Commute of an old man | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:55 AM, September 19, 2020

FICTION

Commute of an old man

Year 2060: I was a lonely kid. Sometimes I felt as if I lived my whole life alone. There were different people here and there, flittering in and out, at the intersection where our lives crossed, before the roads untangled and moved apart.

There come the memories, hazy remembering on the daily office commute. The train ripples and lurches across the city. The same journey, the same office, for 25 years, as I age in the belly of the beast. I've aged a day, every day, for 25 years, as I travel on these familiar tracks, where time resumes and is free to flow with a vengeance. After I step out of this locomotive, time will stand still once more, I will feel immortal, unable to die, though I'm merely a happy, nondescript man going to his nondescript job.

---

(Year 2035: The brochures guaranteed I'd be happy. The operation success rate was 100%. Nothing could go wrong.)

All wounds heal eventually, or so they say. I couldn't recall who "they" were exactly, just a vague conversation, that has been swept away by time. I tried my best to heal, did my best to form connections with people. I considered them to be the antidote to my perpetual loneliness. But I would soon realise, there was nothing as temporary as human connection. What a waste.

A week ago, I wasn't allowed to donate blood. Was simply handed back my medical file and was told I was not eligible. I wanted to ask "Why?" but I suppose I already knew.

---

(The procedure was completely safe. It was expensive, yes, but a life-preserving procedure, according to my therapist. I wanted an escape. I wanted to die).

Then why can't I donate blood? I pick at the bandages on my left arm. The scab itches.

Yesterday, I almost threw myself on the path of an oncoming train. Not on purpose. Never on purpose, mind you. It was as if my feet had a mind of their own. My muscles opposing every signal I sent. But mind over matter, and I managed to force myself to stand still, muscles straining, sweating, under my neatly ironed attire. I was safe. I boarded the train and got to work.

---

(I was only 27, at the prime of my youth, I couldn't just die. I had promise. Potential. I just landed my first job at a brand-new firm. So, I went for the surgery. Worth every dime.)

No one taught me the mechanics of how to deal with loss. Then again no one can prepare one for the loss of a loved one. The avalanche of grief, the suffocating pain, reached unbearable limits. But it wasn't the worst part. The worst part came afterwards. When all the anger, grief and pain faded away, and nothing replaced those feelings. At the point where my mind was just a wasteland of empty nothingness, I was begging for the pain back. But the numbness is invasive. It feeds and crawls and settles deep, ready to share your body. I wasn't depressed, not quite. I just wasn't... there, anywhere. But that was ages ago. Decades.

Last night, I went to the roof. When I returned to my senses slightly disoriented, I found my feet flirting with the roof's edge. Unable to step forward or back. I was left with a growing suspicion that I climbed up so I could jump, without having any memory of doing so. This was not supposed to happen.

---

(They said, the surgery could erase it all. Self-destructive tendencies, self-harm, all those thoughts, and attempts. Suicide was a thing of the past, they said. I said, sounds great.)

Afterwards I felt fine. Better than I had in ages. It was nice, doing normal things, like drinking tea at a cafe, without thinking about killing myself. I was fine now. I just started to develop a slight problem with talking to people. Making conversation just seemed a bit strange, like we were on different planes. Also, I guess I just didn't see the point in talking so much... so I didn't. My bosses were happy. I did my work quietly, efficiently. I got a raise.

And things were fine. Until a month or two ago. I don't remember when it started. But one day I realised I had unknowingly started hoarding sleeping pills. I never had any trouble sleeping. I flushed them down the toilet.

I did not want to kill myself. I was happy. I did not even feel a flicker of sadness for the last two and a half decades. So why are the attempts happening again?

---

(Millions of people underwent the surgery. The knife and scalpel did wonders. People who were once broken, are now able, functioning members of society. Our labour and contributions are valued.)

Perhaps it was simply another layer of betrayal. When your body is in defiance of your existence, when your mind has forgone that role. The operation success rate was 100%. My mind was whole. I am whole. I am a whole person. I do not want to die. My body just simply wants to break itself.

The other day I had accidentally sliced my arm while making dinner. I disinfected and wrapped it up properly. The damage wasn't as bad as I anticipated, despite the quantity of blood. I didn't even have to take the next day off.

Ah, this is my station. I exit the train. I put on a bright, bright smile, and head to work. Under the sun, I am immortal. And, unable to die.

[Extract from a 2035 newspaper: A remarkable scientific breakthrough has been achieved. Humanity reigns supreme. No longer are mental health issues a plague of mankind, a hindrance to our economic growth and welfare. We have miraculously overcome a problem which was once seen as insurmountable.  Radonex group has officially announced depression, anxiety, bipolarity disorder can now be surgically cured. Long live mankind. 

*Long term effects of this procedure are yet to be observed.]

 

Rusafa Hussain is a student of English at BRAC University

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