The Silver Lining
R. G. Kaimal
© Copyright 2018 by R. G. Kaimal
The white area of imagination had gradually merged with the black of reality.
Mike had stumbled about in that grey zone unable to get out either to the white or to the black.
At rare and fleeting moments of clarity, he could see the black or the white area through the armored glass of reality. Before it could register well, the mist of numbness would cloud the glass and he would stumble around again.
If he could cry, he would. He could not because he had faulty tear ducts which functioned only when there was not the slightest necessity.
Yes! Mike had faulty tear ducts and he was a good poet, too.
Being long in the grey zone, he had developed unique hindsight and foresight.
If he spilt coffee, he would be able to see, afterwards, the moment in time when he should not have made the move that led to the mishap.
Then, again, sometimes Mike would be able to ‘see’ the spill coming while the coffee was being brewed. He would not do anything about it.
Neither hindsight nor foresight would prevent mishaps in his life. He would attribute it to the poor visibility in the grey zone. At the thought, he would laugh since he was unable to weep.
His laughter could burst forth at any time. When Mike would begin to laugh, his friends would hope that he would not laugh for long. They knew that the deeper the injury, the longer would be the laughter. Though they considered him slightly nutty, they were protectively fond of him. They felt like fathers and mothers to him.
He would be stoutly defended when there would be any derogatory talk about him in their presence. Much defense had to be undertaken. All uncomplimentary comments about Mike bonded his friends closer to him.
There was a deep uncomprehending tragedy in all his dealings with the world. This wrenched the hearts of his friends. By an unspoken consensus, they would never talk about it.
Some of them could vaguely understand his complicated talk about grey zones. The others just took his talk and his tears in their stride as just one of those things that needed to be tolerated and not understood; like the stickiness of honey.
There would be times when Mike would go into a mental cave. When this happened, his friends would not leave him by himself for fear of him doing something recklessly final. One of them would be with him at all times, day and night.
Any attempt to communicate with him would be futile. At the best of such times, a dead look could be expected from him. At others, he would not even know that he was being addressed. It would be like talking to a disconnected lamp-post.
After that one occasion when, on being asked if he wanted tea, he had become incoherently violent, he would not be spoken to or disturbed in any way. Incidentally, the violence had been directed at the furniture in the room.
It is not that Mike would be entirely silent at such times. He would talk unexpectedly. One evening, he had launched into a brilliant talk on Newton and the apple. It was so original and fascinating that some of his friends who were present did not even notice the passage of time. He had gone on for almost two hours.
As usual, nobody had completely understood the oratory.
A couple of them had missed their last bus home. They had to be dropped by unenthusiastic friends who had had to take a very long diversion.
One girl had wanted to put forth some of the points that Mike had made in a local magazine. Since nobody could clarify them to her, she had asked him. He had been unable to help her, since he could not recall his talk.
At these times, food would be procured and left covered on his bedside table. Most times, it would have to be taken away untouched later.
Despite the strain, not a murmur would be heard from his friends. At one time, one of them had told an unconverted acquaintance that, due to their devotion to him, all of them slept well at night. On further enquiry, she had asserted that, even if they were unable to sleep well on account of him, their devotion would not flag one bit.
The latter had wondered how a ‘loon’ could raise such devotion in his friends.
He was advised to look Mike deep in his eyes. He was further advised not to call him a ‘loon’.
His verses were rather undecipherable. He had sent a collection to a renowned publisher. It had been returned along with a polite note pointing out that poetry was expected to be understood and that his compositions defied that expectation, despite being pondered on for a considerable length of time by some illustrious literary figures.
He had replied that even such figures needed to reach up for their brains in order to think. Just reclining on comfortable armchairs and thinking with their left little fingers at odd intervals was inadequate.
He further suggested that they eat more nutritious food and drink lots of water.
Then, he had gone into a deep depression and had not eaten for three days. As was customary, he was never left alone.
That the publisher was not too far from the truth, could be gauged from the following poem which Mike had included in the collection sent to the publisher:
Did I Know?
One afternoon, a message went out to all his friends. They were asked to assemble at his apartment.
On arrival, they found Mike seated in his usual seat. It had been turned around so that it faced the other chairs and perches in the room. The friends were gestured rather majestically to sit down. When the assembly was complete, he said, without any preamble, that he had decided not to compose poems anymore. He informed all present that he had written a book in his head.
After the oohs and aahs had died down, Mike said that he had titled it ‘Apace with Grey’.
He continued that it was about a little boy who was color-blind. He could see only white, black and grey. His name was Tony.
Tony lived under a grey or a black sky. His mother was white and his father light grey.
In his garden, the roses were grey and the leaves were black. He saw cartoons in black and white. If he opted for chocolate flavor, then his ice-cream would be black; vanilla would be grey.
Tony’s paint-box contained white, black and many shades of grey.
Mike went on with bits and pieces from his future book. His audience was completely captivated. They felt that the theme was brilliant and told him so.
His bright smile delighted them. They had never seen him so happy ever.
Continuing to smile, he said, “Tomorrow at this time, I will not be around.”
His smile widened at their stunned looks.
“I should not have started the book. Now, I will not be able to complete it.”
Slowly, he glanced at everybody and said softly, “You have been such nice folks.”
Reaching out, he touched Rita’s red scarf and said, “I just love grey scarves and ties.”
G Kaimal’s first lines were triggered by his puppy-love for a
girl in school. It was quite a poor effort and the girl made it quite
clear. However, they got to be good friend for a long time.
His short stories have been published by Unisun Publication, Bangalore in their anthology.
Tor Publishing of USA has featured his poem in their Anthology ‘Graveyard’.
Recently his poem ‘Invitation Lost’ has been featured in an anthology of Scars Publication of the US in their ‘Down in the Dirt’ April 2018 issue. (v156)
He works for the Art of Living organization in Bangalore, India and stays on their picturesque campus.