Ishita walked across the street towards her ten-story high apartment building with a book in her hand. She met Mrs. Bharadwaj on the way and asked her if she needed help carrying her shopping. Mrs. Bharadwaj handed her one of the bags, and they both entered the apartment building. After she deposited the bag at Mrs. Bharadwaj’s house, she made her way to the terrace. She liked the terrace for it was always breezy there and it had a soothing effect on her.
She was lost in thought when she saw someone standing on the parapet at the foot of the terrace smoking a cigarette. The person was continuously toying with his foot, as if bracing herself for a suicide.
Ishita tensed. She wondered if she should catch that person’s attention. But then what business did she really have? But then again, what if that person—whosoever he or she was—committed suicide in front of her and she was blamed for a crime that she hadn’t committed?
Warily she whispered, “Excuse me?”
“Umm... EXCUSE ME. May I ask what you are doing up there?”
“I am thinking of committing suicide.” It was a young man with a deep voice and a long mane of hair who turned a notch to reveal his small beard. His tone suggested a manner which suited a highly mundane conversation.
Ishita blurted out before she could help herself, “WHAT!!! But why??” immediately she held out her hand on her mouth, as if to take back the possibly offensive words but couldn’t. Instead she said, “Sorry, I didn’t—“
“It’s ok”, he said and continued, “I am in love with this boy, and cannot seem to get him out of my system. We have been together for so long you know and now I cannot find him.”
Ishita pushed her limits a little further, “Do you want to come down and tell me about it?”
He did as he was told. “Ok...that was easy...” thought Ishita.
Silently he walked towards her. He must be about 25 years old, but there was something boyish about him. Playing with a strand of his long hair, he said, “I just cannot find Tarun anywhere. I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t want to live without him...”
She thought it was a rather silly reason to kill oneself, but instead she said, ”Did you try calling him? Did you check in his house?”
“How about your other friends? Aren’t they looking for him too?”
“We don’t have any other friends.”
“Umm...you could check at places where you two went together, to see if he ever came there?”
His face suddenly lit up and he said “NO! I did not do that! Will you come with me please? Please”
She said nothing for a while. She looked at her half read book, and then she looked at this man who was so child like in his demeanour.
“But I don’t even know you...”
“Now you do! You just saved my life! If I don’t find him I will have no other option but to kill myself.”
Ishita was still a little uncertain, but agreed anyway. They decided to meet each other at a park nearby.
When Ishita reached the park, her new found suicidal friend was already there. He was sitting on the bench, playing with his hair and smoking a cigarette. Approaching him she said, “Hey, by the way, my name is Ishita. Yours?”
“ok then kartik. Let’s begin searching for Tarun now ok?”
They walked towards a nearby restaurant and Kartik went and asked one of his waiters. Ishita waited outside. She could see that Kartik was struggling to paint a picture of a man with words and gestures. The waiter recognised Kartik, but he didn’t seem to know who Kartik was talking about. Suddenly Kartik got agitated and in his fury he picked up a glass from the table and smashed it on the floor.
Ishita ran towards Kartik before matters got worse. She pulled him by his hand, apologising to the waiter who had gotten angry too... and was saying things like “he always came alone. And talked to himself! That mad bastard!”
Ishita looked shaken with the incident. Kartik seemed to have forgotten it and said, “I think I spoke to the wrong waiter...let’s go to the library.”
Ishita doubted it but said nothing.
This time ishita went inside with him. The librarian looked puzzled when he described Tarun to her. “Beta, you always came here alone!” Kartik looked around helplessly. Suddenly he pointed at one of the shelves... “There he is! LOOK! THERE!”
Kartik ran towards that corner yelling out tarun’s name. Everybody’s gaze followed Kartik... the keep silent signboard ironically sitting on the wall.
Ishita ran behind him, but could see no one. “Where is he?”Kartik was sweating. He was frowning. “Tarun is gone. He is gone...gone...gone...gone...gone...”
She grabbed him by the arm and took him out of the library, briefly pausing to apologise to the now seething librarian about the racket that had been created.
“Is something wrong with him?” Ishita wondered... With all the patience that she could muster, she asked Kartik if he had a photograph of Tarun, which would make it much easier to track him.
Kartiks face lit up again. “YES of course I have his photograph!”
He took out a journal from his sling bag, and quickly skimmed through it. In all the excitement, a picture fell out on the floor.
Slowly ishita bent towards the photograph, and picked it up. It was a picture of Kartik, with an arm around nothing but air. Kartik looked at the photograph proudly.
“see him there? Dont we look good together?”
Slowly Ishita passed the photograph back to him. She looked at him, and tried to hide her disbelief with a feigned smile...
Without another word she turned around, and quickly walked away... with kartik still gazing adoringly at the picture of him and his non-existent boyfriend...