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Bridges

By Sankalp Singaypally

The sunlight rippled as it passed through the clear liquid in the glass bottle on the table in front of her .It illuminated her face in a halo, beautifying her already beautiful face, if that was even possible. The sun seemed distant as she looked out of the window and she couldn’t quite tell the time of the day as the direction wasn’t familiar. Her head had been a concoction of random thoughts and flashes of long forgotten memories for the past couple of hours. She didn’t even know where she was anymore. Whatever it was and wherever it was, she didn’t like the feel of the place. It could have been forenoon or the late afternoon, not that it would have made much of a difference but she knew she was always the person who cared about the most mundane of things in the world around her. She tried to remember anything she would have forgotten, any unfinished business that would get her out of the vice-grip she was in. The glass seemed to be refilling itself and haphazard thoughts filled her head. She needed to get out of the place.
***

The plain was smooth and sprawling green for as far as she could see. Both sides of the road extended to the horizon like what seemed to be a soft plain carpet. She longed to get out of the car and walk for as long as she wanted to. She wished to become the aimless being that she had been until the recent past. She longed for the life devoid of responsibilities that was hers until that night. Unlike the memory of getting into the car and driving out here, just an hour ago, the night was very clear in her head.
***

The ear shattering blast from the trumpet woke him up from a dreamy stupor. All around him, everyone was jumping around, all inhibition forgotten. It took him a few minutes to understand where he was and what he was doing there. Looking around, he realized there were hardly any people he knew let alone any of his friends. The occasion seemed one that is perpetually euphoric. He knew where he was and what he was doing but he just didn’t know why he was there doing what he was doing. The thought wasn’t very convoluted but the heavenly drink was passing through his veins and his reasoning skills were rather clouded. “The girl…”, he thought. Yes, there was something about the girl that was going on at this very moment. He had come all the way here for the girl, but why he couldn’t remember. It dawned on him that he had fallen asleep leaning against a pillar and decided it might look conspicuous if he continued to do the same. There was a chair nearby and he slumped into it to try and recollect his thoughts.
***

The mist was lowering onto the bridge and she couldn’t see anyone coming at her. Underneath her feet, the river flowed gently, with the surf building up as it hit the protruding rocks. She had chosen this bridge for that precise reason. The rocks were hard and sharp and offered her a good contingency plan if her plan didn’t work out. She kept walking on the wooden floorboards. There was moss growing from between the crevices and she felt sorry for it as she stepped on it and continued to walk. A little board on the railing caught her attention and she realized that she was at the middle of the bridge. She couldn’t make up her mind; should she keep walking or wait in the middle for him. She bent over the railing and looked at the river below. The water was rather clear and there were plenty of rocks. At that point it didn’t matter anymore whether she stood and waited or continued to walk.

She felt the footsteps first, and then she heard them and then she saw him. He was dressed as he normally was, a worn out jacket over a dark shirt. The hue of his trousers was dark and blended into the night. Her heart missed a beat when she looked at his face. There was a scar that was never there before and she had seen his face, closer than this, several times before. It looked rather ruthless and seemed out of place. Or perhaps, it was because he was never the person who would have a scar on his face, save a shaving accident. The scar was right along his right temple, about 5 or 6 inches in length - a straight gash. At both ends, there was a horizontal mark. She didn’t know what to make of it.

He opened his mouth to say something but she couldn’t register anything. His Adam’s apple was quivering as he was speaking but she couldn’t make out what it was. The shock of the scar was wearing off and it took her a minute to realize that she was deaf. She had been deaf for over a decade but she was never at terms with it. Usually, she read lips but now, she couldn’t. She nodded her head and pretended she was able to understand what he was saying. It didn’t seem fair to her at that point to lie to him but the only other option was to speak out to him and repeat. She doubted she could ever talk to him the same way again.

She tried to say something. After years of speech training in an institute that catered specially to the deaf, she could communicate verbally without any unnecessary spikes in the amplitude of her speech. She looked him in the eye several times and made an attempt to speak, but she could only see flashes of that night. Things that pricked her conscience several times and made her realize that she didn’t deserve a chance to speak to him.
She held up her hand signaling him to stop talking. The reaction was almost instantaneous and he stopped mid-sentence. She mustered up the courage to speak out to him and swallowed hard, thrice. The words came slowly from her mouth as she began describing the events of the night. She figured, it would be better to let him know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
***

The night was just like any other night that any ordinary person would have experienced. There was no multi colored halo around the moon, but then again, there was hardly a moon. It was a mere sliver, partially hidden by the clouds that seemed floating around aimlessly all day long. She had been sitting on the terrace since the afternoon and could have sworn that it was the same cloud in the same position. Standing up from the chair, she walked over to the edge of the terrace and held the railing firmly. She leaned forward and squinted to look into the house next door. There was a silhouette against the blinds, probably illuminated from the light on the opposite wall. The house was rather familiar to her as she had been inside it no fewer than a hundred times. The silhouette was moving around rather frantically, probably searching for something, she thought. A few seconds later, another one came in and it looked more masculine. There were never supposed to be two people in the house! She knew what was going on and she couldn’t believe it.

