“My best friend is gone. He’s dead,” I said. The words were muttered with a sense of finality. They were irreversible.
“I’m really sorry to hear that,” he said in a low voice. There was just a hint of sorrow in his tone, but only because he didn’t know the deceased.
I let the seconds glide, aware that time was slipping away while I remained idle. I didn’t know how I felt, or how I was supposed to feel.
“It’s okay. It was time he died anyway. I was hanging on to him for quite a long time now.”
The stranger blinked at me, somewhat amused but mostly shocked.
“What do you mean?”
It was hard for me to articulate what I meant. I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I tried my best to put my thoughts into coherent words.
“He’s dead. I killed him,” I said heavily. “But he killed me first,” I added as an afterthought.
The look in his eyes was somewhere between sarcastic and bewildered.
“Look, it’s not a long story. But it’s a sad one.”
“I’m all ears.”
He looked earnest. He wanted to hear the story. I think I wanted to hear it as well. I’ve heard it from everyone but it will be the first time I narrate it, first time I hear my voice carrying the words from memory dungeons to the open air where they will no longer belong to me.
I took a deep breath and plunged into a minute of silence before I embarked on that hefty task.
“It all started when one day I said something against my better judgment. It happens sometimes. A slip of that damn tongue is all takes to ruin us. Speech is a curse upon mankind. I spoke. That’s how it happened, how we ended.”
“Ended? But what happened?”
“It never started, that’s what. I should have remained in the shadows.”
He looked at me, more puzzled than before. I wondered what expression I carried on my face at that moment.
“I loved him.”
It hurt me, uttering those words. I winced as if a blade slashed through me. Memories returned soon after I had opened that door. They don’t come immediately. Instead they seep in gradually, stealthily. You cannot feel them at first. Then once there are enough of them, they reveal their presence. A startle. A fright it is. And then the flood comes. I retreated, fell on my knees in the face of the incoming torrent.
“I told him about that love I felt. He said he had the same feeling too. But…”
There’s always a but. My but was simple.
“He was good to me for some time. I was good to him. Always. It worked for a while, the illusion. We let the deception run its course, aware of its nature yet unwilling to acknowledge it. I loved suspending reality, dangling it on a thread and watching it spin backward and forward. And I was quite amused by my own belief that I am perfectly capable of cutting that thread any moment, of falling back into reality as smoothly as a puzzle piece fits into its right place. But…”
He was holding his breath now. I swallowed my saliva; my throat was dry.
“It wouldn’t have worked. We were so different. Parallel rails that never could meet. An Earth and a moon that can never collide. He knew we had to part. So we did. Or he did. I kept up the pretense until one day he said, ‘You haven’t parted yet’. He was right.”
I struggled a little to keep my breathing even and my mind balanced. There was a sharp needle sticking in my heart. What I would have paid to pluck it out.
“So, what did you do then?” His tone urged me.
My eyes drifted over to the silent horizon, looking for a safe exit. I couldn’t stand the memory. I wanted to vomit.
“I killed him. I pushed him to those rails right before the train hit the station.”
I hardly heeded the stranger now. I was more intent on expelling that shard of recollection that tainted my present. I was entangled in a mesh of gnarling emotions. An invisible grip tightened itself around my throat. I felt I was on the verge of fainting or madness.
“I … had to.” My breathing was ragged now, falling short of a complete asthma attack with a tint of mental instability.
The stranger’s voice reached me as if through a wormhole. Unable to make a word of what he was saying, I stood up. I swayed as I made my way across to the river, dragging my feet on the cobblestone. My eyes were blurred and thick drops of liquid carved a pathway on my cheeks. I couldn’t make sense of it. I couldn’t make sense of it. I couldn’t make–