Lies come to me easily. I don’t know how many times I have lied. If I sit down to count, I don’t know how many decades it will take. Turns out there is a scientific term for people like me. A pathological liar. That’s what I am, they think. But not what I am. There is a reason to my existence. Behind it.
Ankit, a friend, at least he said so, had come over yesterday. No one knows me for what I am, the true me, but he did. Mysteriously, he knows.
Even though he knows, I want to tell the truth for once. Just to him. From my own lips. I want to tell him what I have done. My sins. Even though he already knows. I hope that he’ll be able to help me atone for my past, my dark side. It is surprising that the only person whom I hate lying to, whom I want to confide in, is a person I barely know. But his company is soothing. I feel happy when he is around. I don’t know, perhaps I sense a feeling of security, and fear at the same time, when he is around. No, he is not a school friend. I met him a few days ago, at the graveyard, when I was there to pay my respects to my mother. No, not her grave. She herself. She is dead, but she comes back every Sunday to meet me. She loves me. I love her.
Usually, when I go to the graveyard, I am the only one there. I choose a time as such. I don’t like company, or at least true company. The truth makes me feel my dark side. And I despise it. So I embrace the truth. I read somewhere that if you speak a lie once too often, it becomes the truth. And so it became. I have parents, living ones, whose hearts throb just like everyone else’s. This is the truth which I have made everyone believe. Everyone except him.
That night, I wasn’t alone. There was someone else. Just at the place where I was supposed to be. Beside my mother’s grave. I walked towards him and stood beside him.
‘Who is she?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know. You tell me.’ I replied. ‘You are the one here.’
‘So you don’t know her?’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘Then why are you here?’
‘Why are you here?’ I shot back, feeling insecure, afraid of this person, afraid of what he knew.
‘For you,’ he said.
I looked at him, knowing that my eyes never revealed anything. Did he just say he was there for me? For me? ‘For me?’ I asked, my voice betraying nothing.
‘Yes, I always see you here. Every Sunday night. At the same time. Standing beside this grave. Talking to yourself, or to someone invisible. Touching this gravestone. And you say you don’t know her? You don’t know her?’ his voice barely a whisper.
I didn’t reply. Looked away. Seeing is believing. I should have been afraid. I always am when it comes to the truth. In fact, I was afraid a few moments ago, of him, of what he knew. But now I am not. It was somewhat comforting that someone knew the truth and was talking to the real me. The ‘me’I always am with myself.
‘I know her.’ I said.
‘So do I.’
I turned back at him with such force, that it terrified me. He knew her? ‘Who are you?’
‘Ankit. And she’s my aunt.’
I am not just a liar. I can spot people lying. And I knew at that moment that he was lying. No, he wasn’t lying earlier. But he was lying now. I never had a cousin. I would have known. Perhaps it was that fact, I suppose it was, that bound me to him. He was a liar too. Perhaps he had his own reasons. I had to know. I had to know him. Know everything about him. Know him for what he was. The bare him.
I heard his voice. ‘Who is she?’
‘Your aunt. You said right now.’
‘I mean to you. Who is she to you?’
I had a sudden urge to tell the truth. But I didn’t say it. I didn’t want to lie either. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to lie. So I didn’t reply. Hoping that he would guess the truth. And I suppose he did, for he didn’t ask the question again.
We stood like that for a few minutes. Just standing in the breeze. Beside my mother’s grave. She did not come today. She never does when I am with people. It would have been normal if I wanted this person to go away. But I did not. Ironically, I wanted him to stay. Beside me.
A few minutes later he asked me, ‘Where do you live?’
‘Does it matter?’
‘No, I suppose it doesn’t, for I know where.’
I should have found it surprising, but I did not. I was sure he had been spying on me for days. He must have been following me. So it was natural that he knew.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said.
‘I am not.’
‘I am a friend, a well-wisher.’
I didn’t reply and turned to go back. He didn’t stop me. ‘Will see you again,’ he said, as I walked away.
That night, at about three, my phone rang. It was an unknown number. I picked it up.
‘Hey, it’s me.’
I recognised the voice instantly. Ankit. How did he get my phone number?
‘I am at your place. Look out the window.’ He said.
