Summary: They won't mourn you the way you wanted them to.
Pastel clouds, lacquered on a watercolor sky. Smudged pastels, watercolors leaking into eachother, drying into a mud-coloured sky. Windchimes - they chime. Like tin spoons banging against eachother.
You lean on the guardrail, look up into a designer skyline. Fountains and flames of light - light in colours that cover every band of the rainbow. The city is awash with light. Needlepoint glass skyscrapers, glowing like fire. Waves of metal, sparking to life under the million dreams tucked away into a million pinpricks of light.
You swing your legs over the guardrail, your bum pressed against the skinny, birdshitty metal railings and look down. You see nothing, maybe cause you're too high up. So high that you'd probably contract acrophobia if you looked down right now.
They'll scream, won't they?
The recyclable tubelights (she's nothing, if not pro-green) are lit, the curtains drawn. At night, the shadows the witchy margosa trees throw on her walls scare her. She keeps the curtains drawn. 'Safe in your cutesy cage', Nadia says. Nadia can be a bitch.
Her cellphone bleeps. "Screw you," she tells it. Chews the end of her ballpoint pen, places two (chipped) acid-green fingernails on the edge of her book . "I'm studying. Stop trying to distract me." It bleeps itself into a sullen silence and she grins smugly at it, as to a defeated enemy.
The house-phone rings. Her mother shambles to get it. She flips the page, to check if she's got the answer of Prob 23 right. Damn it, wrong. Again. Then she hears the scream.
"Nadia? Oh my God..."
She slips her feet into the bunny slippers Dadima gave her on her eighth birthday. They still fit. Great, she bets her brain is still the size it was when she was eight - what's wrong with Prob 23? She's tried it four times. Well, Nadia'll be able to solve it if she can be arsed - Chem's always been Nadia's thing. She drifts into the hall, calling out, "What's up with Nadia, Mom?"
Her mother is clutching the phone to her ear, one hand pressed to her stomach as though she's received a blow. She stops. She screams, "Oh my God," too, before her mother can tell her, because she knows, she just knows...
"She's dead, Radhika. She committed suicide."
And the first thing she can think of is that she'll never solve Prob 23.
Your hands have a deathgrip on the railings. Four hundred feet. Are you allowed to call it 'from ground level' if you don't live near the coast? Don't they have these relative height thingies? It doesn't matter - you'll never check wikipedia again. You'll never check your old Geography textbooks, in which it might have been mentioned.
You swing your legs. They swish through nothingness. The wind tickles the frayed cuffs of your jeans and a few strands of your hair stick to your liips. Lips sticky with a coat of Vaseline and a sheen of sweat. You close your eyes, trying to keep your breath steady. Yeah, like it'll friggin' work .You're four hundred feet from the ground, who're you kidding? Would anyone's breath stay steady at this height?
Anyone normal, that is. James Bond doesn't count.
They'll be sorry, won't they?
She's fingering the hem of her skirt, wondering whether any of the nuns will be in the mood today to yell at her for it being too short. Stupid, isn't it, that cliche about Catholic schoolgirls being sex kittens? Everyone's skirts are knee-length at her school.
Roopie nudges her. "Girlfriend, we should see Radhika."
"Radhika Jain, Section B, you bimbo."
She raises a thin, plucked eyebrow. "Um, like why?"
Roopie shifts uncomfortably. "Um, well y''know. Because of um, because of um, Nadia? Like, the one who died?"
"Threw herself off the fortieth storey." She looks at Roopie, without blinking. "You were the one who was whinging about fur-reaky goth-wannabes on Friday. And now it's Monday and you want to pay your respects to her best friend?"
The truth doesn't have a manicure. Or a pedicure, even. Roopie doesn't like it. "God, you don't have to be such a bitch about it. Yeah, maybe I was, but that doesn't mean you didn't take a cut at her when you wanted to." She gets up. "I'm going to see Radhika, even if you don't. It's the right thing to do."
"Collecting extra brownie points with God, pardner?"
"It's the right thing to do."
"No, it's the most obvious thing to do. Stretch your legs, doll, and after you've let poor, little Radhika cry on your shoulder and have her five minutes of fame, you'll come right back to me and we'll get back to discussing if Dev and Anu will last together for than a week."
You wrench your hands (effortfully) from the guardrail, but your legs are still twisted around the bars. You can't untwist them with your eyes shut, you just can't. So you open your eyes, look up because you won't look down. You swallow, push out deep breaths from the pit of your stomach. A mist of light surrounds you - beautiful, even if it is light pollution and not good for the environment. But when you look up, it's a swirl of black, like construction paper. Only with white holes ripped into it. Stars, you assume. Or beams from UFOs.
When you let go, it's not a conscious decision. You just let go.
They won't forget, will they?
