R S Ramanujam
Year first published: 2017
My Facebook author page f/writersr
R S Ramanujam is the author and publisher of this work. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form print/digital or otherwise without the consent of the author.
© 2017 R S Ramanujam
Oh! Tribulations of the writer,
Who, or even he, does know his pain?
His heart is in his head,
The mind hovering outside,
The cavity in his chest,
Has memories his eyes see,
His veins are full of love,
And in his hands, flows blood,
Eyelids hear what his ears see,
While legs chase the moon or the bee,
His travails be,
As long as he is blessed to be.
"I have nothing to say."
I surely must have something to. This does not measure up to one I would've written for one of my characters, Erebus sighed, disappointed with the contents of his one line suicide note.
He had every reason to be. An aspiring and gifted author, he was regarded as someone adept at wordplay in his heyday. It wasn’t that he was past his prime, but he did not care where he was on the wave anymore – riding the crest or gasping for breath beneath. He had lost the initiative in waiting for the purpose of his life to flash before him like a portal that opens up in front of the gaping protagonist in stories featuring time or intergalactic or any such paranormal travel that humans merely daydream of. He wanted to christen his swansong ‘euthanasia’ but didn’t, as it wasn’t one. Suicide is not committed out of mercy, it is a result of pity and much worse, self-pity. So, he decided to call it just that – suicide.
Erebus? What a funny pseudonym, he thought for the first time. Especially since I have written a good number of stories that have happy endings. Yes, there have been deaths, killings, eulogised extramarital affairs, oodles of sarcasm, but not blatant darkness that Erebus personifies. Why Erebus then? Maybe after the active volcano in Antarctica. A seething volcano in a forbidden, perpetually ice covered land, called deplorable by polar explorers themselves. Active, ice-like, confined and venting fumes of anger through fumaroles. It is almost as if the name chose me. And now, this volcano will go dormant, forever.
Coming back to the note, did I say I have nothing to say? Of course, I do. I can go on and on about my first tryst with school, my first crush, examination hiccups, failure, love, betrayal, love, more betrayal, marriage, my son, writing, the sale of my first book, my day job, my affair and a lot more. But what do all these have to do with my imminent death by suicide? Nothing. I am a writer. I need to write contextually and so this will have to directly be about my walking into the sunset, he resolved.
What good is my becoming resolute now, especially when I am dying, because I can’t live? I was unable to be resolute all my life, more so in moments when it mattered. Like the day when after one such moment of determined resolution to have it out, I ended up loosening my clenched fists and stopped gnashing my teeth in a volte-face? Of course, I had to. Who can hug warmly, a crying child with arms stiffened by clenched fists? Who can talk to him in a loving tender tone when two rows of teeth are continuously grating as those of a starved dog would, when it can only eye a juicy steak while the rest of the dogs are in an eating frenzy? The teeth had to be loosened so the lips could smile and then kiss the child. The fists had to be unclenched to pat the kid’s back to tell him “everything will be fine.” But for how long?
Back to the letter now, the suicide note, rather.
“This is it,” he wrote, took a good look and winced. “This is what? Have you lost your vocabulary? For God’s sake, you are a writer. Your books may not have sold a million copies, but you do have a way with words. Your stories fall in now-trashed genres that no longer kindles the imagination of people, but they do hit close to home to those that still read the good old crap. So, what is “This is it?” he was livid.
Writer’s block was nothing new. He had experienced it many times in the past. Every time he got through with a book - having written it, reviewed it, shelved it, trashed it, resurrected it, given up on it, resurged with it, finished it, refined it and finally got it in print – he felt he was done and devoid of ideas. After a few days of sauntering about and around, desperately hunting for prompts, looking all over the internet for contests, story starters, and tips from plot generators and also at times, reading forgotten classics to see if he could shamelessly lift some part and develop on them, he would strike gold out of the blue. His computer would once again become be turned into the primordial cauldron of creation where he would brew yet another work like an unstoppable juggernaut. So, writer’s block wasn’t new and unvanquished. This time, it was a different work on the anvil altogether. It was to be his swansong, not as a writer, not as a writer alone to be precise, but as anything and everything that he was in the eyes of himself, in the eyes of his little world.
“Disinterestedness is the greatest virtue,” he wrote. Will this make it a long and boring suicide note? He asked himself and proceeded nevertheless. His compulsive commitment to writing a note that would read like a masterpiece was absurd. It could have simply read “I am killing myself and do not know what to write on my suicide note”.
