The only down side of dreaming is that those dreams usually don’t clarify the obstacles one has to overcome to achieve it. Dreams have consequences, dire ones.
The street light flickered on the lonely damp street like a firefly swaying in its final flight. As I pulled over to the street across an alleyway, I felt a sigh of relief. The lights of the ATM shone through pitch black night sky like a beacon of hope. Shutting the engine down for the day is like the relief one gets after running a sprint. This isn’t what I dreamt of when we decided to move to the great city of Mumbai.
“You’ll have a future there.” said dad as we stepped onto the last train leaving Udaipur.
We didn’t leave Udaipur for my future. For all I knew, Udaipur was well-developed and the living conditions there were far pleasing compared to Mumbai. I didn’t move here for a selfish goal of living the dream. I came here seeking the mercy that the medical advancement of Mumbai could provide.
I believe that my resemblance to baba, my dad is very evident. Selfish goals disgust us. This struggle is to help him see again. Eye cancer rendered him blind before my birth. The tumor in his retinas would’ve been fatal if the doctors didn’t take his vision away from him. He knew what trees looked like, he knew what the world looked like. But he never knew what his son looked like. Whether his son had the same nose as his baba’s, whether he had the same contagious smile. He wished he could see amma, my mom for the last time before the blackout, it’s my mission to make sure he sees her for the rest of his life.
Baba always took it playfully. Cancer is very mysterious.
The brains of the soldier cells in our bodies go haywire and commence in friendly fire in order to survive. It’s the analogy my dad used. I remember how he advised me to never try to high-five a blind guy.
It turns out that the cancer left traces of it in the eyes even after the initial surgery. We had to hurry and do something about it. The doctors suggested that maybe we could do an organ transplant and baba could have his vision back too! It was good news, a silver lining to the mighty dark cloud looming above our heads.
I pull my window down, let the cool breeze push out the thick air which usually envelopes me whenever I think about cancer. Solitary moments like these help me clear my mind. I close my eyes for a few minutes. Doze off to the sound of crickets chattering. I wonder what kind of gossip they have to share in the middle of the night.
“Crickets chirping is an indication of relief.” My mom used to say that. I wonder if she was being superstitious or was she just making it up. I miss her, but leaving her behind in Udaipur was necessary. I feel guilty for separating my parents for a while, but he had to come to Mumbai for the surgery. I know how eager amma is to see dad, this will be the reason why she’ll dress beautifully again.
The phone rings pulling me out of the trance I was lost in. I may have forgotten to turn off the app. I look over and turn off the app in aggression. “I’m glad this is the last day of me as an uber driver.” I say to myself with a grin. Monetary issues pulled me into this dreaded job. I somehow had to make ends meet, baba’s life was at stake. Today is a relief because I’ve finally saved enough, earned enough for the surgery. The doctors can make those retina’s function again. They’ll finally pull out those soldiers from war.
The ATM light flickers, inviting me to complete the journey I had embarked upon a year ago.
I pull up the window, grab the essentials before leaving the car. I feel a certain kind of euphoria walking towards the ATM. Time seems frozen. I’ll finally provide my baba what he deserves. Amma will finally breathe that sigh of relief she had held back ever since baba was diagnosed. We’ll finally be out of financial ruin. I’ll finally see them smile again. I’ll finally see the doom that has been lurking over our heads disappear.
I remember what baba said in the ICU before “I want to see you get married before I go.” I can’t wait to prove him wrong, I can’t wait to assure him that he isn’t going anywhere.
A blast of cool air hits me as soon as I pull the door of the lone ATM on the abandoned street. I didn’t realize that I had been smiling wide the whole time until I saw my reflection upon the dimly lit ATM screen. ATMs have made it very convenient to transfer money nowadays. No filling lengthy deposit forms, no standing in hour long queues. Just push some buttons and Voila!
I push my debit card into the slot and pull out with a firm grip. I look upon the screen and see a strange reflection behind me. Someone grabs a hold of my hand as soon as I pull the debit card. Fear seeps in slowly.
“Push the withdraw button” the man whispers into my ears. As soon as I resist, I feel a cold sharp sensation near my hip.
“Push the button or else you’ll regret it” he says he pokes the knife into my hip.
I feel dizzy all of a sudden. A dozen possibilities run through my head as I stand there frozen. I can’t give the money away, not in any circumstance.
I felt instinctive and helpless at the same time. I had to deposit the money no matter what.
“Please, don’t. I don’t have a lot of it.” I say trying to stay calm.
He makes a gentle slash around my hips. I could feel the warm blood running down my thighs. I squeal.
“Does it look like I care? Do as I say or you’ll be here all night.” he says pushing me towards the ATM.
As soon as he pushes me towards the ATM, I sneakily push the deposit button. I cover the screen up so that he doesn’t catch a glimpse of it.
