Through the equal spaced rusted rods of balcony, she could see acute darkness but a thin ray of hope, light as well. In the tranquil winters of January it was not too difficult to observe the hissing of high tension wires, and the occasional chirping of crickets as if they shivered of the chilly wind. The night was perfectly dark and silent as if the universe has slept all together at once. The narrow street that her eyes could mistily identify was deserted and scary. Since evening, she had her eyes fixed at the street, ears waiting to hear the gentle creak of the wooden door at the entrance of the garden that bore varieties of perennial flowers; heart restless and impatient. Myriads of awful thoughts crisscrossing her mind with every receding moment that seemed like years of solitude in a refugee camp-hapless and hopeless. Even numerous rounds of useless walk down from her bedroom to balcony couldn't console her fast-skipping heart or tire down her body. Love is such a disease, she had always believed; neither has it allowed one to live in peace nor it fades away in anger or frustration, rather it grows stronger with every moment of separation.
It was just after the lunch, when she was contemplating the fight over the dining table, that the phone rang. Still absorbed in her thoughts amidst soiled utensils, she didn't run this time for the phone call. For several years now, she had loyally attended every afternoon call. And in no time, the incessant cacophony was put to an end. Without saying a word, while she still was in the kitchen, Colonel left the house in a hurry. And by the time she came hearing the sudden jolt at the door, he was already gone- into the smoke-storm that his Buick trailed.
It wasn't new to her, the fights over petty issues after his retirement. He never seemed to enjoy the life other than what he thought he was born for. The occasional resentments in their relationship were quite apparent as he hardly had time to take her for shopping, dinner or just a walk, social gatherings being an exception. It was the twenty-fifth spring that they had seen together since they vowed to take care of each other on the Christmas of 1976. They both had looked so together, made for each other, looking into each other’s' eyes while the rituals were being performed. Soon after the marriage they had left for the beaches in Maldives for their honeymoon, miles away from the people who had attended the ceremony. Colonel, a handsome Lieutenant in his late twenties then, was to report immediately to his camp upon their arrival, was in favor of fathering a baby as soon as possible, while her lady with deep blue eyes and charcoal black hair was in no hurry. And on the third night of their honeymoon, she had cried with her lungs out over their first fight. But soon he would with his magical charms bring her back smiles that will explode until late night, when they would cuddle into each other talking about the life ahead, exposing each other’s' little imperfections and arguing over the name of the would-be baby.
And just over two years since, out of their wedlock was born their only child. A boy who had the beauty of his mother, except his broad jaw that reflected in him his father. Right from his formative years, the boy was intelligent, socially awkward and a little aloof. And by the time he was in his teens, he had already been bequeathed by three premier schools of the town. Though his behavior was blamed but speculations were high that the boy was genius enough to be despised among peers and teachers. It was upon the Colonel's cousin's suggestion that the boy was asked to write the entrance paper of School Of Advanced Studies, a school that was the home of many Einsteins and Newtons, where people of all age-groups shared their ideas in complete isolation from the materialistic world. To much of everyone's surprise the boy had performed better than most of the well read adults, and the school had done every possible effort to rope in the genius kid. And the night of his departure, the couple had wept together for the first time, comforting each other at times.
But, not long after the departure of the boy, Colonel's behavior gradually started to change. He would go furious if his socks were replaced every day, he would always look agonized, irritated and the smile seemed to have faded for long. The behavior continued to grow by many times upon his retirement, when he would lay reading, or sometimes watering the flowers, watching television at times but most of the times blabbering with his own. He would laugh on his own; abuse himself and sometimes hiding into a corner will sob like a baby. But all these idiosyncrasies were latent to his wife, except that she found him more annoying and irritated as he aged.
She had presumed, the feelings were probably never the same as she had dreamed at her honeymoon or may be the feelings had subdued gradually as the time had made them to take each other for granted. Whatever she had thought, a chaste corner of her heart still beat for him, and deep inside her heart she still loved him with vigor. She would secretly weep at night, biting the pillows and cursing herself to have hurt him. Graciously, she would take all the blames and apologize even when they both knew it wasn't her fault. So much was she in love that with each passing moment in his wait, she had felt closer to a slow death that seemed inevitable.
