There were huge fist sized knots in the back of his neck. He could feel them- an unwelcome existence in his body. He twisted and turned his head in different angles, but the knots would only stretch themselves and not be removed to relieve him of the suffering.
It was the chair!
The gnawing pain in his neck and upper back, extending to his shoulders, was a constant companion to him since a few days now. But the pain was the worst today.
As he sat in front of his desktop and looked into the screen, the code splayed across it, seemed to crawl in and out of focus. He was unable to move- as though frozen on the darned chair, one hand on the keyboard and the other on the mouse, his gaze fixed on the bright computer screen. It had started drizzling outside and the scenic view that his cubicle offered was left unappreciated.
He did not realize that his eyes had started turning glazed and red. Water that has formed a layer on his pupils, slowly trickled down his face and yet he was unaware. It wasn’t until his colleague patted him on his shoulder that he realized he hadn’t blinked at all… since the last 10 minutes. When he turned to his colleague, the man looked at him all weird and snickered, “Kenny, you crying?”
Kenny knit his brows, trying to figure if he heard it right. Then noticing his colleague’s concerned yet mocking expression, he brought the tips of his fingers to his cheek and actually felt the dampness. As though breaking out of a limbo, Kenny got up with a start from his beloved chair and said, “I was staring at the computer screen for too long”
“Are you sure? Or did you have a fight with your girlfriend.”
“You know I don’t have a girlfriend”
“So you say. But never know”.
“So is the truth”
“Okay, if you say so”, his colleague shrugged nonchalantly.
At lunch his colleague silently observed Kenny applying pressure on his neck with the tips of his fingers. “You have been at it since long. What’s wrong with your neck?
“I slept wrong”, Kenny answered concentrating on the constant rubbing of his neck. Finally, leaving his food half eaten on the table, he rose and walked away, still rubbing his neck.
After work, Kenny drove back home. He was living alone, away from his parents and he rarely had any girlfriends who could give him company and so he learnt to love his own company. However, he had a cat. A beautiful Persian one- completely white. Not a single patch of different color, except for her eyes. They were big, greenish blue, with a slit of black pupil that enlarged and narrowed with her mood. Every time he would look at her eyes in the dark he felt like they were boring into his soul and showing him the disgust she felt being around him. But he would brush aside the feeling- it was just his whim. She was 8 months old, a kitten, naive and harmless.
Also Read: Story Of An Eternal Misfit
Kenny opened the door to his apartment, half expecting to hear a soft purr or a mew from his cat. But it wasn’t around. The hall was empty as always, devoid of furniture. He put his bag aside and headed to the kitchen to calm his nerves with some cold water. Just as he picked the bottle from the fridge he heard the soft meow.
Hair at the nape of his neck bristled at the sound. Although it was his own cat, it sounded eerie in the empty 2bhk spacious apartment. He held the cold water bottle by his chest, waiting for another cry, craning his neck and looking in all directions. There was none.
He was tired. All he wanted to do was lie down on the bed and fall asleep. The back pain was killing him now. Gingerly, he entered the bedroom. The sight of the big queen size bed immediately made him want to flail himself across its length and pass out. And that’s exactly what he would have done. Instead, he tiptoed around it and sat at the corner of the bed, looking around assessing the room. Just as his head was about to touch the pillow, he heard a sharp hiss. His cat… it was angry. But this was no time to consider the anger of his cat. Kenny ignored the hissing which was now continuously getting shriller and covered his ear with a pillow. No matter how hard he tried to shut it off, the growls and hisses kept getting louder and louder and louder… until his ear drums were about to burst.
He screamed and got away from the bed. The growls reduced in the intensity, but still continued until he flopped down the chair.
The chair, the black, swivel chair.
And then… Silence.
The chair was the same like the maroon one in his office, except for the color and he had come to hate it… so much. He had spent last night and many nights on the chair. In fact, he had not used his bed in a long while.
He slept on the chair. It was uncomfortable but he was slowly getting used to it.
Two days ago he had tried spending the night at his friend’s place. But the cat had started mewing exactly at 10.30pm and did not stop until he got home and seated himself on the chair. He was forced to leave his friend’s place in a hurry with an excuse about forgetting his medicines. The mewing had increased in intensity gradually, until he could take it no more. Luckily, his friend was just two blocks away. He could never have driven with the cries in his head.
He was afraid that he was losing his mind. No one seemed to hear the cat except him. The neighbors hadn’t complained, his friend was oblivious of what was happening to him when he tried his best to block the noise in his head with his hands. His behavior was becoming erratic at work too. And people assumed he was suffering with a medical condition.
“You seem to be disturbed off late”, the corporate counsellor asked Kenny the next day. His director had arranged for a meeting with the proficient man who was known to have helped many from depression and work related stress.
“Did my director tell you that?” Kenny countered. He had not had much sleep on the chair again last night and was highly irritable.
“Well… it has been very evident I suppose…” the counsellor said.
“… To everyone” he added after a pause. He eyed the man sitting in front of him dressed in a proper corporate manner. But there was something odd in the way he looked about himself. The constant shifting gaze, the dark circles under his eyes, the mix of timid and scared look on his face… Something told him that it wasn’t the work that he was upset about.
Kenny was silent, wondering how in the world was he making it evident.
“What has been troubling you? Is it the work?” the counselor asked.
“No” Kenny replied.
“Your girlfriend?” he asked
Kenny was silent.
“See I cannot help you unless you want to help yourself”, the counsellor said, after waiting for a while.
Kenny looked at him and his sympathetic eyes. He needed help and he knew that.
“I don’t have a girlfriend”, he replied.
“Then what is upsetting you?”
“I have a cat.”
“Okay…?” he probed further.
“It’s not letting me sleep. Cries all night.”
“Are you really attached to the cat?
“Then do you want to give it away?”
“Why?” the counsellor asked.
“Because…” Kenny said looking into his eyes. “It’s dead” he said and witnessed the flicker of disturbance in the counsellor’s eyes.
“You want to tell more about it?” he added finally, overcoming the creepiness in the air.
“Yes. It all started exactly 11 days ago. She was just 8 months old. That day I had work until 10 in the night and I was too tired. I came home and the power was out. I dropped my bag in the hall and rushed to my room and sat on the chair. All I heard was a shrill high pitched cry and nothing else. I felt the snapping of its bones under my weight and I can’t describe what I went through as I felt its body warm under my bottom. And I knew I had done something irreparable. The pain I felt when I looked at it cannot be measured to anything I have ever felt….” Kenny was perspiring profusely, his hands trembling while his breathing had turned heavy and difficult.
“I think you are just very guilty. You need to let go”
Back home Kenny was again suffering with back pain, but today he did not try to sleep on the bed. He glanced at the chair. Remembered its body lying there. There hadn’t been blood. Not a single drop. Only its body, in a mangled lifeless mess. He had wanted to give her a good burial and so had got some sand. He took out an old a shoe box, poured a thick layer of sand into it and placed her inside. She was so tiny. And he had snatched her rights to live in the world. With tears in his eyes, he had covered her with more sand and closed the box with a cardboard lid.
He had completely buried her small body. The body which had given him company in the lonely nights… for five whole months. He wasn’t ready to let her go. It was too hard. He was scared of being lonely again.
Recollecting about the box with tenderness, he sat down on the floor by the chair and picked up the shoe box from under the computer table. She was resting peacefully in it. She was still with him. He would not let her go even if it meant that he had to sleep on the chair. He kissed the top of the box gently and placed it back into its place before rising up and lowering himself back onto his chair.
He could get used to sleeping here….FOREVER.