He didn’t seem in pain. But something was wrong I was at R’s house when I asked –
R showed me his hands. A red rash had broken out in patches on both his hands.
Will you still be attending the gig?
Oh most certainly!
This is because of stress, i said.
Could be, he countered, will only increase if I don’t go out.
I watched R – my friend, my brother from another mother. I said nothing. Before leaving i glanced back at the raging red that were his hands.
Next day morning
I sat on my bike when the call came. The name displayed – M. It kept ringing & ringing, I let it. Too early in the morning to hear his sorrows. Interestingly his number on my cell displays as M with couple of heart emojis next to it. M displays in white, hearts in blue. All set against a black background.
I could never store a number like that – not because I don’t want to but because I don’t know how to. But M could have done that. M can be like that. The call rang till it died down. I left it at that.
The new track was good. I wanted to add it to my playlist. I looked up – signal still red. I reached in my pocket, removed my mobile – on the main screen it displayed – L’s message. My eyes flickered – I read;
Am on the train
How much longer? I typed. Then went back to the music tp add it. For that I had to tap on the heart symbol.
Three hours, she messaged back immediately. I had not expected her to, she usually took time.
How’s the leg? I typed – a part of me not wanting to ask, a part of me still angry with her for going away when I had asked her to stay. Signal turned green, honks, vrooms, dust, the works. I had to ride ahead. No other way.
Still swollen, wrapped in ice packs, her reply. I stopped just ahead of the signal to read m, then I didn’t wait, moved on.
A great sadness & grief surrounds me. I know it will be like this for some time. Before it will not. L’s last message. I read it only after my journey had ended. Too late by then.
Let’s have dinner before I head back.
Usually we finished work and went home. But I wanted to delay going home. Luckily my buisness partner S agreed.
Let’s go to that Asian food place
To reach the place we had to cross a traffic signal. This was near her place where we met often. It was late evening, long shadows and all.
I looked left-right and crossed the busy junction in a flash. Then I turned back. S was still standing there in her blue dress on the other side.
What happened? I cried out. Almost. Stopped myself just in time.
Because I remembered – she has something known as ‘Retinitis pigmentosa’ – that leads to tunnel vision. This means she gets stressed at crowded places and footpaths, especially in the evenings. And this was a really busy junction. So obviously she’s stressed.
I walked a little further, crossed the road again at a distance and went back near her. Her focus was only ahead on the road. I said in a casual voice –
Okay now let’s cross over.
Wait, she said nervously.
Relax. No vehicles.
Okay – she said. Then she put one foot forward quite unsure. The next and the following ones were steadier as I walked besides her continuously talking about some stupid thing or the other. I saw the sweat on her forehead, betraying her calm face.
Thank you – S said once we were on the other side.
For crossing over.
How do you know? I asked in surprised disappointment.
I just know – S smiled. We walked ahead silently avoiding the footpath and taking the busy streets.
Indeed I feel quite overwhelmed at present. Too much to be done and im way behind schedule. Besides I have health issues that I am ignoring and surviving on pain killers. Now I am getting used to them. so right now really wont be able to give you the time. Maybe after my show –
This was a friends reply to me on email. What happened was –
I was meeting an artist friend after a long time. We met at an old joint – tables by the sea. She had a glass of wine, I didn’t. We spoke of a lot of things – love, life, lockdown. At that point I wanted her to do a project where I document her artistic process. She agreed. Later I realised she felt frazzled and must have said yes because of she could not say me no I sent a voice note telling her please feel free to not do this.
The above was her reply.
I wrote back with a smile to take care and hope to connect soon.
I then put my head down on the table. It was aching – pain from my acidity – pain from my aches – sometimes it’s the legs the belly. I don’t know whose pain I am holding now. Is it mine? Or someone else’s?
My phone rang again. it was M. I let it ring. Till finally I picked up.
Bro, I had a bad fall.
What? How? When?
He told me – out for a cycling trip. Wayward car cut him, scraped, his bike skid and he fell badly, been hospitalised in some god forsaken place.
That’s when I called you yesterday.
Which hospital? He told me. As we spoke, I began dressing up. I had no choice but to run to his pain.
Photo credit – Google images – couldn’t get tbe name of the artist. Thank you anonymous!