“Nobody could say what is going on in your mind. You just don’t show your emotion. You are afraid of being human”. He knew it was a mistake when he signed up for that anonymous feedback website. The people who don’t have the spine to tell their issues with him on his face, hid behind the anonymity and spewing venom. And why do they want to know what is going on in his mind? He wondered. It is a terrible place anyway.
He closed the windows and walked out of the house. It was time for his cigarette. He would go to the terrace of the apartment complex and smoke peacefully. Very few people frequented the terrace. But the match box he carried that day ran out of matches. He looked around to see if Karthi was there.
Karthi stayed a floor above him and was mostly in phone with his girl friend or his friends. He had shifted to the apartment complex recently but kept in touch with his old area mates. He was very afraid of losing touch with them and they shared the same feeling. Most of the time he would be discussing about the weekend cricket matches which they lost or the strategy for the upcoming match. Karthi was the only person who wouldn’t frown or move away when he came to terrace. People almost equate smoking to leprosy these days. Not that he minded them. Karthi was talking animatedly in his phone. If he finishes his call, he may send Karthi down to get a new matchbox from his house.
The evening sun was setting with a purple hue. The birds were returning home and a slight chill sneaked in to which his skin responded magnificently. He thought about the comments he had received in the anonymous feedback website. The ones who admired him didn’t have to use the app. He didn’t felt the need to share the responses and post it in his social media since most of the messages he received were not so good in attitude and he didn’t want to explain himself to anyone. He never did.
They asked why he doesn’t laugh anymore. They don’t know his mother suffering from cancer and the toll it took on his dreams, ambitions and career. Now he worked part time to make ends meet and work from home so that he can take care of his mother. If something happened to her now, he was not sure whether he would be sad or relieved. He thought about the men leaving his house without telling him. First his father and then his brother. He couldn’t imagine who would be there in the house once his mother passed away. The bed will be there, the utensils in which he cooked porridge for his mom will be there. The medication and his mother wouldn’t be there. He didn’t even know what he would do with the free time, not caring for his mother. But he didn’t want to burden anyone with these things. Even when he thought of opening up with someone, albeit in virtual world, they had bigger problems. Like appraisals and broken mobile screens. He had to play counsellor for them most of the time.
He couldn’t remember the last time he cried. He looked at Karthi who had then sat down. Karthi was wiping his face with his shirt sleeves. The sun hadn’t left yet, he thought. He was in no hurry. He realized it was so many days since he witnessed sunset out in the open. It was always from the window beside his mother’s bed or he wouldn’t even know it was evening as he would be typing away furiously when his mother slept and didn’t need his care. Sunsets are good he thought, but not more than sunrises. It is the oldest and the newest thing at the same time presented to the human kind.
He had locked his house leaving his mother inside the house. He was not even carrying his mobile phone if his mother needed something. He walked down to his house and opened the door with minimum sound. His mother was still sleeping. She had immense pain in her and her face showed it. He took the matchbox from the pooja room and walked back to the terrace. Karthi was not talking into his phone anymore but he was agitated walking up and down.
“Poor guy, his team must have lost another match,” He thought. He lit his cigarette and took a deep breath. His mother, even though she had lost most of her senses, didn’t approve that he smoked. But being powerless, she couldn’t do anything more than refusing to eat when he spoon fed her. It took her some time to understand his shortcomings and accept it. He had walked several miles like Karthi did then, when his life became difficult. He was just a boy when things went down south. Now after fifteen years, he didn’t know how he coped up without shedding a single tear and taking it all in him.
Karthi walked to him as if a man was possessed. He was going to say something. Karthi had that conviction in him as he walked towards him. Like a elderly housewife walks to temple and cry hear burdens to the idol, it doesn’t matter if anybody listened to him or not. “Anna I loved this girl for five years na.” Oh shit, counsellor role again, he thought. “She stopped talking to me five months back. Now her cousin says she got some disease and she will not survive” Karthi made no effort to hide his tears. He didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t one to open up and he wasn’t the first choice of anybody to open up to him. “Listen. Cry all you want. But go see her. Medical science has advanced in recent years.” He didn’t want to drop the cigarette and go to Karthi. After all it was his well deserved break.
“I don’t know what to do na” Karthi was wiping his tears in his shirt sleeves. “Wait a minute. I will go down and bring her picture” he said as he ran down the stairs. “I can’t stay. I have locked my mother at home” but Karthi was at his home before his voice reached down the stairs. When he came back he had a photo of a very young girl smiling at the camera. He took the photo from Karthi.
“What is her name?” he asked.
“And what are you Karthi? Twenty five years old?”
“I am twenty four na; she is twenty two” Karthi tried to take back the photo from him. For some reason his eyes got fixed on the photograph. She was just twenty two. He was smoking two packets of cigarette every day and nothing happened to him. What would be her mistake for her to get the disease? He couldn’t say. It started as a single tear dripping down his cheek without his knowing. In next two minutes he was bawling his eyes out with Karthi.
“I have never known you. But you are a really good person” Karthi said between his sobs. “After all who cries like this for another person’s misery”
He didn’t know who would cry for him or who he was crying for. But it felt good. The sultry evening gave away for a rainy evening as the drizzle started and consequently the clouds opened up.
He didn’t stop crying.