ONE OF THESE DAYS
There was a momentary absence of the simmering heat. A fleeting cold persisted as a divine intervention by the clouds that went from north to south, eclipsing the obnoxious sun. A sudden relaxation, an instant that felt like a resurrection of the entire city, coolness all over the haphazard buildings, happened to hang in the moment. It was the final day of the most hated year – at least to what I’ve known – and I was just sitting beside the window, fidgeting with my five-coloured pen, and taking a peek at Faulkner, Willaim's The sound and the fury, half-minded and half-sunken into the cushioned chair. Two crows were hopping on the ledge of the opposite building, discussing something indecipherable, tilting their heads at times. Moreover, I was drowned in many delirious thoughts that I could not stay on the line, and have a single thing that wouldn't evaporate without a proper climax in my mental dormitory.
Mom came in and hurriedly picked up a pen from the draw and opened her handbag, and pursed it along with other things she had. She gave a vanishing glance and walked out. A minute later, she came back and settled down on my bed and still digging her handbag and emptied the bag, took out some old papers, wrappers, markers, and all those stuff.
"Ari isn’t home yet", she said in a flashing tone, still pulling out the intestines of her bag.
I was not paying attention, for I was already delirious. With a turn, I glared at mom and made out what she said in my mind, as if meddling with a riddle.
"She’ll come soon, probably hunting or something"
"No matter what, she comes back by five, at least for a meal. Well, she hasn’t", my mom sounded down in the mouth. I knew that moment; there was something wrong. My mom can tell if bad's about to happen. No kidding. Back when I was young, she felt bad about my dad leaving home. He never came back.
"It's alright probably out hunting she is. I’ll look out for her, okay? Maybe she’s at the eighth street. I saw her there, the other day, with a rugged ginger cat. You know, cats, they do that a lot. They do deserve a break, now and then, ain’t they?"
"I don’t feel so good about this", my mom stood up, with a slip from her bag. Her mindless pulling made a mess down my bed: Crumbled papers, waste cloth, emptied ink cartridges, wrappers, and dust from her gloomy government job and all those stuff.
I let out a sigh that existed forever walking to her, she gave me a pat and walked away, waving me bye and telling me all those trivial things about the lunch, locking the door, leaving the key, and taking out money and whatnot.
It was an off day for me, nothing special regarding my work. Besides, I was still an intern; they’ve let me off the hook for some reason. It wasn’t official; I would’ve got a call by now if there were any tasks to perform. That how they say: tasks to perform, mails to be sent, carried out with confidentiality, the stipend will be based on your performance and all that bullcrap. I grabbed my phone and scrolled through the feed, found nothing that could keep my attention. People were all either too excited or too dejected on social media. They ain’t got any murky stories out there. Anyway, media would lose its meaning if there’s nothing cheesy in it.
I settled back on the couch chair and extended my toes to the table, evading the stacked books. The fan was spinning dryly over my head, doing its job to make me less lonely, I went on doing the momentary glances outside and picked up words from the sound and the fury now and then.
At ten forty-something, I heard people on the outside. I laid the book, with its cover-up and peeked out through the gloomy window. There was a community new year party, evening, and down there I could see the preparations for it being done cheerfully. People looked like
tiny lunatic dwarfs from a fairy tale. I closed my eyes, saddled my back with more ease, and whistled the synth line from Echoes by pink Floyd. There wouldn’t be a much worse year than this, I thought, and look at the people working for a freaking New Year party. At least they were happy in their own way, I didn’t wanna meddle more into it.
Come to think of it, I mean, about this year twenty-twenty, besides the pandemic thing around the corner, my ex-girlfriend died six months ago. Maybe, like six and a half months ago, if you wanna know it precisely. Accident they said. Got ambushed by some two drunken phonies driving a sports car and flew away from her purple gradient scooter, got crushed under a bus's wheels on the other side of the highway. They said it was severe it was something I would never get over with. I never got to see her face. She was well-built, about five feet-two, and what I saw, laid flat in the coffin, wrapped with green cotton sheets, was half the size of her.
Life crumbles in seconds. When you see from the outside- far away from the core- nothing really matters in life, for it's there one moment and washed up the other.
