It is usually a ritual at his shop to light the cigarette in your own. To pick up one of the thin white strips of the card paper, carefully descend it in the chimney lamp. Pull out the strip carefully and light your cigarette up before the strip turns into ash. A dark black line, difficult to stay firm in d wind. I try to look out for the strips. He bends over his one foot counter and lights me a match. This is how the smiles repay you. I light my cigarette on the small flame at the tip of a small stick, protected by his cupped hands. I smile again. He smiles back in acknowledgement. Not a word spoken between tow of us during this. Yet, like a jet stream flow the words amongst us.
I start walking up the hill again. Slowly smoking my cigarette. Walking against the mild breeze that runs down the hillock. The smoke I blow out, runs along with the wind. And the moonlight, like concierge, keeps an eye over them. Monitoring their slow progression down one hill. And up the other. The wind and the smoke go hand in hand.
I keep walking ahead. The cigarette to keep me company, in this lonely, sleepy town.
I take the turn towards my room. A pregnant woman sits on the public bench with her husband. They are having an ice-cream. A cheap one. Mewad. I pass by them. They don’t look at me. They are engrossed in the world of their own. They remind me of Mom and dad. My Mom always said that she used to have a lot of ice creams when I was in her womb. My mom and dad would’ve looked just like them while having an ice cream. And a smoker must‘ve passed by them when they were doing so. But they probably wouldn’t have noticed him. Not probably. For sure they mustn’t have. These two didn’t notice me. Maybe when their child grows to be of my age, he too will pass a couple having an ice-cream. And they won’t notice him. And the cycle would go on.
I come to my room. I climb the rusted iron stairs and stand before the main door. I knock it. Piyush opens it. I smile to my luck. The ever enthusiastic fucker. Enthusiastic to the extent of opening the door before anybody else would even move from their seats.
“Welcome my friend…..welcome!” He welcomes me with open arms. He puts his arms around my shoulder and takes me into the passage.
I wish someone or the else comes to disengage his hand from my shoulder and talk more than the types of majestic greetings Piyush delivers. But no one comes forth. I doubt if there is someone to do that. I pass by Samrat’s room. It’s closed. I sense the danger. We reach our room. It’s empty. Within the resonance of my mind, I yell out…..Maa ki aankh!!
“Where are the rest?” I ask.
“They are gone to live their lives….” The royal arse replies.
What a pity! People go out and live their lives. And they leave poor Piyush back to sulk alone.
And he is left all for me. To fill his bullshit into my ears. I need more ear buds. Cleaning it off my ears stays a task at the end of the day.
“….and so did you!...but you returned before them…” he continues.Yes I did return my friend. To listen to you.
“I was with Harshad…..he had some problem…” I try to explain. I know it would be in vain. Yet I try.
“Did I ask??....I am just happy that you returned.”
“What happened?” I ask with a face of a seer. To guess that something has happened from the way he is talking, doesn’t require you to be a seer. But this does shock him.
“How did you know that something happened…”
“I can understand dude!”
“You are the only one who understands.” He hugs me.
I hold him by his hands and slowly move him away from me, careful enough to not hurt his delicate inner self.
“Now tell me…..what happened?” I am not so eager to know. But the venom has to be spilled. Or he will keep spitting it on us every now and then. And I am sure the magnitude of his distress could range from ‘nobody dried his rinsed underwear’ to ‘Someone shot a cow in Iraq’. His has a problem. And it is that he has problems. And the problem further complicates when nobody understands him. Except one human being. Me!
“There is a problem”, he says.
I had guessed that already.
“What problem?” I ask.
“See…” I hate it when he says this. See. It spoils the entire tempo of emotion that he and the listener are being flown in. After an emotionally charged preface, comes a word which pulls the entire effect to a mere ‘matter of fact’. Like a women speaking about importance of contraception after a wild sexual encounter. See. Yes I am seeing you. Speak further. He would. I knew that he would. And he did. “…..I am disclosing this only before you…because only you understand me….”
I nod in acceptance and acknowledgement. Gandu!
“…I don’t want anybody else to know about it….”I move my head sideways this time. Indicating, ‘Trust me mate! Nobody would!’.
“….I….have a problem….”
One more time, and it would be a hat trick.
“…..and it is that…..I am in love!”
Goodness gracious me! One more time. One more moron.
Unbelievable! I couldn’t believe myself. What was I hearing? Another son of a bitch had fallen in love. And guess what?!...Who is the most eligible man who could be trusted with this information? Me! Of all their friends…Me! Of all their friends in the world….Me! I am the trusted. The loyalist. The man who could understand. The worldly wise. I am the ultimate human for all the people in love could come and entrust their secret with. Damn them!