Thursday, March 6, 2014
Let Her Jump – A Short Story Not for the Faint Hearted
Let Her Jump – A Short Story Not for the Faint Hearted (Based on a true story)
When he walked in that morning he knew he had a very busy day to look forward to. And as he didn’t want the hassle of starting it too soon he just walked past his secretary without glancing at her for he knew she would be giving out all sorts of disapproval signals on his coming late to office. But he didn’t care as he had just come off a calm and restful weekend and he didn’t mind if he put a frown on his secretary’s face if he could extend that mental bliss to a few more minutes. As always he switched on his computer to check his mails as was his daily routine. And it jumped right out at him with no subject heading.
He read the message again hoping against hope that he had read it wrong the first time he did. But no, it still read the same ominous way "If you want to see me alive one last time come to the top of The Temple Tower building by noon today before i jump off it." And that’s it - the entire message was that cryptic with no hint of who or what or why. But he knew, of course. Knew it was she. No one else would use that phrase "... or else I will jump" for no one else in his acquaintance ever threatened that way, except her. It was her signature threat and had been almost the first words he had ever heard her speak when they were both three year olds in the same kindergarten class.
That day he had entered the class and stood looking around uncertainly and he had heard those words "I am going to jump" and had started turning around when someone jumped right on him pushing him to the floor. When his eyes cleared of his tears he looked around to see his new classmates as a group laughing at him and he hurriedly got up pushing away the girl from him just in time for the teacher to come in and start scolding them both. They had ended up sitting beside each other for the rest of their school days. That fateful jump was the start of their friendship and the first of many jumps she took.
The next one he remembered very clearly was in the last year of school when she again tried to jump on him. They had drifted apart over the past year with the pressure of studies and he had started hanging out with other girls. In the course of one such friendship (a budding romance) with a cute classmate he had been overheard to say that she was not his girlfriend. During the lunch break she had got up on the parapet wall of the school terrace, of course after alerting the whole class and threatened to jump off and die unless he recanted his statement in front of all their classmates and re-affirmed to everyone that SHE was his girlfriend and not the cute girl. Egged on by everyone around he had thrown one last despairing look at the cute girl before repeating the lie and saving her life but destroying his in the process.
When he had asked her later how dared she, she replied coolly that she knew, that he would always be there to catch her when she jumped, just like when they were kids. He protested that he had not but she never listened, her remembrance of events was clearly different to his memory of them. The look on his current girlfriend's face later when they passed each other in the corridor- a look full of contempt and anger at his spinelessness - chilled him and haunted his sleep for months as he had really liked that girl and had thought they had a future together. He couldn’t help but speculate what would have happened if he had stood his ground and refused the blackmail? Would she have really jumped? Maybe she would have- she was half parts possessive and half parts psycho. Thinking about it was useless now for he had chickened out and given in hadn't he?
College took them both along different paths and they struggled to stay in touch. He studied hard, worked hard and rarely thought about girls. She was the one who kept coming back occasionally to keep tabs on him and to discourage him from showing anything more than a passing interest in other girls he found attractive. There was never any talk about their getting married or their future or anything like that. It’s as if once she had staked out her territory she had moved on with the confidence that he would be there for her forever. And on his part he too was reluctant to push the issue knowing that he didn’t really love her. He secretly hoped she would find someone else and leave him alone. But he never told it to her face.
And then during his final year and just before his exams there was a knock on his apartment door and there she was looking like hell. She pushed her way in and made herself comfortable. It was a dreary October day and the northeast monsoon rains were pouring outside. He asked her if she would like a cup of coffee and went in to make one. When he came out of the kitchen with the coffee cup she was sitting on his balcony with her legs up on his chair. She was staring far away with a dreamy look on her face. He was instantly chilled and worried. He didn’t like that look. He went nearer and holding out the cup to her asked her to get down from the balcony railing, for it was thin, rain slicked and they were three floors up. She looked back at him smiled sickly and asked him why he had caught her the first time when they were kids for it would have been far, far better for her life if she had died then.
He didn’t know what to say to that but waited knowing she would explain. She told him then that she was pregnant. He gasped like he had been punched in his balls and asked "whattttt?". She repeated in a matter of fact voice "Yes, I am pregnant, I met a wonderful man and I gave myself over to him fully knowing that we would be getting married soon. But he turned out not be so wonderful in the end for when he heard I got pregnant he disappeared without a word". He stood there blinking trying to digest this perfidy on her part and then she went on "You know me; you know my family, my parents. If I bring a bastard on to this world they will commit suicide- my whole family will commit suicide. Its better then that I alone die. That's why I came to see you. I knew that you alone would understand why I had to die like this" she said and made a move to slide off the balcony. He jumped forward and caught her arms and pulled her back "Don’t be an idiot -death is not the solution to anything, tell me" he asked "tell me, is there anything I can do to help?" Even as he asked that question he knew it was the wrong thing to ask her but a close friendship of twenty years meant he had to ask her that. She smiled sweetly at him and said "Why yes, you could marry me I suppose and give my child a father".
