Every day, upon my favourite rock sits a man upon whom time has begun to tell. He wears rough, torn clothes, and a long coat to keep the winds at bay. I knew him to be a sailor, and a rather good one at that. But now, he is no better than a ghost.
I am a small inconsequential thing that has lived on this planet since eternity without being noticed by other kinds of living beings, visible to the human eye. I am a molecule of oxygen that has its home permanently fixed in the atmosphere.
Over the last many decades, my movements, voluntary or not has been more or less restricted to a region in a coastal town whose name is not very important to be remembered. I have lived most of my recent years near the rocky cliffs overlooking the sandy beach below that opens up to create a small obscure harbour. The vegetation is thick, inconsequential and rough like the mud underneath. They are too coarse for my liking.
Every day, upon my favourite rock sits a man upon whom time has begun to tell. He wears rough, torn clothes, and a long coat to keep the winds at bay. I knew him to be a sailor, and a rather good one at that. But now, he is no better than a ghost. During odd hours of the day and night I find him giving me company along these rocks, staring out into the sea. He is a bitter man. I know it. The spit that he showers on the plants have no equal in its bitterness. He watches the coming and going of the sea waves and currents, the breezes and winds, the beginning of day and its dissolution into the night. He knows his time has gone. If only these natural forces gave him another chance…like the one they enjoyed themselves…. He might have changed his life.
His wounds were everywhere, the most noticeable one on his face and back. Just a few days back, a fisherman’s child from a nearby village came upon this rock in a jolly mood. As usual this ghost still sat below me on this rock. He regretted not having committed murder. He should have spilled blood…yes blood! Not just the blood from the heart and soul – they leave no mark, but blood from the body, the neck in particular. Some murders in time could have salvaged his life. The child came up behind him quietly while he was lost in such usual thoughts.
The man seemed bereft of friends. Perhaps he needed a game like him. And he sprang up behind him in childish humour. The man had never chanced upon anyone ever upon these rocks. This action ended up scaring the living daylights out of him for a second. Then, without even realising what had happened, he attacked the kid with all his might. He caught him, picked him up and threw him as far as he could (which only happened to be a few feet…poor miserable chap!).
“I shall have blood…I shall drink blood finally,” he shouted.
The kid got up from the ground like an injured cat and scrambled back to the village while my ghost looked at him with bewildered eyes. After a while, the boy returned with some fishermen. They beat him black and blue. That scarred his face and injured his back.
He is sitting on his favourite spot again, gazing out at the sea. The townsfolk after hearing of this incident have lost sympathy for him. He no longer gets the leftovers from houses where he goes begging every morning. He is getting used to feasting on insults and abuses. But his stomach still growls in pain. And then he eats grass, shrubs. Today, he has not even bothered with that. He sits. Staring out at the sea.
Many years ago when he was a capable man I have known him to be ruthless. Perhaps the best sailor in the region, but he had hell in the region reserved for a heart. He lied, he cheated, and he amassed fortunes. He tricked his friends and his foes avoided him. I can write a book on his exploits alone, but I leave for the tropics in a few days time. I may not see this creature when I return again after a few months. A day arrived when his enemies outnumbered the hair on his head. He was hunted down, disgraced in public, all his possessions were taken away except for what he wore. For two days he was kept tied into a tub filled with the excreta of pigs. Thus his ship was wrecked, perhaps destroyed for as long as he would live. He was not young enough to go someplace else and begin life afresh. However what has kept a part of his spirit alive is the lack of regret; else he would have died miserably by now. He has no remorse. He now knows what went wrong but he has no intention to set then right.
I have often dived deep into him through his nose to find out his deepest existence and being. He is a rarity, I hope. He cherishes his ability at deceit. It is a great skill, a gift from nature. Just like orators can speak, painters can paint, and I can write…. Doesn’t he have the right to use his gift of deceit for his benefit? Hence, his lack of regret and his bitterness knew its existence. He doesn’t feel he has been wronged. He just desperately needs another chance to live his life again. A few things here and there… perhaps a few appropriate lives taken at necessary moments, and everything would have been as smooth as butter. Murder is what he fell short of in his life!
Now I see him getting up with blood in his eyes. He knows life will not go backwards. But he will do what he never had the courage to do before. Yes, he shall kill…. He is searching for something…. Oh, he has found a rat. I can see him holding it by its tail. Damn! He has ripped apart its neck with his mouth. Blood is all over him. Now he returns to take his place upon the rock as he keeps chewing some remains of the rat’s skin. He has committed murder! And he seems content. For now.
Shubhomoy Chatterjee is a New Delhi-based author.
Artwork by Indu Bhandari