At the beginning of the A levels, I wrote three short stories which were and probably will remain my most favourite ever. They were written at a time which was very turbulent, and after them I didn’t write anything creative for a very long time. Stranger is one of the three. It has taken some deliberation before I decided to post it here, but it is really one of my best, and I’d like to end the week with it.
The inspiration for this was a random orkuter called Aasaf Aslam, part of whose profile caught my eye one day: “Ideal match: If I meet someone at a club, we go to the roof, and I decide to jump from the roof, that person should be standing next to me and jump with me.”
And of course, Asadee, with his dreams of someday jumping off the roof and floating to the ground – with the power of love.
I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly, that I was too confused or drunk, that the night wind had taken his words and spun their threads into something else; a different thought that in some way was connected to my own.
“What did you say?”
He repeated what he’d said. I looked him over again, the wind gently ruffling his hair, his eyes shining – reflecting the stairway light, as he turned from the wall and the sixteen-storey drop below. I wondered for the tenth time if this was some dream; if I would wake up again on the bar counter in the room below, a dope-drunk friend screaming at me to get moving with the music.
“What do you say?” he murmured softly, now turning to look at me. His eyes were warm and warming. Warming me. They seemed to hold me in them, all of me. Warm bright eyes and he spoke of death, spoke of jumping the way one would suggest going to bed.
My tone wasn’t curious. I already knew, in part, why. To my twisted logic, it was this which was so perfect, a moment beautiful which mustn’t be allowed to be lost. This moment that could only be encased forever if there were no moments after it.
“The music pounds below. Can you hear it?”
I nodded, still keeping my back to the stairway, still looking down the side of the building. The drop – the long drop – was so long the ground couldn’t be seen. It was strangely attractive. The music pounded away, inane and unimportant, but loud.
“And can you hear me?” he almost whispered.
I nodded again. Yes, I could. I could hear him as close as if his voice was in my mind. Despite the pounding music, despite the wonderful wind that whipped our hair back and made the stars sparkle. I wondered how; and again if this was just some high dream.
“Can you see me?” he asked, still softly.
I turned and looked at him. Yes, I could see him. I saw him clearly, though the light was dim. I saw him with my mind’s eye more than anything else, saw him in my heart. If I had one left, that is.
He looked like an angel.
“Then,” he murmured, “That’s why.”
I reached out my hand. He reached out his, and our fingers met. Still the dream-like feeling did not leave; still I felt that I tread on the ground of a sad, sad vision.
A warm feeling spread, as his hand touched mine. When we were dancing below – when I somehow found myself in his arms, dancing with him and having absolutely no idea of how I got there – even then the warm feeling had been present. Encompassing us. As it was now; reminding me that I had nothing to live for, nothing at all but the moment – this moment.
“Come.” He whispered, suddenly close.
The dreamy feeling increased. It was all he’d said downstairs – another realm – one word and that warmth which took me to the roof. One word and him to take me to hell or heaven or the black atheistic oblivion.
But why, why, why, what for?
It wasn’t lust; it wasn’t the spark, the tingle which led to a meaningless night in some bed somewhere. But then what was it that gave me courage to do what I hadn’t found strength to do long before? It was him. It was the warmth and the glow in his eyes and him himself. A stranger, someone I could wordlessly die for. Who would do the same for me.
“This is all we have…” like the softest sigh.
I shook hard as a wave of inexpressible emotions passed over me.
The wind roared louder then, the rushing blocking out the music below. The pounding was gone, the light seemed to flicker, everything disappeared and nothing mattered. Except that I was in his arms and- and I could hear our hearts beat.
Then he let go of me.
“Look up at the stars!” he cried.
We both looked up, in accordance with some ritual only we both knew in our hearts. Last vision of heaven, last of earth. We mounted the ledge. The wind died down, but I couldn’t hear the music, nor could I see the light. Could hear nothing but the steady throbbing of my heart, feel nothing but his hand in mine. And the warmth, of course. The warmth was the reason I was here.
“Close your eyes…” I murmured.
There was silence.
“Ready?” he said finally, and it sounded so utterly stupid that we both started giggling. But I could feel tears on my cheeks and I knew he was crying too.
Humans, after all, we were.
I held on to his hand tight. One step was all it took, and we plummeted to the ground.
Death. Death. Death.
And sweet oblivion.