Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Patch

The doorbell is one rather bothersome invention humanity could have done without, for its ringing indicates the impending intrusion(of someone unwanted, more often than not), into my personal space, one built upon my insecurities and vulnerabilities. 

You can imagine my displeasure, then, when this irksome device rang out that fine Sunday. I knew who stood on the other side, friends wanting to go for a road trip and rather insistent on my participation in the same. Now, my position on excursions is pretty clear. It's all nice and inspiring to read about or watch in a movie, but I draw the line at myself being part of one; I'm of the vicarious persuasion. My friends however wouldn't have any of my protestations and were fully prepared to dislodge self from residence and deposit in automobile waiting downstairs. I knew civil conversation wouldn't help any, so I stuck two fingers down my throat, opened the door, and let it rip. I'm not an expert at retching, but the result was most satisfactory. 

I waited a while to make sure they won't come back, and then set off in my own car. I lived on the outskirts of a rather crowded, pretentious city, and the only reason I like this place is the fact that driving an hour out takes you through villages, paddy and cotton fields, before you enter the forests, and this is where I was presently headed. 

It was just about daybreak, and this is as good a time as any to visit the woods, warm mellow sun rays coming in in a slant, a velvety green hue outlining the tree tops. It almost felt like the sun was rather skeptical of sharing its asset with our undeserving world, lest we should hold it captive. Let me be clear, I wasn't here just for the optics. See, all I want to be is left alone. And solitude is a fast waning commodity in our times. It is this stark necessity that one day drove me to park my car by the roadside and take a plaintive walk through the trees. This turned out to be a nice decision, for I stumbled upon a clearing surrounded by trees and having just the right lighting. It was perfect. I called it Patch because I thought it needed a name. Patch has been my getaway spot for the better part of an year. 

I parked my car at its usual place and began my customary walk towards Patch, a 5 minute saunter. I may even have been humming a song, I could barely contain my happiness. It had been so long!

Imagine my surprise then, when I stepped out onto the Patch and saw what looked like a bird being roasted over a raging fire, two logs fashioned as benches, and a thatched hut on the far side. 

I had been standing there for all of 2 minutes when I felt a sharp pointed pain on my nape. 

"What the fuck is going on?!" is what I wanted to ask but all I could manage was a cowardly whimper. 

" Stay quiet or I'll stick this through your neck this very moment"

A deep, growling voice, coming from atleast 6 inches over my head; I'm 6'2''. I just stood there.

"Walk"; It ordered. I walked. 

"Now sit down", It said, as we reached one of the logs. My obedience game was on point. 

As It ambled over to the other log, I could finally size up Patch's imposter. Definitely a human, very tall, very muscular, a spear that until a minute ago was tickling the base of my skull in his right hand, and what looked like animal hide over his rather formidable torso. Looked like tiger skin to me, although I was sure there were no tigers in the forest. I had done my research when I chanced upon Patch. Ambient solitude is one thing, getting eviscerated by a man-eater quite another. 

"Who are you?", he inquired.

"What are you?", I shot back.

I saw the grip on his spear tighten and took that as a cue to couch my question in more agreeable language.

"I mean, what are you doing here? Are you a method actor or something?"

A grunt. His idea of laughter, I suppose. I could have run, but all motor functions seemed to have frozen over. Plus, no telling if this guy had like minded friends on the lookout. 

"I live here."

"Ah." Made complete sense. 

"My turn. What are you doing here?"

" I come out here on occasion for a break. I live in the city." I said the second part because city dwellers are inept and useless. 

"Ah. Another imbecile. Convenient pray for the capitalist machinery. You're no threat to me then." See! He read my mind! He kept his spear aside and got up all of a sudden. 

I yelped, fell off the log, and balled myself into a foetal curl. He sniggered, went to his hut, and came back with a pail of water. A coughing fit( mine) ensued thanks to the smoke rising from the fire he had just doused. I sat back up once it had passed. He looked at me with a blank stare. I returned that with one that was a cocktail of fear, bemusement, and intrigue.

"How long have you been here?". Someone had to break the silence. 

"Around 4-5 months. Should have done this earlier"

"Done what earlier?"

"This." He took his ginger shaped hand and did a 360 degree flourish sort of thing. 

"You're for real?"

"If by real you mean one of your kind, no. Well, a bit, but I'm trying."

Now I was positively perplexed. He was generous enough to read my confusion, and went on.

"I was another optimistic urban young man that came into that monstrosity you called a city. I had ambitions, I aspired to a better life. One with happiness, both material and otherwise. Hah. What a fool I was."

"So you're yet another member of a steadily growing tribe of disillusioned, frustrated individuals that realized that upward mobility and happiness are inversely proportional. Welcome to the club" I was taken aback by my verbosity under duress.

"And you're one that confuses self aware criticism with maturity without doing anything about it."

Too many words."Huh?"

"What did you do with your realization that illusions of a happy life and notions of success are a myth?"

I was positively confused. 

"Nothing, what do you want me to do? Wait, did you run away from your life?!"

"Run away? Imply cowardice once again and your insides will know what steel feels like."

I wanted to tell him he really needed to work on his punchlines, but wiser counsel prevailed and I adapted a more pacifist approach. I wanted to get to the bottom of this. 

"What I meant was, did all this happen because you weren't happy?"

Grunt. "You're so unidirectional."


"I was tired of my world increasingly becoming artificial and vain. There was just too much duplicity and deceit. Primal human instincts, cloaked in nauseating nicety and a flawed notion of civility. You've heard of Maslow's Pyramid? The base is all a human really is. The layers on top of it are just dressing; repress what you are, all the while channeling your basic makeup. You're just your needs, you don't go beyond it. I had had enough. I coudn't put on this charade anymore. If an animal that needs food and shelter is all I am, so be it."

This person was positively deranged and delusional. He continued talking.

"A return to the wild is the only way to shed this pretense. The shit those motivational speaker con artists sell is actually true; embrace your true self. I am a hunter-gatherer now and it's better than what I've ever done with my life."

Was he really senile?

"You should go now. I trust you won't be an asshole and go tell people?"

"Huh? No, no. You're alright."

"OK. Off you go."

I got up, wanting to shake his hands, but realized that would be something he doesn't do anymore.

I turned around, gave my beloved Patch one sweeping glance, and started walking, deep in thought.

I suddenly heard a whoosh, and then felt a sharp searing pain in my lower back. I fell down, face first. I tried to reach for my back, but my hands caught a wooden rod; he had speared me. 

As I faded out, I realized I hadn't asked him if his animal hide was for real. 

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