Conversations in my Head
Remember that trek we took in school in Bandipur or somewhere, a lot of people kept getting bitten by leeches. Strange thing was that you don’t feel pain when you get bitten by a leech, but you get scared when you see blood flowing out. Some of the kids would start crying once they realized that they had been bitten.
‘But you never got bitten, right,’ said the voice in my head (all text in italics signifies the voice in the protagonist’s head in this story).
Yeah, I never did. I was lucky perhaps, ‘One of the few occasions, haha.’ But I am getting the same feeling now, sitting here in this heat. People getting Covid all around me, Ambulance sirens going off in the vicinity, ‘but you not getting bitten yet’. Yes, exactly! ‘And we thought last year was bad, this will never end I suppose, this is the second wave, there will be more. What are you going to do?’
I don’t know, I said while taking a drag of my cigarette. Wait it out perhaps. Keep following the drill of staying six feet away from people and enjoying the trees in front of me. And hope that a ‘leech’ doesn’t catch me in these scary times we live in.
Damn it! Just when I think about staying away from people, the doorbell rings! Anyway, I made the long walk from my balcony to the front door. When I opened the door I could only see a package with groceries placed right outside. ‘Bhaiya,’ I hear. “Yeah, where are you?” “I’m upstairs, don’t come here. I hope you’ve got everything,” says the invisible man with a quivering voice. “Yes, thanks for staying away, take care!”
“Why don’t you come home?” says Ma on the phone. “It’s dangerous, noe?” I say hesitatingly. “I know the cases have been rising here in Delhi, but I am fine here. If I catch the virus on the way then I might give it to you guys, which is even more dangerous. I’ve got a slot for my first dose of the vaccine, it’s just a few days away. One dose is also effective. Don’t worry.” “Okay, at least go to a friend’s place or go back to Ayesha?” “Ma, we have broken up now” “So, patch up na?” “It doesn’t work like that Ma, where’s Dad?” “Hello,” said a male voice. “How are you?” “I’m okay, how are you?” I said. “Are you sure you will be fine by yourself?” “Yeah, I will be, don’t worry.”
‘Why don’t you go back to Ayesha.’ Dude, don’t go there, I said while cutting vegetables. I feel free now. Just doing my own thing in my own space. It’s liberating. ‘Don’t you always push away people, who are even slightly flawed?’
See, I always make an effort to ensure that other people don’t get hurt. ‘And other people don’t do that.’ Some do, okay, but most don’t. ‘Look, people are going to have flaws, whether you like it or not, even you have them. But, you’ve got to start sticking with people and form relationships. Yes, if someone is heavily flawed then you’ll have to distance yourself.’ Then, tell me something, how to decide who is heavily flawed and who is not? ‘Damn, that’s a conundrum we have to think about.’
Alright, let’s do this. ‘It’s vaccine day! Are you nervous?’ A little bit maybe. I haven’t stepped out of my society for one and a half months. Double mask check, sanitizer check, face shield check. Okay, let’s book a cab.
The Covid vaccine arrangements at the hospital were absolutely amazing. There was a big seating area and since I took the morning slot of 9–10 am, not many people were around. I was directed toward one of the 24 booths set up. As I sat down to take the first dose, the nurse asked me if I drink and smoke. I embarrassingly said, ‘yes’. Then she said, ‘Don’t do either for two weeks.’ I said, ‘Fine,’ with a low-key voice. Then she quipped, “Tum kar sakte ho na.” Damn, that’s on my ego, I thought. I said firmly, “Yes, of course.”
Passing my time has not really been an issue this lockdown. Cooking, cleaning, working, reading and watching TV takes up most of my time. I was lucky to move to a new place last year and I think that was one of the best decisions I made.
It’s been kind of nice to stay away from people for a bit. ‘Staying away from people like the ones in a certain workplace in the past certainly helps’. Oh yeah, that was such a weird time. For some reason, they didn’t like a quiet person who just wanted to mind his own business. ‘Just being picky about everything, I remember.’ Yeah, who are you dating, why aren’t you dating, why so quiet, don’t you like us — so many annoying questions!
Actually, strangely, I barely remember how exactly they rattled me. ‘That’s what trauma is, I suppose, you don’t remember the ins and outs of the situation, but you just remember that phase being horrible.’
Mamaaa, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger,
now he’s dead (Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen plays in the background). “This is nice,” I say while sitting on the terrace with a mug of beer beside me. ‘Living alone and not meeting anybody is nice?’ I would want to hang with people at some point, but I am just thinking. I can live it up like this. ‘All on your own?’ Yeah, I will meet and hang out with the ones I only want to and if no one is around, then I can have a couple of beers, listen to music and order pizza every weekend.
‘Hmm, not a bad plan at all. This is what we’ve been doing in the last two months of lockdown anyway.’ What I am saying is, I feel at home now, you know. ‘Like being in the safe zone while playing Ludo — once you enter the safe zone, nobody can capture you in the game.’ Exactly, that’s how I feel now. I feel like I am in the safe zone of a Ludo game. I hope I continue to feel like this for a long time.
(This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.)