But then, why not go out on a high? He thought. Having written as much as I have, why should this be a melancholic, loathsome note laden with unwritten self-pity that would emerge like maggots would emerge from my corpse? Well, maggots will emerge from the crevasses of my body without a doubt, but let the stink be only that of my corpse, incessantly gnawed on. My words shall never step down from the highest portals of finesse. I am dying anyway, how would it hurt if I died a little later than I originally intended to? It won’t, he reassured himself, before crumpling that sheet too and tossing it into the dustbin to join the others that he had already cast away. Death was in his head, his hands, in his pen, on the paper, on the floor, in his dustbin. It was all around him. Only, it waited for him to write about it. Even death drooled to be immortalised by the hands of a wordsmith.
I think, as ever, a cup of tea will help, thinking so, Erebus got up and walked up to the kitchen, having carefully stowed his latest and possibly last manuscript in the drawer. The last thing he wanted was for it to be seen and him, implicated with the punishment of life for his burning desire to run away from it, to seek solace and if there was something called rebirth, a more benevolent womb to start his journey from.
“I am looking for another caring benevolent womb,” he started his next attempt, only to scrap it right at that point.
What am I saying? A caring, benevolent womb? The obvious slur on me would be that I tried to find one to impregnate and not be born in. After all, one that was misunderstood in life, would never be understood in death, especially by those that have concluded that I run around craving for breasts, when all I seek is something half a foot higher, a shoulder that I can lean on and sleep without a care in the world. How difficult it is to see this about me? A man thinking so makes sense, but a woman having a greater craving to visualise me as someone lusting around, seeing more bosoms than even I possibly will even if I were an adulterer? Inexplicable. Anyway, it is all a thing of the past or it would be soon. Back to business, I can’t allow a shoulder to arouse me or a pair of breasts to drive me to so much desperation that I would clench my fists again raging for a fight, rather than die. No losing focus.
Shoulders, Erebus sighed. I did have them for a little bit though.
Those were memorable days. Days that I would die to get back to again. Days that were etched in a love soaked, rain kissed part of otherwise forsaken, dry heart, which probably would burn last when set on the pyre. Short yet unending moments of warmth, a soothing breeze and of course, a genuine heart that cared and admired me for who I was, with all my flaws. A heart that painted a portrait of the moon, but with every freckle. Of hands that gently anointed a soul scarred by chickenpox, caressing every scar as though it was as beautiful as the soul that had it. Back then, when life seemed like a race run in icy rain without a moment’s reprieve, this was the shack that popped up now and then along the way, to keep me from freezing to death. Hers were the hands that walked into the abandoned and dark silos of my hardened self to wipe the cobwebs out, replace the broken lamps and then to light it up all, for me to know there was more to life and myself than I had ever known. If ever there was ever an experience of pure love, the kind that doesn’t keep you up at night, the one that doesn’t make you want to ditch everything and runaway for, the one that doesn’t light you up to consume you, this was it. It was one that let me sleep in peace, one that made me learn how to see the joys of life amidst the torrents of pain and more so, one that made me realise who I was and appreciate myself, even if no one else would. Like the old grumpy man in one of my stories said, like the clock that tells everyone the time, but knows it not for itself, I was a man that could, in the words of my friends, be affectionate to everyone else, but not to myself. This, made me be.
And like everything else that gleams and seemingly so, for eternity, this gleamed too. It was almost as if souls that had long ago parted on their journeys on leaky rafts on the many roaring tributaries of the might river of life, had come together in an unexpected confluence, to join hands. Alas, like they had converged, there was divergence too, and the souls had to row away. Perhaps, it is God’s design, at least in matters concerning me, that I stand to lose all that glimmers and we always say glimmering hope. And so, I’ve lost that too. And with that, the cauldrons of love that were set off and opened up by her mellow hands are now churning out endless oodles of love, only for me to see all of it pour out without hands to embrace them, like a cow whose milk is wasted on the ground, her calf being dead and stuffed, only to ensure she doesn’t die of depression too. What really is the point then in living on, when you know you are only creating a love sludge that will eventually harden and go waste? Erebus dreaded for a moment during this episode of recollection, that he had left a lovely episode of life ruin his determination to kill himself, but this had been swiftly undone by the swelling waves of thoughts of loss and self-pity.
