Every night before going to bed, he switches the lights off. As he went to turn off the staircase light, he could see the trash can is still out. They had just received a notice couple of days back about keeping the trash cans outside throughout the night. Apparently, they attract wildlife. He climbed down, brought the bin inside, turned the lock clockwise and whispered softly – ‘I locked the door’. He does this everytime he locks the door. He heard somewhere that it works for those who forget if they have locked the door, or turned off the gas, or something that our thoughts may spin their magic on to turn into a nightmare. Was it a Ted talk? The presenter had actually said to say it loud, but he whispers. ‘Should do the job’, he says to himself. He put his eye mask on and slept off. He woke up the next day, made a cup of tea and the entire day went by without him leaving his house or talking to anyone. He had leftovers for lunch, took a nap, and soon it was dark outside. ‘Is it already time for dinner’, he wondered.
The hot bowl of soup, held carefully in thick, padded mittens, survived the journey from the microwave to the counter, as the clumsy thirty-two year old almost tripped over the hand-woven cotton door mat. It had formed a bundle of utter neglect and trapped his foot as he turned towards the counter. On other days he could have blamed his roommates. But both of them leaving him with his lonesome dissertation has added to the disappointment of finding no one to blame when the need arises. The mat used to be at the entry, right after you have climbed up the fourteen steps, when he first moved into this apartment, with two other Bengali graduate students. The four by three woven creature kept crawling towards the inside, dragging on our snow-boots salt-stained, weary shoelaces until one day we felt the need of a doormat at the sliding door to the really spacious balcony. Where would we keep our sandals smeared with ash and snow just after we have taken a nicotine break and complained about how the winter felt too long! The balcony, and its perfect wooden planks meeting the red bricks of the wall – burnt, not painted, with the beautiful view of the mountains, and the night sky, and any chance of stealing glances at night get ruined by a bright white light installed at the corner of our building. The doormat at my balcony didn’t mind the bright white light. But as the sandals by the balcony stopped carrying snow, somehow the mat moved to the front of the kitchen. It was then inside the kitchen, right at the center. It was actually proving quite useful, except now, when our Ramen-loving Bengali almost tripped over a loose flap of cloth that’s strained from its path. Soon, the Ramen was safely set down on his desk. He went back to the kitchen for a spoon, and to fill his bottle of water. He came back inside, closed the door with his elbow and slumped on the chair. He is hungry! As he sat down, pulling closer the steaming bowl of Ramen noodles, his favorite quick meal, be it breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner, he felt two hands covering his eyes.
Startled, he reached for the hand, but couldn’t recognize who it was. He heard a giggle, and then one hand took off the glasses, bent over, and kept it on the desk while the other hand, almost soothingly chilly, stretched to cover both his eyes. Leaned, head hung back in submission, he could feel her fingers, her arms, hair, ears, and eyes. A tiny smile was forming at the corner of his lip, as he heard a stale whisper from last night echo inside his head, his last words.