March 30, 2009

Walking Downstairs

(I moved out of hostel a couple of weeks ago. I lived here for four and a half years. The nostalgia is strong.)

I decide to leave the fan and the bathroom light on despite all the warnings. I need the ventilation, so fuck the electricity bill. The college can pay that, they take enough money from my parents anyway. From across the room I check myself in the mirror over the basin, squinting into it as though if I try harder, I might see something I actually like. I sigh and move out, without locking the damn door. I can't lock it because I broke the handle a long time ago for some obscure reason. I descend the stairs slowly. Four flights to go.

I notice the dusty and empty telephone box made of wood in the corner. It houses about six hundred horny lizards whose children grace the walls of all the rooms in the hostel. Every student has a cellphone now, so the sound of the telephone ringing louding in the corridor is a distant, almost mythical concept. Time changes the little things. I look at my toes as they flex and unflex with each step I take. They are dirty, desperately in need of a pedicure and good moisturizing lotion. But feet are at the opposite end of the psyche, worlds apart. And right now, my life consists of trying to be moderately sane. Right now, these neglected toes don't belong to me.I shrug to myself, and make a mental note to buy closed shoes next time.

I turn around the bend. There is lizard shit on the floor. It's flattened. Trampled faded lizard feces. I'm not disgusted. I used to have lizardophobia but since they are everywhere, they have sort of become like unpleasant wallpaper. You can get used to anything. As the view widens out, I see her, the bitch I hate the most in this place. She's on the phone with her retarded boyfriend, who I'm sure only stays because she gives it up good. I feel violent nausea rise as I remember how she made me so miserable at one point that I wanted to quit studying and run away somewhere where the horrible lies she made up wouldn't get at me. She repaid my friendship with deceit, and I no longer have words for her. I snarl automatically, glare at her pouting lips as she simpers on, and force myself to walk. Bitch bitch bitch. I hope you fuckin' die.

The next floor is a familiar one, I lived here for two years. The faded notice in green greets me, “Please put leftover food in the bins. There are rats on this floor”. I smile. I love those rats, the little buggers. They fight for survival in this alien environment and they survive each bloody night, braving rat-traps and nasty poison bait, more trouble that I've ever had to face. Maybe I should leave some chips on the floor outside my room once in a while. I wonder if they unconditionally love each other? If they do, well, rats are the shit.

“Excuse me, I was wondering if I can borrow your surgery text? We have an exam in two days and I heard you have Bailey & Love? I'll just need it for today and if it's not a problem...”. The hesitating voice trailed off as I stopped and turned around. A junior was standing on the stairs, two steps higher than me. She had frizzy hair, wore shapeless clothes and I didn't like her face. I have seen her around, singing and dancing to herself in the corridors, when she thought no one was watching. But I was. I hate her. I hate that in her world, there is music and lightness. She has grace. I have nothing. “NO I won't give it to you”, I reply with as much bitterness as I can inflect into that word. There is a pause that seems to go on forever. She is shocked, she starts to stammer, but I cannot hear. Her face is falling. I suddenly see myself like how she sees me, the image flashing in my head. I look so cruel, so ruthless. So bereft of hope. Her mouth moves, but my heart is beating so loudly I cannot understand her words. She starts to move away. Rejection. How do you feel?

I avert my face and continue on my way. My head reels. She didn't deserve that. She's a happy person and I spoilt it for her. I took away something I want so badly but I can never use. I took away HER joy. Who am I to do that to her? I want to turn back. I want to tear upstairs and get the book. I want to run and throw myself at her feet. I want to lie protrate with dirt in my mouth and scream to her that I am not worthy of her request, that I am so honored she trusted me enough to ask for something from me. I want to beg her for forgiveness till my voice is hoarse and my tears are drenching her feet. I want to go on talking and explaining and force her to listen to me. I want to say, please do understand me, I'm not the person you think I am, you have to believe me. Please believe me. I want to hold the book out as a burnt offering, as a sacrifice that should mean something. But that will never be enough anymore. Her neurons will permanently discard me as a negative, I'm sealed-off forever by an indestructible sheet of frosted glass. I attempt a glance backwards in desperation, but she is no longer there. I don't slow, there is no point.