They were married two days later with no one but a couple of their old school friends as reluctant witnesses both of them when he had called them up having advised him to run and hide himself till she had gone away failing which had come to their wedding under protest. He had immediately vacated his paying guest accommodation and found them a larger apartment and had joined up for part-time work in his free (study) time. The day after their wedding she had miscarried and lost her child in the womb and developed complications and was very sick for quite some time. He took her to the hospital and without informing either set of parents he took care of her all by himself, of all her wounds both physical and emotional, taken all her pain into him and allowed her to heal peacefully with the certainty that he would always be there for her.
Whenever he could get off from her bedside in the hospital he had been out job hunting and one day he came back to her hospital room with the news that he had been placed in a great firm with a great salary -only to find her missing from the room which looked all neat and sterile as if she had never been there and it was all a dream. When he enquired with the hospital staff they told him she had discharged herself and left with a relative and all they had was a letter from her. It told him in very enthusiastic language all about her good fortune- how her former lover and father of her child had tracked her down and apologized for leaving without telling her that he had merely gone to get his parents approval for their marriage and now that he had tracked her down he wanted her to go back with him to Bangalore where they will be married properly with everyone's blessing. He read that letter three times before he understood that she had left him forever and when he finally did he felt totally drained of every emotion. He didn’t know how to contact her or he would have pointed out that it was bigamy for her to marry again. He knew he should feel devastated and depressed at the betrayal but except for drinking himself blind that day all he felt was a strange apathy towards his being left in the lurch like this. Truth to tell one part of him was even glad she had left and his life was once again his after the agony of the past few eventful days.
So, seven years had passed since that fateful day. He had pulled himself together, pulled his whole life together and worked and achieved great things in his career and was even now poised on the verge of even greater things and she had come creeping back into his life again. He shook his head and calling his secretary to hold off all meetings and calls scheduled for the rest of his day; he went down to the basement car park, took out his car and drove off to Temple Towers where she waited for him. He went up in the lift and there she was again just as he remembered from olden days, deja vu moment, sitting on the parapet wall "I knew you would come" she said and smiled at him. He said nothing but merely stared at her. The years had not been kind to her, she looked wasted.
He stood there waiting and she was forced to talk again to fill the awkward silence "I wish people die young when they are at their best. It’s as you get old that you realize even death is less a punishment then you deserve for the life you lead. I know that I have behaved very badly towards you and I have thought of coming back and apologizing a hundred times, a thousand times but I never had the courage to face you again. Till now" he still waited silently as she went on in the same gushing tone he remembered so well from the past "yes, now that I am about to die, I can tell you how sorry I am. You were the only person who never hurt me. The only person I could trust always. The only person who would catch me if I ever jump and some crazy thought, some crazy, crazy hope that you would catch me again this time too was what brought me here again". She looked hopefully at him but he stood as still as a statue. She went on recklessly then "Who else could I go to? After all you are my husband?" she said and smiled sickly at him. The smile did it - what all those words didn’t do, that smug smile did. He just turned and walked away "No" she screamed "don’t go, I will jump, I swear if you don’t stop right now I will jump" were the last words he heard as he took the stairs down.
As he drove away in his car he could see in the rear view mirror a crowd gathering around the other side of the building but he felt no curiosity to stop and see over what. He just went straight home and rang the door bell. His wife who let him in was surprised "Why? So early, what happened?” He brushed her off with a casual "Headache. Can I get a coffee?’ When she brought in the coffee he caught her hand and pulled her closer and said "You know, I thank god every single day that you were still single when I traced you so many years of losing touch after we finished school and went our own ways". She smiled at him and said "Ah, if only you had not been such a gutless worm and had boldly said I was your girlfriend to that bitch we would not have been separated all that time and you need not have despaired of finding me single". For a minute he stared at her solemnly “Yes I wish too that I had stood up to her then and told her I found you seriously cute but I never learned to speak the truth well - at least not till I married you”. She smiled at that frank avowal and sat down beside him “You really were afraid of her weren’t you?”. He smiled at his wife and said “Not afraid, not that at all -it’s just that I loved her too in my own way but it was not the way she wanted- I hope you understand”. His wife smiled radiantly at him “Yes, yes, I do” and she gave a light kiss on his cheek to show all was well between them."Gutless worm, am I?" he asked as he pushed her down on her back and started nibbling her cheek.