and went behind one of the oak panels. I moved the panel aside to spot the little hole into which the ants were diverging in. It was not the ant hole but the object beside the hole that caught my attention. A little speaker and a microphone caught my attention. From my Air force training I could guess that they were high capacity receivers and transmitters.
Why did Anita aunty get these things installed? And moreover, why here? I sat on the bed and stretched out my left hand. The panel was within hands reach. I was wondering where it led to when the loud ringing of the door bell started me. I walked out of the room carefully and sprinted all the way to the door jumping two steps at a time. Maggie was at the door.
“Hey man! Had a nice nap? God! You look totally messed up. What’s that patch below your hair? Is that blood?” Her voice increased a note higher and her eye brows ached up as she tried to lift up my tousled hair to look at my injured head.
“It’s nothing Maggie, just a small scratch, tripped over the carpet yesterday night. I’m fine now, don’t get all worked up about it, Anyway what ‘s up?” I said trying to distract her attention from the patch of dried blood on my head.
“Are you sure it’s okay? It looks quite nasty. Actually I was wondering if you could give me a lift till the next bus stop. I know it’s quite some distance but my damned Scooty got screwed. And I’m so late for work.” She said.
“No it’s quite alright now, and yes I can give you a lift. Wait up.” I said and went
inside to fetch my bike keys.
“I thought you and Sanju worked in the same company.” I said, taking in a lung full of fresh air.
“Yeah, but different in shifts though. The company provides a car for the people who work in the night shift. Sanju is a part of that team.” Maggie answered.
“Oh. . . “I said as her face came into my head.
“She keeps telling me about you. I must’ve listened to your college story like a
thousand times you know. Sanju is a little idiot when it comes to relationships.
It’s almost like she enjoys the pain of being separated from the person she loves.” Maggie said, her voice transacting into sadness with each word.
“I don’t know. I always tried to understand her, failing miserably each time.” I told Maggie. The topic made my heart as heavy as a stone of lead; I hoped my voice sounded normal and emotionless.
“Sanju’s parents brought up some really good matches for her you know. Highly qualified guys, rich and well settled. She rejected each one of them.” Maggie was saying.
“What is she looking for, man? Is she still stuck with that “person-I-cannot-live-without”, shit? She should get real. It’s simply not going to happen with her. She’ll remain unmarried for the rest of her life.” I said my voice heavy with sarcasm. I wished she was married to a fat dude with some three painful kids, so that I didn’t feel this little hope inside. I accelerated in disgust.
“You know, she asked one of the guys to write a poem for her. A PhD from IIT, he was shocked and said he couldn’t write. Sanju then gave him an imaginary situation where he had to propose to her. You know what he said?” Her voice began to break as she tried to control a surge of laughter.
“What?” I really wanted to have a good laugh myself.
“Okay. . . He went like, Sanjana; I’m so and so from IIT Delhi, employed in so and so company earning so and so income per year. I have everything you need for a comfortable life. Will you marry me?” Her voice transformed itself into a fully fledged roar of laughter.
“It was really practical of the guy you know. What else do you expect from arranged marriages? You expect romantic shit from a person who knew that you existed three months ago, heard your voice one month ago, seen your face ten minutes ago? You got to get real Maggie. When you don’t have the guts to accept the feelings you have for someone. Adjust with whatever you have in life.” My voice became loud as agitation mingled with frustration.
Maggie who had sobered down by then let out a big sigh and said, “She regrets it Neeraj. She regrets not having you in her life.”
My stomach gave an uneasy jolt as Maggie’s sentence registered in my head. Why did she even remember me? Was I not a dark shadow of her past? Wait, she regrets it? That tone of voice—why did it sound familiar?
“I’ll get down here.” Maggie’s words broke my train of thought and I braked.
“Make your presence felt Neeraj. She was so stupidly happy when she saw you last night. She doesn’t know how to articulate it. She was confused and is still confused about her feelings to you. But she likes you, this much I can tell you.” Maggie said as she got down from the bike.
“Why should I still care for her? She turned me down years ago.” I questioned Maggie.
She turned around, gave me a little smile and said, “You will. . . Because no matter whatever you say, you still love her”
She turned around and started whispering, “She loves you. . . She loves you. . . She loves you. . .”
I felt an uncontrollable urge to see Sanjana. I turned my bike around and reached her place.I was worried when she didn’t answer the door for ten minutes. Finding it open I pushed it open slowly and peeped inside the house.
Sanju was curled into a ball on one of the bean bags and was weeping with the phone in her lap.
Something was really wrong, really wrong.