The day at the funeral, I watched her coffin dwindle into endless flames of menacing fire. It’s sickening to watch someone you loved about to turn ashes. The place was packed with all her relatives, so I stood around the corner. I nearly choked up and then came out had a smoke. A train of thoughts held my mind, firstly about her body. The same soft skin that I touched, held in my arms, and snuggled to sleep was going to flames. I couldn’t stop but thinking about her
touch, her soft skin, her edgy nose that reddened to a sensual nudge, the pink-polished lips and acne marks all over her plump cheeks. The memory of her every movement flashed before my eyes, as though saying a final Goodbye. I thought of the things she loved. The icy milk scoops, hazelnut bars, Almond sticks, with double-layer chocolate and badam milk, not too hot, not too cold. Loved dogs and they loved her. She had a special thing for pets. And probably, at some point, she loved me. Memories of her seemed like remains of a disaster. Often times she'd say her body belonged to me. Pretty cheesy stuff to tell. But that day when I thought about it, I wasn't out of control or anything, however I blacked out.
How much do the dead leave, and then they take? It just sends a shrill pain all over my body.
Ari wasn’t home yet. For some reason, it started to get me depressed. I thought about going out lookout for her and listed out the places to carry out the inception. I gave my face a good wash and wiped it off with a clean towel. While I was starting to leave, there was a ring at the door. I opened the door, still clutching the towel in my right hand. She was standing there, with her usual jovial look. I finished wiping my face, before speaking.
"Figured you’d be around", she said in her usual flat voice, not too cold not too embellish, Just natural. Her eyes sparkled along her suntanned face, everything as sly as it can be.
"Haven’t got the call yet, maybe will get one. I don’t know", I managed to butter out through my mouth, wiping my face.
She gave me a fixed look.
"Relax, there wouldn’t be any work on the last day of the year."
"Mom’s gone to office."
"Them government folks, they work all twenty-four cross seven, three sixty-five days" "They do totally."
"Wouldn’t you invite me in", she said after giving a thoughtful glance over the corridor. "Of course", I said and let her in.
For those who wanna know about her. She’s Prachi, a neighbour kid. They call her Prax or something. I don’t know. I don’t call her, by the name nor any special name. She does the same way, just to keep this not too complicated, back then it was always faded jean shorts or thin pyjamas, with a half-sleeved cheap tee shirt. Never seen her formal since we moved in here. Just the same plainclothes, same style, with crocs to heel her feet. She had a brownish tanned skin and a short forehead, her hair smooth, always chopped perfectly above her shoulders.
"I was beginning to go out", I said.
"And where would that be?"
"Ari isn’t home yet, mom’s been depressed"
"Is she? I came partly to horse around with Ari"
"Is she pregnant?"
"For heaven sakes, her Ari!"
"I don’t know"
"That’s right, you don’t know anything"
"How would I know?"
"I was just saying the same, bruh"
"You better do"
"Don’t get started, Jesus Christ, look at you", she said giving out a phoney laughter. "I’m not", I said, somewhat irritated.
"So, I’ll leave then. If that’s what you want"
"Hey, I didn’t say so"
"Ain’t got problem with you, it’s just one of your being-a-jerk days. If only I could understand you!"
I stayed silent for a while. She walked around the hall, examining things as if she were doing it for the first time. She often does that, when she’s trying to cool things down.
"So you’re going for cat hunting?"
"Would there be a place for another hipster hunter?"
"That’s fine by me."
"Does it bother for you, that Ari hasn’t come home yet?"
"Of course it does"
"You don’t look more worried. You better be, cuz that cat loves you"
"What’s the big deal, same shit with my mom? Ease things out alright? Cats do that often." "yeah yeah yeah… I know. I had three cats before coming to this neighborhood." "What happened to them?"
"Two died, one ran away, never came back"
"I’m gonna have to go, you in or out? I said "I’ll lock you in if you want that." "I’ll come with you", she said "Boo"
"No don’t do that", I said. Pulling her out and locking the door.
"Don’t boo me"
"Alright, alright. Whatever you say"
We got down, through the stairs, cut across the parking lot, and made our way to the next street through the high slopes. People were walking disorderly all over the puddled road, doing all sorts of stuff. Three construction workers were squatted at the far left side, smoking cigarettes checking us out. She, stopped at a point and came round me, and resumed her walk from the right. A cloud of obscure thoughts still hovered in my mind. Now and then, Prachi looked up at the sky and whined about the sun during December. The air was chilly; nonetheless, the sun was beaming cunningly, passing thoroughly through the hanging atmospheric moisture. I could feel sweat swelling up in under my tee-shirt. It was quite a weather. We reached to the far end of the eighth street, where I saw Ari wander with another cat, days back.
Halted, Prachi, waved with her hand to water down the heat and leaned by a Neem tree that darted from the earth and stood like a ghastly figure amid the lively town. There were old fashioned houses lined up, if viewed to be from the top, the land would be divided into neat rectangles. We just stood there seeing if there’s any movement around the place scattered with unwanted shrubs, at varying depths and sizes. A cold wind from the west made her hair flutter, just making me realize, she was still a child.
