Hi, I am Mick. I am fifteen. I live alone.
I am riding the metro back home. My brother called, an hour back, at 5:37. I was sitting inside the auditorium where they were playing very loud music. I came out to receive the call. He said ‘Hello, how are you?’ My family calls me once a day, at 10 o’ clock in the night, for exactly thirty seconds. I said ‘Hi. I came out to take your call. Is it something important?’ He said ‘Grandfather died, at 4:24 in the morning.’ I said ‘Okay’. That was it.
He died at 4:24 in the morning. He had swallowed a whole jar full of kerosene a month back. He had been in the hospital since then. He wasn’t expected to live. I was waiting for him to die. He died at 4:24 in the morning. To me, he was alive till 5:37 in the evening. To me he was lying on that huge four-poster bed of his, with his swollen body and his choppy breath and looking vacantly up at the ceiling till 5:37 in the evening. I hated him. I hadn’t visited him. I hadn’t even bothered to ask about his health. I hadn’t spoken to him in the last decade of my life. I was waiting for him to die. He died, at 4:24 in the morning. That rickety thin figure, bent over his walking stick with shaking hands and a broken voice, that bald head with silver fringes on the sides and sunken watery eyes behind thick glasses, was gone, entirely gone.
The train stops at a station. The station has large pillars, with irregular tile patterns on it. The woman sitting in front of me gets down. I sit. The doors close. The train is emptier now. The woman sitting right across me is staring at my shoes. I am wearing black converse. They were a gift from a friend. They are black, half-torn and I love them. My socks peep out from where there is a gap between my jeans and my shoes. It is black with grey stripes. The shopkeeper who sold them to me cheated me. My roommate got the exact same pair of socks from the exact some shop a day later for half the price. What is that called? A list that they have in stores which has, say, all the different designs available on a skirt? I can’t, for the life of me, recall the word.
Once when my grandfather was young and not weak and thin, he worked in a cotton mill. He was waiting at the gate, one day, for a friend of his. His friend came all out of breath and smiled at him. The watchman looked at them and started laughing. It was then, following the watchman’s line of sight, that grandfather noticed that the friend was wearing slippers on one foot and loafers on the other.
That is the only story I remember that he told me, which is surprising given that I spent every Sunday for the first five years of my life at his house. We’d have lunch, he’d tell me stories till I fell asleep, then I’d swing in this hammock that he had in one corner of the drawing room while he watched T.V. and then he’d drop me home. I still remember lying beside him after lunch, close enough to smell the sweat in his armpits and not being revolted. I still remember, sitting on his stomach and laughing as he told me some funny story. But I don’t remember any of the stories. I try, but I can’t.
I wonder how it feels to die. I wonder how he felt. Did he know that this was going to be his last breath? Did he feel like he was leaving his body? Or did he just suddenly stop feeling anything, like a sudden black-out? I had almost fainted once after a Tetanus shot last summer. Everything seemed hazy, the trees outside the window looked like somebody had smudged a freshly painted canvas, my father’s voice and the doctor’s voice got all mixed up and all I could think of was the mountains that a friend who had recently returned from a vacation had told me about. But I did not faint. So, I can’t be sure about how exactly it feels.
Did he think of me on his last breath? Did he think of all those afternoons he had spent telling me stories? Or did he think of his not-so secret lover and her grandchildren? Is he in the metro right now, sitting in that empty seat and looking at me? Can he read my mind? Does he know that I hate him and that I was waiting for him to die and that now all I can think of are those afternoons?
The metro stops, it is my station. I look at the empty seat. Maybe he’ll get down too. I get down. The metro leaves. I take the escalator and the cold winter air hits my face. A catalogue, that’s what it is called, a list of all the different designs available on a skirt. He was alive to me till an hour and a half back but he’s been dead all day. Those stories, he took them away as well.