Elaichi [Cardamom]

by Aditi Mendiratta

‘I did something bad.’

‘Something really really bad’, she repeated, mostly to herself.

I was greeted by her in a frenzy, at about three in the morning. This was no time for jokes, I could sense that. But, I did not know what to do. I stood there at the doorway of my room, waiting for comprehension.

The call came about an hour before she did, the incessant ringing of about five call woke me up from the coma I had induced. Last night was rough. Needless to say, this wasn’t the first instance of these odd hour appearances. Drawn to chaos like mobs, I kept thinking how I should’ve gotten better at handling these incidents. Well that is not entirely true, I did know enough to not ask, though.

She kept pacing the corners of my small living room, littered with empty ash trays and beer cans, the place seemed disturbed. Much like her mind. I had been downstairs ever since the call, must have smoked about a half a pack when she zoomed in, music blaring well above the respected audible limit of 2 am. She had gotten out while her car chimed in, the sound just punched me in my face, closing the vortex on this ominous night. I tried talking to her, not even trying to deflate the situation.

‘What have you been upto?’

Nothing.

‘Must have been a crazy night, huh?’

Zilch.

The omen was lurking behind every clue, the atmosphere itself was not helping. Delhi in the middle of a harsh winter, at this hour. Except for a few truck horns piercing the silence wrapped around, it was quiet. She kept walking towards my apartment. I walked a step behind.

The moment we stepped inside my apartment she got shocked out of her trance like state. Her pupils dilated through what I think was another usual night. I kept looking at her until her face lost its distinguish worthy aspects. I should have taken a mint, with nothing in the environment to keep me up with more than the legal amount of alcohol and drugs coursing through my body I needed something to stay awake.

I started focusing on her movement, maybe if I concentrated hard enough she would give a bigger hint. But my mind kept going back to last night. The last week in the city had given it a renewed zeal. With my current conquest lying in my warm bed while I stood here in the stark night, all I could think about was going back there. With one tiny change, go back in time and spend the night with the girl in front of me instead. We met at one of those applications kids use these days. I never really got hitched onto the idea until I was 28, sitting alone in my apartment, freshly broken hearted, my friend was quick to suggest the closest to a remedy this world allows us, booze and lays.

I did not expect to find much, but I was pleasantly surprised at the availability of connection at the slightest whim. Ironically she too wasn’t buying into this culture. She had an erratic bio, but a cute face. We met within a day of swiping right and had ended up spending the next weekend together, in this apartment. We had had each other for all three meals, devouring ourselves to the limits of exhaustion. She had an aura of oblivion she lugged around. But once I found myself in the eye of the chaos, I found myself alone, with her. I liked that. But the ensuing calmness was temporary.

We did, however, manage to keep each other in our’ social orbits since then. It was far from conventional, sporadic would better describe this. My eyes focus on the scene in front of me, she is no longer pacing. Sitting down on the duvet, she seems to be staring at something beyond this bachelor pad. I walk up to her and ask whether she would like some tea. I have to assume the slight shake of her head means yes. I found her in the exact same space five mins later while I carried two cups of cardamom tea, which she drank to the extent of smelling like it, almost. I wasn’t a fan in the beginning, but love changes a person doesn’t it?

I nudge her, she gets up and we make our way towards the balcony through the bedroom. I live on the top floor of a high rise in the middle of a sub-city. I grab my shawl off its place and offer her a jacket. Rows after rows of apartments had sprouted here ten years ago. The city is shushed, murmuring only to let an owl hoot or car honk. Under the dark smoggy cloud things wears a cloak. Everything seemed real, but also not, hazy perhaps. With the heaviness in my eyes I find it hard to focus on the surroundings, I turn to her instead.

Leaning on the railing she says, ‘Sometimes I can see myself, outside of myself. I imagine the version in front of the person sitting before me and I can’t tell for certain, but I have my doubts if they can see through the mist and see the darkness. If the loss of my soul is something they see too?’

‘You mean like an out of body experience?’

‘Yeah, it’s like I exist in two places, at once. Split in the middle. Living half lives in two places instead of one like everyone else.’

I nod and put my hand on her shoulder. She rests her head on my shoulder and sighs.

I remember waking up in my bed though, cold. Shivering to my soul, I woke up to see my doors and windows wide open. I rush to grab my sweatshirt off the end of the bed. Still half awake, shuddering, I close them all. Grabbing my shawl from the top of the chair, I crawl back into my bed, alone. Grabbing my phone from under my pillow I open it to one notification. Two people missing and just one notification.

But then, I really woke up to an email, from her, received at 2:00 in the morning.

“There are no good days or bad days, there are just days when you get beaten down and others where you live through the pain.

 I think it finally feels like it will not get better. Even if I ran away, someone will find me, and get me back here. This is the only reality I know.

I think death has an inherent quality to make the living think. It really stops you dead right in the tracks, looks you in the eye and asks, “Would you like to join me today?”. You run of course, right in the opposite direction, but it catches up eventually. Out of breath you exclaim, “I haven’t done enough yet. It is too early.”

But who really gets to have their say when death comes knocking, right?

Love forever!”

 

About the Author: Aditi Mendiratta is a lawyer based in Delhi with a penchant for weaving fiction. Bouts of nihilism aside, she spends her days drafting contracts and nights fiction. 

2 Comments

  1. Such a lovely piece. This is both sad and sweet at the same time. You can really understand what the characters have gone through despite this being a short story. The way this has been weaved makes me yearn to know more about the characters – especially about her.

  2. Nice piece Aditi
    You have good command over language.

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