by Nitheena Jackson
Kottayam, Kerala, India
I laid there, holding a cigarette in my hands and staring at the empty ceiling above me. It was my last packet and soon I will have to go out to buy some more. I looked around the room which was equally messy as my life is. It was slightly raining and unlike others I love rain as it matches perfectly with my depressive mood. With great effort, I managed to find my phone which was lying under a pile of clothes that hadn't been washed since the last two weeks. For the last six months I had been searching for ways to kill myself. There's a lot of ways but I find it hard to proceed with one. I turned on my phone which was switched off since last night. Zero messages, zero calls not even a single notification. Well, I wasn't expecting it either. I put on my jacket and stepped out of my apartment. The rain drenched me. No, in her words "The rain was kissing me". Her philosophy; Something that no one could understand. A smile find it's way to my lips. Since the last 6 months, the only time one could see me smiling is when I am caught in her memories. You know, there's this big magic in memories. Sometimes you live in memories; and sometimes you die in memories. Once again... Her philosophy; I laughed. I went to the shop and bought another packet of cigarette. It's been 6 months since I started this habit of smoking. If she was here, she would have definitely been mad at me. I bought a tea from the nearby tea stall and suddenly my phone rang. Quite unusual. I wondered who it was. I pulled out my phone. It was Sameera.
My bestfriend since 4 years. No, at first Sameera was 'her' bestfriend then eventually she became mine too.
"Hey Sam" I attended the call
"Where are you? I am at your apartment door"
"I am out. The door isn't locked, get in"
"What!? Why can't you even lock the door? Dude, it's delhi!"
"You know I have nothing to lose"
"Ugh ... fine. Come here, I am waiting"
I bought a packet of maggi; the common Indian food, when you are too lazy to cook something. When I reached home she was there. It was like a ritual for her to visit me atleast once in a week as if to check whether I was still alive or not.
"Aarav, can't you atleast clean this house? If you continue like this, the house owner will throw you out"
I didn't reply. She picked up the clothes that were lying here and there and went out to give it at the laundry store. I took out my phone and checked the notification that arrived minutes ago. It was from facebook; an application that I left months ago. I logged in on Facebook after quite a long time. There were tons of notifications. But most of them was of today. I wondered what's the big deal with today.
"5years of VJ Aarav" Most of the post that I was tagged in was with of this tag. The posts were made by fan accounts of VJ Aarav. I checked what day it was ' 14th September 2024'; 5 years of my dream job. For the uninformed- Yes, I 'was' a VJ until six months ago. There were quite a lot of fan accounts of my name. Many of them died during the 'six' months gap but some of them still mentions me on their post and hopes for my come back; which I am quite sure would never happen. I went through some of the posts and liked some of them to give a little happiness for those who still hoped for my come back even after 6 months. But suddenly, something caught my eyes.
It was a facebook memory. "Aarav malhotra is with Ritika Singh and 12 others" The tag said and it was a photo of 'us' with some other familiar people. It was a post that I made years ago. I went through the post. Her infectious smile; my eyes teared up.
'Ritika Singh'; A girl from Dehradun who came to Delhi with a millions of dreams. That was Ritika for others. But for me she was something more; She was my whole life.
Her memories...I threw my phone to the ground. I took out a cigarette from the packet that I just bought and lighted it. A few minutes later, Sameera came back.
"Where are your manners Mr. Aarav Malhotra? Can't you go out and smoke? I thought Ritika loved a boy with some manners"
"Yes....She loved a guy with manners but he lost his manners 6 months ago, when she left him"
"Fuck it! Losing someone doesn't mean, you can go on wasting your life in pain! You and your fucking depression! Everyone have their own pains but time heals it! They will move on with time and you should too...I can't take care of you for my whole life!
"You think love fades with time!? Then listen, it won't. You were wrong Sam, you were wrong about me, you were wrong about Ritika and you were damn wrong about our relationship!! Who told you to take care of me? Did Ritika? She's the only one who have the right and responsibility to do that to me"
Well, this has become a ritual for us; To argue and to have a big fight. In the end she will leave saying that she won't come again but days later she will be here and we start off as nothing happened.
"I...I do it because....I feel responsible, I feel guilty and I am scared"
"You are scared? So you come here every day to check whether I am alive or not?"
"Ugh.... talking to you pisses me off. I don't know why are you avoiding all of us... I don't know why are you so rude and cold to us.... We all care for you....I know your pain and I want to console you....I want to support you....I want the old Aarav back....."
"Haha....the old Aarav died and the new one will too; soon, very soon"
She teared up.
"I miss her Aarav. If she was here you wouldn't have been like this"
"Look who's crying. You act as if you do care. No-one had been affected by Ritika's absence as much as it had affected me"
I said rubbing her hands
"Who am I sharing my sorrows with!? This heartless idiot!"
She said giving me a punch and I laughed.
"I do care Aarav. She was my bestfriend... I do miss her. I am still in pain. Not only you, everyone who knows her, is still in pain"
"Fuck it! They are just faking sadness"
"No they are not. It's just that time heals people"
"6 months? It's just 6 months and she has already died in their hearts? What kind of love is that?"
"I...I am done talking to you! Fuck your Devdas life! I am leaving"
She said and took her bag to leave
"Wait, I'll walk you home"
"No... it's ok. I am fine by myself"
"Damn! Just obey me.. it's late and I'll walk you home or else you wouldn't have to come here again"
I closed my eyes. The world stopped in front of my eyes. Now, the only thing that existed was her. I cried out.
She's there. I could see her. Her little pink dress; I could see it. But there's this distance between us. I tried to go closer. But I can't.
"Ritika, come to me" I screamed
"I can't Aarav, save me" her words echoed in my mind
"Ritika...Why did you leave me?"