Self-pity? It will only make me strip naked and kneel before life and beg of it to give me another chance at living it to its fullest. This isn’t me. I don’t beg. I concede, but don’t beg. The only way to drive away this self-loathing pig is to roll in the slush of darkness. Speaking of darkness, why don’t I read one of my own poems? I am, in my circle, the master of noir. Perhaps, they will give me an idea, he thought and started ransacking his bookshelf containing several unsold copies of his books, covered in cobwebs, with a musty smell and its pages having turned brownish-orange from milk-white thanks to neglect. He paused, smiled and even apologised to the terrified spiders that until then, had led a peaceful existence in the uncared-for rack. I should’ve cared more about selling too and not just writing. Or I should simply not have made these many copies, in the hope that people would make a beeline to buy my books, he thought. Good learning, even at the time of death, like Aristotle or Socrates or whoever he was, that wanted to learn a country song before his death. That ushered him back to reality and he started looking for what he came for – a book of poems that he had first published, with a poem he wrote when he first attempted to take his life, ages back. “The Knight in Distress” was it? Or “A Quest to Go”? Or was it “some poem and others”? It must have a title, Erebus raked his brains to get it out, but it wouldn’t, probably having sensed that Erebus had given up on it in favour of his heart that no longer sought to beat. Nothing was to be found. Just then, it occurred to him that he had stowed these away on his email. Two minutes later, he had located what he wanted to – a poem entitled “The Distress Call.”
“The wretched world with its claws spread wide, I am running away, from it to hide” and so on it read till he reached the end, “that you carry me away now, your wretched son.”
Wretched son? I wasn’t wretched. It was the world that seemed skewed to me, and not me. I wasn’t wretched. I ought to have written “your distressed son,” or “your forlorn son.” Distressed, is what I was back then. Why am I editing my poem now? No harm in improving something, no matter the time or juncture. This is a bad piece. What God am I calling to? The same God that put me here. Even if he is benevolent enough to claw me out of this as I believe staunchly, this isn’t about deliverance, at least it mustn’t be, to the world. It is a Goddamn suicide note, and so I must be God-damned, not God endowed. Ah! Another poem called the “Suicide Note” itself, how convenient? Erebus was relieved, more so, because he had forgotten the lines. Seconds later, his eyebrows furrowed in frustration, as he realised it ended thus “I shall rise and shall live, as I had wanted, I shall revive myself, on this, I am bent.” Rise? Revive? Live? God! I am trying to DIE here, he said in a mellow voice, looking skywards, only to find the dingy grey ceiling of his room.
This won’t fly either. Something new then, Erebus set out on his next attempt at writing a convincing suicide note. Just then, an old manuscript that he never could bring to life peeked at him. Maithreyi, Erebus sighed, what are YOU showing your pretty face for, now? Don’t you know I am no longer the same Erebus that didn’t give a zilch about how the world said you were my muse and how we were in an affair? Well, I still don’t care about THAT, but I wouldn’t break my resolve to die just because I have to stand up against such aspersions. Of course, there is nothing physical between us, in the carnal sense of it. There are times I have wished I would rather have married you, and then there are times when I felt we were better off this way, in an undefined relationship. Remember? I once wrote a verse about you? “Oh! Maithreyi! Where amidst the thousand intricate frills, have you hidden my heart?” I probably want to remember that, along with my son’s face when I eventually sink to my death. And where, Maithreyi, have you hidden my creative self, that is now struggling to write a decent suicide note? I can’t seem to even write one line. If dying were normal and if I were sitting right next to you, telling you that I couldn’t write, you would first laugh, and then hold my hands and say this is the Erebus you like. You are probably one of those that will like only the flawed me; the only one that will make me like the flawed myself. And then, you will lead to me to the cafeteria, draw me into some conversations, take me on a walk to the gallery where your fine paintings embellish the otherwise dull white walls and then make me forget my plan to leave the planet. So, I will leave you here Maithreyi, you’ll be fine without me, just as you were all along. Your grace won’t die, only I won’t be around to see it. But that is fine. There is a lot more that I do not want to see, than I want to. And when what is taking place between us does straddle on emotional adultery, it is only appropriate that I take myself out of the equation. The world will say “oh! All artists have a muse or a dark side,” but I am not resurrecting to ward off that reputation for the sake of it. Wagging tongues will continue to wag and so, I will die. Erebus felt his eyes moisten as he wrote those last few lines.
