He turned twenty four that night


It was glowing dark. The clocks were sleeping. He was standing there, looking at the infinite nothing, contemplating about the absurdities of life. The longer he focused on the dimly lit wall just across the road, the more he sustained the drag off his cigarette.  His new friends were there, down at the hall, busy amongst themselves, and probably too drunk to care about his presence. The music was too loud to bear. He decided to go back to his hotel. The night was growing on him. He stood at the perch and waved for an auto before realising that he was waving at absolutely nothing. It was 2 A.M and no autorickshaws were in sight. The streetlights were flickering. A pleasant breeze was rustling through his hair creating a sweet sound. The dogs were sleeping. There wasn’t a living soul around. It was a comfortable silence. The kind of silence you feel when you are at funerals. The city was new for him and so were the people. He decided to walk down to his hotel. He was not able to walk straight because of the occasional whiskey he consumes and that night was one such occasion. Yet he managed to reach his hotel. The receptionist, with doozy eyes, welcomed him half-heartedly. He didn’t acknowledge her and went straight back to his room. He wasn’t happy but he wasn’t sad either. He lit a candle and sat by the window. He took out another cigarette and lit it from the candle’s flame. The life he chose for himself seemed like a big mistake.The dreams he gave up to secure his future were haunting him. The lies he told to himself in the name of practicality were pinching him hard. But then he looked at the expensive wine standing gracefully in front of him and that made him smile. It wasn’t one of his best smiles. It wasn’t the smile which reflected his sense of contentment and satisfaction, it was the smile which expressed everything other than that. That smile evinced his helplessness, and he tried to cover it, with another smile.

The hands of the clock made a right angle at a very wrong time. It was 3 A.M. He went down the memory lane. He started remembering his last few birthdays. Some memories made him laugh and some didn’t. Well, most of them didn’t. He took out his phone and looked up for his childhood friend’s number. He took another drag off his cigarette, this time a longer one, and dialled the number. The number wasn’t available anymore. He was about to break down. The guy who always found a companion in solitude felt lonely that day. A tear rolled down his cheek. He collected it in his palm and looked at it. It disappeared. He never used to cry. He hated crying. But there his life was, rolling down his cheeks, one drop at a time. “Twenty four years”, he said, while staring out of the window. Twenty four years without crying. His philosophy was failing him. All those existential books that he had read to escape the reality were failing him. His success was failing him.

The phone started ringing. He bought the phone a day before as a gift to himself. He didn’t save anyone’s numbers. Not that he had a great memory but he believed that this is the only way to bring some amount of uncertainty in his life. Within a second, he started speculating how the call could be from his childhood friend, or is it my ex, or – he looked at the watch, it was 3:10- no, not my mother, definitely not her, before finally picking up the phone. It was one of his new friends who was still at the party. “Where is the party boy? ” He disconnected the phone without saying a word. Life isn’t that uncertain after all. The candle started glowing brightly. He blew the candle off and mumbled “Happy Birthday”. He turned twenty four that night.

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