My name is Cooper and I think I am dead. Or maybe I am lost, I am not sure. But it is imperative that I must go back to my friend as soon as possible. Nishant will be lost without me. Gullible as he is, he can be persuaded to live without me. I suspect that is what has happened. Unfortunately, deliberate decisions have been made to keep me out of Nishant’s reach. He cannot hear me. It looks like I lost my voice. I am now in the dark. I don’t know if I am the darkness or it is dark around me. How will the dead know that they have transcended? I am unable to perceive my own being. I desperately call out to Nishant from this abyss. Please let me lament my story.
Nishant met me when he was around 3 years of age. His parents felt he achieved his milestones way ahead of his age. He had a photographic memory and could recall it to the smallest detail. He never lost his toys and if the toys were not to be found, it meant that Nishant had intentionally displaced it. He had a vivid imagination and high-strung nerves. He looked for someone to calm him. That’s when I came into his life. He was a single child and my friendship was his dream that came true for him. He was a reclusive kid and I never expected him to change anything for me. At first, I was there only when he needed me and wandered off otherwise. We played with his toys and talked to each other. We knew what each of us was thinking and were very close. As he grew, we became inseparable. I was with him most of the time. Once when we were playing, Nishant’s mom wondered whom he was talking to. He introduced me as his only friend. I was very flattered though I did not understand his mother’s confused looks. For many days then, I was offered to eat whatever Nishant was given. In fact, Nishant insisted that they give me my share of cookies, lest I take it from him.
After school, we were alone in his apartment except for the housemaid. One of the maid’s jobs was to feed Nishant and take care of him until his parents returned from work. One day, Nishant was running temperature. The maid, already burdened with household chores tried to feed him. Nishant meekly refused. The maid looked menacing at him. But Nishant continued to turn his head away from the food. Then a slap landed on his thigh. My anger boiled over. I murmured that the maid should be hit back. Nishant looked at me and as if on cue through the toy truck at her. It hit her head. A look of horror spread over her face. She had never seen Nishant angry let alone violent. That’s when both of us realized the purpose behind our friendship. Nishant was vulnerable and he needed me to take care of him. He needed someone to stand by him and I became his protector. The maid, as expected did not utter a word about the incident fearing rebuttal. So we knew we had won and that was our first score against the world.
I stayed clear when Nishant spends his time with his parents. His parents doted on him and my presence was not needed. But that rarely happened. Many evening ended with arguments and fights between Nishant’s drunken father and yelling mother. During such times Nishant ran to me and I would calm down his agitated nerves. But both of them love Nishant and they overcompensate their absence by showering him with toys and presents.
I rarely accompanied Nishant to school. He was an ignorable average student. He never made his presence conspicuous. He did not have many friends and never spoke unless spoken too. Kids in his class rarely bothered him. But when he was in class VII, there was one kid who kept bullying Nishant. Once he put a dead lizard in Nishant’s bag. Nishant was understandably upset. So we hatched a plan that involved a couple of hundred rupees and a few trips to the nearby butchers. When the bully found his bag full of animal discard, he never troubled Nishant again. After this incident, Nishant was more isolated from his classmates. They whispered among themselves when he passed them and called him creepy. A few more incidents that Nishant carried out with my guidance reached teachers ears and Nishant’s parents were summoned. From then on, his parents started observing him closely. They concluded I was that bad influence on Nishant. They tried to convince him that I was no longer needed as he was a big boy and that he could make new friends. Nishant could sense that his parents no longer appreciated our friendship. They felt it was weird for a thirteen-year-old. So I tried to be as invisible as possible. I knew he needed me the most then and I would never abandon him. Our friendship continued surreptitiously.
Adolescence was a self-limiting ailment that cannot be cured but endured. I was by his sides most of the times guiding him. During those times we often escaped to the terrace of the building where we could freely talk to each other. On occasions when we received strange looks from people who came up to the terrace, we pretended to be stargazing with the new telescope which his father gifted him for his 17the birthday. On one such occasion, when we were loitering on the terrace, he met Akila. She was new to his apartment building and lived a few floors above him. They crossed each other in the stairs or in the elevator. She was a timid girl, a few years younger to Nishant. He liked her and though, I suggested ways to approach her, he never had the courage to start a conversation. Then one day, as fate would have it, Akila talked to him. She hesitantly introduced herself and inquired about the telescope. She was interested in astronomy and was wondering if he could point out the planets. Nishant impressed her with the basics of sky mapping. That’s how it began. Those were Nishant’s happiest days. Akila would sneak up to the terrace whenever she could find an excuse. Their conversation that revolved around stars and planets initially, shifted to others interests and finally into personal lives as well. They both knew loneliness and that brought them together.
I would stay away during their meetings and join him when he needed me for confiding his happiness. He hardly missed me when he was with Akila. Their friendship blossomed and changed into a deeper and purposeful relationship. All the piled up emotions opinions, hopes, desires and peeves found their voice when he was with the socially awkward Akila. Akila was a good listener and that helped. When we fly so high, we should be prepared for the whirling decent. But Nishant never braced himself for the fall. The fall was sudden. Akila frail body did not stand a chance against deadly meningitis and that crushed the Nishant. He came back to me broken and shattered beyond repair. He then made no pretence about me because I was the only one who could understand his anguish. He cried on my shoulder, lamented endlessly during nights and fell asleep in sheer exhaustion. His parents were sympathetic about his loss. They did not admonish grieving Nishant’s conversations with me. I put in my all to help him. I cried with him. I never left his side. It was not about Akila alone. It was that alienating anguish of loneliness, of the pointlessness of existence. It could be put to an end effortlessly by a small leap. We went up and climbed on the walls of the terrace. Suddenly a hand grabbed Nishant from behind and pinned the hollering body to the floor.
I did not like the doctor the moment I met him. I knew he would plan to separate me from Nishant. I appealed to him not to listen to the ranting of the doctor. The doctor prescribed something to Nishant, which made him sleep a lot. He woke up sporadically and even when he was awake he was in a haze. I knew the medicine, which Nishant took would put me to death slowly. I am sure he needed me but he was in a state where he hardly recognized his needs. I began to wither. I was driven out of Nishant’s realm. I fell deeper and deeper into an abyss until I lost the sense of plunge.
I am Cooper. How will I know when I am dead?