At the bottom is the Warden's room. She's a little old nun who has hypertension and diabetes and a voice that could belong to a frog that sings soprano. She is good and sincere but with an instinctive anti-Protestant streak that colors everything she says to me and sometimes completely overwhelms me. She doesn't like the fearlessness I seem to portray, but I know she is in total awe of how brutally honest I am. I think I scare her. She asks me why I didn't attend the Morning Mass. I mumble something about being sick and stumble out. The sun is too strong, too bright, too happy. I stop, uncertain. I want to turn back and just go lie on my bed again. But there are four flights of stairs. I don't look back in anger.

And tomorrow, I will walk downstairs again. Maybe.


Hopeless Romantic said...

makes me nostalgic abt the day when i was leaving the hostel after 4yrs of engg...btw i must confess...i too have the lizardophobia :P

Quirky Mon said...

extremely well written piece.
I stayed for only a year in my college hostel, and although I didn't strike up any lasting friendships, detested the hostel food, and the squeaky voices and giggles of the girls got on my nerves at times, and dragging myself from bed on cold winter mornings and stand in a bathroom queue, and the cat population outnumbering humans...Still, I had a heavy heart while quitting the hostel. the midnight chats, the maggi diet, the brave culinary experiments, the impromptu night outs and shopping expeditions, midnight walks on the terrace, group studies...the sense of independence, taking care of myself without my parents fretting over little things. The place became my second home even if for just a year.

skywind said...

Good luck. God is with you.
Health information
Humor & Fun World

Chronicwriter said...

FROG SINGING SOPRANO was top class.. hostel memories... did you cry crow?

soopera narrated.. wonderful brilliant.. ippadi ellam solli kocha padutha virumbala..

have a good time

Pavitra Ramkumar said...

I have never been to a hostel before and i wanna try it out once :) I heard its the best!
Good Luck!

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Anonymous said...

@ Hopeless Romantic: Yeah hostel life is fun. I struggled quite a bit to adjust though.

@Quirky Mon: Yeah the Maggi noodles diet is extremely pricless. I do hope i won't have to go thru that again :)

@Skywind: Thanks so much for the blessing :), God is with you too!

@Chronic Writer: Nee oru MEAN paiyyan. Po engiyavadhu thaliya muttikho! :) :P

@Pavithra: Yes, you should do it. I didn't have a choice actually but it was good fun.

@Future Mantra: No problem. Will do

PLP said...

Wow, hostel life. So I've never lied in a hostel but would love to...well, probably in Grad School.
I don't mind lizards as long as they mind their business.

About that deceitful girl...I've seen a few of those, and I hate them. I just wish I could be like you about it in their face, but because they've hurt me SO much, and been SUCH bitches, I just can't, I avoid them, looking like a coward:S

Anonymous said...

This post is great at going into the psychology and emotion of its character. And the conflict between those and what's actually realized. The lizard thing was also pretty unique.

~*Miss A*~ said...

I've never lived in a hostel. I have only seen a lizard far away and would probably have a damn heart attack if I saw one up close & personal.

Anonymous said...

I've had this blog bookmarked for 10 days! Finally got around to reading it.
First, I so enjoy reading your blogs...
Its awesome how you created an entire narrative about walking down the stairs. As I read it I was remembering my days of living in the University dorms. The elevator was all the way on the other side, so I always used the stairs too! I miss those days so much.
Can't wait to read more from you.

~*Miss A*~ said...

Hey hey! Stop by my blog, I have award for you!

Prianca said...

bumped into your blog
*first reaction : this author seems to be mighty depressed

*second reac..: i cudnt help associating with you wen you snapped at your junior and then regretted it. the justification you gave is exactly wat goes on in my mind alomst everyday. the worst part is i only behave lyk this wid my loved ones.

nd very nicely put.

Anonymous said...

@PLP: Yeah she was my personal World's Biggest Bitch. I hope there aren't many like that in the world.
@Clandestine Samurai: The character is me.. this actually happened
@Miss A: Hostel life has its points... and thanks for the award! :)
@Prianca: I have mood swings.. in the story the girl comin to me was jus very bad timing :)

Carl said...

nice one... totally pictured everyone in my head n got it right too, i guess :p

mania said...

it touched me.
well written, I have spent my some time a hostel and its the most memorable time I have ever had.
I have had that lizardophobia but now i am used to it as well.

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