You Still Have Time
Zeeshan’s lover, the bus along with the route number 180, was late today. Luckily, he too was late and he didn’t miss it. The previous night he was up till 1 am celebrating his mom’s birthday. He and his sister surprised their mother at sharp 12 with a homemade cake. The cake cutting, greetings over the phone and the mandatory WhatsApp status took another 30 minutes causing the delay and he woke up irksome and irritable.
Perhaps this was the reason behind his behaviour when his mom offered him roti in breakfast instead of Dosa as he was expecting. He pushed his plate on the table away from him and threw a glaring look at her and got off the table grabbing some almonds from the jar nearby. As he was wearing his shoes, his body felt cold. He had a cold shiver of guilt. Suddenly his stomach felt hollow and frigid. He wanted to apologize to her. He didn’t want to hurt her. Especially not on her birthday.
As he walked in again wearing one shoe with untied lace he saw her walking in the room while speaking on phone. She looked at him when she turned around to say something to her daughter. She waved at him and said to his sister, “Close the door when he leaves, I’m speaking to Chaand-aapa”. She was Zeeshan’s aunt. He called her Chaand-aapa, Moon-Sister, as she was his favourite among the three sisters of his mother. He looked at the watch, it was 7:30 already. He wore his other shoe and walked out hastily.
The journey from his house to college was long. It took about 90 minutes and three buses. 180 was the first bus he had to take to reach one of the busiest bus stations of the city. The problem with 180 was, it was along with one of the busiest routes in the morning and evenings and it passed through areas with many schools, colleges and government offices. No other single bus connected the two points which 180 did. But the buses were limited and untimed. Sometimes he’d spend hours waiting for the bus, especially in the afternoon while returning from the college. This made him tired but he couldn’t change the route as it was the most convenient one. He could neither tolerate it nor let it go. Just like his former lover and their on-off relationship. Hence he called the bus his lover whom he’d wait for. Every morning. Every evening.
But today he had different plans. He was visiting University with his friend. His friend was seeking admission under a distant learning program and had asked him to accompany for the admission. Zeeshan had no serious mood for classes as half of his classmates were still in their hometown. It was January 4th and the classes were supposed to resume from that day after ten days Christmas-New Year vacation. He chose to accompany his friend, Prakash, to the University. He would meet him at a junction halfway to his college and from there they would go the university in Prakash’s bike.
It was also the day when all colleges were opened after being closed for months because of the pandemic. The bus had no seat unoccupied and the traffic was typical of the city Bengaluru. He was stood leaning on the last pole in the bus listening to an episode of Mathematics Lecture series. Halfway on the road and the bus came to a sudden halt with the force pulling him off the pole. He heard a sharp metallic noise as his earphones fell off when he lost his balance and almost fell down at his face.
He stood straight holding the little bar just below the back glass of the bus. As he stood up looking outside through the glass in the back, he understood the reason for the sudden brake.
He saw a man lying on the road about two feet from the footpath. The front wheel of his bike was totally damaged, the mudguard shattered in pieces and the wheel and rim lay elsewhere. And there was a trace of something like a most disgusting looking ice cake. It took him a few seconds to realize that it was actually the brain of the man spread on the road. His head was still in the half left helmet and he saw blood coming out from under. It was almost like water coming out of a little spring.
Zeeshan’s body felt cold. His stomach churned. This was the first time he had witnessed something as horrible as this. He was terrified. He imagined the man’s lungs exhaling the last breath out of him. With all the commotion around him, he felt like the people, the sounds and everything around him froze, just like the blood in his body and air in his lungs. It thought he was feeling the presence of the angel of death who was at his pickup point doing his duty.
He didn’t know who the deceased was but it felt like he seemed to be communicating with him. A translucent version of the man seemed to rise from the body surrounded by people. The translucent man seemed to have abnormally big eyes. The longer he stared in his eyes, the more animated they seemed. He could see a few dreams hardening and reducing to dust, some hopes and promised disappearing in thin air and love in form of the words unsaid, seemed to flow out of his eyes in form of tears. The man looked at him. Closed his eyes and let his tears trace down his dusty cheeks, with dried blood, and fall on the ground below him. As Zeeshan followed the drop of the tear, he felt a warm gush of air through his body. He could feel his heart-melting. As the teardrop touched the ground, it immediately evaporated with a hiss buzzing Zeeshan’s ears. The hiss seemed to convey “You still have time to apologize. I couldn’t. You can.”
The man disappeared.
Zeeshan knew what he had to do. He crossed to the road to go back home and said something urgently as the ambulance arrived at the spot.