He could never think of leaving Maithreyi. She was all the support he had. With her gone, he would be rendered lonely. But wait, Erebus told himself, I AM Erebus, not Anand, Maithreyi’ s dear one. For God’s sake, I am the one dying, not him, why am I thinking she will prevent me from dying? I won’t even know myself, even if there is another form of life. I may even be made into a demon for all my misadventures in life. Maithreyi has always been fine by herself and won’t have any trouble without me, and she has Anand. He felt much relieved.
Well, I am going to die anyway. Why not spend the last few minutes or hours becoming Anand and spend time talking to her? Well, I now know she is not for real, a character that was born in my heart, lives in my heard and will die a silent death when I die. Good idea!
Maithreyi was both a good and bad idea. She was his inspiration, alright. A non-existent fictional woman, his ideal. She was a dancer, a soul very much like himself that set forth on a chosen path of sacrifice of a different kind, to live her dream. And in that, she went one up, as he languished in a world of mediocrity, having never been able to determine his destiny until it was too late, leave alone fulfil it while it was still a good time. Maithreyi ushered him out of his silos and made him a writer, a writer that saw his writing as yet another gift of God, one unlike the ones before, which faded away due to factors both within and beyond his control. Maithreyi had removed the shackles off his bruised ankles and set him free, like she did to Anand, her fictional friend.
But then, what good is freedom, when it only makes you run faster to the boundaries of your confines? The shackles at least would have made his world seem larger.
Wounds healing is good, but those that remain are better, especially when the healing is pointless. Maithreyi, I don’t know if I have to thank you or strangle you. I can’t strangle you. But when I die, you will die too. I am sorry, but I can’t prolong my miserable life and for your sake, a mere figment of imagination, continue to live.
What a demon I have become? He thought for a moment. He turned on his laptop’s front camera to catch a glimpse of his face and see if any horns had grown. There was none. It was just a hazy, grainy picture of the same old face that he was familiar with.
Demons? Are they as bad as we make them out to be? The many traditions that I’ve come across, as an ardent follower, a casual researcher or a loathing doubter, they all have one trait in common – vilifying the demon. How, even the detached sages managed to generate loads of eloquently rancorous verses while writing about demons? It is acceptable to glorify God and good men, for they are meant to be revered and celebrated. But was it required to vilify the demons, just to add that bit of machismo to God? He reflected.
If not for the demons, how would we know the greatness of the devotees that they put through pain, and to slay whom, even God came down? If you see, God is portrayed as benevolent and omnipresent. And he dwells in the souls of the evil, as much as he lives in the souls of the good. And so, while our purpose and perception of God would be better served, if we regard the devils too as an instrument of God, but for a different purpose. After all, to show the whiteness of white, you need the darkness of Black, he remembered telling a friend of his.
Funny, isn’t it? He laughed at his pondering over matters of theology, with a bottle of poison in the drawer in front of him. Nectar and poison, he thought.
There is no poison. The poison in front of me is not a killer. It is actually the liberator. And like the demons that tormented the good, this will torment me for a while before putting me in the warm hands of God, so he may do what he feels is appropriate, Erebus shrugged.
Argh! Why do I even need a bloody note? I wish there was a spear here and I could just plunge it into myself, right through the chest. Would be worth more than a thousand words. Speaking of a spear, I can’t help but laugh at the story I wrote for a writing challenge. Let me read it, Erebus picked up a piece of paper pinned to a little notebook he used to record ideas and plots that occurred to him.
“Is your plaster fine? Looks saggy,” my wife asked in heartless monotone.
“You are supposed to ask if my hand is fine, not the plaster you idiot.”
“So long as the plaster is fine, your hand will be too, baby,” she said mockingly.
“Why don’t you then ask if the nurse is doing well? She is responsible for the plaster’s health,” I was livid.
“Don’t be such a baby, and why did you mention the nurse? You could’ve said doctor instead. Is something going on?”
“Ah! Come on. One, you don’t care about me and then you ask if I am cheating on you. You deserve to be in a bloody psyche ward, laughing at the grey walls rather than live here and ruin my life.”
“There you go again, making a mountain out of a molehill. You’ll now go on and on like a mile-long goods train that will go chug-chug-chug at a painfully slow pace and not let anyone get across. Go ahead. Start ranting. I will sit here and listen to it. You know, I’ve got nothing better to do with my life. Go on,”
“See. This is what you are good at. You start something and then belittle me for merely responding,” I said angrily.
