Sipping her already-warm Iced Tea, Alekya smiled.
“Why does growing up almost always mean growing apart? Has it all worked out into this…rule that says parts of who you were slowly fade out in succession as the light years go by? Although…I do admit I pushed away people, I severed that cord, and it was me who always declared I just had to move out. ‘Small towns suffocate me’. It was I who moved out too. Small, town, suffocate…the words kept swimming in my head even then, when I first moved out, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t the reason. There never really was one. I guess I just wanted to feel a sense of isolation that was different from the one at home. The kind that makes you feel strangely in harmony with everything else. The kind that…that…assures you in its imperfection that everything is fragmented, and coloured in.
We all thought I’d be a famous writer….do something crazy, run away or something…and then mint my millions, and be printed on our alma mater’s prospectus under Famous Alumni. Hmm? Yes, I know, I heard about Nisha; we knew she’d do something with her life. Anyway, oddly…the girls who I thought would end up being typical housewives with a kid on each hip and a BA degree locked up somewhere with the marriage certificate…hardly any of them got married. Serves us right, us with our liberated sense of ideals. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ we’d harp in class, when someone with a fresh-from-the-morning breakup story told their side. Never judge a person by what he looks like. And we…I…instead internalized that very abstraction and then was surprised at my own sense of shock when I heard of each one of them, successful and content.
What’s that? Oh, of course! Of course I wonder why it never turned out like that. You think I don’t get up every morning, every…god-damned… morning, thinking of where I should have been waking up instead? The smell of cheap morning coffee and rationed butter on my toast will choke me to death someday. It’ll be the death of me. This nagging, slow…grudging pain. I cut my own cords, Ash. I cut them right when I went to college. When that bug of self-confidence stationed itself into my psyche and refused to let go. I hardly made any friends, because I thought they weren’t good enough. Acquaintances, I was indifferent to. Instead of friends, what I harboured was this sneering sense of uppity-ness that my marks and teacher’s comments only strengthened. And it fed that bug so full that it had to blow up…and it did. It blew up in my bloody face the minute I got out into the world. It blew up on all the pieces of writing, on my confidence, on my degree and I realized that somehow, none of what happened in college ever mattered. Here I was, a topper without too many friends to talk of, armed with the same weapons anyone else from my class had. A degree, some experiences and a lot of post-adolescent idealism. Well, I suppose we were teenagers, we had license to think we were at the centre of the universe. Maybe that’s my problem Ash! I don’t grow up. And it hits me the hardest when I run into someone I knew eons ago, and explaining to them that the publishing companies just don’t like the kind of stories I write. That currently, but just currently, I’m living the life of an average person. Ah, the ignominy. Of being so ordinary. So downright…ordinary. No one…no one looks at my work when I tell them I was meant to be successful and famous. No they don’t! They look at my resume and ask me why I haven’t done better with my life. It’s hard to explain I’ve been living in parallel worlds. I don’t know. I think I’m going crazy, Ash. There are times where all of this, futures that I haven’t lived, pasts that I think I missed out on…they all collapse into this singular point in my present, where everything becomes so paralyzing-ly scary that I hate getting out of bed. But then again, here’s the catch. I’m not depressed. Nah. Well, not at least in the sense that I hate my life, really. Sure, I hate the part of life I’m in, but…my heart still tells me there’s more to come. That someone reading me somewhere will accept me as a writer.
I used to look at contestants in a reality show, you know, the best singer and all that. And every now and then a horrible singer would come along. Only he’d been growing up around people who were really nice to him, and really believed he sang well. And you can totally look at him and know he’s bad at it. Not at life, just at singing. But then he’d say something rude into the camera when rejected and end it with a “you don’t know what you’re losing out on. Just wait; I’ll go try till I become successful”. And you’d look into the T.V and get ever-so exasperated at why he just-doesn’t-get-it. That he sucks.
I wonder. Oh so, so many times. I wonder whether I am that guy on T.V…Who…who denies a reality to embrace another. Anyway, I guess I dampened this reunion, eh. I’m sorry; it’s just been so long since someone asked me how I was without that…reaction…tha…ugh. I’ll survive.
I have time, I do. Enough of me. Though….now, even now, I can’t help but feel crushed under the overwhelming weight of superiority that clouds this room…every room that I enter, reminding me consciously that all the heads that are not turning towards me, not running towards me for my autograph is a blow to my ego. I hardly even remember most of them anyway. I doubt they remember me either. And that rule very menacingly whispers in my head, over and over and over and over, growing…dying…losing out…fade out…. Oh it eats me up, it eats me up alive. No! You don’t get it! It’ll sneer when I look at the ceiling at night, willing myself to sleep, and it will keep repeating, until I give in.
I…I once was, and then…and then I just ceased to be.”