"The Taj Mahal by night - molten silver dripping on black velvet..."
He plays with the wooden bangles that cover her arm from wrist to elbow. She's a sucker for stuff on discount. "I love the way you phrase things, babe. You remind me of one of my old girlfriends." Oops. Top 10 Dating Tips - NEVER Mention Your Exes.
She looks interested, rather than mortified. "Really? Recent old or way-back old?"
"Highschool," he says reluctantly. Twisha and her my-nose-shall-poke-into-every-orifice-eryness. Which was fine, in bed, not over coffee. Briefly, he wonders whether she'll ever let him have sex with her. "Her name was Nadia."
"Nice," she says. "What's she doing now? Don't tell me you've lost contact with her - I actively stalk my exes. Not that I have as many as you, but still..."
"She died a long time. I don't like talking about it." He shifts uneasily, closing his eyes briefly. Banishing old fears and old faces. When he opens his eyes, all he says are Twisha's eyes, lined with the violet kohl she loves. Beautiful eyes - he doesn't care if she won't have sex with him. Sometimes, coffee with a chick with write-poetry-to-my-eyes is OK too. "Sugar, Twish?"
Four hundred feet... three hundred and ninety... three hundred and seventy...
Is God keeping count? Will they keep count?
Q 7: Consider a body falling freely in air, with mass 50 kg and initial velocity...
Free fall. He picks up the framed photograph on his desk and marches to the drawing room, puts it on the coffee table. Then he goes back to his room again. He can't study Physics with his big sister staring at him, in that way.
Two hundred feet...
According to urban legend, your whole life flashes before you (like a Powerpoint presentation, probably) when you're about to die. Hmph. Right now, you'd like to reverse the way you're going and correct anyone who ever wrote that trash.
All you can see flashing around you is stabs of naked light, and then, the naked darkness. You don't know which is worse.
They'll cry, won't they?
Nalini assembles the ingredients in the kitchen - milk, sugar, eggs, baking soda, cake powder, chopped nuts. She checks the contents of the recipe book. Caramel Pudding - Shortcake - Chocolate Brownies...
Chocolate brownies. Nadia used to love brownies.
She puts the milk sachets and eggs back into the fridge, tucks the tins of sugar and baking soda into the cupboard, the sugar near the stove. She throws away the chopped nuts. Then she pulls out a chair, sits down and waits for tears to come so that she can cry and get over with it.
One hundred feet...
It's so cold it burns, and you can tell you're crying, the wind forcing back tears. Whipping wind, and your lungs scream in agony and you think you're heart's gonna burst before you hit the ground, and they'll never know, never know how wrong this feels and how sorry you suddenly are, and you want this to be over but you don't, you want to live...
Fourteen's too young to die.
They'll be sorry for you, won't they?
Whenver an aunt calls her mother up, the conversation automatically shifts Nadiawards. Christ and Buddha and all ye Norse Gods, it's been over two years, hasn't it? Can't they find anything else to talk about other than the price of tomatoes and how lazy maids are and (their voices hushed), how sorry they are for poor, dear Nalini. Nalini Auntie - Nadia's mother - well, she is someone to feel sorry for. But still - two years.
"I called up Nalini last week... yes, she sounded fine, but who can say? What to do, what to talk about with her, poor thing? If it was my Pia... but no, no I shouldn't say such things."
Damn straight you shouldn't, Pia says to herself. She concentrates on the task at hand - sorting her bangles in her plastic 'jewellery box'. She has a lot of them - wood, stone, plastic, glass, metal, beads, square, circular, ellipsoidal, a paintbox's worth of colours spilling out. One thing she's sort-of grateful (although she never tells anyone) for is that after Nadia died, Nalini Auntie gave away all her old trinkets to her cousins. So, in a way, she's not sorry Nadia died. It might be a bad thing to think, but yeah. Yeah.
"Did she even think of her family when she did it? Did she care about how she would spoil her mother's life? Teenagers these days, so reckless, so inconsiderate..."
And the topic drifts to drugs and rock n' roll, teen pregnancy and suicide. Her mother's voice rings with righteous indignation. One is as bad as the other.
Seventy feet... fifty feet...too fast. But not fast enough.
They'll... they'll think about her, won't they?
She logs onto Facebook, as she does everyday after school. But today, she has a purpose. Dutifully, she types "R.I.P Nadia" in the box asking her what she's feeling like. She clicks, and it's posted. Great, mission accomplished. She scrolls down the page, down the other R. her classmates have posted. Hmm...
Dev and Anu are an official couple?
The sudden stop hurt. Hurt like nothing she had ever imagined, like that one second when she realized everything she had ever done amounted to nothing.
It hurt and then it didn't.
There was nothing left.
A/N: "Pink elephant" or "Elephant in the room" is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem no one wants to discuss.