“If you are such a good soul, why don’t you shut up and end the menace? Stop spearing me with your bullshit,” she continued in her condescending tone.
“Spear you? Do you even know what that means? I will show you,” I said and looked around hoping to get my hands on a spear so I could plunge it straight through her heartless heart. I only managed to get my hands on a hardbound book. Beggars are not choosers and I did not want a chance to go begging. I decided to make do with the book and landed blow after blow even as my wife, holding on to dear life, let out a shrilling scream and made a dash out of the house and into the street.
The next day, I was sitting in the psyche ward, staring at the endless grey walls.
Erebus laughed heartily. Boy! What an idiot? Who would want to end up in an asylum? One might as well die, like I am trying to do now. Or, would it be a saner deal to live in an asylum, free of having to be sane and normal? He couldn’t choose. To each, his own, so decided Erebus and looked at a small cardboard spear that he had made, after having written that story. Spear. Hmm, a poem of mine comes is flashing before me,
Fragrance, is the blood of flowers,
And thorns? They’re the flowers of blood,
For one that’s grown in the company of thorns,
Blood stained spears are but a brother ahead…
Hmm! Impressive, Erebus lauded himself. What harm can come over if I blow my own trumpet when no one is here to witness it? I will still go down as a humble man that couldn’t speak up for himself. It doesn’t matter anymore even if the whole world witnessed my patting myself on the back, for one that’s dead won’t be around to worry about what others think. I’ve wasted a lot of time on love, loathe and literature, he thought, I should go back to writing my suicide note. I should be lusting for it. He crumpled another sheet that had some gibberish and flung it into the dustbin. As he sat with the next sheet, clean and white and put pen to it, the word lust flashed in his mind.
Lust? Why am I thinking of it? Slanders of lust is what has landed me here, hasn’t it? Should I not loathe lust then? Why am I thinking of it? Well, for one, I am a man with his body in order, which means my glands get spurred on too. I am no saint. But I am no sinner either. Alright, I was kissed first when I was eighteen, and then once more by another when I was a few months older, to level the scores. Yep! A man saying, I was kissed, isn’t terrific. I know it borders on incompetence or plain cockiness or both. But then, it wasn’t as though I ran away. I took them, although not the woman that landed them. I didn’t judge them from it, one was a known flirt already and the other as it turned out, was an incomparable angel. But that wasn’t what I was looking for then and more so, not now.
And as it stands now, attractive women still... Well, I said attractive, so that means I do turn my head their way and then quickly away too. I don’t look for someone to come and turn me on like a bloody light bulb. But then when I am seen so, I can only say this. “My dear, one plus one will never become three. But if you keep harping on it and keep saying it is so, I might just make myself two, and then three it will be. But don’t blame me. You asked for it.” Am I wrong here? Am I merely using my adversity to feed my carnal desires? No. I am not. All I need is something visceral for the soul. Love. And I won’t get it and so, I will die. Erebus got back to working on the note.
“The flower has lost its fragrance. No one keeps a dry flower. I am one too, and so, I must go.”
Oh! Tch-tch-tch. Poor dear flower. Come on! A dry flower is already dead. Where is your bloody common sense? Think of something better you fool, Erebus was livid.
Some more coffee and a nap (Yes, a nap. Erebus took a power nap when he was not happy with his work to recharge the drained brain cells) later, Erebus felt charged up and raring, once again, to die.
“Erebus shall no longer erupt?” No.
“Mount Erebus buried in snow,” Eh! What is this gibberish? Anyone who knows either mythology or Antarctica will laugh. Think of your death. Not of an apocalypse.
“My dear friend, you asked me not to go by the pseudonym Erebus as it sounded like Airbus. It will no longer sound so, for I’ve decided to end his run. So long,” No way. If someone gets their hands on this, my friend would be implicated for no fault of his. All he wanted was for me to use my own name, so people would know I had a gift and not some Erebus. How could I implicate him? That I didn’t listen to him is another story. I am not itching to kill myself owing to his abetment. For that matter, no one, really, is responsible for this decision of mine. I’ve had enough and am ready to sail into another life, world through the portal called death. That is all. Coming back, this note won’t fly either. I am having a hard day thinking coherent thoughts, Erebus rued his sudden loss of clarity, direction and purpose, If I were to record every thought of mine into a book, it would be horrible. Just then, a bug made its way across his laptop into its den in a tiny crevice on the wall.
