I was a born champion
(for Rhensis’ "The Booksie Contest Of A Lifetime")
Seeing the clouds transform their shapes almost with consistency, more often than a chameleon will, makes me project a smile subtly – a smile that is not defined by the widening of lips but one that lurks like the blood flow in mortal veins – present, yet unfelt; I keep on looking at it letting alone the care and safety, I must be laden with, when walking in the main road; I observe the slow drift of the ephemeral clouds; I sighed, on comparing it mentally to the inconsistency of human life; I shift my vision to see an empty road; the same road will have hosted countless number of automobiles, of all sorts, of all colours, of all brands, whizzing past pedestrians, piercing the innocent wind, provided the time is not past 11 p.m. Now it looks deserted. The moon succeeded in showing me my way.
Oh! Here I stand finally. The Roomedge Bridge. I wonder why it received such an awkward name. Maybe room’s edge? Strange names. I decide not to research further; moreover, I won’t be here anymore in my mundane flesh, should a few minutes pass. More than I succeed, in feeling the silky breeze linger on my visage, I feel water slide from my eyes. “Oh, god, I’m crying! Oh, come on Arun, you’re a man; you’re not supposed to cry” – an inner voice says. I’m not sure if it is from my good will or bad will. I choose not to care about it. In a few minutes, I’ll not hear it anymore.
I grab the steely rail under which runs the river Roomedge. I know this river and this place more than anyone else here. The bridge is built such that the road is a two-lane road; the steel rail that serves as the boundary, runs horizontally on both the sides, at a height that will meet a man’s head. It can be climbed using two horizontal shafts that lay equi-spaced from the upper one.
Me and my gang, used to play here in my younger days where there are not much automobile population as it is now. Oh my dirty mind! The moment the words “me and my gang” materialized in my brain, it redirected my thoughts upon Rascal Flatts’ album! How insane am I to think of them, when I’m in so depressed a state! Well, anyway that doesn’t matter anymore!
Oh, now my memory serves me very well; very well, to my utter dismay – screening to me the moment I hate the most! I see my figure standing in front of that Mr. Brown, to whom I’m compelled to cede all my assets – my house (almost a mansion), my Honda Civic, my 150cc Yamaha, my plastic dies company, my everything! The only thing that he didn’t take from me is the ubiquitous oxygen.
It is my wrong ways of living – gamble, women, drugs and doses etc, and they had eaten my life away; to get away from numerous debts I was in, I borrowed a huge amount from Mr. Brown. Well, I failed to pay and now it had cost me my entire lifetime! Escape a hot pan only to land on fire! The only asset that I’m having now is my abrading confidence. Now I’m nothing but a skeleton wearing a coat of black human skin – the grace of consistent ODs.
I’m now a homeless man. I feel abashed to think that before a month I used to sneer at the homeless. Well, God is just, at least, in my case. There is nothing I could live for and no one who can lend me a shoulder. I believe what I’m about to do is the best decision I’ve taken my entire lifetime. All is never well. I stand on the thin rail shaft seizing a column (that supports the bridge) that stands to my left. The shaft provides space for just a very small part of my shoes – I stood on the toe part of my shoes. I balance using only my toes and the column-grab. I see Roomedge flow serenely. It is very deep despite its’ placid appearance. I know it. I take in a large volume of air. By the time I exhale all of it, I will no more inhale again. Here it fills my lungs. Okay, I’m about to exhale. I decide to count to ten. Just ten seconds.
‘Sir!’ a voice reaches my ears. Ignoring it, I continue. Seven.
‘Sir!’ again the same voice. Five.
‘!’ I exclaim when I feel someone pull me out of the rail and I land on the bridge road. A human countenance appears in front of me – it is of a girl’s. A pale-skinned brunette with lean build meeting my shoulder height in stance (I’m 5’8”). I stand in wonder – not wondering about her beauty that gets aggravated by moon, but her presence here, in this peak hour, in this particular situation. I’ve always seen such scenes in movies.