There's a heart-breaking silence
"It wasn't me....it was you. I thought you would come, I thought you would save me. Infact, that is you promised, on that day at the park. You promised to save me from everything. Then, why didn't you come Aarav? Why didn't you save me? You were aware that I had no one to help me other than you. Then why didn't you come? You failed Aarav; in our relationship and in our future."
She repeated the same words from the last 6 months.
I tried to speak, but infront of all those questions she threw at me, I drowned in the sea of guiltiness. I saw the world coming to an end in front of my eyes. I felt weak. I felt less alive. The pain hit me hard and I fall. My vision became blur and Ritika was no longer in front of my eyes. My breathing became faster and suddenly everything became blank.
"Is anyone there?" I woke up hearing someone.
Damn it. Who is it so early? I checked my phone. 10:00 am. Probably another stranger in search of a wrong address. I opened the door.
A girl. Not an ordinary one. There was something special about her. Somehow her face seemed familiar to me.
"Sorry, do I know you?"
"I guess not"
"Mind telling me who you are?"
"That doesn't matter. I am here for Ritika"
She nodded and sudden wave of pain stabbed me from behind.
"I don't wanna hear anything related to her. You can leave"
"I said leave!" I cut her off
"Ritika"..she stopped in mid sentence....and continued "didn't Ritika died because of you"?
"Me? Leave or I'll...."
"Atleast that's what you believe. Isn't that why you are asking me to leave"?
That hit me hard. Who's this girl? And how does she know all this?
"who are you"? I asked her after I let her in
"Ritika's best friend, back in Dehradun. Ananya"
Ananya. I knew her. Ritika's best friend since childhood. The one with whom Ritika grew up. Ritika will have an entire collection of 'ananya-stories' everytime when she come back from Dehradun.
"What happened that day"? She asked me disturbing my thoughts.
There's nothing to hide. She knows it all, I guess. How long can I hide it from everyone? Atleast I need to get this off my chest, save myself from this grief.
"That day...I don't know, I wasn't with her. We had a fight 2 days before she died. A serious one. Probably the worst. And for the first time she cried...because of me. If she hadn't lied that day, this wouldn't have happened. She lied. I lost my temper. We fought and I left the house. She tried to call me, but I didn't attend it. We didn't meet nor did we call each other for the next 2 days. All this while, she tried to reach me but I ignored all her calls. She even came to meet me at work, just one day before her death. I was supposed to meet her, but something came up and I wasn't able to. If only, I knew she would take her life the next day. I still don't know why she did that. I mean, yes we fought, but that doesn't mean I didn't love her. I have always loved her. Infact, I was planning to apologise for my behavior that day. But the next day, I got a call and it said Ritika jumped off from the 8th floor of our apartment...it was all because of me. I shouldn't have fought with her that day. I shouldn't have left the house. I should have attended her calls. It was all because of me. I killed her. She shouldn't have loved me"
"That's what you believe Aarav. But that doesn't mean it can be the truth"
"What do you mean?"
"I came here to give this. Ritika wanted me to give it to you" she said placing a dusty notebook on the table.
"Check it out yourself. I felt like giving it you that's it" she said and left without another word.
I took the notebook. Ritika's journal. I never got to read this. Infact, I never asked her. She promised to let me read it someday but never told me when.
Something inside me told me to burn the journal and all her memories along with it.
I took it. Ritika...she was no more. What's the point in keeping this journal then?
A cool breeze. A sudden wave of sadness. I could sense the tension in the air. I need to do this. A last good bye. To everyone, everyone who have ever loved me.
I took my phone and dialled 'Home'
Mom and her worried voice.
"Sometimes, some people became a huge part in your life and when they leave, the whole reason behind your existence feels pointless."
Ritika was right when she said this.
"And then one day, you'll start questioning your own existence and the next day I'll see you die"
Ritika and her philosophies. I found myself facing the brutal truth behind everything she had ever said. Somehow everything feels so relatable at this point.
8th floor. Our apartment. Our favourite place. The place from where she ended it all. Maybe, I should start from here. I sat there, racking up all her memories for one last time.
They say, people leave with nothing but memories. Maybe, I should do that too.
Our first meeting, the awkward introduction, her smile, coffee date, the confession, the river side kiss, her lips, our dream home.
A tear missed my eyes.
Enough. I can't deal with this anymore. All these memories, all this guilt, everything should end with me.
I took a step. The same place from where Ritika jumped off. Probably my last few moments in this world. Should I pray to God? Will he hear me, anyway? I don't think so. Who could hear the prayers of someone like me? Maa, Paa? Will they cry? Ofcourse, they will. Losing their only son won't be easy for them. I am sorry mom. I know you don't deserve this. Dad, I hope you take care of mom for me. I love you both. Sam, I know how worried you are of me. I am sorry, I failed to be a good friend.
One more step. I could put an end to my story. I closed my eyes. I wondered how Ritika had the courage to do this. Will she have thought about me before taking that last step? Ritika's face. I could see it now. Right in front of my eyes. Her little pink dress. The one I gifted on her birthday. She looks so pretty. Her smile. Her infectious smile. I need to go. I need to meet her. I need to repent for all my mistakes.
"Ritika I have always loved you"
I said and took the last step...
A sudden wave of feelings, love, regrets, guilt, anger, sadness, grief...
"I need to live" someone inside me screamed.
And I found myself on the ground, the same place from where Ritika had the courage to jump off.
I am a coward. I killed a girl. I am scared to live. And today, I am scared to die.
I sat down on my knees. And suddenly, something caught my eyes. Ritika's journal.
I was supposed to burn it before ending my own life. But seems like, both of my plans failed.
Should I read it? What am I feared of? I already lost my life. What more worse could happen?