“A ladybug. Oops! Why did I say it aloud? Walls have ears. The bug has lady in its name, Erebus bit his tongue and looked around to find none. None other than the darkness and a now overflowing dustbin. That reminds me, he thought, let me call it some vermin. How I wish I turned into one, not a large one, but one the size of this la…, well bug, so I could just be crushed under a shoe or eaten by a lizard? Where I am, I would be both Kafka and the bug, he thought.
Kafka? The man is studied, for heaven’s sake and you? A cretin that can’t spell desperate correctly the first time, every time. You need the spell checker to tell you that it is an ‘E’ after the ‘S’ and not an ‘A’. And you say you would be Kafka, you vermin. Kafka would’ve turned in his grave by now, the writer’s conscience rapped him on his head. Well, I only meant from the standpoint of being a lifelong downcast, not a writer, Erebus silenced his conscience with that.
It doesn’t matter. Once dead, it wouldn’t make a difference whether I died as a mere pale skinned man or a colourful bug. Unless taken care of, both will feed greedy scavengers until nothing but the bones are left. Yuck! What a repulsive thought? Maybe I should not die here. Maybe I should go to the bridge and plunge into the roaring river and be swept away, never to be found. The Ganges they say, delivers the souls that die in it. The Gandaki? It would be a pity, for God’s aniconic forms are formed there. The sea? No, I hate salt in my throat and would probably fight the salt out of my nose when it gets in, and end up getting rescued and live on. No. That would be terrible. I have to die. Let me plead with the God of death! Let me entice him.
Oh! Cupid, dear God with the unfailing bow,
And arrows that sow the seeds of love, of passion,
In the hearts of the one struck by them,
For the ones that have prayed you’ve sent arrows their way,
And today! Oh! Cupid, I beseech thee,
That you please train your bow on the God of death,
God of death! Yes, that’s whom I seek,
So, he may put to rest, me and with me my predicaments,
And then, if I am ordained to be reborn, oh! Cupid,
I shall seek thy grace again, maybe to live and certainly to love,
Until then, for me to rest and revive, dear Cupid, God of love,
For me, train your guns on the God of death.
Retarded. You want cupid to lure the God of death into accepting you? Have you not heard how dispassionate and righteous he is? Is he one, in your view, someone that could be felled with a single arrow from Cupid? Wait, I am doubting the one that I just pleaded with. And a while back, I tried to lure another. There is neither scruple nor trust in my prayer. I am just groping in the dark, in a desperate effort to end my agony. This won’t do.
Erebus twitched in his seat. His attempts at writing a suicide note were taking him nowhere. Desperation set in. Well what the hell do I write?
“Going, without a word said,”
Wow! That sound amazing, and simple. It is brief, five words long to be precise. And yet, it says so much. It says there is a lot to be said and yet, there are no words, no last words that can sum up what I feel. It knows, like the dustbin here knows, every turmoil that brought me here. Holy God! This is it. Going without saying all that I want to say, or shout out. Now find out, if you are smart. It is all there and not there. That verily is the essence. A cryptic aphorism that would be open to a thousand interpretations and slurs. Slurs aren’t something I care about. Interpretations? That is interesting. How would people read it?
“The man that died had something to say, but chose not to, in order to protect his honour,” My honour? Ha-ha. You bet. I might as well leave a song in my praise in that case.
“The poor chap was in turmoil and couldn’t write what he wanted to,” Oh yes you are right. Only partially. I don’t have a clue on what I want to write. The problem is more the “what” and not the “how” as you seem to think.
“Scour the dustbin for clues,” God! No. You will find out how poor a scribe I am. Not even in death, I want that to happen to me.
“She must have ditched him. The cretin couldn’t take it and so took himself out,” Now that was expected. But hey! Not from YOU. Who are you by the way? I am used to only one person making such statements. You look nice by the way. I am a ghost, I have no scruples to live by, you see.
No. The note is no good, just like the many other ones I made. And I am not a ghost yet. I am still alive and am already revelling in the land of the dead or, in this same room, in paranormal form. Ludicrous. God! I am tired and I want to kill myself before sunrise. It is five AM. Have I ever complained about having to stay up so late when I was writing or thinking of writing? No. But today it is important. My writing could always wait for another day. Not this. This needs to happen here and now. I know you are in charge and I am sorry I am trying to rush you into getting my job done. But you know where I am more than I do and you know I want to die. I want to be taken to the land, The Legion of the Sun, a world I created. The world that Maithreyi belongs to. I want to become her Anand and lead a life in her caring arms. Forget all that. I don’t mind being baked, frozen, grilled, sautéed or fried. Just take me away, will you? Not having love won’t hurt so much anymore. I am used to it. You are a nice man, God! Erebus pleaded in desperation before realising he had his bottle of poison right in the drawer in front of him and God in none of the forms that he was familiar with, was withholding his hands or gagging his mouth.