"Seen her this way eh?", she asked leaning against the tree with her damp back, restlessly "See those scattered twigs?" I pointed my index finger, to which she nodded jumpily. "She was following a big ginger cat"
"How does this guy look? The ginger?"
"He looked kinda old, you know, maybe because I saw him with Ari, I guessed big enough for a ten year old. At any rate, he had strong features. It was like you running around me. Just the same", I said with a sheepish laugh.
"I ain’t a kid", she said in a sharp tone, looking at me with disgust.
"Of course, you’re"
"If that’s how you want it to be, Uncle Michael"
"Oh he’s nobody. Just used the damn name for the sake, don’t you know how to use expressions. God you’re such a British prodigy. Such an old natured philosophy sucker fellow, you ask silly questions for goddamn expressions and all. It’s not fun at all being around your silly ass"
"Get going then, hang around with your folks, working on that New year party. Nothing’s stopping you", I said with a sarcastic grin, to which I got hot disgust from her face.
"Chop your words already, I’m here for the cat. Not for ya"
We stood there for a while; she was agitated and cooled down with the mellow silence that hovered around us. I loved being with her, for some reason. There were no signs of the cat, anyway, we waited as though waiting in a government office for getting paperwork done. If only the officers would appear across the horizon!
"You know, what them old folks say?", she asked in a whispery voice. I waited for her to finish.
"A cat leaves a home, when it senses some sort of bad omen"
"Uh huh, I said right, I’ve had three cats. Nelly was the first. Her passing depressed the hell out of me, but then there was something shrouded like a mystery in her death"
"Uh huh." She said, straightening her back and getting more comfortable. She went on "I was ten, back then. She goes around acting freaked all over the house giving out weird meows. Low-key meows I’d say, not her usual style. We used to allow our cats in the yard, so we just let her out for some time, to see what it takes. Ma thought Nelly was gonna vomit, she acted that way. But that was out of mark, since she ate only foods from home. Besides, she wasn’t like feral cats, all day scraping something out of waste and eating insects. Anyway, we let out her and she just vanishes in to the thin air. We waited for like forever, hours, hours to days and days to weeks. I mean my folks are all crazy about pets, you know, cats, dogs, we had this big old German shepherded, Caeser too. Nelly and Caeser got along together. But for some reason, Caeser didn’t act up when Nelly vanished, he just stayed very normal, as if we’ve never had her around in the first place. Two weeks or probably later, we found her in the yard, back to where she started. You know, she wasn’t dirty or decomposed to any rate,
precious as she left, she was, just dead. My brother found her first, with Ceaser around. Thought she was back and asleep. But then, there was a fleet of ants, marching to her tail and one of her eyes stayed open, looking at the distant sky. It was sickening to watch that precious baby, lying dead, not worser than how she cuddled in my lap."
At this point, she came to a stop and gave a loud sigh. We immersed into a sullen silence for some time.
"It takes a lotta time to get over with a pet’s death, or maybe death. I don’t know. I’ve never lost any of my folks"-, she stopped right there and gave me a frozen look, the aura of her completely off the hook and she gave an embarrassed, defeated look at me.
"What’s this Omen thing, you were telling about, I mean you said, a cat might leave a home, it"-, I started.
She interrupted "Yeah, yeah. Ma says, her ma says, cats leave home when something bad is about to happen for the owner. Whatever is that negative energy, cats take it in, and save the owner from whatever it was lurking around the corner. To simply put, Cats are some sort of
angles, my mom says, with their repelling positive energy towards the negative phantoms. You see, my Ma says once she knew a cat who passed away and the owner who was bedridden for a quite a while from leukemia, jumped up to his heels and mourned for the cat. Two months or later, he was off the hook from the death that was tormenting his earthly grasping."
"Moms say all sort of spooky, superstitious stories.", I squeezed into her talking. "Anyway, tell me, was there something tormenting you or your family, triggering Nelly to do the giving, the whole sacrifice thing?"
"Not to my knowledge, my mom never gave a concrete answer to that. She just says, The poor angel has protected us from that something, which might’ve been worse for us. She said the same, exact thing, when the other two cats passed."
"It does sound lame, but sometimes it makes me think, that you know, after all, the place we live in, is open to all possibilities, we don’t even know the most trifling stuff at times. Maybe these, you know. What I’m saying is these"-
"Yeah I get it, I totally get it.", I said. She shrunk her head for a while and just sat there looking at the place where I pointed. A pigeon cooed, over the yonder. Everything seemed distant for me, just sitting there with her, waiting for a cat.
The noon sun was wearing out, for the clouds and wind were taking hold of the weather. Now and then, a strong westward wind, passed through the empty street, making Prachi’s hair dance. There were no signs of cat life, over the empty land. So we decided to leave.