The media were in frenzy, for the laureates of the coveted Turing Prize were announced in the wee hours. What distinguished this years' prize was the seminal work in the field of Riemann Hypothesis, by three relatively young mathematicians. Newspapers and televisions were flooding with the breakthrough that was alleged to change the world of computation and data security. Fellowships and honorariums were queued up for the vanguards of academia, the faces of future. Apart from the handsome amount of cash that they were entitled for, they would have the privilege to pursue the research at their own conditions anywhere in the world.
“For how long had he been bleeding?” asked the officer, with an expression of worry and disbelief. Vapors of uncertainty could easily be seen upon his forehead. After thinking for a while the officer directed his assistant to get him thoroughly checked by a medical practitioner. It was hard to believe for him, how could a young man having so much life yet to see could endanger his life. It was almost certain that he had already lost his will to live his life.
Since last year he had been under constant depression and in a habit of excessive drug abuse. Several setbacks, that for him seemed no less than giant failures had slowly pulled him into the world of forgetfulness and sorrowfulness. Bereaved by not being able to produce anything that the academicians could count on and the prospect turmoil in his personal life, he had trusted more on the stray weeds than on hope. One after other his aspirations and dreams had met rejections from the people who once had encouraged him. The never-dying strive to create a name for himself and living up to the expectations of people around him had broken him. He had been thinking more about what others' will say, than himself. He had ventured with at least three mentors before stabilizing with Dr. Allen Cooper, a fresh graduate and an expert in the field of Finite Mathematics, four years back. They were more like friends, discussing everything from academics and politics to personal life. Dr. Cooper will frequently invite him over lunches and dinners, with his beautiful fiancée Amy of East-Asian origin who was three years junior to him. They had just been engaged, but infidelity in their relationship had been a constant gossip around the campus. Rumors were there that she still met her boyfriend secretly, after he had apologized and persuaded her to come back with him. Whatever be the truth, Dr. Cooper and Amy never let it apparently visible while they were together.
In just two years of their association, they had worked on some of the most difficult problems producing a number of significant results that were of notable standards. There were talking, in the academic world regarding their work and many had even started thinking they might be the face of this year.
Everything was flowing quite smoothly until one morning, Dr. Cooper found few papers in the dustbin.
Thinking the maid might have thrown some papers of use, he carefully unfolded the papers that were molded into a ball. He couldn't believe for a moment, thinking it might be a prank, but as soon as he started frisking his fiancee's cupboard and wardrobe, a feeling of betrayal started engrossing him. Numerous cards and letters, safely locked inside the empty packs of lingeries, he could now learn why her phone was switched off at many occasions while he was busy in attending conferences all over the world. Maddened with betrayal of love and trust, he hadn't sought any answers from his fiancée but instead planned to meet his student. But, hearing this year's Turing Award was conferred upon him, he had decided to postpone the meeting till next day.
It was probably the hardest blow that they both could have ever got on a single day. If on one hand, the professor was feeling to have fallen in an estranged relationship, on the other side the award-committee didn't honor the work of the student, who had by all his heart and passion worked upon the lion's share of the theory, while the credit was declined to him. Paralyzed with grief and bitterness, and scared of the outcome of his illegitimate yet intimate relationship, he had set out for a journey, that night, not knowing where to go. He was too overpowered of emotions, failures, and drugs to think anything, his legs trembled as he walked down the road, eyes could see only blurred images, and the sounds didn't sound at all.
Colonel couldn't believe his own blood could be so coward and weak, while driving Buick at her maximum. The brief story that he could remember was flashing again and again before his moist eyes, the heart impatiently and falsely praying for a life while somewhere in his heart's corner he had already lost the battle. What will he say to his wife, who had for all these years waited for her son's afternoon call, who had been deprived of her right to know everything about her son that he didn't tell her. All these thoughts kept coming to him while the unknown voice over phone continued to echo in his ears “Colonel, your son has committed suicide”.
© Rakesh Pandey