What dwells at the heart of loneliness? At its very core, is there darkness or is there a light so bright it makes sight impossible?
What is the chemical composition of the despair that drips like blood from my fangs? Is it filled with poison? Or is it pure, so pure that my body rejects it?
Some images, some stories told by others are seared in my brain. A branding iron of images unseen, emotions felt, and the long snaking road that leads from the past to the present and beyond, before it loops around dizzyingly. Here is one:
A man stands, gripping the two horizontal bars. The maroon paint flakes off through his fingers, so tight does he hold the chipped, and discolored metal.
"Push me," he begs.
People laugh. They drink their tea. Open up their tiffin boxes and eat puri and aloo ki sabzi, khakra, and papad. The cold drink wala comes up, clinking the bottles that swim in the dirty water. A few flecks of straw float around as well.
"Hello...thanda. Hello...Thaaamsup, Phanta. Thando bolo, thanda."
"Aye, do Phanta here."
"Push me, please. I'll close my eyes. Please." His voice trails off, awash in tears.
"Arrey bhai, why are you jumping?" Some make an effort to wean him off the death grip he has on the bars, the edges of his feet sticking out from the train.
"By god, I want to push the bastard. At least I'll be able to sleep," says the hero with the bouffant hairstyle and the bright, batik shirt as he combs his hair.
Other hush him, urge him to have pity. Urge him to do something. He shrugs.
The young man at the door...nineteen, twenty, something like that...stays where he is, the rails slipping past his gaze like quicksilver snakes in the dark. Dull yellow lights twinkle in the distance.
The train stops once. The man remains where he is, letting newcomers jostle past him roughly.
It starts again, then gathers speed. If all is well, it'll fly through the night for at least three hour stretch now. No stops. Its rhythm picks up speed.
He stares at the rails, hyponotized. His fingers grip the bar convulsively.
"Please brother, push me."
They play cards in the compartment. Flush, bluff, rummy, paploo. Drink more tea. Children cry and are put to bed. Occasionally someone goes to try and persuade the man not to jump. He repeats his phrase, his wish, his despair-laden desire, resolute and unconvinced.
At three in the morning, the hero goes to the bathroom, giving himself a loving glance in the stained mirror above the sink. He fluffs up his hair, then looks to the side.
Beyond the empty, unobstructed doorway, the night slithers like poison. The rythm continues unbroken.