The evening was warm. We are speaking about the month of May, after all; when the mercury levels in a temperate country as mine are easily in the high forty-degree Celsius mark. A heatwave had gripped the entire country in its clutches, and it was the tenth day when the temperatures had hit a record breaking high. I was standing on the edge of the boundary wall of my terrace, which, on the other side, fell into a thirty-foot drop ending in a cemented floor where a building was being constructed. And the thought that flashed across the box of rationality I call my head – the thought which had thrusted itself forward, pushing everything else aside – was frightening: what if I were to fall down this drop.
Would I die? Well, that would depend on where I landed, wouldn’t it? On my feet, maybe I’d break a lot of bones. On my head, and I would buy myself a one-way ticket to afterlife.
I’ve often wondered, particularly in the quiet hours of the night, the time when you find yourself sliding down the hole of vulnerability, why I feel this urge (because I don’t have a better word to describe it) to jump off my terrace whenever I looked down the drop. As far as I could remember, I’ve never suffered from vertigo. Before my father, god rest his soul, yanked our family out of our house in the country and threw us in this top-storeyed flat in the city (where the summers are agonisingly hot), I don’t recollect being afraid of heights. But now, here we are. I can’t take my eyes off the steep drop, and, the longer I remain fixated, the quicker I feel the urge hurtling forward to take control.
The construction work had been agonisingly slow. Two months in, and the workers had only put in the concrete flooring. In this tormenting heat, I wouldn’t blame them. I saw two workers, in their sweat-stained vests and black bottoms, standing by the cement mixer as it churned the cement. The older one, who stood with a slouch (a resigned, almost defeated look most characteristic of a life that has seen insufferable turmoil and pain), puffed on a cigarette. Although I stood significantly higher, the waft of the smoke as he took a drag from the stick and breathed it out was… sinfully irresistible. I felt the cloud of thoughts in my mind emptying and feeling heavier at the same time.
And, just like that, the pledge I’d taken to never smoke following an acute attack of tuberculosis last year started melting away. The desperate craving was returning. My twin brother, who could be fairly called my worst enemy, did hide a pack in his cupboard. For a computer wizard (he worked in the cybersecurity department of a multinational corporation), he wasn’t too clever with the digital passcode he’d used to lock his cupboard.
7.9.87. Our birthday.
But maybe it wasn’t the unquenchable craving for a cigarette that made me restless. I was still looking down. Staring into the drop was ominously hypnotic.
The next second, I heard a voice. At first, I thought it was the heat – the way it makes you light-headed – causing my imaginative mind to, well, imagine things. But I heard it clearly all the same. A whisper, which, despite the audibly loud cement mixer, the last calls of the birds as they made their way back to their nests, and the chattering of the kids playing in the neighbourhood park, had enough strength to carry itself to me. And it only spoke two words on an endless loop.
Do it. Do it.
The part of my mind which had been able to fortify itself from the urge didn’t have to know rocket science to decrypt the underlying meaning. The urge may have tried to thrust itself to the fore and almost taken the controls of my mind each time I dared to look down into the drop earlier, but, this time, I knew it was going to be successful. My mind screamed at me to take my eyes off the drop. Because it knew all I had to do was look the other way; and the terrifying tentacles, which were reaching out farther now, would recede.
But, I couldn’t. I felt my mind trying to oust the urge that was pushing its blade deeper into my consciousness now crying in painful fury. And, yet, I stood where I was; half bent over the boundary wall, my eyes trained on the drop. The workers milling around the cement mixer went off in different directions. Mr. Cigarette exited through a door at the back of the site. The other walked over to a small scattering of bricks, bent down and started sifting through them.
Though still a whisper, the voice became more whole than it was. And, with the voice, I felt the urge growing in size, now threateningly close to taking over my mind. It was alive and pulsating with what I could only describe as manic obsession. A part of me – maybe the smidgen that still hadn’t fallen to its tyranny – felt fearful. I felt myself shivering.
My head was growing heavier. The urge, which had locked itself in inside my head, was swelling in size. Amid the madness, I felt another sensation.
I felt clarity.
So, not resisting it anymore, I placed my trembling hands on the boundary wall. Hot tears trickled down my cheeks. Firming my grip, I boosted myself up. The surface should have felt hot to touch, but that didn’t stop me; I suppose I didn’t even realise it. I was enchanted, ensnared. But, in the process of heaving myself, I lost my balance. Propped only against my shivering hands, I couldn’t stop the momentum that carried me forward. The wind picked up. I could hear voices from down below. Mr. Cigarette, emerging from the door, bellowed. I couldn’t make out his words. The momentum kept carrying me forward. The voice – Do it – raved in my ears.
But the clarity in my mind, which had submitted to the urge completely, persisted. The last ounce of fear was supressed to nothingness. I would like to believe I even smiled. Not a hearty, big smile; just the touch of a curl at the corner of my mouth. Soon, I was completely on the other side of my boundary wall and my hands had come away. I was falling, falling…
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