*** Screech, pop, glug, glug, crash ***
And all that stood between him and these heavenly death sounds, was a bloody unwritten note that was killing him.
*** Ding dong ***
And here comes the milkman. Why does he have to come on time today, when he could very well have delayed his arrival?
“Sir! Good morning. How are you?” he asked and Erebus could only smile weakly.
“You look very tired sir. You didn’t sleep well, did you? Please don’t sacrifice your sleep for menial gains. You could kill yourself,” the milkman said, delivered the routine four packets of milk and walked away. Erebus shook his head in despair.
Oh! Yeah, Mr. Milkman, I spend all night trying to get the perfect suicide note on, and you think I will give it all up just because you told me? I have put on hold my decision to die my dear for the sake of a note and I will not stop until I get it right and then, I will die. I will have her reduce the number of packets of milk reduced so you don’t give me anymore advice. In any case, once I am dead, the number of packets of milk they will buy will go down at least by one. I am the one big coffee guzzler. Hemanth has just one cup in the morning and the other at night, Erebus thought and his mouth went dry for a moment. Hemanth. The poor kid will miss me if I were to die. Erebus knew Hemanth would never forgive him for this decision. He also knew, thankfully that his mother loved him and so, love would never be a problem. In any case, I will die of a heart attack or a burst vessel someday. It might as well be today. The earlier the better it is for the boy. No one will have to pull him out from the pit of attachment that would only get deeper with time, overcome by these thoughts, Erebus walked back to his desk to further his unflinching commitment to get his suicide note right before killing himself.
It had been a long night. The sun was peering in the East, sending ray after ray onto the sky. The neighbourhood cock cock-a-doodle-doo-d and the cows mooed. Coffee made from fresh milk in hand, Erebus sat down to make one last attempt. He took a few deep breaths, soaking in the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee. He gave himself up. He stopped thinking. He let his life flash before him.
Abuse, embrace, bullying, courage, betrayal, money, love, exploitation, care, separation, distrust loneliness, and a whole lot of other emotions played in front of him. There is so much to say, but I am unable to bring myself to, it is as though I have no words left. I am amused that I have no last words. What did I just think of? I have no last words! Amazing. That’s it. Time to write it down! Erebus was buoyed.
He had finally thought of a phrase befitting an author or at least that’s what he thought of himself. It indeed was beginning to seem like a swansong. He would now march into the sunset and not merely walk into it. He was proud of his last words that said he had none.
Time to clear the muck, he thought and moved about collecting all the notes that he had trashed all night long. He did not want any of them to ruin his masterpiece. He shredded them and then bagged them to be thrown away. He then picked up the strewn copies of his books that he had left to remain on the floor after rummaging through the rack earlier and much to his surprise, found his book of poems among them. This is why one must pursue goals without getting carried away, he told himself and laughed heartily. He then proceeded to carefully stack all of them in the rack, as they were, after wiping the rack clean of cobwebs and dust. He took one longing look at the rack, before returning to his desk.
With his new-found enthusiasm, he took a sheet of paper and his favourite pen. He had reserved it for us in memorable occasions alone and this would certainly be an unforgettable, if not memorable one about him although not for himself. It didn’t matter. The ink might as well dry out after he was dead, for no one would use the pen anyway. With the patience of a saint that wrote his verses hailing God almighty with all love and reverence, Erebus wrote his last words on the sheet,
“I have no last words.”
The clock struck seven.
Hearing the usual noise in the kitchen, he hastily pulled the drawer open only to see his little son sleep walking out of the other room. Hemanth it was. The little boy, having slept badly as his father had been away for an uncharacteristically long period of time, was walking towards the leg of a table, solid and blunt in the edge. While it wouldn’t cut, it would certainly cause a swelling or even a mild gash, depending on how hard one hit against it.
