I remember him sitting, face in hands, until he decided he didn’t want to face the mirror anymore. Almost wearing an expression that didn’t demarcate the lines on his hand from the lines on his face; stuck. He started out for a walk, it was drizzling with the fervour of a wave crashing against itself. By the age of 17 now, Kush had developed a sickening addiction to changing towns. The kind of pleasure that an escape brings with it. Except he could never figure out what he escaped from. But he always knew when it was time. It would always begin with the same signs. Signs of comfort. The almirah that his father found too cluttered would become the prefect size for him to play hide and seek, he would begin to know all the flowers in his garden, he would know under which bed his toys crawled, but little by little, all of this only dragged him to the restricted unfamiliarity of a new place. This time, it had been his habit of playing cricket in the gully. By the time he learned how to balance the stumps with the brick, it was time. Comfort was a recreational sport. He had reached Mrs. Kaushik’s house by now, she was a regular visitor to his parents and often brought chocolates for his little sister. Kush used to get chocolates too. He could already remember nine names that got him chocolate. It had stopped drizzling and the humid, suffocated breeze blew away Kush’s curly hair. He decided to start back home, when he saw the brick he had last used for his stumps, broken into pieces with an unbalanced shade of red, remarkably resembling the vermillion in his mother’s hair. She would not need it for long, he thought. He remembered the divorce papers bound carefully in the care of his father’s office register.
He was to drive today, as a result of his father being away, Kush had been taught driving,if just in case of an emergency. As a kid, he had often felt emergency in the middle of the night, when everyone was sound asleep in separate rooms, he had felt the emergency of attaching the house and his father’s car, believing that if he could drive the house away with him, he’d feel a little less abandoned. A little less abandoned, abandonment, that his father and his mother felt with such fondness.
The boot of the car seemed to be poured in with luggage. The same bags he had seen since he was six, kept in the same combination they would fit in, it was a spectacular déjà vu every time. Checking if his mother and sister had been seated properly, he started on the road. Crossing Mrs. Kaushik’s house, the broken brick, this time it subtly made him glance at his mother’s forehead, the shades didn’t resemble anymore.
It had been half an hour of distance when suddenly Kush felt the emergency returning to him. And before he could form a case to drive, the car slammed into the truck, injuring itself, the luggage in the boot, and Kush. He could have survived had it not been for the air bag. It blew open right in Kush’s face, that bag full of air ; suffocating him. The same suffocation, he remembered he had felt when he was forced to hug his father when he stank of alcohol, stank of all the women he had slept with, stank of a family that had turned stale, coming bak to him in his last moments like signs of comfort . No matter how hard he tried fighting the air bag, it was there to save him.
As Mrs. Kaushik opened the newspaper next day, she read, “Kush Verma, In a better place”. As if places were a destination. All they were to Kush were piggie banks, where he would drop a memory everyday, so hard that it would hurt his ear when they chimed. She thought of calling the Vermas, but hesitated. There weren’t any calls from the nine other names either. I miss Kush Bhaiya sometimes, I stole certain memories from his piggie bank. Abandonment is my all time favourite. Suffocation and escape go hand in hand. If it got too suffocating, I could always escape to a new town. If the escape got too much, I could suffocate myself with the chimes of the piggie bank. I hope places get better, but they don’t, after all, Places are nothing but a recurrent gesture.