Five more lines and I reach my last paragraph. It’s a Monday, the 28th of October, 2019. I have been absolutely certain I’d be walking out with my coffee-mug in my hands, foretell a sky full of clouds judging from a previous night’s drizzle but not once had I presumed that today out of all the different days of the year, would be the very day I’d finish my book. I wrote down my last chapter and heaved a big sigh in my empty study. I looked through the pages in subtle delight and felt my fingers leaf through pen-engravings dotting every line from wordings written on the other side. The little bumps in every page felt relieving. I shut the book, taking in all the smells and pointed my ears to the stairs above. Tinklings of the China crockery behind the glass shelves came floating down through the railings. And from behind the bouquet and by the sides of the frescoes, an elderly face popped up and looked straight into my eyes.
“Ready for the trip to your aunt’s?” she declared excitedly.
“Yes definitely, I have even got the Lasagna packed and partly chilled about an hour before that.
Mom has begun detaching herself from cries of a dark past and today, I have noticed the trapped sunshine peep from behind the rocks as she broadly smiled savouring a fondly glance at every piece of crockery she used to set up today’s breakfast.
“ I wanted you to take some of those Lillies down the corner. Would you care to buy me some, son ?”
I walked off, arms around my book, taking it with me like flaunting a retriever down the streets. Recalling all those lost days of loneliness, and people eyeing me as crazy, every drop of sweat I shed every night to stream my mind through the mess of thoughts, deadends and darkness, strumming words into sentences over sleep, working past words of hate flung at me by friends and family, who loved crushing this ardour that kept me going all the way. The relief was so refreshing, I kicked off maples from a sideheap and hurled them up into the air.
“Hey lay off! That’s mine.” a kid shrieked on the other side, fighting off another of his age. The tussle was over ice cream, the older, as usual, tryin’ a gain over the younger by forcing the little one’s head into an elbow-lock. The younger kid was no fool. He kicked back hard over the older’s thighs and ran off. I, feeling all fresh and healthy, felt gracious enough to lend myself to every person and shrieked, “Oaye! You lads can quit messing around.” Watching them resume after a momentary back-glance I raised my voice, “You stop this fight or I call the cops!” All at once the fat, big bully stopped and bogged off ahead, leaving the little one alone. I smiled. Felt like a little hero.
Bunch of lillies in my hands, I returned back at home, jubiliant with thoughts on the little act of kindness and greetings from people out on the streets, and every plain pleasantry appearing as congratulatory notes for finishing the book. Elated by the favourable feelings of the day, I didn’t hesitate even to join the vagabond with the guitar down the subway-laneway, for a tap-dance, attracting enough alms to feed him three meals for one full day and atleast two meals for the next.
It grew dark and the gas lamps were lit all around the city and more and more people filled into the streets, tired after a day’s work, lunging for a long awaited friends’ party or working men grabbing a cab just to rush back to a loving wife back home. The wind began blowing through the streets in gushes, curving around poles, street-bends, through tunnels and open doorways alike, dimming gas lamps and producing little twisters of the maples over the pavement.
“ We have to go through the subway. It’s getting somewhat chilly!”he thought.
He ran home fast and yelled from the doorway, making his voice heard through the wind, “ Mom, are you ready? We got to get moving. The wind had begun gathering speed.”
“ Yes dear” a muffled voice answered from the other side of the door.
“Please donot forget to take the Lasagna from the fridge.”
“ Definitely not,son.”
Soon enough, we were out in the streets, waging with the wind. We took a little flight of steps next to an alleyway off the mainroad, for cover from the wind, in a place where the gush was less this time. At the very bottom of the stairs we joined another road which ended up in a tunnel that looked dark and unwelcome.
“This is a bad timming” mom screamed through the howling wind.
“ Then shall we call it off?”
“ Oh no son! Don’t do that. Ah! We’ll make it through. Let alone my thoughts, son. Plus, your lasagna shouldn’t go to waste.”
I decided against going through the tunnel, remembering an yet shorter route, which began in direction right opposite our own, and finally, round the very bend of the streets, the subway-entrance did finally show its face and I was all relieved to see it. A little hillock of maples lies next to the entrance.
Helping maa climb down the last flight of stairs, we went straight ahead and kept taking the turns. One turn. Then another turn. There wasn’t anybody around. We seemed like the only people in the subway-station. And it was very quiet with nobody around. Why is it so quiet I wonder. At the fourth turn, we saw a little fella, seated below, wearing an unkempt parka jacket, a homeless person, perhaps, saving himself from the wind.
“ You got a dime, son?”
“ Yes. I’ll give him, don’t worry.”
I came unto him. “Hey there fella!” and then, placing two fifty pence dimes into his bowl, I was about to walk away with my mom when he held me by the scruff of my coat, and then, glaring at me, demanded firmly, “ Mister you better give me that bag of yours or I’ll take your life.” I looked down below at the metal impinged at my chest. I was being placed at gunpoint. And this fellow was only gaining for the muzzle-end was being pushed further and further against my buttons. My one hand still held over my mom’s who was screaming by now, I pushed him behind, but his lusty sinews was out there, far stronger and smarter for me to overcome and I felt myself thrown behind hard on the floor, my bag crushed underneath me, while those lusty arms, to my horror, closed around the front of my poor mother’s bosom and this pistol, this time, was aimed straight for her head.
“ The bag, Sir, or I take away her life.”
My mom was screaming in muffles, her lips shut by the rogue’s other hand, angry veins visible through tight skin. I shivered and froze, casting away every urge to lung forward. My book was inside. I had to take it out before I gave it away. The rest didn’t matter. I was about to go open it, one eye laid against my mommy when he spewed his last warning, “ Sir, you touch the zipper and I grill her brain to flames!” I froze to the chilliest cold. A human heart can be colder than any December! I blushed in shame, fear and pain. The only thing that matters now is mom, my years of hardwork having gone to waste for good. I cried but didn’t budge my gaze off my mom.
“ Go take it then, you cold- blooded human.” I shrieked at him through my tears and flung the bag at him while throwing my open arms at my mom who was fainted over me, being let off the rogue’s arms, who caught the bag and
fled in his skateboard, like a frightened gazzle, with too amputed a spirit to atleast glance behind even the tinniest bit of remorse. Embarrassed and hurt, I looke at my mom, eyes shut over my arms, and cried.
That was a month back. And here’s my book lying right now next to me. I caught the crook and had my share of punches against his jaw bones at the jailhouse, when I realised he didn’t feel them. He didn’t know love. He was an animal. Anyways, the publisher will call me anytime soon. For now, see you! Got to go, help mom with the flowers.
——By Miss Nilanjana Haldar