A Grey Torment | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 06, 2018


A Grey Torment

After a long day of work, Selim was returning home, tired and disgruntled by the unalterable toils of his life.

He longed to reach home, take a lengthy shower, have a good meal and sleep like a log for the next seven hours.

He took the train. It was only a 30 minute journey. He got on the green-white train, held on to a handle as the train started moving and tried his best to stay awake. Today was a hard day, maybe more so because of the heat. The sun was burning more fiercely than ever and he sweated like crazy. But at least, he was returning home where there is no heat and no pain. This thought made him a little happy, a little hopeful and then a little sad. He didn't have the energy to cook his meal.

Maybe he will buy something today. It's been a while since he had a decent meal from a fancy restaurant. The thought made him even happier; he heaved a sigh of relief and thought of lighting a cigarette.

Then he suddenly became conscious of his surroundings. It is forbidden to smoke on a moving train. But when he looked around, he could not see anyone. It was only him, holding on to the yellow handle of a desolate compartment. He searched his pockets for the packs in delight and suddenly a strange thought crossed his mind. What was he doing here?

The whole compartment was deserted when he got in and still is; so why didn't he sit down and instead, decided to stand?

Why did he choose this particular handle to hold on to as he stood while there are ten others before him!

He thought why he did, of all other compartments, choose to be on this particular one! What was wrong with the others?

But why does he have to be on the train in the first place? Why couldn't he take a bus or walk the whole way? Obviously, it would have been troublesome, but what if it was, what difference does it make? In the end, he would have returned home sometime. But why return at all? Why couldn't he have just wandered off under a different sky, among crowds and lights and places he never explored or observed?

Why? Because he had to go to work the next day. But what is the point to his work? He goes to work, works like a slave, returns home to eat with the money he made by working and goes to sleep to wake up the next morning to work again.

Why in the world does he have to be involved in that cycle? Why can't he live with things that don't need to be worked for? Because it will be unfair to those who do work? What if it is unfair? What is the point of all this and what is the point of life! He will die eventually like everyone else.

He doesn't have anyone attached to him. Everyone has a life of their own and nobody can change its course no matter what they do. It is miserable, desperate, daunting, disgusting and pitiable at the same time.

“What could, what should be done with all the time that lies ahead of us?”

Anything 'could' be done, but what 'should' we do? Is there anything that we 'should' do? No, there clearly isn't because our existence doesn't have anything to do with the world. No matter what we do, the world will move on and continue its flow. So, to Selim, all of his works, all of his efforts and pain turned out to be worth nothing.

A lot of anxiousness and anguish began to accumulate in his empty mind. All of a sudden, the world around him seemed very strange, he felt alienated by the thought of it all. He experienced a force pulling him from beneath as if the ground under his feet suddenly disappeared and a deep hollow formed that stretched toward infinity and it dragged him into the realm of eternal isolation and dreamless existence.

His head felt heavy by the sudden eruption of many agitating notions of existence. Only moments ago did life seem so splendid and exciting but now it was nothing but a dull, meaningless empty void of emotions segregated from anything he could ever hope to experience with any of his senses. The feeling was nauseating and ghastly, thus it was a feeling of truth. 

He suddenly felt weak and stumbled to the floor of the moving train like a broken wooden doll. The train moved on despite his fall and he moaned like a child scolded for an unattended deed.

The train moved, Selim wept.

He groaned like a wounded beast and threw up all over himself.

After half an hour, the train reached the station, waited for ten minutes and started to accelerate again to reach the same locations it left million moments ago. People got off and nobody got on, but Selim was still on the train, lying on the floor covered with his own vomit. He laid there with his knees close to his face, his face hidden behind his clutched hands, as if floating inside of his mother's womb.

He was silent like a ghostly parade of memories that goes through the mind like déjà-vu.

Maybe he fell asleep, or maybe he died.

No one cared, and no one should have.         


Abdullah Rayhan is a dreamer, a reader, an eater, and of course, a sleeper.

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