"Tell me", I asked to her, while we were halfway from the vacant land.
"Mmm-hmm", she said, walking with her hands put inside her shorts.
"Why do you wanna hang out with me?" I asked and instantly regretted it. I'm always like that.
"If you wanna know the truth, you make me feel empty. That may be the size of it. But hey, it’s alright, I like you for that. You ain’t like them folks, you know, the hipster kinda guys I have around all the time. They’re terrible, makes me wanna run." She gave a loud groan.
I laughed a bit and we continued to walk.
"Hey, you know what; I have a good feeling that, your cat’s back from wherever she was and now taking a nap at your room."
"You don’t say"
"Let’s check out, shall we?"
We made our flight, up the stairs and walked to my room. The cat wasn’t there.
"At least you felt a bit okay for a while", she said, giving me a teasing look. I helped myself by lying prostrate on the bed and she walked over to my desk and sat down on the couch.
"It’s probably not good to ask, but can I sleep next to you for a while", she asked in an almost murmur.
"No kidding? How old are you like a thirteen?"
"Why does it have to do with the age, always for you? You’re back again being a jerk, ain’t you? I’m fifteen alright?"
"Yeah, whatever, just lie on the other side, no horsing around", I spoke in dismay. In the next instant, she slipped beside me and held my hand tight. She laid her face on my shoulder and
clutched to me. There was almost no space between. Something was nagging my mind; anyway, I let it go by the flow.
"Tell me", she said.
"Will you remember me, even if I'm long gone?" she gazed into my eyes. Her dark pupils widening as the gaze, lengthened, along the axis of the time, her tanned, soft skin, surfacing against mine, helped me feel a bit relaxed, in what ages?
"Of course, I will", I said "Besides you won't be gone".
"I gotta feeling that, I mean nothing more than a hipster kid, jumping in the back frame"
"It’s not like that, well I wouldn’t forget you for sure, Of course, it means a lot, you know to be having you around for me. I’ve never really had anybody like you." I soothed her down. There was a tiny teardrop, sliding from her left eye. I touched her shoulder and she buried her face into me again. After that, we just snuggled together. The afternoon sun rays expanded and diminished through the windows, intermittently. I gazed into the ceiling for a while and jumped into a void of endless thoughts. Before long, she was asleep. I thought about Nelly’s story for a while and drowned in a dreamless sleep.
When I woke up, she was gone.
The cat was sleeping on my couch chair. It made me delighted that I would’ve jumped to the clouds. I called my mom and said that Ari was back home and sleeping. My mom said, she’d call back in a while and hung up. I went out call Prachi. There were no sign of her presence,
anywhere. I walked to her house, it was locked. Her mom was hanging around the place where all the neighbours did preparation for the New Year party. But I didn’t go on and ask her mom. Probably out or something, she’ll squeeze in soon before night, I thought. I went back to my room and fed Ari with fresh cat food, and she cuddled me for a while, getting done with lunch. I made myself pleased by having a simple lunch, my mom had prepared and went on reading the book I left. The final December day went to sleep after a gradient-sky-ed evening, so warm and fuzzy.
Around midnight, my mom was back and asleep. There was a lotta fuss going in the colony. Like expected, Prachi, came in dressed all good from top to down. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her that way.
"What’s the fuss?"
"It’s just my mom, she wanted me visit a relative"
"Hey, I just missed to tell this. Schools are opening up from fourth of January, I’d be going back to my old life at boarding school."
"I didn’t know, you were in a boarding school"
"Yeah, just for the sakes of higher secondary exams. You know, Papa’s strict there" "I see"
"I wanted to give you this, exactly by the New Year day". She brought her enveloped left hand
She spread her fingers revealing, a black polished oval pebble. It looked so soft that I took it, and was already holding it.
"It’s something for good luck, while I’m gone"
"What can I say but thank?"
She stood there leaning against the wall with a plastered smile, while I was examining the pebble. Probably taken from a plant pot or something, I thought.
"I’ll miss you", she said after a while.
"I will too", I said.
"Would you come on the day I board to send me off?"
"Of course, I will"
We sat on the couch, with Ari running around the house crazy because of the New Year fireworks and Prachi horsed around Ari. I had to calm down both of them.
The day, she boarded I walked with her to the bus stand and waved her goodbye with her mom and dad. They gave me a peculiar look and smiled. The bus faded as it descended from the main road, to a service road that extended to the national highway. I traced along the path we walked together and got to the eighth street corner, where, we stayed the other day looking out for cats. The day seemed to hang there, that I thought, there would be no tomorrow.