“What shall we do?” Ray asked for the twentieth time, if he got his count right. The air was breezy, as if to mock the moods of the three boys. The weather was an exact opposite of them, bright and vibrant. The air was blowing with exhilaration and swaying the smaller trees to its happy tune. There seemed to be a kind of joy around, which couldn’t be found in the three boys sitting on stones. The street from the main road led straight to a small clearing. Small and large boulders were scattered in the clearing, as if someone had put them there for the boys to sit. Few random homes stood on either side of the road and beautiful trees spanned out one after the other which made it, a walker’s paradise. Ray was shaking his leg idly and looked at the other two with a sombre expression. Saber was sitting with his legs spread straight and he was abstractedly picking small pebbles from the grass and was throwing them into a puddle of water, ten metres away.
“What shall we...”Ray started asking when Saber turned his head and simply said-“I will bash your teeth in if you say that again”. Ray opened his mouth to retort but decided against it. He got up from the stone and walked few steps forward in a slow, thoughtful approach. He was bare footed and his feet could feel the sharp blades of grass beneath him. With both hands into his pockets, he thoughtlessly kicked a pebble towards the puddle. “It’s the same every day. Every fucking day...for every bloody reason.” Ray said in lament while bending down to rub his toe where the pebble he had kicked left its mark in red. “I know... But stop it Ray. You are irritating
quipped Saber in a lazy admission.
“Am I now? Oh you don’t understand...”
“Dude, I do. But if you keep screaming about it, you will only get a sore throat. Nothing else!” Saber said with a grin creasing slowly on his lips. Sid threw his head back and started laughing loudly. He was sitting on a smaller boulder than the other two which made him look like he was sitting on the ground. With both his palms on the ground for support and his legs folded, it looked like his bottom was among the blades of grass. Ray had a sombre expression and was lost in thoughts once again. The silence among them was in contrast to the wind which was blowing noisily, rustling the smaller leaves and gushing on its way in a hurry.
“What happened last night?”Sid asked slowly, as if the question might trigger a sandstorm right here. “You want all the juicy details?...You want to sit there and laugh about it? Go on...” Ray replied slowly. His voice was not high. It was rather straight but Sid wished, he had screamed. It would have sounded more logical if he had said those words in a scream. Sid got up and walked towards Ray. Putting his hand around his shoulder, he said, “Relax bro. It’s the same with everyone. You are not alone, are you?” soothingly. Ray nodded his head slowly but the forlorn expression didn’t leave his face like a painting nailed to the wall.
“Look at that fool...” Sid said gaily, pointing towards Saber.
“He thinks he is cool and chilled out. But funnily, the force with which he hurls the pebble into water shows his state of mind. Say, ‘what shall we do’ again and he might try throwing this huge boulder into the water instead of the pebbles.” Sid and Ray both had a huge grin on their faces while Saber looked at them with an amused look.
“Will you understand if I just say ‘F off’ or do you want me to spell it out for your convenience?- Saber said with a sarcastic smile. Sid ignored the jibe and sat down at a boulder nearby. Ray followed suit. Putting his arms around Ray, he asked him again slowly but firmly-“What happened last night?”
“What will happen? He must have got slapped a couple of times. He might have been called a useless waste of space and what not.” Saber said without looking at them. Sid looked sideways towards him and looked back at Ray who simply nodded with a glint of tear shining in his eyes. “It’s useless to brood, dude. Sometimes I feel they have no hearts inside their huge burly bodies.” Saber continued his tirade slowly with cold anger replacing his amusing look he had earlier. “How can you justify it? Look at his cheek! You should have seen him in the morning. He had a print of fingers right across his face. What do you call that? “.. Saber’s voice slowly raised its pitch. “What the...”he paused to swallow the profanity and continued-“... do you call it?” he thundered and hurled a pebble with full force into the water. It landed into the puddle with a splash and droplets of water sprayed aimlessly.
“Someone was talking about getting a sore throat. Was it you by any chance?” Sid said with his eyes sparkling. He was a consummate guy and with a level head above his shoulders. Saber suppressed a grin and said-“Exactly! Either you fight back or bear it. We seem to be doing nothing. Except, whining among ourselves...”
“I don’t know how to fight back. No one does.” Said Ray with a sad voice-“And it was not even my mistake last night.”
Saber got up abruptly and brushing the dirt from his bottom, he said-“Stop crying like a kid, Ray. I had enough of it. If you want to cry, go home. Your dad might give you another reason to cry.”
“Shut up man...” Sid said with exasperation and leaned back.
“It’s so easy for you to say. Your dad doesn’t bash you up.” Ray finally retorted which was on his tip of the tongue since evening.
“Oh really? That’s awesome. Isn’t it? Want to exchange places, you fool? You won’t last a day in my house, if you really want to know.” Saber replied angrily. He started walking in rounds near the puddle of water as if he realized there were no more pebbles around him to pick. “My dad doesn’t slap me. Oh, he doesn’t even care if I exist or not in the first place. Sounds like heaven to you, isn’t it?”
Sid shook his head and started pulling out blades of grass around him. The breeze became quiet and darkness was setting in slowly. The road was deserted and dark. There were no street lights but lamps from nearby houses threw some light onto the road. But there were not too many lamps to lighten up the entire street. So there were pockets of darkness along the road and the clearing itself was getting darker with trees around blotting out the last rays of the sun.
“Guys, stop it now! It’s getting late. Let’s get going. We shall have a tea around the corner and go home. “ Sid said with a tired look on his face.
“Got money?...”asked Ray with his eyes narrowing into small slits of doubt. “A few rupees...I guess we might be able to buy ourselves two cups of tea. So let’s share it.” Sid said and beckoned at Saber with his right hand to start moving. The three young boys started their walk back on the deserted road. Ray walked with both his hands in his pockets. The sound of their feet was in tandem with the gust of breeze blowing on to their face.
“I don’t want to go home.”Ray said slowly as if he was afraid to hear his own voice. “I can sense it already. I haven’t told my results at home yet. I can almost see my dad thrashing me with his belt all night when I tell them”. Sid’s arms went around him again and Ray always felt better when his friends do that.
“Me too, bro... I don’t want to spend the night looking at my parents fight. Every minute...”said Saber as his voice trailed away into the air blowing on to his face. “What do they fight about?” Sid asked enquiringly.
“This and that…” he replied dismissively.
They reached the main road and walked towards the lone tea stall at the corner. Saber was dragging his legs lazily , sweeping the road with his long jeans in the process. He kept running his hand into his silky hair, pushing it back from his eyes as the wind changed its direction and blew his hair into the eyes. They reached the tea stall and delved into their pockets for coins. They bought two cups of tea. Sid expertly took both the cups and poured some tea into an empty one and they started having it silently. Ray took a sip of tea and looked at the other two. Holding the cup, he said-“Let’s run away. What do you say? ” Sid and Saber looked at him with contrast expressions. Sid had a look of amusement and Saber looked like he just gulped the hot tea in one go.
“I don’t want to live in that house anymore.”Ray said firmly.
Part II is on its way...