She couldn’t watch it anymore. All the promises that had been made to her had been broken. She felt unappreciated and unacknowledged. The suspicion had been lingering in her head for quite a while now but she trusted him too much. She had even given him the benefit of the doubt when there was a strand of hair in his bed that didn’t look like hers. She had told herself that it might have been from a corner of her head where the hair was a different color but the scene right before her eyes confirmed all other suspicions.

Her eyes filled with tears as she raced down the stairs. There was no need for the haste but her subconscious seemed to belong to some puppet master and she was just following instructions from an unknown commander. Two flights down, and she entered her room. The bed looked inviting but she couldn’t make it there. Instead, her knees gave way and she collapsed on the floor. Tears were rolling down her face and were dropping onto her thighs. She had to gasp for breath and each time she did, the flow of water from her eyes got stronger. She tried to take control of herself and after several attempts, the tears ceased. She walked into her kitchen and looked around. For something. She wasn’t very clear about what she wanted but she knew it would be in the right place. After fumbling around the shelves and the drawers, she found it. It was unopened and was meant to do what she wanted to do now, but on a smaller scale. Carefully opening up the wrapper, she pocketed it and went outside.

The night was chilly. It wasn’t the type of cold that she enjoyed. The air was stale and dry with the moon looking blurred from under several clouds. There was not a star in the sky and the street lights were either off, broken or too insignificant. She looked around for an appropriate spot. Her eye caught a street lamp diagonally in front of a stout tree. The gap between the two was enough to squeeze herself into and gave a clear sight of his gate. No ingress and more importantly, no egress would escape her sight.

She stood in the gap for an hour. Or so, she thought but time was abstract to her. For all the time she was standing there, her mind was blank. The discomfort of the cold metal pole didn’t disturb her one bit. Neither did the few insects that fell into her hair from the tree. The silence was ominous and was only punctuated by the rustling of the leaves each time there was a breeze.

There was a creaking sound and her head, which was drooping involuntarily, cocked up on its own and she looked at the gate. She could see two silhouettes, the same ones that were entwined with each other a while ago. A few seconds, or perhaps a few years later, one of them walked out the gate. It walked lightly with a certain grace. She was mesmerized for a moment as she looked. She tightened the grip on the knife and held it firmly behind her back as she stepped out of the gap onto the street. There was no time for anyone to react. In a thrusting motion, the knife, which was once new and untouched, which was glistening in the night despite the lack of light was covered in blood. She looked on as the woman fell to the ground. There was no screaming and no time to scream. The throat was punctured right through the middle and there was blood flowing profusely.  
***

He had tears in his eyes as she finished telling him about the story. The absence of the bride at the wedding was justified now. He had gone there to get her back but there was no way she was coming back. It wasn’t as though he understood why she did what she had done that night. He realized he was no higher on the moral ground. He didn’t speak his intentions for meeting her on the bridge but they would have been evident. It was she who was responsible for everything. She was crying now and he didn’t know what he had to do. He couldn’t tell anyone. His lips parted to say something but his mind asked him to think twice. He put his arms on her shoulders and she looked up at him. He muttered something about forgiveness and she stopped crying. There seemed to be a flicker of a smile on her face but he didn’t understand why. Perhaps she thought he was forgiving her for what she had done. His arms moved closer to her neck. There seemed to be fear in her eyes now.

His palms were on her neck now and she was definitely frightened. The tears had started again and she was trying to get him to leave her but he was just too strong. He pushed her to the floor and knelt down beside her, all the while tightening his grip on her neck. Her face was red. He looked at her and thought about all the time he had read about the blood red color. It was an apt name he figured. There was a thrashing sound from behind him. It continued for a while and then stopped. Her legs had gone limp, and her eyes were blank, but still filled with fear. He lifted her, or what was left of her, with one hand below her knees and the other below her neck and walked over to the edge of the bridge. There was a loud splash and the sound of something cracking against the rocks in the river. The river flowed on as he walked back the way he came.

 

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