I can’t remember when I became so mainstream. It’s always easy if the tragedy happens to someone else. It’s been taught and re-taught how to sigh and say how sorry you are, or how it shouldn’t have happened. But I’ve still swapped my potato chips for the chocolates as an emotional eating ritual. And like everyone pretends that tragedies happen to someone else, I did too.
The bike was parked outside the building. I went past it, removed a cigarette, and puffed away smoke. It was a bizarre day. I had received two phone calls asking me if I wanted a water purifier. I had also eaten the leftovers from the previous night. Now, as I walked toward the nearest garage, I felt the greatest form of remorse for the bike that had been left behind that night. I just wanted it out of sight. I smoked another cigarette and tried not to choke my lungs.
The mechanic was busy with someone else. I looked at his hands full of grease. I wanted to puke at the sight. I repressed the vomit. Maybe, it was the leftover food, but I hoped it was the grease. I signaled to him that I was waiting. He nodded. I stood outside the garage and looked at the sky. I couldn’t recall a single horrible thing that had happened to me. I just felt immense gratitude. Some friends tried to ask me why I wanted the bike taken away. I could sell it. I didn’t want to. So, I focused on my broken thumb. Thankfully, I didn’t need my thumb to smoke. However, it was just terribly inconvenient to use the lighter with the right hand. It was terribly inconvenient to do anything with the right hand. The mechanic came over and stood beside me. I threw away the butt, and walked along. He followed me at first, and then walked with me. I pointed to the bike. He did some fiddling around, held the handle and walked away with it. I watched him go down the lane and then turn right. I wanted the memory to remain just in case someone else’s tragedy deserved a closure.
People die in many ways. Some die by fading from memory, while some die in bike accidents. No one came to ask for the bike. It made me curious about what people said – that characters from other people’s stories crossed your path. It didn’t happen to me. Unless you count being fired by an ex-boyfriend’s sore boss. It had come about very simply. We had the same boss at different times. We just didn’t have the same relationship. My broken thumb hurt still. It was easier to hide the marks on my back. From my own sight, too. Like everyone said, it was his tragedy, his loss. I think about it from time to time when I can’t chew on my molars. I am two teeth less, you see.
One afternoon, the mechanic came back to offer some money. I said I couldn’t take it. I asked him to go away. The bills had stopped coming. So, I went to the electricity office to check why. The man who was appointed for delivery had met with an accident, they said. The bills were lost. They’d have to re-print them. I said I was sorry. Someone at the office said he had met with a bike accident. I said I was profusely sorry.
That night I got a phone call from an old friend. I finished a packet of cigarettes during the conversation. He asked if I’d like to meet for dinner. I said no. Some other day, perhaps. He said he could pick me up. I looked at the floor and it needed immediate cleaning, so I hung up. My thumb had started to ache a little. I knew nothing about fractures. I didn’t go for dinner because I wouldn’t be able to hold the spoon.
I knew it was someone else’s tragedy, and yet I wanted for him to come and ask for the bike. The bells just wouldn’t ring. Neither the phone nor the door. Some days I wanted to cry out from the pain. I waited for everything to heal. I applied my ointments, had painkillers, and slept on my stomach. When nothing helped, I ate chocolates – the ones with wafers inside, the ones glazed with butterscotch, and those with fruit and nuts. I called a cab and went to court.
I was 15 minutes too early for my hearing. I sat outside and watched people come and go. Some of them wore black – as if family courts were something to mourn about. My lawyer arrived looking dapper. She almost always wore a smile, too. We went into the court and I saw my husband across the room. It’s his loss, whispered my lawyer. I knew that too well. It was just messy enough to get everyone to believe that I really did believe it was his tragedy. So, I let them be.
The judge looked at me, looked at my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and swiftly signed the papers. It was done with. I wanted to shake my lawyer’s hand, but my thumb stopped me. I hugged her instead. I saw my ex-husband leave with him. He was our friend – my husband’s and mine. That night he broke my thumb while I tried to save my life. They call it the Bro code, I think. It involves vindicating abusive men from self-defending women. It may also involve leaving behind modes of transportation while fleeing. I can’t really say.