Tired of all the bullshit he had to deal with.
A wife who cared only about what her sisters-in-law are wearing to that 5th cousin-twice-removed’s wedding because “that bitch always wears better clothes than I do”. A boss who couldn’t give a shit about whether his employee needed to get home in time to help his 8-year-old with her Math so she could at least pass tomorrow’s exam. A colleague whose only aim in life seemed to be breathing down his neck with that onion breath he always has (what, does he bite into one every hour or something?). The neighbor he tried in vain to avoid running into while walking down the corridor to get to his tiny apartment before she attempting to seduce him into having a threesome with her and her step-son. And that damned grocer who never looked at him until he shoved a 100 rupee note up his nose.
It’s all just farce, this whole “life” deal. 15 years he’d been working so far, and all he had gotten out of it was a mediocre job, a mediocre family and a mediocre life.
He lit up a cigarette, the wind blowing fast against his palms enclosed around the flame of his lighter, kept at bay just long enough for it to get lit. He flicked shut the lighter, looked at it for a few seconds and threw it over the edge of the terrace he was standing on. The lighter gleamed in the moonlight as it accelerated on its descent 24 floors down to the ground. As it hit the ground, it gave a short but audible bang and exploded, its echoes bouncing off the dark walls of the building.
Even the lighter went out with a bang, he thought to himself. Its whole life, all it did was help kill people like me as they lit up their cigarettes – his colleague with the onion breath, his incestuous neighbor and the cheap prostitute he had slept with sometime the previous year, just to break the monotony of his miserable little life. And yet the lighter still found it in itself to make sure people around knew it was over. Even though it was going down, it still ensured its legacy wouldn’t soon be forgotten. At least, not by him and the two stray dogs who’d jumped in fright and barked at it a couple of times before deciding it wasn’t going to harm them.
He wanted that too. It seemed foolish to him that he would be jealous of a tiny, plastic object that wasn’t even alive (well, definitely not anymore after that fall). But that’s what he wanted. What he needed. He needed to go out with a bang.
He stepped onto the ledge of the terrace. The wind almost threw him off balance and off the ledge, but he managed to straighten himself up and stare at the dark horizon of the city around him. He couldn’t see much – a couple of lights on here and there in the apartment buildings next to his (probably someone getting lucky that night) and the sole working streetlight on his street flickering by itself, unrepaired and uncared for by the BBMP. Or was it BESCOM that was supposed to take care of streetlights? He’d remembered reading something about it a few days ago in the newspapers. But it didn’t matter.
He felt his pockets, and emptied out its contents – a clean handkerchief, his scooter keys, the empty cigarette carton and a pen. The pen, he remembered, was given to him by one of the many girls he had crushed on when he was in school. 8th Grade, to be precise. It was a confusing time for him. So many thoughts and feelings, emotional and physical. All the girls talked to him because they thought he was gay. He didn’t mind. The ability to be within such close quarters with them got the other boys in his class all jealous. They would beat him up at the end of the day, but then girls would gather round him and console him. A broken nose was worth it when he was rewarded with a (tight) hug from the best-looking girl in his class. It was she who had given him the pen. Shweta, her name was.
He never knew why he had kept the pen for that long. 25 years, to be exact. Not once had the nib bent or broken, nor the body scratched. He kept buying ink pellets over and over again out of habit, and he never once let anyone borrow it. It had stopped meaning something to him a long time ago, but he just didn’t feel like throwing it away either. It was a good pen that worked just fine. Why throw that away?
He put it all back into his pocket, breathed in the last drag of his cigarette and threw the butt away. He watched the butt travel, much slower than the lighter did, towards the ground. It took its own sweet time, allowing itself to be blown here and there by the wind, before it finally touched down, no bang, no echoes, no dogs barking, nothing.
He stared at it again for a few seconds, one eyebrow raised. He then shrugged, stepped down from the ledge and walked back towards the door.
It didn’t matter whether he went out with a bang or not, he thought. He was going to end up dead someday, somehow. Just like his wife. Just like his boss. His colleague, his neighbor and his grocer. And of course, that 5th cousin-twice-removed whose wedding he was going to attend the next week. The only difference was how they chose to go out.
He walked back into his apartment (he was both thankful and disgusted he could hear his neighbor and her step-son watching porn together in their living room) and shut the door behind him. He picked up the cordless phone and dialed a number he’d memorized from an email he had received earlier that day informing him about a school reunion.
He heard two rings before a soft click, and the grown up, unfamiliar yet familiar voice of Shweta answered.