“Hemanth!” Erebus called and bolted out, landed on his knees and glided along, like a footballer celebrating a well taken goal with his hand stretched out. Just as Hemanth, still rubbing his eyes reached the edge, Erebus managed to wedge his hands between the delicate forehead of his son and the table, his knuckles resting against the leg, and his palm cupped and primed to catch the forehead that came its way. And catch, he did.
Scared and still half asleep, Hemanth he ran into his father’s arms and started crying.
“So much for your love for your son. You caught the table and not him. I don’t know if you love him or the table.”
Erebus smiled. The damn suicide note. If only I had managed to finish it last night, he winced. It is now killing me.
“And what is this?”
“Oh! That? I am entering a micro tale contest about a person committing suicide and need to send in my entry,” he said.
“And what is a micro tale?”
“Something that is really short in length. A micro tale is always around fifty words or so. This contest here is about writing a story in just ten words.”
“And you have been up all night trying to write ten words?”
“And you claim to be a decent writer.”
“I don’t. My friends and those that have read my books think so.”
“Ha! And what is this? I have no last words. What kind of a story is this? What does this convey? That you don’t have a decent story?”
“Wait, I am not done with it yet. I have written only five. I can write five more.
“And spend all of tonight on it? Do you remember you have a day job that feeds this family of ours?”
“Of course, I do and I am finishing this story now.”
“What are you looking at me for? Go ahead and write.”
“I can’t write with someone breathing down my neck.”
“You are such a Tsetse. Anyway, I need to get to work. I can’t let a delusional writer delay my day. And by the way, you never told me whom you are dedicating this magnum opus of yours to.”
“None? Why? You dedicate your books from everything from Gods to gnats.”
“No. Dedicating books is becoming a dangerous affair and I am having to explain it as though it is a bloody crime.”
“Oh! So the problem is with my trying to understand now?”
“You said you were getting delayed. Why let a delusional writer who cribs about his licensed partner asking him questions that she legally can ask? Go ahead, start your day.”
“You are slipperier than an eel. I will get you someday.”
Erebus looked around the house. Hemanth was in his playpen, building a tall and colourful tower with his building blocks. And then, there were edges. Many blunt ones like those of the table legs, many sharp ones, like those of the television stand and the book rack. And then, there were razor sharp edges. Those that weren’t made of wood or metal or stone. Those that wouldn’t leave a scar on the chin or the forehead – something that can be treated and let to heal – but penetrate and stab much deeper. They were invisible, abrasive edges that could slice through the hearts of the most loving, creative and strong and leave scars so deep and bloody, that they would make the soul crave for death, crave to spend all night up to write up the perfect suicide note and in the end to disregard even one’s own blood in favour of death, for the sake of peace of mind.
Erebus walked up to Hemanth in the playpen.
“What are you building kiddo?”
“A home for us, daddy.”
“How nice, Hemanth! But we already have a beautiful home, don’t we?”
“Yes, daddy. But I want a colourful one. I want to build a house with its own lawn, car, giraffe, elephant and penguin,” Hemanth said and looked innocently at Erebus.
Erebus laughed heartily.
“Why are you laughing, daddy?”
“Nothing my dear,” Erebus said and squatted right next to Hemanth. “Of course, we will need a large house if you need to have a giraffe, a lion, an elephant and a penguin. But for that, you need to fly all around the world. Ready to go on an airplane ride?” he asked Hemanth. Hemanth’s eyes lit up. He jumped up and landed on the outstretched arms of Erebus. Erebus ran all around the house, with Hemanth prone on his hands, with his arms outstretched like an airplane. The din that the two made filled the house and chased away every ounce of death from within.
There are many edges that I need to protect him from. My knuckles may bleed and be bruised, but that’s what I have them for, Erebus thought. It hurt him that all his resolve to depart had been ruined by his own obsession for perfection and then by undeniable reality.
I will live on, death can wait, he resolved.
In a while, he returned to his desk and finished his suicide note – now a micro tale. It read,
I have no last words. For, words last, no?
All of nine words, he was beyond himself with joy at having conveyed an entire story, the story of his life, and his belief that a writer lived on, till his words lived on.
He took a deep breath and looked at his work with pride. Maithreyi would be proud of me today, he thought before he called in sick so he could hit the sack for a long session of well-deserved sleep.
Later, Erebus wrote another poem, to record his earlier appeal to Cupid.
I pleaded with cupid to seduce the God of death,
So, he may embrace me and him, I may,
Whose conspiracy was it then that they copulated?
To kill death in the end, the one I so craved.