|Raju's Cosmic Noose
Raj looked like a squirrel in the fall; his cheeks bulged with sleeping capsules and his dark eyes glimmered with bold conviction. I yawned, flipped over on my side and grabbed the remote.
“It’s time now, Akash,” Raj muttered despondently through the toxic heap in his mouth. Scanning the room for a pen, Raj stuffed the four pills that dropped from his quivering lips back into his face and awaited his destiny — the pitiful fate that would deliver him from the hell of this world into the hell of another. Raju never really did things quite right.
Sunday television. I hate Sunday television. Raj went to the kitchen. I figured he was probably grabbing a garbage bag to wrap his head, just in case the pills didn’t work. The only appeal of death by asphyxiation is that the rapid discolouration of eyelids, lips, fingertips and toes adds a gruesome dramatic aftermath that sleeping pills simply couldn’t produce—otherwise, suffocation seemed exhausting, almost tedious. Exiting this world in a peaceful slumber had a phlegmatic, pathetic charm that was central to Raju’s character. By considering both, the pills and the garbage bag, Raj designed a happy equilibrium between the two where he could violently squeeze and tenderly sleep his mortality away.
Raj was in the room again. I was right. He picked a green garbage bag, not black. Raj doesn’t think black suits him. He walked over to me, his face as big as ever and wrote on the cover of the phone book, “How do you spell ‘doalful?’ Do you spell it ‘doalful,’ ‘doleful’ or ‘doalful’?”
“Look it up,” I told him.
If I ever had to write a note like that, I wouldn’t need a dictionary. It would be quick and simple. I’d pin a sign to my shirt saying something like, “as the saying goes, it’s a great place to visit and all, but I wouldn’t want to live there. See you on the other side...love Akash.”
Raj’s skin was stretched like plastic wrap from ear to ear; his face ballooned like an oversized, dejected blowfish. He spat out the pills closest to his tongue and let the others roll in place of them. When the coating on those got soft, he spat out the whole batch.
Raj glared at the wall and left the imprint of his two front teeth in the surface of his pencil. I reached over the table and grabbed the comics. I hate Peanuts. Charlie Brown, that poor little bastard, reminded me of Raj. Then Raj walked over to me and asked, “Where is the Japanese Ginsu Tower Case that we got through the infomercial?”
“I don’t know, maybe in the cupboard under the sink,” I told him. God, I hate infomercials, especially the one with that psychic woman with the pigtails. Everyone knows that destiny lies in your hands.
Raj unfolded the garbage bag.
“Okay Raj,” I said, “I’m going to bed. I guess I’m not going to see you in the morning so I’ll give everyone your love and everything...okay?”
Raj nodded pitifully and waved bye-bye.
Raj’s car wasn’t on the driveway the next morning when I left for the diner, so I assumed he made it to the office on time.
It was so cold that day that the squirrel that usually inspects our front yard wasn’t there. There were two things that Raj hated most: the first—his existence, the second—his co-existence with squirrels. Raj’s ex-wife loved squirrels. Raj says he’s over the break-up, but I don’t think he would have asked me to live with him if that were the case. He always cherished memories that others would burn.
Work was exhausting as usual. The bus was late that night, but I didn’t mind because the fog hid the new signs on the old buildings and everything was familiar again. The street I was standing on was a block away from the park where Raj proposed to Shelly and a minute away from where the both of us used to live. Raj didn’t say much about anything anymore, but when he did, he talked about Shelly. Raj wanted me to step into the past so he could have some company, but for the most part, I refused.
Raj’s car was in the driveway when I got home, but there was no sign of him in the house. I took off my wet things, left them in a pile in front at the door and headed for the kitchen. Beside the recipe for blueberry turnovers was another one of Raj’s suicide poems; it was written with a pink highlighter and was fastened to the fridge with a ladybug magnet. I began to read:
These are just a clutter of congested words gathered to create the illusion of a finished poem. Goodbye world,
I heard footsteps outside and knew it was Raj trying to feed that damn squirrel again. Every week he would place a nut in his hand and every week that wretched creature would dart off with the plastic bag beside him. Raj hates squirrels.
Raj walked in the doorway; chewing the macadamia nut his rapacious friend had kindly left him. He went to the bathroom, repeatedly muttering his dejected emotional malaise, and came back with a container of Liquid Drano and a mug. He looked fed up. Then he glanced at me and silently walked up the stairs.
“I’ll give everyone your love!” I called as a peeled my socks off my rippled feet.
Raj didn’t make any further noise at all, so I figured he turned in for the night. I wondered if he would make it on time for work the next day. If figured he would because he always did. Raj’s life was a treasure chest of badly tied nooses, dull razor blades and overly compassionate drivers. He felt the victim of some mad scientist’s unearthly experiment which he found, in grave disappointment, led only to a piece of rotting cheese and a broken mousetrap. Had the trap worked, he might have escaped the scrutiny of his examiner’s eye. But the trap had never worked, simply because Raj didn’t want it to. If he felt that somebody cared enough to sufferer profusely from his death, he would have, undoubtedly, met the eternal footman by now. Raj thought any place was better than here.
I slept on the couch for a few hours until I heard coughing. It was Raj. I don’t know how long he’d been watching me sleep, but his posture was tense and his face was wet and red. “Will you ever tell me not to do it, Akash?” Raj asked despairingly. It was like hearing the prayers of every sinking ship before dying in black waters.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed, adjusting my tired eyes to his face. “I forgot to tell you that a new Japanese restaurant opened on Silverstone Street. They even have that oyster dish with that rice stuff and noodles. I’m not sure what the prices are, but money’s not a factor with you, eh Raj? So how about treating me there sometime, old buddy? You know I’ll pay you back. I always do in my own little way.”
Raj was already dressed for the office but he hadn’t put his tie or jacket on. It was still dark in the room, but when I saw Raj grab his briefcase, I realized it wasn’t early at all. I saw lightning through the spaces between the blinds. Then I heard the rain hitting the glass like it was mad or something and I looked at Raj, chuckled and commented on the appropriate weather.
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