Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Bottle

The man knew this place like the back of his hand. He probably could sketch each rock, every tree, the anthills present here from memory. He trod the pathway unfeelingly today. Mechanically. Noticing nothing. His legs carried him without any conscious effort on his part.

He swayed a little as he walked. He gripped the bottle in his hand tighter. It had been a long time since he had been to this place. He stopped a moment and took a deep swig of liquor from the bottle.

Random scenes started floating in his memory. He started to walk without realizing again. He had always been lonely in his life. But he had never felt alone. It was only after he got married and had his first child, he had realized that his life had really been empty till then. He was happy for the first time in his life.

The scenes in his head ware clear and the images lifelike. He was holding and feeding his son while the toddler was gazing at the moon. He was holding his kid’s hand as he walked his first steps. He was blowing air into the wheels of the tricycle, as the child impatiently danced around him. He was teaching him the alphabet from a ridiculously huge chart. He was trying to explain division as repeated subtractions. He was correcting the loops in the ‘g’s and the ‘y’s in the boy’s cursive writing book. He was waving his son a bon voyage, as he left with his mother on a ship - a trip on the sea - which had always been the boy’s dream; using all the strength he could muster to keep his tears hidden. He could, as clear as day, hear his son’s choked voice assuring him that he would explain in detail every little thing that occurred on the trip. He could see his wife smiling, as she put an arm across their son’s shoulders. He was watching as the ship drifting away beyond the horizon.

The images became muddled and blurry then. It was like in a tragic movie fast forwarded. Headlines from various papers about the shipwreck. Delays in the search and rescue teams. Body counts. Missing people. His son and his wife among the feared dead list. Mourning and cries. His first drink. His tenth. His hundredth…

The cold sea breeze hit him then. That broke the images and brought him to the present like magic. He stared into the calm sea for a while. His mind was surprisingly clear for the first time from a long time now. He had always loved this beach. He had fallen in love with this place about the same age that his son had. The family used to come here as often as they could. This was a secluded and an unheard of place. It always felt peaceful here. He felt that he belonged again. The raising and falling of the waves calmed him. He stood there for a long time. He slowly began to feel that he could heal. That, at last, he could accept that his family was gone.

By force of habit, he raised the bottle to his mouth. The moment the liquid touched his lips, he felt disgusted with himself. His child would not want to see his father like this. No one would. He had let his sadness ruin his life long enough. He ran a few steps on the sand and threw the bottle as far as he could into the sea.

He felt strangely light. He took a huge breath and exhaled slowly. He could feel the pain of his loss start to ebb away slowly. He sat down on the beach and looked at the reflection of the moon on the waves in the distance transfixed. The waves lapped at his feet every now and then. He felt that he was a part of nature.

After a long time he decided to leave. He would change everything. The beach had done him a world of good. But there were just too many memories here. He decided that he would go to a far off place and start a new and sober life all over again.

He stood up and turned around. The bottle lay in his way again. The sight of it somehow made him angry. He picked it up, all set to throw it into the sea again.

But this bottle felt different. It felt slightly old. He looked at it. It was opaque, dark and corked. It was not the same bottle that he had thrown away. He pulled the cork off, and realized that it had a letter within.

The moonlight was not really bright. But the man didn’t really need anything more. He did not even need to read till the end of the letter.

It started – ‘To Daddy…’.

He could recognize the loop of the letter y in his sleep.

4 comments:

aadi said...

Melodrama!!
I could almost hear the violin crying in the background.

Mathangi Raghuraman said...

1. Man, you ARE a 'feeler'!
2. No one dies?!!
3. btw, I like the title :)

Dha said...

@mathangi
1. No comments. :)
2. People die. Plural. There was a shipwreck!
3. I like the title too. :)

Dha said...

@aadi..
Thanks, man!
:)