“It’s okay. It is. Okay?”
Peering behind curtains, searching for a face. I have 5 minutes. Tick tock tick tock. A lungful of intoxicating smell.
I’ve known this face for longer than I can remember. He’s half asleep. I could just stand here, forever. I touch his shoulder, not knowing if he would respond to it. If he would feel it. He opens his eyes and turns to me. A chill runs down the spine like a sharp, cleaving sword.
I see a hint of a smile. The quiet face seems relieved of something. His eyes are lit up like little lamps in the night. He says that I shouldn’t have gone through the trouble. That he was okay. Then, it all fades to the background.. The foggy mask, the beeping monitors, the smell of fresh blood. I mumble a few words only he can understand.
I slowly pull myself away, walking back to the familiar faces; taking the light of his eyes with me. I will be back, each day. Every day.
The tense atmosphere outside seeps into the skin, like water into a cracked wall. Someone waits for me. We exchange a look, and we weep in silent knowing. The tears sting, like dripping acid. Sitting there, frozen, like timeless statues, we stare at the waves, thrashing back and forth. Back and forth.
It is a night of disbelief and ruthless shivers. Dark and inescapable.
It is a wet, grey evening draining itself into darkness. I get a call. There has been an accident. I sit there. Then I pack.
It is a misty, early morning in Mumbai. As I wipe the fog off my window, I wait to arrive at my stop, unaware of how often and for how long would I be frequenting this journey.
It is the longest walk of my life. The stairs relentlessly show a way up. Visitors, security, nurses, doctors, patients, wheelchairs, stretchers briskly move about. I feel cold.
Aah a familiar face. Another. And yet another. They hustle me inside those large doors that read ICU. I walk. 628. I stare at faces that stare back at me with blank eyes.
This is it. 628 they had said.