I did, and yes, he was there. And suddenly, I began laughing. I never knew what was so funny but I was laughing. He called me down and I went to him. I should not have but I did. I trusted him. There was something unspoken between us. Something that tied us together.
He was walking at a brisk speed and I was following him. It felt as if he was confident I would follow him.
‘Where?’ I asked.
‘Where what?’ he replied, not once turning back.
‘Where are we going?’
‘Would it matter?’
‘So why ask?’
We walked for a few more minutes and were in front of the Ganga. We sat down there, looking at the river, feeling the breeze, the silence broken only by the waves splashing against the shore.
‘You remember this place?’
My heart skipped a beat. How much did he know? Yes, I knew this place. I had come here only once. And didn’t have the heart to come back again. This was the place where I had disposed of my father. I could not bear him anymore. That day the anger had burst through. He had left my mother. Left her in the streets to die when she was pregnant. He said it wasn’t his child. I was only five when my mother died giving birth to a stillborn boy. My father, at least, buried them. But when I came to know the truth, everything, I knew he had murdered two people. People whom I loved the most. He deserved to die. The end justified the means. It was here that I had brought his lifeless body two years ago and thrown it into the river with a heavy stone tied to it. His body must still be here, somewhere below, rotten.
I noticed I was shivering. I was afraid of him. Afraid of what he knew. Lies had always been my weapon, but how could I use that with a person who knew everything?
‘Who are you?’ I asked.
‘I don’t have a name.’
‘How much do you know?’
‘Everything.’ He said and looked at me.
I stood up and ran away. Away from everything. I was afraid of him. Afraid of what he could do to me. I ran away, but somewhere, deep inside, I knew that I could not get away from him.
The next morning, that is today, I have skipped school. I have my phone in my hands, and am trying to make up my mind whether to call him. I decide that it would be better if I did. So I call him.
He picks it up after the first ring. I am about to say Hello when he says, ‘Meet me at the grave tonight.’ He cuts the line.
When night comes, it brings with it anticipation. I am excited, very deeply and in a very inexplicable sort of way. I have never been excited to this extent, except that night. The night I transformed.
By tonight I know he meant the time when I usually went to the graveyard. So I leave the house accordingly, taking my time to lock the door, a sense of foreboding suddenly seizing me. I am afraid. But still I want to go there. Meet him. See why he called me there. How he knew everything. He had said so. Everything.
I sense my heart throbbing in my temples as I run towards the cemetery, and within minutes, am there. I walk towards my mother’s grave. She is not here, not even today. That means Ankit is around. But I can’t see him. Where is he?
Somewhere near I can hear an owl hooting, and a cat screeching. It’s a full moon tonight, so there is enough light, and I can see almost everything clearly. So where is he?
Suddenly everything is very bright and I am almost blinded. My eyes hurt and my head is throbbing. I scream in pain, knowing this was one of my migraine attacks. But why now? Now, when I wanted to see the most.
Through my muffled scream I can hear a voice. It’s my mother. I open my eyes, but close them back again because it hurt. She is calling me.
‘Who are you looking for?’ she asks.
I do not reply because I know she can read me. She knows.
‘He is here. But you won’t be able to meet him, son.’
Suddenly the pain ceases and I am able to see again. I open my eyes, but there is no one around. I rush to my mother’s grave. I hear her voice: ‘Beside me.’
I turn back, from where the sound had come but see no one. I turn back and see what she meant. Beside me. For the first time I look at a smaller grave beside my mother’s.
I run away, and back to the ghat where it had all begun. At least for me. I stand at a precipice for a moment, indecisive. Finally I make up my mind and jump.
When I wake up, I find myself in a garden of sorts. It is morning and there is a person beside me. He stirs when I try to get up, and helps me stand. When I ask him how I ended up here, he points towards a person standing near a tree a few meters away and says, ‘That boy saved you from drowning last night. He jumped after you and brought you here. We have been looking after you since. He hasn’t left the place since he brought you here, you know.’
I look at that boy. He’s him. When I begin walking towards him, he walks away and turns behind the tree, away from my vision. I run towards him and turn behind the tree. But he isn’t around.