Someone will try to commit suicide and the hero or heroine will save the victim at the very last second. A bomb being dispatched at the final second count – the hero will hesitate to decide on cutting a particular coloured wire among many other colours for about one minute, sweating to his death; and finally will cut a certain colour anonymously, and guess what, it always will go off. I’m quite bored of it. And well, this scene didn’t go up until count one as in those hackneyed Hollywood films.
No, I will not be alive. I’m wasting God’s oxygen. I’m adding weight to mother earth unnecessarily. I nervously fumble into my black hair. My black visage goes grey.
Here her lips go through various motions. Oh! She’s speaking! Standing in surprise, I really don’t hear anything that she said. I keep on looking at her. She repeats the same. I initially try to brush her aside. She keeps on nudging me with her sound. I sneer at her. She’s not to be deterred. I give in to her finally. I tell her the truth. She laughs.
‘Ha ha, is it such a big problem that you can’t solve?’ I attempt to answer but she lets me not. She adds, ‘There is nothing in this world that cannot be set right. You think yours’ is a big problem?’
That’s not a question. I know it. She won’t let me defend my side. ‘Actually-‘, darn it, I know it. She will never allow my voice reach her ears. “Girls always are. They always speak way too much than needed and it mostly will be self-boasting.” I form a conclusion. I know that it is a pot-boil, baseless, unjust, groundless conclusion, but yet as I like it, I cling to it.
‘Dash it. Never mind.’ She again interrupts me and speaks, ‘Look at you. Do you really think you’re miserable?’
‘Yes, I’m the most unfortunate human on earth.’ I rush with words before could she interrupt.
‘Well tell me what bothers you. What makes you decide to die?’
Though I don’t want to tell her anything, something inside me prods me to tell. I try to fight with that inner voice but fail. I decide to tell her everything and when I become conscious, I see that I have come way too long from the bridge! What, I have unconsciously kept with her walk. This is really insane. She didn’t drag me, but what made me walk with her? I ponder. I can’t understand.
She continues walking and some unknown power keeps me following her feet. I told her my whole story. My desperation. She absorbs whole of my story. And she laughs!
‘Your will will find you a way.’ I’m clever enough to decode her wordplay. I nod and she continues, ‘You think you’re more cursed than a person in Sudan who can’t even find his meal?’ she gives me enough time to think over those words, ‘Do you think you’re doomed to misfortune than a ten year old girl who is getting sexually abused this very second at any part of the world? Problems worse than what our president has to cope with?’ she dramatizes the previous sentence, ‘More desperate than the civilians of Iran being killed unnecessarily? Have you shed more tears than an innocent mother over her lost child? You live a cursed life more than a child with inherited HIV because of its mom’s immoral living? You think that you-‘
‘Ok, ok ok, just stop it. Yeah yeah yeah, they all are more worse than me. So what? I don’t give a damn about others.’ I trudge her array of questions, clearly irritated of her philosophizing attitude.
‘So, suicide is the ultimate option?’
‘Yes it is.’ I let an awkward silence fill a few seconds and I say, ‘What the heck bothers you? Get the hell out of here.’ It produces no effect on her. She smiles smoothly.
‘I’m happy to find a guy who is with the same mentality I’d before a year.’ She says. I see her starkly in disbelief. She tells her history to me, ‘you’re just bankrupt once in your life. I went thrice and bounced back thrice. The third being my worst losing. I thought I never could spring back. I too came and stood in this bridge on a certain Saturday night. A girl saved me from it and now I’m close to being a millionaire just because of that save. I never thought I can recoil to my higher status.’ She keeps on talking about her life and I really have no idea why I’m following her. Though I realise that I’m in her control, I can’t help it. She has something in her. Some invisible powers. Powers that conquer me subconsciously. She stops, turns to face me, and indexes to a house, an-almost-mansion. ‘You’re welcome. This is my house. Please come in.’
Though some inner voice stirs up against, my feet goes in involuntarily. She asks me to sit in a black couch, and asks for a pause. I see her silhouette go into a well illuminated room, which I suppose as the kitchen, and I continue my glare at the same direction. Here she comes out with a tray on which stand two porcelain cups. I quickly comprehend that it is a drink. Cheers! Applause! What a discovery!
