The Unexpected Bliss of Death—and Life
The Unexpected Bliss of Death—and Life
By Avijit Roy
The bedroom is dark. It's been drizzling for two hours. A cold breeze blows into the room's only window, now half-shut. Frogs are busy in their gulping chorus. It’s past twelve. The air is steeped with the fullness of the crickets' call. A celebration of solitude is everywhere.
Daniel gets up from his bed. Putting his feet into the slippers that flap against his heel, he moves over to his study table that’s set by the window for some daytime sunlight. A mild shower has dampened the sheaves of papers on the table under the open window. He draws the chair over, and adjusts himself onto it. He turns the lamp's switch, and a bright light illuminates a portion of the table, which Daniel blocks with his palm. Some raindrops shine with the brilliance of diamonds on the windowpane.
Daniel is tall, and his face sports a white-and-black bushy beard. He has thick eyebrows, and under them, his two deep-sunk eyes reflect his moroseness. His collarbone is visible as evidence of his impoverished existence. Wearing glasses, his vision clears. His age is hard to speculate. In his soul, he bears scars of life, invisible, but obvious.
Daniel selects a pen from a wooden holder. He doesn't consider himself an author; however he intends to write. His many unaccepted manuscripts line a shelf. His pen is poised over white paper, and his chin rests on the palm of his left hand. He stares at the darkness outside for about an hour, and then, as if coming out of his meditation, starts to put words on the blank page:
“Morgan was a graceful young guy. He was so handsome in his college days that if there were a contest for the fairest youth, Morgan would have earned the winner's trophy.”
Daniel puts his pen down, and leans back in the chair, with his hands at the back of his head. He closes his eyes because he didn’t have enough sleep. More moments are spent in such inactivity. A writer should write to eternity. Daniel chuckles to his own boundless thought and resumes his writing:
“Morgan had an ambition in his life to be an author. His college days were very exciting with friends and professors. He earned his degree in English, but there started his struggle. He tried his skills first in short stories and novels, but those remained unpublished. Though he felt like a failure, he was not a fellow to leave his dream. His struggles took on new bouts of agony.”
After a pause, Daniel returns to his writing. His throat is choked in thirst, but he doesn't care. He picks up the pen and writes:
“At a young age, Morgan’s parents had died. When he was thirsty for love, Connie came like a shower on the dry, fissured soil of his life, humidifying it with romanticism. He was Adam, and Connie was to play Eve in the fragrant and colourful garden of love.”
Daniel's eyes are blurred in tears. He opens a drawer where several letters are tied together. When he takes one out, a sweet scent reaches his nostrils as he unfolds the letter. A red heart tops the letter, and “To My Love” is written under it. He had read the letters plenty of times so they are ingrained in his memory. He reads it once more in order to sail through the turbulent sea toward the shore of good memories.
“Do you remember our first meeting, Daniel? You were in a yellow coat. I was in a yellow gown. It was a coincidence. In the Botanical Garden, under that old banyan tree, you first touched my fingers. I never told you, but now I must confess—it was the loveliest moment of my life. The poems you wrote for me are treasures. I can't chance losing them for anything in the entire world.”
Daniel folds the letter and places it back into the bundle. He cannot resist the temptation of reading one more. He randomly selects one and reads:
“Daniel, yesterday you were amazing. How you dared! At last you kissed me. Did you notice that two butterflies were hovering around us?”
As Daniel shuts his eyes, the memory comes crowding. The afternoon sun was deliciously glowing on Connie's cheeks. He fondled her hair and cheek, and moved to touch her rosy lips with his own. He could feel the flutter in her lips; her warm body was so close that their breath mingled together. They remained like that for a few minutes, but neither of them counted those uninterrupted and precious moments of their life. Connie was shy and hid her face in her hands. Daniel didn't force her because he was shy too.
Daniel is jerked back to the present by a flash of lightning. He returns the letters to the drawer and closes it with a bang. Though he is exhausted, he gathers courage to pour his words out onto the paper. After a few moments of erasing his troublesome memories, he starts.
“Morgan lost his love. On one hand, he had his ambition and career, and on the other, Connie—and he had to choose one. He was not ready to sacrifice his ambition. Connie's father was dead against the relationship. Still, Connie could have left everything, had Morgan only proved to be a brave person. In order to scale the height of his dream, he agreed to sacrifice his love. How fanciful his thoughts were! He got nothing, absolutely nothing. Life crashed down on him.”
Words now come haltingly to Daniel. His thoughts are wrecked, based on the memories of rejections by publishers, by his love, friends, and fate—and he decides to play the coward no more.
He closes his eyes and recalls his meeting with the editor of an eminent publishing house. He harshly told Daniel to follow the modern trend in the fiction writing. Daniel didn't know how to do it. He had his own ideas and his morals, so he didn't agree to compromise.
When Daniel’s own love had to marry a man of her father's choice, it was a very hard for Daniel to accept. He knew he had experienced the greatest compromise of his life.
The memory lapses left a renewed wound in Daniel. He takes out an almost-empty bottle of wine from under the table. As he empties the content into his throat, the pungent smell and taste bring convulsion to his face. He writes:
“Morgan smilingly accepted all the unbearable turns of his life. He was not one to be down on his knees, but now his defences are gone. Morgan had fatal pills ready. He swallowed a fistful with water to embrace the bliss of death.”
Daniel writes a few more words at the end. He puts the empty wine bottle on the page like a paperweight. Now he takes the pills out of the drawer where he had kept the love letters. He leaves the drawer open to let the faint fragrance from the old letters invade his breath. Turning the lamp off, he swallows the pills. He returns to his lonely bed. It's five-thirty, and the sun is about to rise.
The clouds have dispersed and a dazzling sun appears. The sunrays fall on the page containing Daniel's story. His note added at the end reads: “Here ends my story and my autobiography. I am done with my life. You will find me in Morgan or Morgan in me. I have met with my soul. Adieu to all.
Later the next morning, Anna, his neighbour, loudly knocks on his front door. Finally she looks into the bedroom window and sees Daniel on his bed. She barges into the front door and goes toward the bedroom. She’s apprehensive and scared as to what she’ll find—but she continues to shout Daniel’s name.
“Daniel, Daniel, the mailman left a letter by mistake at our house. It’s from the publisher that you’ve submitted your book to. Get up and open it.”
The word ‘publisher’ hits Daniel’s brain drugged by the wine and pills…and he slowly stirs a little, and sits up, even though he has a terrible headache. He opens the envelope but he doesn't dare to look at the words that he has seen so very often…“We’re sorry, blah, blah, blah!” He knew the obvious content.
Anna grabs the letter, skims it quickly and then shouts, “Daniel, congratulations. They have selected your book for publication. Call them about signing a contract!”
In disbelief, Daniel pounces on the letter, and rushes through the words that seem unbelievable, yet blissful to him. The neighbour is puzzled by Daniel’s euphoria as he is laughing so hard that his whole body shakes.
“Daniel, Daniel, what’s happening? I’m worried about you.”
“Anna, my joyful laughter is to make up for all the many times I have sunk into tearful sadness at yet another rejection…laughter is much, much better than tears.