“I don’t live here. My family is really poor, baba is dying. Please, have mercy.” I try beg in a muffled voice.
“You made the wrong decision of coming here!” He screams into my ears. He grabs a hold of my hair and bangs my head over the glass door. I could see the cracks on the door through my blurred vision. My head rang, I could feel the blood droplets trailing down my forehead and some of it trapped in my eyebrow and eyelids.
He realizes that he made a mess and it’s hard to get away with what he has done now.
“Do as I say or else you’ll regret it” he says shoving me towards the screen again.
I see the amount bar flickering, I know I have meager chances at this. I take a deep breath, try and calculate the odds. I close my eyes, I know what my next move is.
“Or else what?” I say as I dart to the side and give him a strong push. He looses his footing and falls to the corner of the cabin, screaming. I hurry and type the amount. “2,00,980”
The green deposit button was just inches away until he got up got a hold of me. He pushed me away, that sly criminal.
He’s so disturbed by the fact that I was giving him a fight, he didn’t realize that I was inches away from rendering all of his efforts futile.
“How dare you!” he screams into my ear locking both my arms and pushing me towards the door. I feel a drop of blood on my lip, warm and salty. Both of his hands are engaged in restraining my arms. The knife dangles from the holster in his front pocket.
He catches me eyeing it.
“You better not move again” he says grinning. He grinds his teeth as he says it. The odd smell from his mouth disgusts me. He has grimy hands and an extremely firm grip.
“Do as I say” he says clenching onto my wrists locked behind my back.
“Okay I’ll do as you say. Spare my life, please. I have a family.” I beg.
“Exit the deposit option. Now!” he says with urgency.
“I can’t do it, I need my hands for it.” I say trying to sound pleasing enough.
This is my final chance, the last resort.
He lets go off my hand. He tries to grab the knife dangling from his waist.
I spring into action, push him away. I jump onto the machine and hover my hand over the green deposit button.
He doesn’t lose his composure this time. With a swift movement, he stabs me right in the abdomen. I knew it was coming, my body seemed ready for that sharp sensation.
I could feel the world recede. The cold, stainless steel leaves a sharp thumping sensation in the flesh. I lose my breath. I try to muffle my scream, as my job isn’t done yet.
I push him, with all my might. I press the deposit button, it shows an array of pictures of people I send money to frequently. A picture of my mother flickers on the buzzing screen. She has a broken smile, she never smiled fully. I’m glad I could see my amma smile for the last moments of my life though. I could see the monster through the reflection. Furious and infused with rage, he leaps onto me. I make sure I tap my mom’s face before going down.
“It’s done.” I laugh at his wicked face.
He screams as he leaps onto me as i laid helpless on the floor. With his enormous body towering over me, he stabs my chest several times. The cold look in his eyes seemed comforting. He grabs my collar and screams some slurs at me. I can hardly figure out what he’s saying as I smile. He looks over the screen and then looks at me with more bottled up rage.
He scurries to check my pocket for any other valuable stuff.
He looks at me and says “you brought this upon yourself.” before leaving sneakily.
I pull myself up, lean over the glass door. My vision gets blurrier with every breath I take. I lie straight with my head resting on the glass doorway. I look at the street and see my car being driven off on the other end of the street. I still can’t help but smile.
Baba finally got what he deserves. Mom will need to hold that sigh of relief for a while more, but baba will make it alright. I did justice to the struggles they went through to bring me up. People usually find inner peace in romantic settings, i find inner peace lying on this cold floor.
I breathe in the cool air, sigh a little. I hear crickets chirping outside, maybe they gossip about the sins people commit during nighttime. Relief is the only thing on my mind. The pain builds ever so slightly, the vision recedes ever so slightly. The AC buzzes in its ignorance, the bright light stings my eyes. I look over my chest and see the knife still buried in my chest. I giggle. I look over and see the CCTV peering at me. It almost felt like it blinked like a Cyclops.
“Justice will come looking for you and when it does, you brought it upon yourself” I say to the empty cabin in the lonely street.
I feel lost in a trance, I feel at peace. I might not have followed my ambitions. I didn’t chase the arbitrary thought of being rich. Success wasn’t tangible for me. Success was accomplishing this dream. Baba deserves this. Baba deserves the world.
“I want to see you get married before I go” I say to myself mocking baba’s voice.
I giggle. Look over to the dark blue sky decorated with scattered clouds and the bone white moon.
I might not get married, but I find solace in the fact that he isn’t going anywhere.
Afterword- I sincerely thank you if you made it all the way! 🙂 Your attention means the world to me. Share this story with someone who’ll surely sacrifice themselves for their parents. I hope this had some kind of impact.
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Love to all of the people reading this, i hope you have a wonderful day 🙂