Sidharth Kuruvila (mat_attack) wrote,
Sidharth Kuruvila

The room

It was meant to be temporary, while he got settled in the city. Not more than two months he had told himself. That was two years ago and he as still there. He still remembered the day he was shown the place by the real estate agent. The shift from the sunny street, into the darkness of the room, the claustrophobia of the low ceiling. His first reaction as he entered the room was to gag on the mustiness. The agent had fumbled for a while before finding the light switch. Which gave him enough time to regain his composure, he had felt quite relieved that the man hadn't seen him retch. The room was quite small, with the entrance at one end, and a tiny bathroom cum toilet on the other. The ceiling was a few inches above his head. There were two ventilator holes on one wall, they appeared to have been blocked by some rag cloth. There was a small grey patch in one of the corners, which appeared to indicate a leak of some kind, the agent had assured him that it was due to the recent rains and would dry up in a few days, that would also explain the mustiness in the room. There was also a drain running along one of the walls, from the bathroom out from the front of the into a drain outside.

The patch in the corner of the room grew bigger to cover a quarter of the ceiling. The drain it turned out gave passage for rats to enter the room, so he had to keep his bathroom door locked at when he wasn't using it. In the beginning he had tried to get the landlord to do something about it, but after months of inaction on the landlord's part and his own intention to move out, he just decided to get used to it. Two years on the same job, two years staying in the same room. He had gotten comfortable in his own mindless routine. And he didn't spend much time in the room to care.

Things began to change when the company announced layoffs. The division he worked for was shut down and most of his colleagues, the friends he had, were forced to leave. The few that remained were shuffled out to different projects. He tried to keep in touch with them but he found them less interesting, they had their own problems, and he found them depressing, so he slowly disconnected himself from them. And he found himself suddenly alone. Coming home early, straight from office, he began to realize how dull the room was and started to take some comfort in how the dullness of the room paralleled his own life. He began to think perhaps for the first time, about how he'd lived his life and how things might have been different if his choices had been different. Or he would just lie down thinking of nothing at all.

Meanwhile things at work had taken a turn for the worse, he was put into a new team, and his stressed out new manager started to push the team towards goals that made little or no sense, in what appeared to be an attempt to protect the manager's own back. The new colleagues seemed less sociable and more interested in themselves, and he was happy to be left alone.

He came in late to work on that friday, to find the entire team huddled around one of the desks whispering to each other. The manager had been laid off the previous day. The telephone lines in the office had been disconnected. No one knew what was happening. One of his colleagues called the HR department and was been told that the client had gone bankrupt and the company had closed it's account, it was all very sudden. This was a temporary situation and the team would receive a mail on monday. The HR person refused to say what the mail would be about. Even though no one seemed keen on talking about the possible contents of the mail he could see they were pretty sure what it meant. There was a change in everyone's behavior, perhaps due to the lack of stress of work, or perhaps because of the resignation to the situation, there was an air of geniality. Since there wasn't anything to do someone suggested that they all step out for lunch.

At lunch he found himself sitting next to a pretty girl, he was surprised he never noticed her at the office before. She seemed to remember him from the orienteering day, and he confessed that he had been too worried about wether he'd still be there the next day to remember anything, a statement which she seemed to find amusing. They found they had a common interest in movies. And spent the rest of the day talking about them. In the evening he asked her if maybe she would like to go to the cinema and may be get some dinner. She agreed. After the day was over, they got onto his bike, and headed to a bar nearby. After a couple of drinks and what he fell was the best conversation he had in a while. On the way to the theater though it started to rain, quite heavily. They were soon quite drenched, he could feel the her clinging on to him from the cold. And that made him feel happy. In the end he had to drop her home, but she said she would call him soon.

As he rode home that evening he felt the happiest he had in months. He could feel the silly grin on his face, and that only made him feel better.

It was the sight of his room when he got there that pulled him back to reality. He suddenly knew what was going to happen on monday, and he wasn't certain he could face it. He lay down and stared at the stain which appeared to have grown a lot bigger, and he started to grow less confident about his future.

He woke up the next day sweating and shivering, he couldn't remember what he dreamt that night, he never could, but he knew it was something unpleasant. The phone was ringing. It was on the small table a few feet away from his mattress. He couldn't see who was calling, and he couldn't get himself to pick up the phone. What if it was from the office, telling him he was fired, or what if it was from the girl, her had name already slipped from his mind, he was in no state to face her. He just waited counting the number of times it rang. When it stopped ringing he closed his eyes. He couldn't stop thinking about monday, and the girl, and the stain. But he was terrified. He thought he should call the girl but he couldn't, not in the state he was in. So he waited, hoping for his nerves to calm down. He was startled when the phone rang again and he chose to ignore it. The phone rang twenty more times over the next few hours but he was too afraid do pick it up. And when it stopped ringing, he didn't know if the caller had given up on him or the phone's battery had died. But after a while he felt relieved that it had stopped ringing. The stress had taken its toll and he felt very tired. He slowly fell into sleep.

When he woke up next, he felt strangely relieved, his fear had disappeared over the night. The stain had grown bigger, it now covered almost the entire ceiling and one part of one of the walls. He lazily wondered if he should do something about it. He slowly remembered that he hadn't eaten or drunk anything in a while. There wasn't anything in the house, and the only water was from the tap near the latrine. He just stared at the stain, as it appeared to grow bigger before his eyes. Falling asleep and waking up no longer aware of now long he'd been lying there. The stain had already covered all the walls. Thirsty and hungry he started longing for it to reach him. Waiting to taste the cold water it would bring with it.

It was then that he heard the sound of the rats in the drain, at that moment he realized he hadn't locked the bathroom door.
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