She hands over one cup to me. When I receive it, I can assure that it is coffee from the smell. Before sipping, I research the flower pattern that is printed on the cup. Satisfied by its’ exquisiteness, I decide to taste it. She gives me a book that lies on the tea table here. I see the cover of the book. It read “Chicken Soup For The Soul”. I decide not to judge the book by its cover and give her a look that, I believe, will appear to her as inquiring. I’m quite successful using my eye brows to my needs.
‘What are you looking at? This is a very important book that you must read. It has short inspiring stories of all time. Real stories.’ She tells and leans towards me. Maintaining an acute angle she continues, ‘You read it once and tell if you still want to die.’
I understand she’s trying to trade my temptations to a silly book. I project to her a sheepish smile. ‘Ok, so this will make me want to live?’ I see her extrude a sarcastic look, and I decide not to mock her and I add, ‘I, I’m sorry. So what made you take care? What bothers you if I decide? I’m just another stranger to you.’
She practically snatches the book of my hand and shuffle through the pages as if showing the book to a kindergarten child. She ignores my question and asks, ‘Do you know what kind of stories does it has?’
‘Inspi stories.’ I cut half “inspiration” for the sake of brevity.
‘I think you know Babe Ruth – the legendary baseball player.’ I nod, ‘he holds the record for homeruns. He holds another record that is most important for life – never give up. Yes, he not only holds that record but also is the man with most number of strike-outs.’ I give her an apprehensive nod. She gives me a little time to consider it. ‘And, have you read The Scarlet Letter, the greatest novel of American literature?’
I had heard of it. I say, ‘heard of it, but haven’t read.’
‘Well, the author Hawthorne actually considered himself a nobody. He used to throw all that he wrote in garbage. It is his wife Sophia who kept on collecting all of it and it had become what we see. Don’t think that you’re a failure. Nothing in this world is a waste. Don’t ever think that you’re one.’
I realise that I begin to believe her words. She goes on to saying something about O. J. Simpson, Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln etc. Though physically her sound enters my eardrum I mentally do not grab anything. Her words have some power. She slightly shakes me bringing me to earth and says, ‘There are millions who don’t have legs, do we not see them live? Thousands with no home, but yet chose to live. A billion without vision, but have they all decided to die just because they can’t see TV? Your attitude resembles to that of a child that cries if candy is snatched out of its hands.’ She pauses a moment, and stands. I too raise myself from the couch and stand above par to her. She hands over the book to me and says, ‘You’re already perfect. You’re whole. You have everything you need to make a life. You will live. You must live. Don’t argue about my eligibility to advice you. I too had tried suicide once in my life.’
I’ve always noticed it – when few speak, no matter how well informed and interesting they are, we just do not tend to listen to them; when few speak, no matter how crappy they are, we just would lend them our ear. I believe she belongs to the latter case. I feel my head nod, my eyes grow acute, and my palm provide a great grip on the book as if not wanting to let it go of my hands.
‘Before you go. Listen to this. The most inspirational song of all times according to me.’ she says and acts her fingers on an I-pod. I have heard this song. It is the “Champion” from the Chipmunks. I’ve even memorised the lyrics already. As always the chorus is the one that grabs my attention:
Some people love to learn
Some people wait their turn
Some people love to fight
Some people give their life
And two more verses:
Some people, but not me
I was a born champion.
I hear the whole song to satisfy her and bidding her adieu, get out of her home with the book in hand. I even did not say “Thank you” or “Bye”. No, Nothing. I entered her life as a stranger and leave now as a stranger. I even don’t know her name.
I walk in this road with the chorus echoing again and again in my mind. And keep on mumbling it again and again. I race my way in that empty street save for street dogs. Some unknown feeling washes over me and I say to myself, ‘Yes, I was a born champion.’
A/N: 1. The story about Hawthorne is made-up. It’s just the character’s words to chin up the broken man. Of course, Hawthorne is a failure and his wife helped him financially with her savings whilst he wrote it. The garbage throwing thing etc, were not true.
2. Roomedge is fictional. Just had typed the 1st term my brain coined...
3. OD – over dose.